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NAHL: Chippewa Steel focused on replenishing scoring punch in upcoming NAHL Entry Draft
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NAHL | Chippewa Steel

NAHL: Chippewa Steel focused on replenishing scoring punch in upcoming NAHL Entry Draft

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Springfield at Chippewa Steel 11-29-19

Chippewa's Connor Szmul moves up the ice with the puck during a game against Springfield last season at Chippewa Area Ice Arena. The Steel will look to replace a number of their top scorers, including Szmul, in the upcoming NAHL Entry Draft.

This offseason has been unlike any other for Chippewa Steel coach Carter Foguth and his staff.

But despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the team has still been deep in preparation for the upcoming NAHL Entry Draft, which takes place at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Steel own the 16th pick of the first round of the draft and can make a maximum of 11 picks in the draft, unless it makes any more signings before the draft.

The lead-up to the draft has been unique because of the pandemic, as the team has been unable to travel to various camps to see potential draft picks in action. Instead, Foguth and his staff have been more reliant on video of prospects as they look to find players who can make an impact.

Carter Foguth headshot

Foguth

“It’s been night and day,” Foguth said of the process. “It’s definitely not easy, but I know that can be said for everything right now. For us, it’s changed the process in terms of scouting and that kind of stuff. Typically at this time before the draft we would be going — myself and our other coaches and scouts — would be going to other USHL camps and watching players so that we can find some players for the draft and that kind of stuff.”

Teams usually wait until the end of the season before they turn their focus fully on the draft; that occurred earlier than expected this season. The remaining NAHL season was canceled in mid-March as the Steel were closing in on a playoff berth and sitting in second place in the Midwest Division standings.

Foguth said he expects the team to address the offense as it will see a number of its best scorers departing. Jacob Dirks (Ferris State University), Connor Szmul (Long Island University), Jake Vaughan (Connecticut College) and Isaac Moberg (UW-Stevens Point) are among the forwards heading off to play collegiately.

Szmul (21 goals, 27 assists) and Dirks (27 goals, 20 assists) were the team’s top two point-scorers last season, and the team is also bracing for the departure of two other forwards as the team’s third leading scorer Killian Kiecker-Olson and Connor McGrath were each selected in the USHL Entry Draft. Both Kiecker-Olson and McGrath will go to training camp and would revert back to the Steel if they don’t make their respective teams.

“So losing potentially three of our top scorers for us, we’re specifically looking to replace some of our scoring and some of our forwards that we’re going to be losing,” Foguth said.

Last year, the team was in need of defense and drafted accordingly with four of the eight selections going to defenders. Fifth-round pick Luke Farthing led the team in goals (13) and tied for the lead in assists (16) for defensemen.

“We drafted him in the middle of the draft, and he ended up offensively being one of our highest scoring defensemen,” Foguth said.

Farthing is also departing as he joins Dirks at Ferris State.

The Steel added three players during May’s Supplemental NAHL Draft by selecting forwards Brockton Baker and Konner Lundeen as well as Patrick Roginski. Baker had eight goals and eight assists for the Madison Capitols of the USHL last season, Lundeen played in 14 games with the Kenai River Brown Bears, and Roginski had 26 goals and 27 assists in 55 games with the Little Caesars U18 squad.

After the draft, the Steel will be holding their main camp from July 23-25 at Chippewa Area Ice Arena in Chippewa Falls. Last season more than 200 prospective players turned out for the camp.

“We’re excited to get things going again and get the team selected and all that stuff,” Foguth said.

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