In what is now becoming a regular feature, here’s my annual checkup on Duluth East alumni and former players who played hockey somewhere beyond high school over the past year. (Here’s last year’s list.) Asterisks denote players who left East before their senior year.
Nick Angell (’98 D) The star of the 1998 state champion Hounds is still going strong at age 35, playing in Sweden’s second division. He’s obviously still got it, as he tied for second in team points for league champion Vasteras IK. After his stint with the Gophers that culminated in a national championship, he played at least one year in the U.S.; there’s a gap in his HockeyDB record after that, but he’s spent at least ten years in Europe, including a stint in the Russian KHL.
Zack Fitzgerald (’04 D)* After a long career as an AHL enforcer, Fitzgerald took his talents across the pond and filled a similar role for the Braehead Clan, a Scottish team in the British Elite League. He collected an absurd 344 penalty minutes in 52 games, and put a few more points on the board than he had in most of his professional seasons. Who knows if this was the plan when he left Duluth for the WHL after his freshman year in 2001, but he’s now 30 and still playing professional hockey, so he’s made a career for himself.
Cade Fairchild (’07 D)* Like Fitzgerald, this former east end youth star and momentary NHLer went overseas this past season after failing to quite catch on in the big leagues. He landed in the KHL, where he played for something named Novokuznetsk Metallurg and was fairly productive, leading the defensive corps of a bad team with 28 points in 53 games. He joins the long tradition of Duluthians traveling across Europe to pursue a professional hockey dream, and we’ll see where he wanders in the coming years.
Keegan Flaherty (’08 F)* Flaherty stayed true to form in his second season with Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League, grinding out a modest point total. The former Minnesota-Duluth assistant captain played two years in the USHL before his stint with the Bulldogs.
Alex McLean (’09 D) The defensive defenseman rounded out his career at Ohio State as a regular fixture in the lineup. He was never a big scorer, but held up fairly well on a bad team. We’ll see if he looks to play on after college or heads out into the real world.
Julius Tamasy (’09 F) Tamasy, a transfer to the Hounds from Brainerd his senior year, had another reasonably productive year with D-III Nazareth College in New York. He’ll be a senior there this coming season.
Derek Forbort (’10 D)* After a bit of a wait the former first-round draft pick got called up to the NHL this season, but he never saw the ice with the Kings, so his official debut still awaits. He did have a strong season with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, and got to lift the Calder Cup at season’s end. He’s proven about everything he needs to prove in the AHL, and with some potential openings on the Kings’ blue line next season, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll finally get the call.
Andy Welinski (’11 D)* Welinski had another strong season with UMD, piling up a career-high 9 goals and clearly taking on the leadership role on the Bulldog back end. The third-round pick had the option to go pro, but chose to return to Duluth for his senior year, where he’ll be the team captain. With him back in the fold, UMD could be a serious force this coming year.
Phil Johnson (’11 F) The power forward rounded out a very solid D-III career with St. John’s, finishing second on the team in points. He piled up 62 points across four seasons with the Johnnies.
Hunter Bergerson (’11 D) In his junior season at D-III St. Scholastica, Bergerson scored his first collegiate goal and finished with three points in somewhat limited playing time.
Dom Toninato (’12 F) Toninato had a breakout season as a sophomore at UMD, leading the team in goals and finishing second in points despite missing a few weeks due to injury. He’s grown into his large frame, has become a serious presence in front of the net, and centered UMD’s top line. His post-college stock is on the rise but he still has some development to do, so he’ll be back for his junior year.
Jake Randolph (’12 F) Randolph had a big freshman year with Nebraska-Omaha, finishing third on the team in points and scoring the game-winning goal that sent the Mavericks to their first ever Frozen Four. In typical Randolph fashion, his first year at a higher level saw him put up a defenseman’s stat line with five goals and 21 assists. If he stays true to form, expect the goals to start coming next season.
Trevor Olson (’12 F) Olson’s had an unlucky run over the past couple of years. After injuries slowed him in his senior year at East and in his second year of juniors, a bout of mono knocked him out for a spell during his freshman year at North Dakota. He struggled to get into the lineup after that, and was a healthy scratch through their run to the Frozen Four. Still, Olson drew praise in limited playing time on a deep team, and he’ll have an opportunity to jump back in and remind everyone of his serious talent next season.
Nate Repensky (’12 D) Repensky had a very strong freshman season at Yale, whom he helped guide to the NCAA tournament. He also scored a goal in their first round loss. This monster Class of 2012 has lived up to the hype and more in their post-high school careers to date.
Meirs Moore (’13 D) After an up-and-down post-high school debut in the USHL, Moore moved on to Victoria of the BCHL and plied his trade in Canada. He put up big offensive numbers and led the team’s defensemen in points, as is his wont. He’s set to make his D-I debut with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) this coming fall.
Conner Valesano (’13 F)* Valesano’s career took a bit of a twist in his third season in the USHL, as his point totals plummeted and his penalty minutes shot up. It’s an unexpected evolution for the small forward whose offensive skills had made him a D-I prospect at East, and who had a pretty productive season the year before. He still has another year of USHL eligibility to catch on somewhere else.
Alex Toscano (’13 F) Toscano also piled up the penalty minutes in his second season of juniors, though this was a much more predictable shift, as the big forward also managed modest offensive numbers for the NAHL champion Minnesota Wilderness.
Jack Forbort (’13 F) The second of three East alumni on the Minnesota Wilderness, Forbort had a second modestly productive NAHL campaign.
Andrew Kerr (’13 D) Kerr made a smooth jump from the NAHL to the USHL, where he was a steady, solid defenseman for Dubuque. To no one’s surprise, he also led the team in penalty minutes. He has a year of junior eligibility left, and will most likely be back in Dubuque. His size has always been a limitation, but his physical skills have been enough to generate at least some D-I interest.
Hogan Davidson (’13 F) The grinding, hard-nosed Davidson had a second straight season of respectable production in the NAHL, where he played for the Texas-based Lone Star Brahmas. As with many of these Class of ‘13 players in juniors, he’ll have a choice on his hands over his next step this offseason.
Phil Beaulieu (’14 D) The artful Beaulieu had zero trouble making the leap to the USHL, where he led all Waterloo defensemen in points. He’s on track to join his old friend Jake Randolph at Nebraska-Omaha this fall.
Alex Trapp (’14 D) Trapp also had a strong junior league debut, and was a fixture in the lineup for the Wilderness in the NAHL. He also landed the Academic Achievement Award for the NAHL’s Midwest Division.
Players dropping from the list this past season:
Nick Anderson (’97 F) Anderson hung up the skates after a long professional career. Not a star at East, the forward paid his dues in three years of junior hockey before a 5-year span at UMD, and then spent three years with Las Vegas of the ECHL before heading to Europe for six seasons. His final stop was with the Nottingham Panthers in the UK.
Josh ‘Podge’ Turnbull (’07 F)* The Hayward, Wisconsin native and former Badger appears to have ended his three-year professional career. He played with Flaherty, whose family billeted him during his two years in Duluth, in Pensacola in 13-14.
Max Tardy (’09 F) Tardy’s career ended after his four years at UMD. He never became the prolific college scorer some thought he might be out of high school, but he won’t be forgotten either, thanks to his goal in the 2011 national championship game. That sophomore season was his most productive in college, but he had sporadic playing time thereafter and never became a fixture in the lineup.
Jake Williams (’09 D) The small defenseman had three decent years at D-I American International University, but doesn’t appear to have played his senior year unless he was hurt or something. If he really is done, he’s the first of the four D-I d-men from the 2009 Hounds to hang up the skates.
Nolan Meyer (’11 F)* Meyer, best remembered as a Hound for his senior year transfer to Cloquet, didn’t play this season after getting into a handful of games over the previous two years for D-III Augsburg.
Paige Skoog (’12 G) Skoog spent two seasons in the NAHL, but the former Forest Lake and part-time Hounds goalie didn’t catch on anywhere afterward.
Dylan Parker (’13 G) The kid who started ahead of Skoog in 2012 and backstopped the 2013 3rd place campaign is done as well after a brief stint in the NA3HL. He was one of the more touted goalies to come out of East in recent years, but even while at East, he never quite found the consistency necessary to put together a long post-high school career.
Ryan Lundgren (’13 F) Lundgren never played a game after high school, but I put him on the list last season in case he decided to make a comeback after a serious injury in NAHL training camp. Instead, the 2013 Herb Brooks Award winner chose to move on with life. While this post applauds a bunch of young men who are out chasing hockey dreams, sometimes wisdom comes in knowing when to take the next step into reality.
Also of note: while college club hockey wouldn’t normally qualify one for this list, Matt Cooper (’09 G) has made a legitimate name for himself at Iowa State. A dominant club hockey goalie, Cooper twice went to Europe for the Winter World University Games, including this year’s games in Granada, Spain. He was the starter at East for the better part of two years, and while he’d probably like a couple of his playoff games back, he put up some gaudy numbers while he was a Hound.