The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

July 7, 2014

Frederick column: Minnesota State hockey players at NHL camps

Mike Hastings has coached the Minnesota State men's hockey team for two years, winning 50 games, including a WCHA tournament championship, in that brief span and advancing to two NCAA tournaments.

People have noticed, including National Hockey League scouts.

It's certainly no coincidence that the recent rise of the Mavericks has meant that more and more of the team's players are appearing on those professional radars.

This week, a whopping 10 players with Minnesota State ties, including eight who will play for the Mavericks this coming season, are scattered throughout North America, participating in NHL prospect and development camps.

Four of those players are draft picks, including the Pittsburgh Penguins' Teddy Blueger, the Nashville Predators' Zach Stepan, the New York Islanders' Stephon Williams and the Winnipeg Jets' C.J. Franklin.

Eriah Hayes, who graduated in 2013, is at the camp of the San Jose Sharks, the team that signed him after his college career ended, while five others are free-agent invitees.

The latter group includes current players Zach Palmquist (Minnesota Wild), Sean Flanagan (Winnipeg), Cole Huggins (Calgary Flames) and Brad McClure (Pittsburgh), as well as verbally committed future recruit Hunter Warner (Minnesota).

This is the third NHL camp for Palmquist, a senior defenseman. He spent time last summer in San Jose and skated at the Philadelphia Flyers' camp in 2012.

Blueger, Stepan and Hayes also skated last summer, as did junior forward Dylan Margonari (Winnipeg) and senior forward Max Gaede (San Jose).

Hastings said the experience is invaluable for players, as they learn more about what it takes to become a professional.

"I believe you always get a better player back," Hastings said.

But it's also the betterment of the Mavericks' team and talent that's caused NHL teams to take notice, whether they're drafting players and prospects or inviting them as free agents.

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