26 in 26: Minnesota Magicians
September 2, 2019
The 26 in 26 series features a look at all 26 teams in the NAHL for the 2019-20 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 26 in 26 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 26 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: A.J. Bucchino (2nd Year)
2018-19 record: 36-21-3, 75 pts. (2nd in the Midwest Division)
2018-19 leading scorer: Cameron Buhl (61 pts.)
2019 Playoffs: Lost to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Midwest Division Finals, 3 games to 0
2019-20 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 18th vs. Maryland Black Bears
Home opener: Friday, September 27th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
The first season in the AJ Bucchino era was the most successful year in the history of Minnesota Magicians hockey. Not only did the Magicians sets team records for wins (36) and points (75), the team also won their first playoff series as they defeated the Springfield Jr. Blues in the first round of the Robertson Cup playoffs three games to one. The magical ride ended in the Midwest Division Finals as the team ran into the white hot Fairbanks Ice Dogs and were swept out of the postseason.
Although the team reach their ultimate goal of winning a Robertson Cup, the Magicians showed a lot of promise with a very young group of guys as they graduated only six 20-year-olds. The team committed 13 players to college, 10 of those to Division I programs.
“I do feel this past season was a great success for the organization, we broke several records, we were the second or third youngest team in the league and we were able to move on a lot of guys to the next level whether that’s college or other places,” said head coach and general manager AJ Bucchino. “I feel the talent and the type of commitment we attracted for our organization was really good. So yeah, I think it was a successful year. You always want to be better but I think it’s a great stepping stone for our organization moving forward in only seven years of existence.”
The Magicians also saw their starting goaltender hear his named called on draft day in Vancouver. Ethan Haider was selected by the Nashville Predators with the 148th pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Haider turned heads right away in the North American Hockey League as the 17-year-old pitched a shutout in his very first junior game against the eventual champion Aberdeen Wings. Haider scored two shutout in his three starts at the NAHL Showcase which put him on many teams’ radar. He finished the season with a 19-13-2 record, posting a 2.35 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
Now with a year under his belt, Bucchino has a better grasp of the way the NAHL works and has used this offseason to correctly use the resources at his disposal.
“One thing I’ve learned in this league is how you use your assets with the draft picks or the tenders. Do you use it for the best players or do you use it strategically for the right players just to retain them, whether that’s for the now or for the future,” added Bucchino. “Moving forward, building our team, we always want to get better. We want people that love what they do. We want to surround ourselves with those kind of guys. I think the camp process coming up will really dictate who we can be moving forward.”
While we may not know the entire roster coming in for the 2019-20 season yet, what we do know is that whoever holds the starting job in the crease will have some very big shoes to fill. The past three starting net minders for Minnesota have all heard their name called at the NHL Draft. 2016-17 starter, Ivan Prosetov was drafted in 2018 by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round. 2017-18 starter Isaiah Saville was taken this past June in the fifth round by the Vegas Golden Knights and of course the aforementioned Ethan Haider.
The Magicians may have had their best season as an organization last year but they are not satisfied. They will be gunning to take down Fairbanks and get to the Robertson Cup that will be held just down the road from their home rink. Year two of the Bucchino era could be the one that brings the Robertson Cup back to the state of hockey.
Next up: Minnesota Wilderness