As the week kind of wore on, I tend to get more and more restless, especially as the weeks of the semester start whizzing by. Working full time, and teaching a class along with keeping up with hockey about leaves time for nothing else. I know this season I've been lacking on updating all of my loyal readers with recruit information. We've had quite a few if you follow Chris Heisenberg's handywork. But this one I couldn't just pass up. I also teamed up with the Lincoln Stars blogger for a bit of a interview to give some insight into these guys.
First up, Wasilla native Matt Friese has committed to play for the Nanooks yesterday according to the Lincoln Stars official Twitter feed. He played quite a bit of his junior career in the NAHL in Anchorage, and even committed to UAA last season, but later rescinded that commitment after finding out what a horrible idea playing for a team called "The Seawolves". After deciding that he wanted to get as far away from Anchorage as he could (yet another wise decision), he ventured to the USHL and played with the Tri-City Storm and subsequently was traded to the Chicago Steel. After one thing led to another, Matt found himself back in Anchorage to finish out last season with the Avalanche. So far this season, he's back in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars, and he's played all 36 games thus far.
Friese isn't the perennial first line scorer, he's more of an energy/grinder line as a complete two-way player. He's got 20 points thus far this season, but more importantly, he carries a +11 rating, showing his defensive value. Since the USHL games are kind of hard to get video of without paying through the nose, I recruited the help of Tim over at the Lincoln Stars Blog to tell us a little bit about Matt and some of his skills.
Starting with Friese, while he hasn't been the highest scorer for the Stars, what type of role does he play for the team?
"He's an energy guy for sure. The Stars have a few guys who can really put the puck in the net (not to say that Matt can't), but I think his role is more of a 2nd, 3rd line energy guy who has the skill to play top line minutes when needed."
Given his 20 points, he also touts a +11 rating. Would you say that he is a strong two-way player?
"Without a doubt. He's more than capable with the puck, and is solid in the defensive zone. He hasn't had much time at all this season on the PP (no PP points), but he does get PK minutes. Not afraid to drop down and block a shot if needed."
What are the strengths and weaknesses in Friese's game?
"Strengths are his speed for sure. Fastest player on the Stars this season, and probably one of the quickest players in the USHL. What I like a lot about Friese is that he's just as quick with the puck. You see a lot of guys at the junior level who fast without the puck, but they just can't make the same moves with the puck. He is a bit on the small side, but he's a solid 175 pounds at 5'10". He's not the type of player that seeks out physical play, but he has picked up a fighting major this season."
Seeing him play at the junior level, and taking his strengths and weaknesses into account, how would you envision Friese evolving at the NCAA Division-I level?
"I think Friese can evolve into a two-way, dependable forward with the speed to get around opposing defensemen that are caught out of position. Probably a 3rd to 2nd line guy at the Division I level. 20-25 points per season."
All very positive things. Speed has been a highly recruited skill over the past few classes that coach Ferguson and his staff have brought in. We've seen a good mix of size and speed, and if Friese is as fast as it sounds like he is, he will be a very welcome addition with the loss of Ronnie Meyers next season (its honestly a little sad just thinking about that right now). I'm curious to see if Matt's commitment puts a little jump in his step to see him start scoring more. From what I've heard elsewhere, Matt has great stick skills, so seeing a little more scoring production as he finishes out his junior career with the Stars.
Another player inked also has roots in the Lincoln Stars organization in 6' 3" D man Richard Coyne. He's a very solid defensive defenceman that doesn't rack up a lot of points, but more importantly for his position, helps eliminate points for the opposition. Through all 50 games he played last year, he accumulated just 5 points, but finished a +9 for the season. He didn't log a lot of ice time as the Stars push heavy for offensive minded blueliners. With that in mind, the reasons for his trade to the BCHL so early this season becomes obvious as Lincoln's surplus of bodies in their defensive corps directly contributed to the Langley Rivermen's lack of a defensive corps. It doesn't look like the BCHL tracks +/- on a regular basis, so it's kind of hard to really tell. But again, given his roots in Lincoln, I had Tim pull double duty, so here's a quick Q&A about the Nanooks newest defenseman.
Shifting to Richard Coyne, his stat line indicates that he's more of a defensive defenseman. Is that accurate?
"That's correct, but he has very good hands and it surprises me that he hasn't put up more points. At the Stars' tryout camp last year in June, I had multiple people tell me he was the best defenseman in camp. Sadly, it just didn't work out in Lincoln this season because of how deep the team already was at his position."
Would you say he's more of an active or passive defender?
"Active for sure. His head is always up and legs are always moving. Not afraid to jump up into the play and bring the puck into the offensive zone on his own."
Listed at 6'3" 220lbs, he's definitely got a bigger body. Does he play more physically? How's his skating ability?
"Yeah, he loves the physical aspect. One of the best guys I've seen in person who can throw a good hip-check (so underused in hockey, imo). Being a big guy, I think his skating is actually above average."
Strengths and Weaknesses?
"Love his first pass out of the defensive zone. His head is always up looking for the breakout pass. Big body, and loves the physical contact. Because he loves to initiate the play in his own zone, he can sometimes put himself out of position looking for the big hit."
And lastly, how would you envision him evolving at the D1 level?
"Solid 2nd-3rd line defenseman who has the hands and ability to play both on the PP and the PK. 10-15 points per season."
I know Dallas has an eye for defenders as the Nanooks have had a top 10 defense in the country nearly every season he's coached. With the addition of Coyne, I'm hopeful that his abilities will shine through team statistics, and contributing to the solidity of the Nanooks blueline for four years to come.
Thanks again to Tim for the insight on these guys. Check out his Lincoln Stars Blog and follow Matt's progress as the USHL season comes to a close.
Here's a quick summary of our current recruits and their stat lines through the end of January.
LW Matt Friese (Lincoln-USHL) 36-7-13-20-13
D Richard Coyne (Langley-BCHL) 16-0-6-6-27
C Tyler Morley (Surrey-BCHL) 42-21-30-51-65
RW Marcus Basara* (Westside-BCHL) 46-12-18-30-37
F Alec Hajdukovich (Fairbanks-NAHL) 39-23-17-40-24
RW Taylor Munson (Fairbanks-NAHL) 35-11-20-31-49
RW Nolan Huysmans (Spruce Grove-AJHL) 53-34-23-57-82
D Davin Stener* (Drumheller-AJHL) 27-1-9-10-39
F Sam Lawson (Drumheller-AJHL) 32-11-13-24-134
RW Chase McMurphy* (Calgary-AJHL) 47-16-25-41-83
RD Colton Parakyo (Ft. McMurray-AJHL) 43-7-28-35-59
C Jared Linnell (Tri-City/Cedar Rapids-USHL) 28-3-6-9-20
* - 2013/2014 recruit