Sabatini working towards goal of College Hockey
Mike Sabatini is a Soo Greyhounds draft pick from 2011 who decided not to try to make a go of it in the Ontario Hockey League.
Instead, the 6-foot-1, 185 pound, 1995 birth-year forward from Grosse Pointe Woods opted for the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League with the intent of pursuing a Division I College Hockey commitment.
Now in his second season with the Eagles, Sabatini has emerged as a leader and top scorer with the NAHL team.
To be sure, Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo has noticed a marked difference in Sabatini from last season to this one.
“He’s really matured into a strong veteran player for us,” said Bragagnolo. “He’s a second-year guy who is playing like it’s his third or fourth year in the league.”
The NCAA Division I recruiters have taken note of Sabatini.
“Three or four schools have called us about Mike,” Bragagnolo related. “He’s definitely attracting interest.”
The interest isn’t just from the NCAA recruiters.
Not only is Sabatini on the Division I, NCAA radar, he made the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting rankings for the 2013 draft. And while the big power forward wasn’t selected at the 2013 draft, a handful of NHL scouts have continued to follow him this 2013-2014 season.
On pace to score 20 goals for the Eagles this season, Sabatini is strong on his skates and fearless along the boards and in the corners.
“Mike’s an OHL-style player in a lot of ways,” Bragagnolo said. “As long as he remains focused, he’s got a good future ahead of him. He works hard, he battles hard and he has a good scoring touch. On top of that, he’s a really good kid.”
Sabatini, while honored to have become an OHL draft pick, said playing Division I College Hockey has long been a goal of his.
Around the NAHL
With a 7-2-2 record in their last 11 outings as of Jan. 10, Soo Eagles have soared back into contention in the North Division of the NAHL.
Even-keeled Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo refused to panic even when his team was five games below .500 in early December and the Soo moved into a tie for fourth place in the North Division with an even record of 15-15-6 heading into the Jan. 10 weekend.
The Eagles have been bolstered by the December acquisitions of high-scoring forwards Nick Belger and Scott Cuthrell and goalies Nathan Klebe and Landon Trutt.
Still, the Eagles continue to play without highly-regarded defenceman Michael Caruso, who is sidelined with a concussion.
A fierce competitor, Caruso, who has a 1995 birth date, was obtained by the Eagles in an off-season transfer with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Meanwhile, all 24 teams in the four-division, NAHL had passed the midway mark of the 60-game, regular-season schedule going into the Jan. 10 weekend.
There are close races for first place in all four divisions and sights are set on playoff spots in the North, South, Central and Midwest.
Seven teams make up the South, there are six in both the North and Midwest and five in the Central.
Four teams in each division will make the playoffs, which don’t begin until the first week of April. In other words, there are games aplenty to be played before the regular-season ends on March 29.