It is the dream of every young hockey player to one day skate in the National Hockey League. For former Wichita Falls Wildcat and North American Hockey League (NAHL) forward Kyle Delaurell, that dream becomes slightly closer to reality this week as he is skating in the Chicago Blackhawks' Prospect Camp at Johnny's Ice House West in Chicago.
Delaurell spent parts of two seasons in the NAHL, appearing in 47 games with the Wildcats. In that time, he put up 13 goals and 34 assists, averaging out to a point per game. Before season-ending shoulder surgery in early 2009, Kyle was leading the team with 37 points. Despite not playing in the final two and a half months of the season, he still finished third on the team in points.
For the past three season, Delaurell has been one of several former NAHL players skating at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Last season, he was the Academy's top scorer, with 38 points in 39 games. His fifteen goals put him only one behind teammate and another former NAHL'er in John Kruse.
"NAHL players come with a higher maturity level as both a player and person," said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore on his heavy recruitment of NAHL veterans. "Both attributes serve us well at the Academy, as it's a more rigorous environment than at a typical school. That higher maturity helps ease their transition."
The Blackhawks' camp opened yesterday afternoon and will last through Friday. Two other former NAHL players are with him on the ice-- Brandon Saad (Mahoning Valley 2008-09) and Kyle Bonis (2007-09 Traverse City).
"The Blackhawks I felt were my best opportunity long term," Delaurell told the Colorado Rampage, his AAA team. "I couldn't even make a AAA team when I was 14 and 15 years old and now I am going to an NHL camp. I am truly honored and flattered with this opportunity."
Delaurell is entering his senior year with Air Force. In his first three seasons, he has been among the team's top five scorers every year and has helped lead the Falcons to a pair of NCAA Frozen Four berths. He was also nominated for college hockey's top prize, the Hobey Baker Award, this past season.
"Kyle is a good offensive player from the top of the circles down," said Serratore. "He's dangerous in that regard, and has a real knack for scoring. He was first team all league last year, and we'll look for more of that from him to help our team generate offense."
Delaurell is one of three former Wildcats to skate in an NHL team's camp this summer. The other two are Zach Trotman of the Boston Bruins and Cal Heeter of the Philadelphia Flyers. Two other former Wildcats, Zach Josepher and Dan Sexton, have skated in NHL camps in previous years: Josepher with the New York Islanders in 2010, and Dan Sexton with the Anaheim Ducks in 2009.