By: Joey Battaino
The Michigan Warriors officially started their third season in Flint today with the 2012 NAHL draft. Players from all around the world are hoping to get taken by one of the league's 24 teams. After the Warriors moved up five players to the college ranks, and lost three players to age restrictions, there is some roster spots to be had on this 2012-13 Michigan Warriors lineup.
Jake Hopfner was the Warriors first pick and sixth overall in the 2012 NAHL draft. The 6'0, 180 lbs. forward out of Eastpointe, MI played in nine games last season for the Jamestown Ironmen before being sent down to the Leamington Flyers of the GOJHL (tier III). "He's been on our radar for a couple seasons now," said Warriors head coach and general manager Moe Mantha. "He adds some scoring punch and speed to our forwards,"
In the second round, the Michigan Warriors selected defensman Ben Israel. Ben played his midget hockey for Detroit Honeybaked U18. "He has a cannon of a shot" was the first thing Moe Mantha said about Israel. "He's a guy who was on the ice in all situations for Honeybaked, He's very mobile, and moves the puck quickly."
When asked what the biggest difference between this year and last for Warriors fourth round pick Connor Lyons who did not make last years squad after tryouts, he said, " I was really impressed with how much he had matured. We need guys who can put the puck in the net," Connor had 14 goals in 47 games last season with the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL (tier III)
Overall coach Mantha was very pleased with his 2012 draft. "We filled some holes in size, speed, and grit." He thinks his team will be much more blue collar this season. "It's not a slight at our guys from last year, we just weren't gritty enough at times. We addressed that today,"
I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Moe Mantha the past three seasons. He has impressed me in a lot of different ways but what is most impressive about Moe is he refuses to get caught up in the skill or hype of a certain player. If that players character traits are not up to the Warriors standard, he will gladly let another team draft that player. " This whole draft for me was based on the character and maturity of these young men," That pretty much sums it up. He's not an easy coach to play for, but when these players buy in to Mantha's systems, their talent will reach new heights that not even the players themselves could have ever imagined.