It was no secret that the Minot Minotauros struggled to score in their first-round playoff series with Austin (Minn.) in April.
They were limited to five goals in four games as the Tauros lost the series in four games to the Bruins. The Tauros sought to address that problem in this year's North American Hockey League draft, where Minot used six of its nine picks on forwards.
They also traded four picks - two second-, one third- and one fifth-round selection - to Kenai River (Ark.) for Brown Bears leading scorer Matt Seidel. Seidel registered 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) to lead the Brown Bears to a 29-25-6 record and a first-round loss to Fairbanks (Alaska) in the West Division playoffs.
MDN File Photo
Tauros forward Mason Morelli, right, committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the 2015-16 season. Morelli still has two years of junor hockey eligibility.
"He's a guy that's produced and been leaned on," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "You look to leadership from him and we have big expectations for him. He's going to a (United States Hockey League) camp in June and we're hoping if he comes to us he'll be a big-time player."
The move to acquire Seidel wasn't the only big news to come from the Tauros' camp. Minot native Mason Morelli committed to play college hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the 2015-16 season. Morelli will be a senior in high school in the fall and has two years of eligibility remaining in junior hockey.
"Marty and (assistant coach) Mick (Berge) have been great," Morelli said in a press release. "They've helped me with my game and got me exposure. They played a huge role for me."
Morelli totaled 27 points (12 g, 15 a) for the Tauros last season. The USHL's Fargo Force own Morelli's rights for two more years.
The Tauros used their second-round pick on defenseman Zach Simpson. The 6-foot, 185-pounder played last season with the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
"He can step in and be an impact player right away," Murray said. "He's not a rookie. He shouldn't skip a beat."
Minot's next three picks focused on offense, drafting forwards with each selection. Jack Forbort, Steven Mather and Rylan Cratsenberg combined for 183 points (88 g, 95 a) last year. Mather and Cratsenberg were teammates on Team Seattle U16. Mather was the team's second-leading scorer with 62 points, including a team-high 41 assists. Cratsenberg led the team with 44 goals.
The Tauros hope to get quality production out of the trio as forwards Steven Sherman, Collin Abitz and Zack Holstrom and defenseman David Dalbec left early to attend college. Forward Lucas Oliver will play hockey in Canada next season. Oliver, Sherman and Holstrom were among Minot's top seven scorers.
Minot selected goaltender Hayden Hawkey in the fourth round to fill the void left by Tyler Parks. Hawkey, a 6-2, 170-pound native of Parker, Colo., appeared in 26 games with the Colorado T-Birds, sporting an 18-7 record with four shutouts, a 1.94 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
Murray said Ryan Ruck is likely to open the season as the Tauros' starting netminder.
"Ruck probably gets the nod with his experience," he said. "He proved he can be a real solid goalie in our league. Ryan gave us a great chance of winning every game he played. He got better throughout the season."
Defenseman Matt Calabrese and forwards Thomas Plese, C.J. Stubbs and Bo Gronseth rounded out Minot's final four selections.
Notably missing from Minot's draft-day selections was a local North Dakota product. Bottineau-Rugby defenseman Cody Longie went in the third round (58th overall) to the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild and Minot High School defenseman Morgen Martelle was selected in the 11th round by the Minnesota Magicians expansion team.
Despite missing out on a local player, Murray was happy with the team's draft.
"I was pleased with it," he said. "You rely on scouts and people you talk to and we've heard very good things about the people we chose."
The Tauros' draft picks will be on display when camp begins June 21 at the Vadnais Heights (Minn.) Sports Center.