BY JAMES COOK
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Looking for a catalyst?
Look no further than Eric Kattelus.
The Traverse City native who played travel hockey in the Grand Traverse Hockey Association from squirt to Midget A travel, has been named the North American Hockey League's Rookie of the Year and accepted a scholarship to play for Michigan Tech in a year.
Kattelus, who turns 19 a week from today, will play this season for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League — where he was a first-round draft pick — before playing for Tech in the 2007-08 season.
"I'm really excited about it," the forward said. "It's something I've always wanted."
In his single season in the NAHL, he had 75 points (35 goals, 40 assists) in 50 games for the Bismarck Bobcats, including six game-winning goals. He was third in the league in points and goals and the top rookie in each category.
The key to the Rookie of the Year award was Bozeman phenom Matt Dalton winning the league MVP award.
A fellow rookie, Dalton was also sensational, breaking Ryan Miller's NAHL record with nine shutouts and recording the best save percentage (.940) in league history. He was 33-5-1 with a 1.63 goals against average as Bozeman tied a league record with 48 regular-season wins.
Kattelus left Traverse City after his sophomore year of high school to play for the Ojibwa Eagles Midget AAA team in Houghton. In the 2004-5 campaign, he led the Eagles with 30 goals and 45 assists, captained the team and was awarded co-MVP.
Kattelus wasn't even a tender or a draft pick by Bismarck, which finished third in the Central Division with a 31-23-4 mark. He caught the team's attention at an open tryout.
"I kind of fell right into their laps, as our coach put it," Kattelus said.
Michigan Tech is hoping to rekindle its impressive past. The Huskies have been national runners-up four times and won three national titles, but the last was in 1975.
Tech was 7-25-6 this season with a young roster that included 18 underclassmen out of 27 players. The Huskies played 25 of 38 games against teams ranked in the top 20, including a 4-2 win and a 4-4 tie against national champion Wisconsin. Fifteen-year NHL veteran Randy McKay is an assistant coach under head coach Jamie Russell at MTU.
Kattelus is the son to Ed Kattelus, currently of Houghton, and Carin and Bill Northway of Traverse City.