Michigan Tech announced the signing of six student-athletes to National Letters of Intent today.
Jordan Baker, Deron Cousens, Eric Kattelus (Houghton), Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Bennett Royer will attend and play hockey at Tech beginning in 2007-08, while Anthony Schooley (Romulus) will join the Huskies in the 2008-09 campaign.
Kattelus signed an NLI last spring and deferred enrollment until the 2007-08 season.
MTU's newest recruiting class showcases talent from three junior hockey leagues across North America, including two players from the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), two from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and two from the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Two of the incoming prospects -- Pierro-Zabotel and Schooley -- are listed as "Players to Watch" in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, according to NHL Central Scouting's preliminary report released last month.
"These players will be a joy to coach," said MTU head coach Jamie Russell. "Ian (Kallay) and Pat (Mikesch) did a great job in landing a very talented group that Michigan Tech will be proud to welcome to Houghton. These young men have all the ingredients to help us raise another championship banner in the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Not only does each player have a great resume, but each one brings great character to our program."
Baker will join Michigan Tech as a 5-7, 168-pound center. In his third year with the Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL, Baker ranks seventh in the league in scoring with 24-9--33 points through 27 games. A member of the AJHL's top power-play unit (24 percent), Baker has chipped in 17 of the Grizzlys' 56 markers with a man advantage this season. Last year, Baker helped lead the Grizzlys to a 30-22-4 regular-season record and second-place finish in the AJHL South Division standings. He was a member of the AJHL South Division All-Star Team and ended the campaign with 16-21--37 points in 40 games. During the 2004-05 slate, Baker appeared in 43 contests, scoring 9-15--24 points.
"Jordan will add a real dimension of speed and skill to our lineup," said Russell. "He is a leader and has proven he can finish, as he is averaging a goal per game in the AJHL."
Cousens, a 6-1, 190-pound defenseman, is in his second season with the BCHL's Penticton Vees. The Vees' top scoring defenseman, Cousens has notched 6-12--18 points in 19 games, including six power-play goals. Cousens is set to return to the Penticton lineup after teaming up with fellow Tech recruit Casey Pierro-Zabotel in helping Canada West to the gold medal at the inaugural World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, last Sunday. Recognized as the tournament's best defensemen by Hockey Canada, Cousens led all bluliners in the four-game competition with 2-5--7 points. Cousens recorded 9-28--37 points for the Vees in 68 games a year ago.
"Deron has tremendous on-ice vision," said Russell. "He will be a quarterback on our power play and has the skating and mobility necessary to jump into the rush. He works hard on and off the ice and will be a team leader for us."
Kattelus, a 6-1, 183-pound forward, currently skates for the Indiana Ice of the USHL. The victim of an injury to start the season, Kattelus has rebounded to score two goals and one assist in four games. The forward was named the 2006 North American Hockey (NAHL) League Rookie of the Year after registering 35-40--75 points in 50 regular-season games with the Bismarck Bobcats. Kattelus led all NAHL rookies in scoring and ranked third in goals and points among all players. He also led the Bobcats with nine power-play goals and six game-winning markers.
Originally from Traverse City, Kattelus moved to Houghton prior to his junior year of high school, where he played one season for the Ojibwa Eagles midget AAA team. He compiled 30-45--75 points in 49 contests for the Eagles in 2004-05 and was named co-MVP.
"Eric is an extremely competitive player with a very high skill level," said Russell. "He is already a complete player who can play both ends of the ice. He is working hard to add strength to his frame which will only increase his ability to dominate games at the college level."
A 6-2, 208-pound forward, Pierro-Zabotel, will don a Husky uniform after a three-year stint with the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL. The league's third-leading scorer with 22-25--47 points in just 20 games in the 2006-07 campaign, Pierro-Zabotel leads all BCHL players with 17 power-play goals. Pierro-Zabotel missed several games with the Centennials while helping Canada West to the gold medal at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge. Canada West's second-leading scorer in the four-game tournament, Pierro-Zabotel amassed 3-6--9 points. The prolific scorer secured the game-winning goal on the power play in his team's 4-3 victory over Canada East in the gold medal game.
In 2005-06, Pierro-Zabotel totaled 29-39--68 points, including six shorthanded goals in 69 games. He also earned playing time in 63 contests in 2004-05, scoring 6-6--12.
"Casey is the diamond in what could be one of the best recruiting classes in the country," said Russell. "He excels in every aspect of the game and will play in all situations."
Royer, a 6-0, 190-pound forward, is currently a member of the Calgary Canucks of the AJHL. Through 23 games this season, Royer ranks third in the league in scoring with 17-21--38 points, including nine power-play markers. An AJHL South Division All-Star Team selection in 2005-06, he registered a team-high 26-35--61 points, along with 14 power-play goals in 67 games. Last December, Royer was one of 22 players from the AJHL South Division All-Star Team that competed at the Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta. The forward tallied two assists as his team earned a berth in the championship game of the tournament.
"Bennett is putting up great numbers in his final year of junior hockey," said Russell. "He can shoot the puck very accurately and makes others around him better."
Schooley, a 5-9, 190-pound winger, will come to Michigan Tech in 2008-09 from the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks. The 17-year-old Schooley has contributed two assists in four games this year. He also tallied one helper while appearing in one contest for the Black Hawks in 2005-06. Before joining Waterloo, Schooley was a standout performer for the Honeybaked midget AAA team where he compiled 43-40--86 points in 2005-06 and 40-31--71 points in 2004-05. He has participated in multiple USA Hockey Select Player Development Camps, most recently at the USA Hockey Select 17 Festival last July in St. Cloud, Minn. Schooley led Team Grey in scoring with 3-3--6 points in five games and finished in a tie for third in points among all players at the camp.
"Anthony is an offensive player and will develop in a very good program in Waterloo," said Russell. "He is a great young man and will be an impact player when he arrives here."
Photo: Casey Pierro-Zabotel (left) and Deron Cousens (right) celebrate after winning the gold medal at the inaugural World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Yorkton, Saskatchewan on Nov. 12.
Photo courtesy Sandra Cousens