The Minnesota Magicians and Austin Bruins of the NAHL played a preseason exhibition game on Saturday night in advance of next week's NAHL Showcase, which will kick off the season. The Magicians came away with a 4-1 victory on their home ice. Both teams are looking to rebuild this year, albeit for different reasons. The Magicians finished in last place in their division last year, while Austin won their division, but have to replace nearly the entire core of that team.
We'll start with the Magicians. Goalie was a big priority for them over the offseason, and they brought in a trio of new goalies in Paige Skoog in a trade from the Soo Eagles, Chris Amsden from the 3HL, and high school senior Vaughan Ahrens.
Skoog started in goal on Saturday and played the first two periods, with Ahrens, who is a 2015 NHL Draft prospect, playing the third. Skoog was solid in his two periods. Ahrens looked like the game was moving at about 100mph for him to start his period, but once he settled down, he looked good. That should be a position of strength for the Magicians this year.
Their big addition at forward over the summer was German forward Marc Michaelis, who was a top scorer in Germany's U18 league last year. He was impressive on Saturday night, scoring two goals, adding an assist, and missing out on a hat trick after a beautiful one-on-one move to beat a defenseman. He should put up big numbers this year and draw a lot of college attention.
On defense, Paul O'Connor, who played part of last year in Cedar Rapids(USHL) last year and Ryan Solomon from the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets formed the top pair, and they were reliable together. NHL Draft prospect Nolan Schaeffer started on the third pairing. Schaeffer's footwork is pro caliber for his size, and he can be punishing hitter, but he'll have to improve with the puck if he's going to be drafted.
Austin has a lot to replace from last year's team, starting in goal with Jordan Lehr moving off to the University of Minnesota this year. Jake Kielly, who hails from Eden Prairie by-way-of the Victory Honda AAA program started in goal on Saturday and played the whole game. Not his strongest game, especially in the third period when the Magicians tacked on some goals late, but he's a big kid with decent upside.
The Bruins also have Minnesota high school senior and St. Cloud commit Zach Driscoll in goal. Driscoll's lack of size may hurt him against the better shooters in junior hockey, but he's very good technically and a good competitor. There's a good chance he could end up carrying the bulk of the load in goal for the Bruins.
The two new forwards I was most impressed with were '97s Josh Wilkins and JC MacLean. I saw Wilkins a little with the TPH Thunder AAA U16s last year and thought he was good, but I didn't think he'd look as good as he did here. He was strong on his skates and strong with the puck. He was effective on the power play and competed really hard on the defensive end of the ice. MacLean is the son former NHL player John MacLean. He's a big, strong kid. He scored Austin's only goal on a beauty of a shot. His skating will need to improve a little, but with his size and bloodlines, he might be an NHL Draft candidate this year.
Other newcomers Luke Forfar and Patrick Lauderdale should help replace some of the scoring Austin lost from last year as well.
On defense, former Cretin-Derham Hall defenseman Derek Olmschenk looked like he won't have much trouble transitioning to junior hockey. I thought he played a very strong game. Olmschenk was a multi-sport athlete, also playing football and baseball in high school. He might be a kid that really takes off now that he's focusing exclusively on hockey.