By Lance-Michael Correia
Traverse City North Stars
Traverse City North Stars winger Andy Huff has lit the lamp an astonishing 12 times through 15 contests so far this season, but he bagged his biggest goal of all on Wednesday: committing to play his college hockey at Ferris State University.
“Obviously, it’s something I’m pretty excited about,” said Huff, a Howell product whose tally total has him tied for the top spot in the North American Hockey League. “And to be going in as a true freshman next year is a huge bonus. While my focus right now is on helping this team win hockey games, the next goal will be to go in and try to contribute right away at Ferris.”
With his size (6-2, 210 lbs.), academic acumen (3.1 GPA/23 ACT), and torrid schoresheet pace this season, Huff was unlikely to last long on the radar screens of NCAA Division I hockey programs. However, his profile was enhanced recently when the National Hockey League Central Scouting recognized Huff on their annual draft watchlist, pegging Huff as a potential draft choice in rounds 3-5 of next summer's entry draft.
“Ferris has been tracking him since early on in midgets with the Honeybaked program,” said North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “And they’re very fortunate to get a kid like Andy. He can flat-out score goals. He’s made an impact at this level that you don’t often see from a 17-year old.
“Coming into the season, we were somewhat concerned about where some of our offense would come from with some guys out with injuries, but Andy stepped up, filled a void, and helped bridge the gap for us in a really big way.”
Huff – who had 34 goals and assists on 28 others last season with Honeybaked – scored his first junior goal in the Stars’ first game of the season on Sept. 12, and hasn’t slowed a bit. He has been held off the scoresheet in just four games so far and had a six-game goal streak snapped in the team’s last game on Sunday. He has 16 points through 15 games, owns a +10 plus-minus rating, has logged five power play markers, a pair of game-winners, and has amassed 10 points in the last seven games.
“The goals, the points are a tribute to linemates and teammates,” offered Huff, who plans to study Criminal Justice when he gets to Big Rapids next fall. “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a winning team here and I’m excited about the potential to be a part of a special season. It’s been pretty exciting so far.”
Huff’s proclivity for offensive production is more attributable to his precision sniping – he’s third among NAHL skaters with at least 40 shots on goal with a 21.8 percent shot accuracy – as his persistence (t-11th with 55 shots). Huff is second on his own team in terms of attempts per outing, trailing Kyle Jean’s otherworldly 6.2 shots-per-game pace.
“You can coach guys on systems, teach them technique, help get them in shape, make sure their academics are being attended to, and a lot of other things,” Palumbo added. “But some guys just know how to score goals, and Andy’s definitely one of those guys who knows what to do with the puck.”
Huff is among more than 30 current and former North Stars who have joined the NCAA ranks in the club's four-plus seasons in the NAHL. Four current players – Jean, Dan Radke, Kelin Ainsworth and Tyler Marble – have signed with Lake Superior State University, and will face Huff and FSU many times in future CCHA seasons. Huff will also team with TC alum Kyle Bonis at Ferris State, as the former Stars captain is presently in his first season with the Bulldogs.
“We want to continue to be a place where college coaches can come and find NCAA-level talent,” Palumbo said. “And they got a good player and good kid in Andy. We knew he was good, that’s why we tendered him. But I’m not sure any of us could have predicted the impact he’d have right away. He’s leading the league in goals at age 17. That alone tells you he’s a special player with a very bright future in this game.”
Despite the attention from collegiate and professional scouts, Huff says he’ll just continue to work hard on and off the ice – and in the classroom – as he hones his skills.
“Of course, the NHL is in the back of the mind, but it’s way back there,” he explained. “That’s every player’s dream. But I certainly won’t be putting all my eggs in that basket, that’s for sure.”