MISSOULA — Two Missoula Junior Bruins hockey players were selected in the Tier II North American Hockey League Draft this week as they move up the junior hockey ladder from the Tier III NA3HL.
Defenseman Connor Frye was drafted in the eighth round with the 181st overall pick by the Amarillo Bulls in Texas. Defenseman/forward Trevor Prince was chosen in the ninth round with the 191st pick by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in Pennsylvania.
“For our level, this is the ultimate goal for our young guys is to get to NAHL,” said Missoula head coach and general manager Cliff Cook, who recently wrapped up his first year leading the team. “It’s the next step in the process for making it to the highest level of junior hockey or into college.
“Guys in the NAHL are going to D-I colleges or potentially the NHL. Not to say our guys will be draft picks, but they’re going to be playing with that level of talent. This is the goal for us from the beginning of the year with recruiting is to get guys to be recognized by higher-level teams.”
Frye was named to the NA3HL Frontier Division Top Prospects Team and the NAHL 18U Top Prospects Tournament in his lone season in Missoula. He totaled 41 points in 50 games, tallying 32 assists and nine goals.
Frye, 18, will be closer to his home of Mansfield, Texas, after he followed Cook to Missoula.
“This opportunity, it’s special for any player, but knowing the family and working with him prior to Missoula, this one is even more special,” Cook said. “He’s a superb talent, elite-level defenseman. He’s still growing even though he’s 6-3, 180.”
Prince, 18, was chosen for the NA3HL Frontier Division Top Prospects Team in his only season with Missoula. He posted 47 points in 31 games, collecting 35 assists and 12 goals.
The Anchorage, Alaska, native will continue playing for an Alaskan when he suits up for Knights coach and GM Tom Kowal. This past season, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Prince came from Michigan to Missoula to play for the Junior Bruins, co-owned by Alaska native Jason DiMatteo.
“Trevor’s brother, Tyler, played with the Bruins two years ago, and in trying to get Tyler to return, he said that you really want my younger brother,” Cook recalled. “Once we got Trevor into town, it’s clear what a special talent he is. We knew the chance for him to get an opportunity in the NAHL was a real possibility.”
While Frye and Prince were both drafted, they’re not guaranteed a spot on the team and will have to make the roster. If they don’t make their respective NAHL teams, the Junior Bruins retain their rights for the upcoming season, Cook said.
Frye and Prince both have three years of eligibility left before they age out of junior hockey.
“Selfishly, we’d love to keep them here, but it’s such a great thing for those two guys moving forward in their careers,” Cook said. “It’s fantastic for our program in Missoula by showing we can get guys the opportunities to move on to the next level.”