With 12 picks in the 2023 NAHL Draft, General Manager Craig Doremus and the rest of the Titans’ coaching staff had a busy day. Without a first round pick (traded to Shreveport for 2022 Robertson Cup Champion Billy Feczko last season), they began in the 2nd round, and with the 59th overall pick they selected Dominick Rivelli from the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL. The 2003 birth year has spent parts of the last 3 seasons in the USHL with Green Bay. Assistant coach Kyle Shapiro said “Dom has been a high priority for us for a while, and going into the draft process we identified a need, and we know Dom will fill that in spades. He has had success in our league before and challenged himself with a different spot last year. He is someone we made a major priority come draft day and we can’t wait to have him here in New Jersey. We’re very excited to bring Dominick in as a veteran and to have him help lead our group into the 2023-2024 season.”
In the 3rd Round, with the 91st pick, the Titans picked Kai Elkie from the Winnipeg Blues in the MJHL. The 2005 birth year already stands at 6’1”, 185 lbs, and still has more room to grow. About Elkie, Shapiro said “We are excited to add a player like Kai, he had an extremely successful year in the MJHL as a rookie and can’t wait to help him develop into the player we all know he can be here in New Jersey. He’s a dynamic forward with a ton of upside, we can’t wait to see Kai at Main Camp in July.”
The Titans’ draft room needed to wait for their next pick, after dealing their 4th round pick to Danbury for recent SUNY-Cortland commit Robert Hyde, and their 5th rounder to Amarillo for Dominik Bartecko. In the 6th, New Jersey selected another big body in Cooper Eberhardt from the Chicago Mission 18U program. The Naperville, IL, native is 6’2”, 190 lbs, and plays a hardnosed game. “Cooper was a player that came across our radar later in the 22-23 season and we immediately became intrigued by the role Cooper plays. We’re excited to get a player that is willing to carve out a role in New Jersey and replace some invaluable pieces that we have had over the past couple years,” mentioned Shapiro.
Next, New Jersey turned to the East Coast and took Jake Lindstrom, the leading scorer of the Elite Hockey Academy in Connecticut in the 7th round. In 82 totals games last season, Lindstrom recorded 89 points. A native of Denver, CO, Lindstrom broke out this season for EHA, improving his output by 60 points. Director of Scouting Gary Biggs complimented Eberhardt, sharing that “Jake rose up our board pretty quickly as his ability to play the center position was quite intriguing. He had a ton of success at Elite Hockey Academy and can’t wait to see him flourish on the Jersey Shore.”
The Titans then went back to Manitoba in the 8th round, bringing in Keenan McNeill from the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL. The 2004 birth year appeared in 42 games last season, his first at the junior level. Said General Manager Craig Doremus, “We are thrilled to add a forward like Keenan to our group. Keenan is a powerful, skilled forward who checks a number of important boxes for our group. The junior experience is valuable as is his past experiences as a leader of his peers of many teams. I think Keenan will be a great piece to our very talented, deep forward group.”
In the 9th round, New Jersey again looked north and selected their first defenseman in Tyler Lee from the Yarmouth Mariners of the MJAHL. Lee made his NAHL debut last season by appearing in a game for the El Paso Rhinos. “Ty is someone that we’ve been following for a couple years now, his ability to skate is a separating factor for him,” said Associate Head Coach Bobby DiRico. “It’s something we like to see in our defensemen, and we feel he could add good offense to our group, from the back end.”
In the 10th, the Titans stayed on the blue line and selected Cannon Lentz, formerly of the Janesville Jets. With 45 games of NAHL experience over the past two seasons, Shapiro said “Cannon is a left shot defenseman that brings league experience to our left side, he’s another player that we identified late, but feel like he will have an important role on our team. His experience will give him every chance to lead from the back end and he’s a defenseman that never tries to do too much, his experience and simplicity is something that will help our blueline now and into the future.”
For the 11th round, New Jersey went back to the BCHL and the Langley Rivermen by selecting Vitaly Levyy with the 347th pick. On Levyy, Doremus said “Vitaly is a highly skilled forward who is committed to Sacred Heart University. He is someone I am extremely familiar with back to each of our times with the Long Island Gulls. Vitaly is an extremely talented forward who knows how to create plays and finish opportunities. He is another forward with junior hockey experience and someone who can be a huge piece of our offensive puzzle next season. We are excited to have Vitaly continue to grow and develop before going to Sacred Heart and follow in the line of former Titans who have advanced and become successful Pioneers.”
The 12th round saw the Titans pick Caden Hunter from the Cleveland Barons in the T1EHL. Hailing from Cedar City, UT, last year was Hunter’s first outside of the Beehive State. On Hunter, Gary Biggs mentioned “We are thrilled to add a forward like Caden to our group, as he is a speedy forward with tons of offensive ability. We think he can fit into our lineup quite easily and provide us with some upside we felt like needed to be addressed.”
Things got interesting in the 13th round, as New Jersey selected Simon Motew from the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL. “Simon is an elite right shot defenseman who has had an incredibly successful career at the major junior level, and he is a player that we would love to integrate into our back end going into the 23-24 season. We look forward to the process of enticing Simon into coming to play in New Jersey,” said Biggs.
With their last two selections, the Titans looked within their own program to round out the roster. With the 443rd pick, New Jersey took the youngest player in the draft in 2007 birth year Peter Morris. He recorded more than a point per game in AYHL and NAPHL action last season, and most recently recorded almost two points per game at the Liberty Bell Games. Biggs shared “As we moved to one of our later picks, we looked deep into our own organization and had discussions about quite a few players. Peter is a player we have loved having in our youth program. Director of Hockey Operations, George Haviland, has been super high on Peter for a long time and it made sense to get Morris into the fold of the NAHL program as he starts his progression to the next level.”
With the last pick in the draft, New Jersey picked current NA3HL starting goaltender Daniel Antal. Already playing in Middletown, Antal put up a 2.74 goals against and a .929 save percentage at the NA3HL level last season. “Danny is a junior veteran goaltender who adds depth to the position for us at this point, were excited to work with him to continue in growing his game as we move forward to the 2023-2024 hockey season,” said Shapiro.
With the conclusion of the 2023 NAHL Draft, the New Jersey Titans now turn toward their Main Camp at the end of July. The camp is by invitation only and will shape New Jersey’s roster going into the 2023-24 season.