The Traverse City North Stars enjoyed the best season in their three-year history, setting team marks wins, points and goals per game while finishing third in the NAHL in power-play efficiency.
With as many as 19 eligible returnees, the club will look to build on the momentum of a 12-5-4 stretch run heading into the 2008-09 campaign, starting with a May 9-11 tryout camp at Centre ICE arena.
The North Stars capped a stellar class of tenders last month, inking a trio of frontliners who have shown an innate “twine-clination.” Two came from the ranks of the Midwest Elite Hockey League ranks - Soo forward Daniel Radke and Chicago Young Americans centerman Chris Salomone - and the state’s top prep player, Trenton’s Josh Miller.
“All three are offensive players, and all have many other facets to their respective skill sets,” said Stars coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “They wouldn’t be coveted at this level if they lacked the ability to play in their own zone as well.
“Given the guys we have coming back, and this entire group of tenders, we have a lot to look forward to. It’s exciting to think about.”
Radke, an Orinda, Calif., product, led the Soo in scoring last season, racking up 26 points over 26 MWEHL contests, including six multi-point outings for the Indians. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder appeared in 24 games in 2006-07 for the Soo - a club for which seven current or former North Stars have played. Radke billeted with the family of current Stars winger Kyle Jean.
“Knowing so many of the guys, TC was definitely my number one choice,” said Radke, who will turn 17 on April 5. “The jump to juniors means bigger, stronger guys, and the speed of the game increases. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Palumbo kept a close eye on Radke during the MWEHL season and liked what he saw.
“Dan is a young recruit at ’91 (birth year), but the kid just seemed to get better and better throughout the year,” said Palumbo, who also tendered Radke’s Soo teammate, Bo Jacobs, earlier in the season. “He has that mind and feel for the game that you look for. Some (NCAA) D-1 schools have already recognized his puck skills.”
Salomone was the second-leading goal-scorer for Chicago on a team Palumbo called “loaded with talent.” Despite his 14-goal outburst in MWEHL play (40 goals overall), the Homer Glen, Ill., native says he’d rather give than receive.
“I try to be more of an assist guy, a set-up man,” said the 6-foot 180-pound center, who combusted for 21 points over one nine-game stretch last season. “I try to look for guys and would just as soon rack up assists as goals.”
Salomone, who will turn 19 in October, led the Young Americans to a runner-up finish in the Illinois state tourney, and finished with 80 points overall.
“He has tremendous offensive talent, but he’s also one of the best penalty killers we saw,” Palumbo added. “He has the size up the middle and the consistency to make an impact.”
Miller is the second Mr. Hockey winner (state’s top high school player) to sign with Traverse City (Zach Hitch played parts of two seasons with the Stars after winning the 2006 award at Brighton). He led all Michigan high schoolers with 86 points for state champions Trenton, which included a symmetrical 43 goals and 43 assists.
“He had an unbelievable year statistically,” Palumbo remarked. “Josh is a player that can play both ways, he’s physical and can check, and he’s obviously a real offensive threat.”
Miller told Michigan Hockey magazine that his team’s run to the state title began the previous season.
“Just starting my senior year was a motivator knowing that we got knocked out of the playoffs early last year,” he said in the March 24 issue. “I didn’t want my last year to be like that so it pushed me to get everyone else motivated and energetic and make a run at a state title and that’s what we did.”
The Stars have closed out their allotment of tenders – which secure players’ NAHL rights ahead of the May 20 draft. TC’s tenders class also includes Jacobs (Soo Indians), Lake Forest Academy teammates Danny McAuliffe and Mike Schenfeld, and Compuware forward Ryan Amin. The club dealt its eighth tender to Marquette in a deal that brought Jean to TC.
“You start to think about all the talent that could be back here, and all the talent that is coming in as tenders, those we’ll pick up in the draft, and those at our summer camps - it’s easy to get pumped up about where we’re headed,” Palumbo beamed. “We really got going in the right direction this year, and the future is very bright.”