Eagles’ forward Sabatini has bright future
His coach thinks he can develop into a dominant power forward.
To be sure, Bruno Bragagnolo, who coaches and manages the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League, feels as though Mike Sabatini has the tools to become the consummate power forward.
“He’s big, he’s tough, he’s a strong skater, he works hard, he plays well in traffic and he can put the puck in the net,” Bragagnolo said of Sabatini, a Detroit area product who just turned 19-years old in January. “He just needs to work on his consistency.”
Sabatini, appearing on the Hockey North Show that I host on ESPN 1400 Radio, said he is embracing the power-forward role.
“It’s a role that suits me and it’s a position I am really working at,” said Sabatini, who leads the Eagles in scoring with 14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points while racking up 66 penalty minutes in 45 games thus far this NAHL season.
Now in his second NAHL season with the Eagles, Sabatini has made huge strides from his rookie 2012-2013 campaign in which he produced five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 53 games while spending 98 minutes in the penalty box.
Sabatini was ranked by National Hockey League Central Scouting in 2012 and while he wasn’t selected at the 2013 draft, he has remained on the radar of a handful of scouts.
While Sabatini, who was an Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Soo Greyhounds in 2011, said it’s flattering to have his name linked to an NHL scout or two, he noted that he first wants to secure a NCAA Division I commitment.
Meanwhile, Sabatini’s focus is on trying to help the Eagles secure a playoff spot in the hotly-contested North Division of the NAHL where five of the six teams currently have winning records.
“It’s a battle,” Sabatini said of playing within the NAHL North. “Every game is like a playoff game.”
“A” student Anzalone
He’s making his own way as a coach, far away from his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie.
Francis Anzalone in his first season as associate coach and director of player personnel with the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League ... and he’s making a name for himself.
Just 26-years old, Anzalone was born into hockey when his father, Frank Anzalone, was coaching the Lake Superior State Lakers and leading them to their first of three NCAA Division I national championships.
As he grew up around the game, Francis has stayed with it through scouting and coaching at increasingly-higher levels.
As he first learned about hockey from his dad, Francis also inherited the work ethic and attention to detail from his Brooklyn-born father.
Travis Winter, who is Aberdeen’s head coach and director of hockey operations, is in his first full season with the Wings after taking over what was a lowly, last-place team late in the 2012-2013 campaign and bringing it to within three points of a playoff spot.
As Winter committed to Aberdeen for the 2013-2014 campaign and beyond, one of the first things he did last off-season was to re-unite himself with Anzalone, with whom he had worked in secondary roles in the United States Hockey League.
The 29-year old Winter can’t say enough about his sidekick Anzalone.
“He’s thorough and a true student of the game,” Winter said of Anzalone. “His work ethic and attention to detail is a major factor in what we do in Aberdeen.”
To be sure, it was Winter who revived the Wings of Aberdeen when he took over last season, inheriting a team that had a record of 8-24-4 and sparking it to a 15-6-3 finish and that near-playoff miss.
But as Winter has laid the blueprint for the current edition of the Wings who are a solid third in the NAHL’s Central Division with a 25-17-3 record as of Feb. 14, there is no doubt of the contributions Anzalone has made to the Aberdeen program.
As Winter has quickly made a name for himself as a bright, innovative, up-and-coming coach, Anzalone’s work is being noticed and held in high regard inside and outside NAHL circles.
There’s something to be said about well-educated young men who use their university degrees and academic prowess and apply it to hockey and player development.
Winter is one of those shining examples.
And so too is Anzalone, the Sault Ste. Marie kid who has taken his good name and hockey acmen out to Aberdeen, South Dakota.
There’s a Chill heating up the Midwest.
Over its past 21 games dating back to Dec. 6, the Coulee Chill has won 16 times and with an overall record of 28-17-0, has moved into a tie for second place in the hotly-contested Midwest Division of the North American Hockey League as of Feb. 14.
Not bad, not bad at all for a Coulee Region team that won only 16 of 60 games in 2012-2013 and missed the playoffs.
Here it is the second week of February and with 15 games to play in the 2013-2014 regular season, the Chill trails only the annually-contending Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Midwest and has caught the Minnesota Wilderness for second spot.
While Coulee Region features the 1-2 twine tandem of goalies Blake Cates and Adam Carlson, a forceful attack appears to be the strength behind this Midwest Chill.
Eight Coulee Region forwards have 20-plus points led by Mac Jansen with 23 goals and 14 assists for 37 points and followed by Richard Zehnal (11-22-33), Adam Lovick (10-20-30), Jesse Treddinick (11-16-27), Eddie Matsushima (9-18-27), Blake Kelley (10-16-26), James McGing (14-11-25) and Gordon Wells (12-9-21.)
To be sure, for a team that was at the .500 mark in the first week of December but is 11 games over the watershed since, Chill coach A.J. Degenhardt has this team moving in an onward flow.
Two Jr. Generals sign tenders
A pair of skaters from the East Division-leading Flint Jr. Generals of the North American 3 Hockey League have signed tenders with North American Hockey League teams for the 2014-2015 season.
Seventeen-year old forward Jacob Drinkard has signed a tender with the Austin Bruins of the Central Division while 18-year old defenseman Ryan Burr has inked a form with the Michigan Warriors of the North Division.
Drinkard, who hails from Lapeer, is in his first season with the Jr. Generals.
The 6-foot-3, 210 pounder has appeared in 26 games this season (as of Feb. 15) and has nine goals and six assists for 15 points.
Drinkard was selected by the Jr. Generals from the Michigan Ice Hawks Midgets at the 2013 NA3HL draft.
Burr is a native of Toms River, New Jersey and is also in his first season with the Jr. Generals.
The 6-foot-3, 195 pound Burr spent the 2012-2013 season in the North American Prospects Hockey League with the New Jersey Jr. Titans.
Thus far this 2013-2014 season, Burr has appeared in 34 games for the Jr. Generals and put up four goals and 18 assists for 22 points from his blue line position.