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Nighthawks Add Ten Players at 2022 MJHL Draft

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For their first draft pick, Niverville selected defenceman Avery Laliberte (Lorette) of the Eastman Selects.

Last weekend, the expansion Niverville Nighthawks added ten new players to their organization at the 2022 MJHL Draft.

Holding the fourth overall pick, Niverville selected defenceman Avery Laliberte (Lorette) of the Eastman Selects.

“It’s a bonus that he’s local and from the area, but it wasn’t the primary reason we drafted him,” explains Kelvin Cech, the team’s head coach and general manager. “He’s a good player, a big modern defenceman. He’s just so shifty and can escape with the puck like you wouldn’t believe. And he’s so fun to watch. So we’re excited to get him and can’t wait to see him at camp.”

Other draft picks on the day included Nathan Brown (Winnipeg), Raiden LeGall (Morden), Regan Anderson (Souris), Kelby Diehl (Glenboro), Liam Goertzen (Homewood), Tyson Sperber (Winnipeg), Hayden Moore (Winnipeg), Calem Normandeau (La Broquerie), and Rowin Bachalo-Richmond (Forrest).

The Nighthawks chose forward Nathan Brown of the Winnipeg Bruins with their second round pick (nineteenth overall).

“For Nathan Brown and Laliberte, we really wanted to come out of those top two rounds with a skilled forward and skilled defenceman, and we believe we did that with both,” Cech says. “They were both at our camp in May, so we’ve seen them a bit. Like Laliberte, Brown is an exciting player who is big, fast, and can shoot the puck. And we see him making an impact if not this season, then next season.”

Niverville made a couple of trades shortly after drafting Brown to get a couple of extra third-round picks.

“We wanted to come away from that with a goalie, and we got our guy,” adds Cech. “Raden LeGall was the first goalie on our list, and we were pumped to get him where we did. We’ve seen him for a few years now as my former goalie coach and new goalie coach are getting to know him. So he’s a big part of the future too.”

All in all, Cech says it was a successful day for him and his staff. They drafted eight forwards, one defenceman, and one goalie when it was all said and done.

Cech gives a big thumbs up to assistant general manager Mike McAulay and his scouts, as they really did their due diligence in making calls to players and coaches prior to the draft.

“We didn’t intend to draft eight forwards, but it just worked out that way. Every time the draft came to our spot, we looked at our list, and a forward we had ranked high was available, so we were happy to jump on it. All of these players we picked ticked off all of our boxes, and they’ve got character and compete.”

Each of the players drafted last weekend will get a chance to come to Niverville’s main camp at the end of summer and try to earn a spot on the team.

Since the draft, the Nighthawks have also signed a trio of players this week. Ethan Kelley (Dodsland, Saskatchewan), Jack Lynes (Edmonton, Alberta), and Ben Whitford (Calgary, Alberta) have joined the fold as player commitments. Niverville also acquired defenceman Sam Skillestad (Missoula, Montana) from the SJHL’s Weyburn Red.

“Three of those guys were at our ID camp in April and looked fantastic and earned that commitment,” says Cech. “It’s a good mix of players that should strengthen our team this season. Jack Lynes is a good two-way centreman, while Ben Whitford is a big solid right winger, and Ethan Kelley is a solid defenseman and a tough Saskatchewan kid. Skillestad has also already played at the Junior A level, so that is a big boost on the blueline as well.”

Cech and his staff have continued putting together pieces of the team puzzle while ensuring it’s a good fit for the team and the player.

“I’ve had success in the past by focusing on the culture and bringing in guys who have compete and character. It’s just so valuable.”

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