By Matt Mackinder 07/10/2020, 2:30pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 07/08/2020, 5:15pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 07/04/2020, 10:45am EDT
By Matt Mackinder 07/03/2020, 2:00pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 07/01/2020, 12:45pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 06/26/2020, 3:15pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 06/23/2020, 11:15pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 06/18/2020, 11:30pm EDT
By USPHL Staff 06/18/2020, 12:00pm EDT
By Matt Mackinder 06/16/2020, 11:15pm EDT
FRASER, Mich. – As a third-year player for the Metro Jets, Nick McDougall knows what the program offers and how players can benefit.
When it came time for McDougall to explore his options on where to play for the 2020-21 season, only one choice made 100 percent sense.
“This organization is one of the best, on and off the ice, focuses on building character first and foremost, and competes for national titles, year in and year out,” said McDougall, a 2001-born forward from Clinton Township, Mich. “Needless to say, it was an easy decision to come back.
“The reason why I think this organization is so prestigious is because of the people who are around it, starting from the top. We have a fantastic owner (Peter Cammick) who lets great coaches like ‘Q’ (Justin Quenneville) and Jamie (Lovell) help develop players’ skill and character. Our entire staff, including (assistant coaches) Dan Pszenyczny and Randy Wilson, cares about our development.”
Last season with the MJDP team, McDougall registered nine goals and 24 points in 41 games. The year prior, he tallied 15 goals and 19 points over 43 games. McDougall also has two goals and an assist in seven USPHL playoff games to his credit.
“I improved a lot on special teams last year through the video we studied as well as getting a lot of in-game experience,” said McDougall. “I’ll do whatever is asked of me. If I have to block a shot, then I’ll block a shot. If I have to mentor younger rookies, then I’ll mentor younger rookies. This organization has done so much for me that now I’m in the mindset of doing more for it because I know I’ll get more opportunities by buying in.”
Quenneville loves McDougall’s contagious attitude and will look for him to take his game to another level once the new season begins in September.
“I’ve known and worked with Nick since he was 14 years old,” said Quenneville. “There isn’t a kid in Detroit that wants to learn more about every detail of the game than him. Watching him develop over the years has been fun to watch but seeing him grow into the mature young man he is more rewarding.
“He does a lot of good things on the ice and is committed to the details. He has a little throwback in his game, and it shows all over the ice. He’s not afraid to get in lanes, get to dirty areas and stick his nose in battles. He has a quick release and continues to improve his game on both sides of the puck. I know he’s excited to get back and so are we.”
And with summer in full swing, McDougall said he has been “relaxing and taking it easy” while still training at the MAT with returning Jets players and prospective players. He also has an eye on next season with a goal to still be playing meaningful hockey in the spring.
“Last year wasn’t the year we hoped for, especially because of COVID-19, but as for this coming year, it’s all about improving ourselves day by day,” McDougall said. “Yeah, we have aspirations to make it back to nationals, but we can’t jump the gun and overlook the simple things that get us there year after year.”
FRASER, Mich. – As a Clinton Township native, Brennan Zatelli doesn’t have to go far to play junior hockey for the Metro Jets.
As a rookie last season, the 2001 birth year forward and Jr. Jets alum recorded 14 goals and 30 points in 41 games for the MJDP team. He added one assist in four USPHL playoff games.
Boosting those totals and finding more team success is the priority for the 2020-21 season.
“I decided to come skate with the Jets for another season because I was able to get a lot of exposure from the last season as well as improve my skills drastically,” Zatelli said. “Last year, I improved my puck handling and strategy the most. Being a second-year guy, my role should be to help my new teammates understand the game and how we play.
“Playing for the Jets, we are able to skate and work out in the gym all the time to better ourselves. The Jets organization allows the players to be selfish so they can reach their goals all while playing as a team and a family. The exposure is also a perk of playing for the Jets because of all the showcases we attend.”
Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville saw Zatelli improve over the course of last year and if that trend continues, there will be more success in 2020-21.
“’Z’ had some big goals for us last year and was opportunistic with his chances,” said Quenneville. “More importantly, he was able to take his game to another level as the season progressed. He does not hold a big frame but finds ways to create space for himself all over the ice. Our goal is to get him to bring that same offensive vision and create a 200-foot player. He garnered a lot of attention last season and we look forward to continuing to expose him while developing his game."
“Z was a difference maker for us some games,” added Jets associate head coach Jamie Lovell. “With his offensive ability and skill to beat defensemen on the rush, he found ways to create scoring chances for himself. He was a big reason for the group’s success, and we look forward to working with him on and off the ice again this year."
Zatelli said he’s been working out and training at the MAT this summer with other Jets players and recruits in anticipation of heading back to Fraser Hockeyland in September.
“Last season ended in the final round of playoffs,” Zatelli said. “We did well but took a tough loss in the end which makes me want to do even better and make it to nationals this year.”
FRASER, Mich. – Brayden Tayles is hoping the third time is the charm with the Metro Jets.
After two solid years with the MJDP team, the 2000-born Waterford, Mich., native is primed to see his game take another step ahead with the upcoming 2020-21 USPHL season.
“Coming back for another year was an easy decision for me,” said Tayles, who served as an alternate captain last season. “Junior hockey itself is such a great experience, and when you partner that with being able to play one more year for an organization as distinguished as the Metro Jets, it just makes the junior experience that much better and my decision to come back that much easier.”
Tayles cited the yearly success the Jets have as a team and in moving players on to college programs and higher-level junior teams as the main reason why the organization is such a gold mine for players and families.
“The ability to maintain a successful all-around team while still keeping the players’ individual success a No. 1 priority is very rare in the junior hockey world,” Tayles said. “The Jets organization is able to do this in an unparalleled way and that’s a big reason why the Jets are considered such a prestigious organization.”
Last year, Tayles recorded four goals and 20 points in 40 games and in 2018-19, registered four goals and 13 points over 43 games.
For Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville, getting Tayles’ skill set and leadership back for his final season of junior eligibility is a key component to any success the team will have next season.
“It’s great to see players like Brayden today from where they started,” Quenneville said. “He has made huge strides in his game and overall play. He’s a committed player, has bought in since Day 1 and truly became a high-end role player for us. His stats may not show it, but he is a valuable player because of his versatility and consistency. He brings the same effort every day, is mature in his approach to everything he does, and brings an element of quiet leadership by how he carries himself on and off the ice.
“He was easily deserving of wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey last season. We are excited to help him reach his goals this year and expose him to even more collegiate opportunities."
Tayles saw his poise improve last season, something he wants to keep building on going forward.
“I really settled down and felt more comfortable with the puck on my stick and in bigger game situations,” Tayles said. “I felt much more confident on the ice this past year. This coming year being a third-year guy, I just want to be able to lead by example. I hope to be able to show new guys how to be a Jet, on and off the ice.”
Getting bounced in the second round of the USPHL playoffs last spring was a sour way to end the season, but Tayles is using that experience as a positive for 2020-21.
“That’s just motivation for the upcoming year,” Tayles said. “I know everyone is hungrier than ever and that will drive us to make this season the best one yet.
“For the past month, we’ve been able to train and skate with the guys at the MAT, which is a huge advantage for all of us.”
FRASER, Mich. – Trevor Naiman is one of those players every coach wants on their team.
Naiman, a 2001 birth year from Chesterfield, Mich., has spent the past two seasons with the Metro Jets, improving each season and putting in the work and drive needed to succeed in junior hockey.
Recently, Naiman signed on for his third season in Fraser.
“Coming back was very easy because I want to keep developing as a player,” Naiman said. “Last season, I feel like I improved on my positioning and confidence level during games. Next season, I want to have a role of making plays for more scoring opportunities for myself and my teammates and to get the Jets into another playoff run.
“After we were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, it left a bad taste in my mouth and I want to go farther in the playoffs and, hopefully, to nationals.”
During the 2019-20 season, Naiman posted four goals and six points in 30 games with the MJDP team while also increasing his value at both ends of the ice.
Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville wants to see more progression from Naiman in 2020-21.
“It was great to see Trevor continue to grow as a player, on and off the ice,” said Quenneville. “He is noticeably stronger and more confident on the ice. This is a testament to him buying in to the process. He wants to be here, continue to learn and take advantage of our environment. It’s positive to see him continue to develop and get rewarded for his hard work.
"We love working with players that are committed and our platform continues to prove that players can come here, develop and learn with the ultimate goal of creating more options for themselves in the future."
With a longer-than-expected offseason in full swing, Naiman hasn’t sat back at all.
“I just want to develop my skills with whatever tools I have available, but thanks to (Jets associate head coach) Jamie Lovell, I am able to do workouts at home with his TrainHeroic app,” Naiman said. “During this lockdown, I have been spending time with family, focusing on improving on my skills, and staying in shape. A bunch of us are training at the MAT on and off the ice, which is nice perk.”
FRASER, Mich. – Quietly, Matt Cruz has been one of the Metro Jets’ top defensemen the past couple years.
The Jets are banking on the 2000 birth year from New Baltimore, Mich., on keeping that trend heading upward after Cruz recently signed for his final season of junior hockey eligibility in 2020-21.
“The thought process for me coming back was very easy,” Cruz said. “Over the two seasons I’ve been with the Jets, I’ve developed so much as a hockey player and even more as just a person. That made it easy for me to come back for Year 3.
“Every day you come to the rink, it’s never like it was the day before. We do new things every day such as new drills, new workouts and just new experiences in general. There are never normal days here at the rink.”
Cruz has the potential to be one of the USPHL’s most solid blueliners, according to Metro coach-GM Justin Quenneville.
“Bringing back a guy like ‘Cruzy’ is huge for our club,” said Quenneville. “He’s a proven leader and high-end player for the organization, but we are more excited to help him continue to be exposed to colleges and go through that process of deciding which NCAA program is the best fit for him.
“He is a dynamic, offensive defenseman which is evident, but his game away from the puck was what made him such a consistent player last year and a big reason for the team’s continued success. I don’t see that being any different this upcoming season for him as he will be leaned on for his experience and leadership."
As a rookie in 2018-19, Cruz posted nine goals and 18 points in 42 games before adding two assists in seven playoff games. Last season, he boosted those totals with 12 goals among 26 points in 44 games and one assist in a trio of games in the playoffs.
“In my second year of playing with the Jets, I felt I improved on a lot of different aspects of my game,” said Cruz. “The things I focused the most on throughout the season were my aggressive nature and intensity during games and even during everyday practices. In a different part of my game, the people I played with made it really easy for me to get points throughout the season, especially my ‘D’ partners Jesper (Svadang) and earlier in the season with ‘Songer’ (Justin Song).”
“Now as a third-year guy, I’m most looking forward to developing a leadership role with this team. Throughout my years, I’ve had tremendous leaders, so if I just follow in their footsteps and maybe mix in some changes here and there to make it my own, I should have great success all due to them.”
Looking back on last season when the USPHL National Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, Cruz has one last chance to get back to Boston for the third straight year.
“What happened last season was heartbreaking to say the least,” Cruz said. “Having nationals taken away from us was something I never could’ve imagined. Due to that, I am very excited to get back into the swing of things this season and I am very hungry to get back into the big dance come March.
“This summer, I’ve just been staying busy with landscaping and working out wherever I can. Definitely not the offseason I imagined I would be having, but I will be more than prepared for this next season.”
FRASER, Mich. – Jake Aslanian has had a goal of playing NCAA hockey since he came to the Metro Jets prior to the 2018-19 season.
After recently signing with the club for his final season of junior hockey eligibility, the 2000-born Trenton, Mich., native wants to be part of a winning team and an organization that continues to churn out college-caliber players.
“I enjoy playing at Metro,” Aslanian said. “They have helped me grow as a player and helped me mature along the way. I’ve been wanting to play NCAA hockey, so I felt like it was right to come back for another year to improve and showcase what I can do with Metro. Everybody knows how many players they move on.
“Overall, I feel like my whole game has improved and it’s hard to pick one little thing when you have great coaching that gives you great things to learn and work on. If I had to pick one part of my game that has improved, I’d say it’s is my confidence and just being comfortable, not to forcing anything when I have the puck.”
Last season, the stalwart defenseman logged three goals and 21 points in 39 games, bettering his total of 16 points in 43 games from the year prior with the MJDP team.
Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville has seen Aslanian’s game go from raw to that of a veteran reliable player who can be on the ice in all situations.
“It has been rewarding to see Jake continue to improve his game and develop,” Quenneville said. “He is committed to learning what it takes to get to the collegiate level, and we know he will bring the same energy this year to want to elevate his game once again. He has a big frame and a big shot, and we look forward to working with him again."
“Being a returning player last season, I know he put a lot of pressure on himself to be the best player on the ice and sometimes got caught trying to do too much, which cost him at times,” added Jets associate head coach Jamie Lovell. “I think he matured as the season went on and he became a dominant player, as was evident in his last game of the playoffs where he almost singlehandedly brought the team back into the game in the third and forced OT with a hat trick against Decatur.
“He has that ability and we expect the same coming into this year only now, he has another year of experience and I can’t wait to see where we can bring his game to and ultimately get him to his goal of playing college hockey at the school of his choice.”
Aslanian noted that the platforms that the Jets organization provides its players is second to none.
“I believe what is most appealing about playing here is how successful they are every season,” Aslanian said. “They have a good team and compete with the best around, which translates to helping kids move up and play and be successful at the next level.”
As a veteran player, Aslanian wants to go out on a high note.
“My role is just to be a leader and to help the guys have a good time and be comfortable with each other, on and off the ice,” said Aslanian. “Last year definitely ended rough. We thought we could make it to nationals with the DP team and we definitely had what it took, but it left me feeling motivated for this year and just helped me push towards my goal.”
With July right around the corner, Aslanian isn’t letting up on getting prepared for the upcoming season.
“My plans for the summer were ruined because of the virus, but I’ve been making up for it,” Aslanian said. “I’ve been going rollerblading, working out at home, and stick handling and shooting. I’m still going to attend the NCDC Combine (at Fraser Hockeyland) in July, too.”