The North American Hockey League’s Top Prospects Tournament is a one-shot deal for many of its participants.
Fortunately for those who are representing the Central Division in the event at the New England Sports Village in Attleboro, Massachusetts, they have a veteran coach to guide them through the process.
Scott Langer from the Aberdeen Wings made his 12th trip to the Top Prospects Tournament and acted as head coach for the Central Division in its two games. The event is designed to showcase the top NAHL players who have not yet made a college commitment.
“For a lot of these guys, this is their last chance to really get on the radar,” Langer said. “When I go in there, I just try to educate these guys on playing unselfish hockey, playing the right way. You’re not with your team, so you don’t have a bunch of structure, so you’ve got to make the plays when you get an opportunity to make plays and you’ve got to play hard.”
That can be a challenge in itself.
“Most of these guys are coming off a weekend of having to play games and then travel,” Langer said. “It’s not easy to play at that high rate, but it’s important that they do. These guys on the divisional teams don’t have anything locked up to secure their future.”
Langer recognizes that his role includes helping players handle their anxiety. It is important that they play solid hockey rather than seeking to make highlight-reel plays.
“Sometimes they think if they don’t shock the world, they’re not going to get their college looks,” he said. “... It’s more or less keeping these guys positive and level-headed and moving in the right direction.”
Langer has some familiar faces with him. As division leader, Aberdeen gets four players on the Central team. The Wings also have three players as part of the two “Select” teams that mix players from across the league and fill out the field.
Defenseman/team captain Jake Beaune, goalie Jake Sibell and forwards Cooper Haar and Connor Beatty are on the Central Division roster.
Beaune, a 19-year-old defenseman from Livonia, Michigan, represented Team NAHL in Sochi, Russia, in the 2019 Sirius Ice Hockey World Cup. The 6-foot-3, 188-pounder has 10 goals and 14 assists in 43 games, more than doubling his production from last season in Aberdeen.
“Jake’s a guy who just does everything right every day,” Langer said. “He does it within our culture and to our identity. He represents our team very well. He plays extremely hard every game and doesn’t take any nights off.”
Langer said he usually lets the goalies decide whether they would prefer to split the duties each game or play one full game each and use that to have more of a chance to get into a groove.
Sibell has shared goalie responsibilities in Aberdeen. The 20-year-old from Isanti, Michigan, is 12-3-0-1 with a 2.71 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
“This year, he really put a lot of time in over the summer and has really become a solid goaltender for us,” Langer said. “… Jake’s a kid who’s athletic and he makes the saves he should.”
Haar, an in-season acquisition from the Lone Star Brahmas, is making his second Top Prospects appearance. He also played for the Central in 2018 when he was with the Bismarck Bobcats in the second of his three full NAHL seasons.
The 20-year-old from Huntington Beach, California, has 12 goals and 22 assists in 28 games since joining the Wings in a trade.
“Since Cooper has come on board, we’ve done a lot of winning here,” Langer said. “Cooper has a lot to do with that with his maturity and his leadership and ability to make plays.
“He’s a big part of what we do here. If there’s one guy going out to the Prospects that I would have my eyes on if I was a college, it would be Cooper Haar.”
Beatty is a 21-year-old from Concord, New Hampshire, who plays a game that does not necessarily match his 5-foot-8, 160-pound frame.
“He’s a physical player,” Langer said. “He plays 200 feet, he forechecks, he’s tough and strong in front of the net. He kind of opens up space for other people.
“He’s not always rewarded with the points, but he’s someone who is complementary to a lot of guys.”
Beatty has seven goals and 11 assists in 40 games.
For more Top Prospects Tournament coverage, click here.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.