By JEFF HELMINIAK
On the eve of the North American Hockey League draft, the Kenai River Brown Bears traded their leading scorer for four picks in the first five rounds.
Matt Seidel, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound forward from Troy, Mich., who had 23 goals and 19 assists last season, was moved to the Minot (N.D.) Minotauros.
In return, the Bears pocketed two second-round picks, a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick for the draft, which starts at 10 a.m. ADT.
"Seidel obviously did a great service to us," Brown Bears coach Oliver David said from Colorado, where he is preparing for the draft. "We're glad he chose to spend a year here in Kenai."
Matt Barth, the director of scouting for the Brown Bears, said that when the Brown Bears let it be known they were willing to move Seidel, just about every team in the league touched base about acquiring the forward.
"It's great to have players like that on the team, and it's also great to have players like that when you're looking to restock the cupboard," Barth said.
Seidel has a 1994 birth year, so he has two more seasons of junior eligibility. But he also was drafted by the Chicago Steel with the 68th overall pick in the United States Hockey League Phase 2 draft.
The NAHL is a Tier II league, while the USHL is Tier I, so if Seidel makes the Steel and sticks with the team, his days in the NAHL are over.
"They'll definitely be keeping their fingers crossed that they get him," Barth said of Minot. "He can be a first-line player on any team in the league.
"There's no question he's a point-a-game player."
Meanwhile, the Bears go into the draft with only 14 protected players. Teams draft until they reach 30 protected players, so the Bears must make 16 picks today.
Teams protect veterans from last year's squad. They then can use tenders to protect up to 10 more players. A tender is a way of protecting a player before the draft.
David said the reason the Bears have to make so many selections is because the Bears traded away a lot of tenders.
"We have to draft 16 players, and in reality we don't want to draft for 16 rounds," David said. "We're looking to front-load as many picks as possible."
Barth said the Bears now have 10 picks in the first five rounds. They also acquired a fifth-round pick from the Johnstown (Pa.) Tomahawks for a player that didn't report to the Bears this year.
Barth and fellow Brown Bears scout Steve Murphy, brother of former Bears player Bobby Murphy, spent the last winter traveling the Midwest to see high school and Midget hockey. When the draft starts, it will be time for all of that work to pay off.
Four players from last year's draft translated into full-time contributors. Jake Bushey was taken in the first round, Seidel was taken in the second round, Carson Vance was taken in the eighth round and Lucas Kohls, later traded for Mikhail Bushinski, was taken in the 11th round. Goalie Sean Healy also was drafted and stuck with the team for most of the first half of the season.
Barth said any player with a 1993 through 1997 birth year that is not protected by an NAHL squad is eligible for the draft.
The difficulty comes in drafting players that want to come to your city to play, and also players that are good enough for the NAHL, but not quite good enough to stick with a USHL squad or a Junior A league in Canada.
Barth, who helped run the draft last year and was made the director of scouting late in 2012, said all the players the Bears drafted in 2012 that reported to camp made the team.
Those that didn't report to camp either made it in other leagues, or were out due to injury.
"You shouldn't be cutting draft picks, or at least too many of them," Barth said. "That should be the hallmark of a good draft."
Fans wishing to follow the draft can log on to kenairiverbrownbears.com.
Barth also said the Bears had a successful camp in Colorado last weekend, with about 80 players signing up.