WATERFORD, MI – The Metro Jets selected 11 players in Tuesday night’s North American 3 Hockey League draft, with Livonia native Mike Gambino being tabbed in the first round with the fifth overall pick after a draft-day trade with the Quad City Jr. Flames.
The two teams swapped first-round picks, second-round picks and the Jr. Flames added Metro’s third-round pick and the Jets got Quad City’s fourth-round pick and 12th-round pick as well.
Metro wound up with the fifth, 22nd, 57th and 193rd overall picks, while the Jr. Flames had the 11th, 28th and 45th overall choices in the early going.
Gambino, a forward who played last season for Livonia Churchill High School and was a Second Team All-State selection, is a player the Jets’ brass had watched all season.
Metro head coach Jason Cirone said that the team’s draft philosophy was to take the best player available and when the Jets had the opportunity to move up to No. 5, Gambino was who they had earmarked for their pick.
“We didn’t think Gambino would be there when we picked at No. 11 and he was the player we wanted,” said Cirone. “He’s highly-skilled and came from the same high school program Steve Klisz came from a year ago. I saw him play a couple times and I think he could play in the NAHL next season, but if not, he’ll have options with us and we’ll certainly do all we can to move him, as well as the rest of our players, to the next level.”
The Jets drafted 10 more players throughout the night – all Michigan-based players – with a breakdown of eight forwards, two defensemen and one goalie. The lone netminder, Traverse City West High School’s Mike Tilford, was a Second Team All-State player in 2011-12.
The rundown on the rest of the Metro draft picks, with comments from Cirone.
2nd round, 22nd overall, Zach MacKay, F, Detroit Falcons 18U
“He came to our open camp last weekend and was the best player on the ice. He’s a good skater, works hard and plays a physical game.”
4th round, 57th overall, Anthony Saleh, F, Grosse Pointe North High School
“North has been known for producing talented players over the years. I saw Anthony at the Trenton showcase this season and liked him the first time I saw him.”
5th round, 80th overall, Kyle King, D, Wyandotte Roosevelt High School
“I have a good relationship with Roosevelt coach Mike Quint. King is also a guy I saw at the Trenton showcase and I think he can come in here and fill a role for us.”
6th round, 97th overall, Alex Jaeckle, D, Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School
“Jaeckle was a kid (Jets’ head scout) Tim Ross really wanted. We trust the De La Salle program and they have sent many kids on to higher levels of hockey. Jaeckle has the size and speed we were looking for, too.”
7th round, 114th overall, Max Dubin, F, West Bloomfield High School
“I saw Dubin play once – the morning of the draft. He is a very explosive player and plays the game at a very high speed.”
8th round, 131st overall, Mitch Rogowski, F, West Michigan Hounds 18U
“This is a kid I’ve been tracking for three years, back to when I was with the (NAHL’s) Motor City Metal Jackets. He’s big and physical and should probably make an NAHL team, but if that doesn’t happen, we’d be happy to have him with us.”
9th round, 148th overall, Cody Jones, F, West Bloomfield High School
“We saw him in our camp last weekend and he’s a big body who likes to shoot the puck.”
10th round, 165th overall, Ian Springfield, F, Michigan Ice Hawks Midget A
“Springfieldis a 1996 birthdate and is a big-bodied kid who can come in and fill a role. You can’t have your top two lines doing all the scoring and we feel Ian is a kid who is good around the net and will benefit from playing in our league for the next year or two.”
11th round, 182nd overall, Mike Tilford, G, Traverse City West High School
“Randy Wilson and Sean Clark recommended Tilford to us and one thing that Randy said is that the kid blocks pucks. That’s a good thing for a goalie, right? He’ll have a shot to play in the NAHL, but if you look at our track record in moving goalies on, I think he’d be a good fit as a Metro Jet.”
12th round, 193rd overall, James Tuljus, F, USA Eagles Midget
“This kid practiced with us all of last year and did everything I asked of him. If I asked him to lay down on the ice in front of a slap shot, he’d do it. And he’s been skating with me twice a week with a broken wrist. He’s a good character guy who will be great for our locker room. You can never have too many guys like James Tuljus.”
Overall, Cirone said he was happy with the results of the draft.
“I think we had a successful draft and we got the players we wanted,” Cirone said. “I think we filled some needs and once all the NAHL camps sort themselves out, we’ll see what happens then, but right now, I’m excited about the players we got and to see how the season shakes out.”
The expansion Breezy Point (Minn.) North Stars had the first-overall pick and took Cleveland Barons 18U goalie Walker Enstad to open the draft.