By Shane Frederick
The Free Press
When the Minnesota State men's hockey team reconvenes late this summer, it will have 10 defensemen on its roster, including four new faces.
"We need some depth there," coach Mike Hastings said.
On Wednesday, one of those incoming defensemen was among a pair of recruits who signed letters of intent to play for the Mavericks.
Two other defensemen signed in November, and a transfer will be eligible to play after the fall semester ends.
"We're going to ask the young guys to come in and contribute immediately," Hastings said. "Our freshmen had an impact on our program last year, and our freshman have to come in and make an impact next year."
The latest signees are defenseman Casey Nelson and center Jordan Nelson. The two are not related, although Casey is the younger brother of Mavericks junior defenseman Josh Nelson.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Casey just completed his season with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the junior-level North American Hockey League. He had 10 goals and 22 assists and led all NAHL defensemen with 189 shots on goal.
"We need some help at the back end, and I think Casey's going to do that," Hastings said of the Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., native. "He can play power play, kill penalties, play even strength. He's got good length at 6-3. ... I think he's a guy who can give us a little offensive flare from the blue line."
In November, the Mavericks signed defensemen Sean Flanagan of the British Columbia Hockey League's Penticton Vees and Carter Foguth of the United States Hockey League's Muskegon Lumberjacks. Last winter semester, defenseman Blake Thompson transferred to MSU from Minnesota.
"I think they will improve our ability to move pucks," Hastings said.
Jordan Nelson, meanwhile, is a center playing for the USHL's Fargo Force. He had 17 goals and 16 assists and was plus-10 in 56 regular-season games. The Force began the USHL on Wednesday night.
"We hope he can step in and play a role down the middle," Hastings said, comparing him to departing senior center Eli Zuck. "We want that to be a position of strength for us."
The 6-0, 190-pound Jordan Nelson is a native of Williston, N.D., and was named North Dakota's Mr. Hockey in 2010 and is in his third year of junior hockey.
"He can skate, and he's got a little offense to his game," Hastings said. "He plays with an edge, and he's able to defend."
Up front, Jordan Nelson joins forward Mike Huntebrinker of the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks, who signed in November. Goaltender Cole Huggins of the BCHL's Coquitlam Express also signed during the early period.