Northern Michigan University hockey Wildcats add 10 freshmen recruits

Joey Larson, playing for downstate Hartland High School, is one of 10 freshman commitments to the Northern Michigan University hockey program. Larson was named Michigan's Mr. Hockey in 2019. (Photo courtesy Livinginston Daily)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University hockey team has flung its recruiting net far and wide in finding 10 freshmen who will join the roster for the Wildcats’ upcoming season.

The 10 — two goalies, three defensemen and five forwards — come from the U.S. Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, Alberta Junior Hockey League and North American Hockey League.

These players are scheduled to join Northern as its season begins on Oct. 1 at home against CCHA rival Bowling Green State at the Berry Events Center.

Here are details on each recruit:


Joey Larson — This forward had an impressive season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, registering career highs last season with 66 points and 32 goals in 62 games. He led the league in playoff points with 17, including four goals, in nine games, as his 13 assists tied for third most in a playoff campaign in USHL Tier I history.

Before junior hockey, the downstate Brighton native was named Michigan’s Mr. Hockey after his season at Hartland High School in 2019.

He also plans to attend the Vegas Golden Knights’ NHL Developmental Camp this summer.

“Joey Larson had a career final season of junior hockey in Muskegon,” NMU coaching staff notes said in the university’s news release about the freshman class. “He was an every-night presence in the USHL, blending elite scoring ability and skill with his pro frame (6-foot-1, 196 pounds). Joey was a main driver in helping Muskegon make a deep run in the Clark Cup playoffs, and by doing so, earned himself interest from multiple NHL organizations.”


Tanner Latsch — This forward has a diverse hockey resume on both U.S. and international stages.

During two seasons with the U.S. National Development Program, he helped the Americans win at the Five Nations Championship in 2019. Latsch was also named to the 2020 BioSteel All-American Game.

After his time with the USNTDP, he played with Des Moines, Iowa, Buccaneers of the USHL.

“Tanner possesses a mix of size (6-2, 197), skating and a big-time release,” the Wildcats’ coaching staff noted. “His knack to shoot the puck has been prevalent dating back to his time playing for Wildcat Hockey alumnus Mark Beaufait at the Meijer AAA organization, throughout his career at the USNTDP and most recently with Des Moines in the USHL.

“Before having season-ending surgery last year, he was on pace to score 20-plus goals and was dangerous in shooting and bumper positions on the power play.”


Connor Eddy — This forward was a three-year fixture for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, known for blending physicality, speed and scoring on his 6-1, 200-pound frame. Last season, he scored 57 points, including 22 goals, in 39 games and earned two BCHL Player of the Month and three BCHL Player of the Week honors.

“We’ve had a chance to watch Connor the past three seasons with Victoria, and he’s made great strides over the last two seasons, especially,” NMU coaches noted. “He has a ton of energy, speed and grit that complements his ability to generate offense. He brings a different element to our lineup, one we feel addresses a necessity when constructing our forward group.”


Zach Michaelis — This 6-1, 203-pound forward and Minnesota native played for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL last season, posting 52 points with 28 goals in 49 games. He was named a BCHL All-Star and had league player of the month and week honors.

Before the juniors, he figured prominently in Minnesota high school hockey with Elk River, earning an invitation to the USNTDP evaluation camp in 2018.

“Zach is a power forward who can skate and make plays at top speed,” the NMU coaches noted. “He took full advantage of his role and opportunity with Trail in the BCHL and was just shy of an impressive 30-goal regular season. Zach adds to the speed and offensive identity of our forward group.”


Nathan Butler — This Texas native and forward was a late addition to the NMU recruit class, coming from the Corpus Christi, Texas, Ice Rays of the NAHL, playing in 58 games and posting 39 points with 19 goals last season. He was selected to play in the 2022 NAHL Top Prospects Game and earned an NAHL Player of the Week honor in December.

“When we decided to add a forward late, our staff wanted to provide an opportunity to a junior-experienced player who had the desire, hunger and ability to push himself and others around him in pursuit of getting better on a daily basis,” NMU coaches noted. “In addition, this particular player needed to possess toughness, grit, physicality and a high competition and energy level. We feel we accomplished that by adding Nathan.”


Luke Gramer — A defenseman from the Fargo, North Dakota, Force of the USHL, this Moorhead, Minnesota, native is the second Minnesota freshman joining the Wildcats this fall.

Prior to Fargo, he led the NAHL with the Bismarck, North Dakota, Bobcats in 2020-21 with 31 points in 41 games, the leading points-per-game defenseman in the league. Gramer was also captain at Moorhead High School and a first team, all-state player in Minnesota.

“Luke is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who has shown the ability to defend while adding offense throughout his career,” NMU coaches said. “We expect him to bring a strong, competitive two-way game, and draw from his experiences throughout multiple leagues and levels to strengthen our D-core.”


Isack Bandu — A second player coming from the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, this 6-2, 194-pound defenseman posted 60 points in 108 games at Victoria, where he was named in 2020-21 as both the BCHL Island Defenseman of the Year and BCHL Pod Defenseman Scoring Leader.

“Isack is a dynamic defenseman with strong offensive instincts,” NMU coaches noted. “During his time with Victoria, Isack was effective in producing on the power play, off the rush and generating time, space and offense for himself and others during offensive zone play.”


Josh Zinger — This defenseman from Red Deer, Alberta, had a memorable year last season with the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits, helping them win the league championship and Centennial Cup championship. Zinger was also awarded the 2022 Stewy Stewart Memorial Trophy for his character, dedication, perseverance, integrity and sportsmanship on and off the ice. And he was second in scoring among AJHL defensemen with 57 points.

“Josh was one of the most productive defensemen in all of western Canada this past season,” NMU coaches said. “He is an elite skater and played a crucial role in Brooks’ championship season. He converted from forward to defense less than a year ago and has embraced the transition with the right mindset. We feel he is just scratching the surface of his potential as a defenseman.”


Kaeden Lane — This goalie from the Penticton Vees of the BCHL backstopped them to their 13th Fred Page Cup championship. In two seasons, he went 43-4-3 with a 16-1 playoff record. Last season, his statistics included a .910 saves percentage, 2.07 goals-against average and six shutouts.

From Burnaby, British Columbia, he led the BCHL in saves percentage and goals against in last season’s playoffs and led the league in those stats during the 2020-21 regular season. He was awarded the Wally Forslund Award as part of the best goaltending duo in the BCHL and has been a five-time BCHL Player of the Week and named a First Team All-Star.

“Kaeden comes to our program after two outstanding seasons in Penticton,” NMU coaches are saying. “His body of work and production during his time in the BCHL was nothing short of remarkable. We expect him to be a big part of our goaltending dynamic.”


Beni Halasz — This Hungarian goalie played last season with the New Mexico Ice Wolves of the NAHL, posting a 26-13-3 record, .921 saves percentage and 2.14 GAA. He led the NAHL in shutouts with nine and was named to the 2022 NAHL Top Prospects Game. A three-time NAHL South Division Player of the Week, he plays internationally for the Hungarian national team.

“Beni joins us after two great seasons playing for NMU alumnus Phil Fox and the New Mexico Ice Wolves organization,” Wildcats coaches noted. “He was one of the top goalies in the NAHL this past season and helped lead his club to the Robertson Cup final four.

“In addition to his abilities, Beni has the personality and drive to keep maximizing his potential.”

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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