Top Prospects: Avs hope to catch attention of DI teams

By Jeremiah Bartz
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

Last season, former Alaska Avalanche defenseman Dan Senkbeil was one of four Avs to skate in the North American Hockey League Top Prospects tournament.

Senkbeil stood out in the league showcase, drew the attention of some of the top programs in the country and eventually signed with perennial college hockey power North Dakota.

Eventually, all four of those players committed with college programs, three at the Division I level.

Now, as a current crop of Avs prepare to head for the annual event, the Avalanche organization is hoping for the same success.

Forwards Kevin Novakovich, Gage Christianson and Wehebe Darge, and goalie Nick Kulmanovsky will play for Team West; forward Evan Janssen will skate for the NAHL U-18 team; and the recently acquired Tanner Fahlstedt will play for Team Midwest.

The league designed the tournament to showcase its top talent in front of college and professional scouts. Alaska assistant head coach Josh Petrich said the team is hoping the players can use this opportunity to find their college hockey homes.

“We’re hoping all of these kids can get lined up with a school,” Petrich said.

Alaska is sending its top three scorers and four of its top six, as well as the team’s top goaltender, to the event. Christianson currently leads the squad with 38 points (11-27-38) totals, while Janssen (19-16-35), Novakovich (13-21-34) and Darge (13-12-25) have at least 25 points each.

Kulmanovsky is 17-9-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and .911 saves percentage.

Fahstedt was the leading scorer of the Wichita Falls Wildcats with 13-14-27 totals before he was acquired by Alaska in a deal before the NAHL trade deadline.

The event begins Feb. 20 in Troy, Mich., and continues through Feb. 22. Team West opens play against the NAHL U-18 team Feb. 20.