Credit to the Asbury Park Press's Chris Rotolo for the Article:
On the morning of June 9, the North American Hockey League (NAHL) sank its roots into the Garden State as the New Jersey Titans organization (formerly the Soo Eagles) was officially welcomed into its new home at Middletown Ice World.
It was during that press conference that Titans brass discussed their initiative to provide local skaters an opportunity to compete at the major junior hockey level, and less than three hours later, the franchise made good on that notion by selecting a pair of CBA alumni in Anthony Cusanelli and Greg Malafronte in the 2015 NAHL Draft.
We recently spoke with New Jersey Titans Hockey Director, George Haviland, about the organization’s 2015 draft class, as well as the club’s mission to make the NAHL (a league primarily centralized in the middle and southwestern United States) more accessible to east coast competitors.
Providing an opportunity: Prior to the NAHL’s eastward expansion to Monmouth County, the Titans fed its players into the league through an 18U program competing in the North American Prospect Hockey League (NAPHL), and after the 2014-15 season saw former St. John Vianney standouts Mike Gelatt (Soo Eagles) and Tim Gelatt (Minnesota Magicians), as well as forward Charlie Singerhouse (Amarillo Bulls), and goaltender Cam Newman (Austin Bruins), offered tendered contracts.
However, with a franchise New Jersey and the East Coast can call its own, Haviland is excited for what the future holds.
“There’s a lot of talented players in this state and there’s always been talk about building a pipeline, a New Jersey connection, to the NAHL, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do,” Haviland said. “We’ve marketed Jersey players to other franchises in the past, and some have gone on to play out of state in this league, but now we have the opportunity to do even more, and provide even more local guys an opportunity to play at the next level.”
Local flavor: The Titans will open its primary tryout camp, which is invite only, on July 31 at Middletown Ice World where upwards of 80 skaters – including protected players from last season’s Soo Eagles roster, as well the franchise’s 2015 draft class, and tendered contract players such as Mike Gelatt – will get one final look from the Titans organization, before the staff finalizes its 25-man roster.
And Haviland has confirmed there will be even more local flavor added to the mix.
“As well as the three local guys (Cusanelli, Malafronte, Mike Gelatt) who are going to be there, we’ll be inviting some other New Jersey kids to the main camp…a bunch of them,” Haviland said. “We don’t want to reveal names at this time, but there are some Shore Conference players we’ve contacted.”
“We’ve said it a lot, but one of our goals is to give local guys an opportunity to play at this level, and the guys we’ll be inviting to camp certainly have a legitimate shot at making this team.”
Class of the Draft: The Titans’ inaugural NAHL draft selection was Joseph Schuler, an 18-year old forward from Webster, NY who was picked 13th overall and finished out his youth hockey career in 2014-15 with 57 points (34g, 23a) for the Buffalo Junior Sabres.
“Schuler was the guy we targeted and the one we wanted all along,” Haviland said. “He put up a lot of points last season and we believe he can be 50-point scorer in this league as well. He’s big, he’s strong, and his on ice performance speaks for itself, but it’s his character off the ice that was really impressive.”
“Joseph is the kind of kid who looks you in the eye when he talks to you. He’s set goals for himself to compete at the next level, and has a plan to obtain those goals. He takes care of his business in the classroom and wants to be part of our community and contribute to it right away, and we’re happy to have him.”
Main Camp: The New Jersey Titans Main Camp will open on July 31 and run through Aug 2 at Middletown Ice World