Steel coach is pleased with his team’s recent draft

NEW ULM — First year New Ulm Steel head coach Zach Stepan was happy with his team’s draft Thursday that included a key trade that got them an extra first round draft pick for a player they wanted.

“We made a move about five minutes before the start [of the draft] and that was really big for us,” he said.

With that trade, the Steel were able to jump up and pick forward Tyler Hunt of Northland Pines [Wisconsin] High School and then use their own first round pick to select goaltender Alex Kozic from Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

“We really wanted [Hunt] because he had a really good season. He is going to be a double NAHL and NA3HL player,” Stepan said “He has the skills to be up there and we are hoping that he needs one year with us. He was a big pickup. He is a skilled forward — he can not only make plays but also put the puck in the net. We needed a game-changer with our first round pick. He is a player I can lean on to help us win games.

“We were also able to get a Shattuck-St. Mary’s goalie,” Stepan said. “That will be good for both him and (returning James Royce) and Jack Raymond to have that healthy competition for that starting goalie position.”

Stepan said that going into the draft he felt that the Steel needed help on defense so they selected Tommy Winges, a defenseman from St. Thomas Academy in the third round, Nolan Gifford from St. Paul Academy in the fourth round and McClain Baudette, also from St. Thomas Academy in the eighth round.

“We took a couple of extra defensemen because of the defensemen that we lost from last year,” he said.

Stepan said that Kozic is from France.

“He has a French passport and he is from Great Britain. I had some talks with the goalie coach at Shattuck and that he is a hard worker. All I need out of a goalie is to make that first save.”

Stepan said that the tandem of Winges and later Baudette “are St. Thomas kids and I am a big fan of St. Thomas kids because they know how to play the game the right way. I want to be more structured in the defensive and neutral zones.”

The Steel also got a teammate of Hunt in Jack Rhode at Northland Pines High School.

“He is also one of those players who has the ability to play in the NAHL,” Stepan said. “I really believe that he and Hunt will not be with us more than one year because they are right on that cut.”

In the fifth round, the Steel drafted a former Steel player in forward Nick Wieben who played last year with Oakland [Michigan] Grizzles 18U team.

“He brings energy and brings fight to the game. He can bring momentum to a hockey game.”

Stepan said that the Steel have all 14 of their tenders signed before last Wednesday’s deadline.

“With our draft picks, our tenders and our returners we have a good thing going. We can still talk to other players. Right now we have a pretty good thing going here in New Ulm.”