Mudbugs’ Croix Evingson commits to Division I UMass-Lowell

The Shreveport Mudbugs, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that defenseman Croix Evingson, 19, has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, who are members of Hockey East.

Evingson (6’5/210) becomes the first player in the Mudbugs brief NAHL history to make an NCAA commitment.

The native of Anchorage, Alaska, has had a memorable first month of the 2016-17 season. In 9 games played, he has recorded 10 points, which in 3rd on the Mudbugs in scoring and tied for 5th among all NAHL defensemen.

Evingson has made an immediate impact for the Mudbugs, who posted a 5-3-1 record to date. He was named the NAHL Defenseman of the Month for September as he recorded 8 points in just six games during the month, which also included a +8 rating.

Evingson also posted two three-point games and has recorded a point in six of his eight games played to date.

Evingson was selected in the 7th round of the 2016 NAHL Draft. He played last season for the Kenai River Brown Bears in the NAHL and Chicago Steel in the USHL.

“Croix has been a very solid player for us and we were excited to get him in the NAHL Draft this summer. We rely heavily on him in all situations and his combination of size and puck-moving ability makes him a great all-around defenseman,” said Shreveport head coach Karlis Zirnis.

NHL, NHLPA Support NCAA Growth


The NHL and NHLPA are committed to supporting the growth of NCAA Division I hockey, introducing a new initiative to fund feasibility studies for potential programs on Friday prior to the NHL Draft.

The University of Illinois will be the first school to conduct a feasibility study under the new initiative, which is funded by the NHL and NHLPA’s joint Industry Growth Fund.

Additional schools will have the opportunity to have feasibility studies funded through the project, which is designed to help spur the growth of Division I men’s and women’s hockey.

“Where high-level hockey is established, youth hockey interest and participation often follows,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “By expanding the footprint of elite hockey at all levels, we can inspire new players and parents to join the hockey family. By working to add programs at the Division I level, we hope to grow the game of hockey, both on and off the ice.”


The NHL and hockey participation in general have both expanded significantly throughout the United States in the past 20 years, but the number of Division I programs has not kept pace. | Infographic: The Need for Growth

Recent additions to the Division I landscape – such as Arizona State and Penn State on the men’s side and Merrimack and Penn State on the women’s side – have been encouraging, and the hope is that funding feasibility studies will allow other schools to see the benefits of adding the sport.

“While I think everyone in hockey has hoped to see programs added, this is a groundbreaking project by the NHL and NHLPA to take the initiative to help make that happen,” said College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee. “Those of us at the college level are grateful for the leadership the NHL and NHLPA are showing with this project.”

There are currently 60 NCAA Division I men’s programs; Holy Cross is poised to become the 37th NCAA Division I women’s program and will join Hockey East in 2018-19.


Illinois is one of many states that has seen an explosion in hockey interest and participation, fueled in part by the recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks. Illinois produces the most Division I players (84 men and 35 women) of any state that is not home to a Division I program. | Infographic: The New State of Hockey

Illinois athletic director Josh Whittman was in attendance at the announcement and was optimistic that the local talent base could help make the Fighting Illini competitive quickly.

“The idea of varsity hockey at the University of Illinois has great appeal,” said Whittman. “With hockey’s popularity in both Chicago and St. Louis, and rapidly growing youth participation across the state, we anticipate tremendous interest in the sport and at our university. We are grateful to College Hockey Inc., USA Hockey and our colleagues with the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been incredibly supportive during our preliminary due diligence.”

The Blackhawks, who hosted the announcement and this weekend’s NHL Draft, expressed their support of the potential for NCAA Division I hockey in the state.

“We’ve had the opportunity to meet with Josh [Whittman] two or three times and every time you are around Josh you feel that energy that he is going to try to get this done,” said Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough. “When we heard that the NHL was going to participate, it inspired everybody.”


For the NHL and NHLPA, investing in Division I college hockey should produce both immediate and long-term benefits in terms of the health of the sport.

More Division I programs will produce more hockey fans and inspire more young hockey players. They will also provide more opportunities where young players can aspire to play and, in men’s hockey, progress toward the NHL.

NCAA hockey produced a record 314 NHL players in 2016-17, comprising 32% of the league (also a record). The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins featured the most former NCAA players of any team in NHL history.

“The NCAA develops tremendous talent and expanding the number of schools at the Division I level, for us, is a no-brainer,” Bettman said.

The NHL and NHLPA and the league’s teams will encourage additional schools to conduct feasibility studies.


Buffalo Sabres owener Terry Pegula – whose gift launched the Penn State men’s and women’s programs – and Arizona State men’s head coach Greg Powers both attended the announcement of the new program. After witnessing first-hand the rapid growth their programs have enjoyed, Pegula and Powers are both hopeful that others will join the Division I ranks.

Pegula talked about Nate Jensen, a Penn State alum who scored the first goal at Pegula Ice Arena and now works for Pegula in his oil and gas business.

“I find it interesting that the NCAA hockey road can lead in two places: a hockey career, or a career in business,” Pegula said. “We in the NHL are proud to support NCAA hockey.”

Powers leads the most recent team to join the Division I men’s ranks.

“Seeing first-hand the impact a Division I hockey program has had on a non-traditional market like Arizona, I can only imagine how great of an impact it would have in traditional markets like Illinois,” Powers said. “Hopefully, schools from everywhere will see the positive impact.”

Both Penn State and Arizona State’s new programs began thanks to significant donations. Schools that take advantage of the NHL and NHLPA’s feasibility study project may still need charitable contributions before starting a program, but it’s hoped that they will see the benefits of adding hockey before being presented with a multi-million-dollar gift.


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Thunder would like to congratulate ’02 Forward Aidan Flynn on committing to play DI College Hockey for the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Aidan has been with the Thunder family for five years will begin during the ’21-’22 season.  He is one of six Thunder players to commit to UAH.

CoE Student-Athlete Tanner Kelly Commits to MSU

Total Package Hockey is proud to announce that Center of Excellence student-athlete Tanner Kelly has committed to Michigan State University.

Kelly, a student at Hazel Park CoE, is a forward currently playing for the Little Caesars 15U team.

“I chose Michigan State because I’m really excited to play for Danton Cole and the awesome program that he is putting together,” Kelly said in an interview with MiHockey. “Also, playing in the Big Ten is going to be awesome because there is so much good competition so there will be many rivalries and I love playing in big games like that when the pressure is on.”

The ’02 birth-year skater moved to Michigan from California three years ago, and he has been a fixture on a Kris Draper-led Little Caesars team ever since.

Detroit CoE Student signs NLI to Michigan State


Drew DeRidder with Brandon Naurato (photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey)


By @MichaelCaples –

CANTON – Drew DeRidder could have signed his National Letter of Intent to Michigan State University via phone app from Finland.

The Fenton native had a different idea in mind, however.

On Tuesday, just a few days after his U.S. National Under-18 Team returned from an international tournament, DeRidder and his mom, Jennifer, arrived at Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton.

Why? His mentor, Brandon Naurato, and his former school, the Center of Excellence.

“TPH is the reason that I’m any good,” DeRidder said with a smile.

The future Spartans goaltender was part of the inaugural Total Package Hockey Center of Excellence class in 2014-15, and he stayed with the CoE until he got an early-season call-up to his USHL parent club in Cedar Rapids last year.

DeRidder credited Naurato and the TPH staff for helping him reach this new opportunity – a now-secured spot with the Big Ten hockey program in East Lansing.

“I came in here, not very good, debating playing high school hockey,” DeRidder said. “This was a huge turning point for me.”

His mentor, Naurato, knew there was big things in store for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies goaltender at the time.

“When Drew first showed up, we could see a lot of potential in him,” the TPH Detroit Director of Hockey said. He’s a special kid from a great family, and it’s been awesome to work with him and help him grow through this process. He’s a tremendous goaltender but a better person, and I’m thrilled for him to have this opportunity to play Big Ten hockey next season.”

He’s now officially living out one of his childhood dreams. Jennifer DeRidder told MiHockey about how from an early age, he had Munn Ice Arena circled as a destination for his hockey career.

Jennifer DeRidder with her son and Naurato (photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey)


“His hard work and dedication and through people like Brandon and his coaches, they’ve supported and encouraged and led him to the next phase – college hockey,” the proud mom said. “Drew had a plan when he was 5 or 6 years old that he was going to go to Michigan State and play college hockey, and it’s exciting to see his dreams come true.”

Watching him sign his NLI was “really exciting, really exciting to see him sign the next chapter of his hockey career,” said Jennifer.

DeRidder praised his time with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies program, as well; he spent four years with the Tier 1 organization before becoming a third-round pick of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

“That was four years, it was a great place to play,” DeRidder said. “They have everything you need, and I played with a lot of kids throughout my whole time there – it was a great place to learn and grow as a hockey player and as a person.”

Photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey


Roster turnover gave him the chance to come home from Iowa earlier than expected – after a remarkable season with the RoughRiders as one of the youngest goalies in the USHL, he was summoned to Plymouth to be the NTDP’s new starting goaltender for the U18 Team.

“It’s the best season I’ve ever had, the best season of my life so far,” DeRidder said. “We just got back from Finland, not the best tournament, but so many good experiences playing international and college and USHL teams.”

And he doesn’t know if any of it would be possible without Naurato firing pucks at him for years.

“I just can’t explain it, it’s amazing,” he said of his TPH training. “The first summer program that I did, every shot, that’s where I got my compete level from, every shot you’re struggling, fighting to keep the puck out of the net. Especially against Brandon, because he just celebrates so hard. It’s unbelievable.”

TPH CoE Alum Hunter Skinner Commits to Western Michigan


Photo courtesy of the Muskegon Lumberjacks

Total Package Hockey is proud to announce that Center of Excellence alumnus Hunter Skinner has committed to play NCAA D-I hockey at Western Michigan University. Skinner, a 16-year-old right-shot defenseman, has skated in six games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) this season.

“Through my life I have had many major decisions to make and this was one of them,” Skinner told MiHockey in an interview. “This life-changing decision was made based on multiple factors. The first factor that was important to me was the atmosphere at Western Michigan. It provided a great environment for my hockey career to progress while getting an education. Western Michigan plays in one of the most competitive conferences in the country – I felt it would fit my style of play.” A native of Pinckney, Mich., Skinner also cited the Broncos’ coaching staff as a big reason for his decision.

“The second factor was the coaching staff,” Skinner said. “First off, coach Andy Murray, a previous NHL coach, provides a great attitude and guidance on how to get to the next level. I am also looking forward to getting under the wing of my past coach Todd Krygier, a former NHL player. He knows what it takes to get to the next level and will provide me opportunities that can change my life forever. Bringing knowledge of the game, Dave Shyiak – who was a scout for Toronto Maple Leafs – will also guide me on my journey as a hockey player.”

Four TPH-Trained Players on Hobey Baker List

Total Package Hockey is proud to announce that four TPH Trained athletes have been nominated for the 2018 Hobey Baker Memorial Award which is presented to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player. TPH alumni Mitch Fossier (Alpharetta, GA), Josh Kestner (Huntsville, AL), Cooper Marody (Brighton, MI) and Tony Calderone (Trenton, MI) are among the 74 student-athletes who have been nominated on behalf of their respective programs to receive this prestigious award.

“We congratulate Mitch, Josh, Cooper and Tony on this wonderful recognition,” Total Package Hockey Director of Player Development Brandon Naurato said. “To have been directly nominated by their respective coaches and programs speaks volumes about the character and abilities of these young men. It is our privilege to be able to say that these four quality athletes are TPH Trained.”

The entire TPH family joins Naurato in congratulating these fine individuals on receiving this recognition. We encourage all of you to cast your vote on behalf of these TPH Trained athletes online at

* 96’ thunder alum also participated in Atlanta’s 8-Week Summer Training Program and SE Spring AAA
Prospects Program
* Currently leads the Maine Blackbears in scoring with 21 points in 22 games
* Currently tied for 23rd in conference scoring within Hockey East

* 93’ Thunder alum also participated in Huntsville’s 8-Week Summer Training Program, TPH Summer Camps, and SE Spring AAA Prospects Program
* Currently tied for 5th in the nation
with 16 goals
* Currently leads the WCHA in goal scoring (14) and tied for 6th in scoring with 19 points

* 96’ TPH Detroit alum who participated in the 8 Week Progression Program
* Currently in his junior season at the University of Michigan where he has tallied 9 goals, 22 assists and a team best 31 points through 22 games
* 2nd in overall points for the entire Big 10 conference
* Selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

* 94’ TPH Detroit alum who participated in the 8 Week Progression Program.
* Currently in his senior season at the University of Michigan where he leads his team with 15 goals and is second to fellow TPH Detroit alum Cooper Marody in overall points with 27.
* Tied for first in the Big 10 conference in goals.
* Captain of the 2017-2018 Wolverines.

Josh Wilkins Named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week

Josh Wilkins Named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week
Wilkins recorded both game-winning goals in the Friars’ two-game sweep over Maine last weekend.

March 12, 2018 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – It was announced on Monday (March 12) that Providence College sophomore forward Josh Wilkins was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week. Wilkins shared the honor with Northeastern’s Dylan Sikura.

The Raleigh, North Carolina native broke a 3-3 tie with 3:10 remaining in Providence’s 4-3 win over Maine in Game One of the Hockey East Quarterfinals on Friday night. On Saturday, Wilkins’ goal in the first period gave the Friars a 3-0 lead and was the eventual game-winner in a 3-2 Providence win to sweep the series.

Through 36 games in 2017-18, Wilkins has tallied a career-high 15 goals and has also added in 15 assists for his second-consecutive campaign of at least 30 points. Wilkins is tied for first in the Hockey East in game-winning goals (5) alongside Northeastern’s Adam Gaudette and tied for second nationally in that category.

The Friars will battle Northeastern in the Hockey East Semifinals on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., seeking their first Hockey East Championship appearance since 2001. Puck drop is slated for 8 p.m. on NESN Plus and ESPN3.

For more updates on the Providence College men’s hockey program, follow the team on Twitter @FriarsHockey.

Kirsten Simms Commits to Wisconsin

She spent the 2017-18 season competing against players up to three years older.

Clearly, it wasn’t a problem.

Total Package Hockey is proud to congratulate Detroit Center of Excellence student-athlete Kirsten Simms on her commitment to the University of Wisconsin.

Simms, a 2004 birth-year player, spent the past season playing for the 16U Little Caesars girls’ team – her first year playing girls’ Tier 1 hockey. She played a significant role in the LC squad’s state championship and USA Hockey National Championships appearance.

She’s still a few years away from enrolling, but Simms said she can’t wait to officially become a Badger.

“I picked Wisconsin because I love the facilities, coaches, school, and culture,” Simms said. “Just everything about Wisconsin is right for me. Literally every time I’m there it feels like home and it feels best for me.”

Simms, the daughter of two educators, said college hockey has always been at the top of her list of hockey goals. She will certainly be eligible for enrollment at Wisconsin when the time comes – Simms maintains a 4.0 GPA despite a dedicated training regime on and off the ice.

“I’m so excited to get the chance to play Division 1 college hockey because it has been one of my biggest goals since I was 6 and, on top of it, Wisconsin is my dream school.”

She said she’s thankful of the help the Total Package Hockey staff during her growing hockey career.

“TPH has helped me reach this goal in many of ways,” Simms said. “First of all they have helped me with advancing my skill and teaching me so much that I know – especially my shot. I can even admit that my shot wasn’t very good before I started working with TPH.

“Not only have they helped me as player they have helped me as a person. TPH has done so much for me so far and I am continuing to train with TPH every day to help me reach my other future goals.”

Texas forward Davis makes NCAA commitment

The Texas Brahmas of the NA3HL are proud to announce that forward Dakota Davis has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey at Trine University.

Davis, a native of Nashville, TN, played in the NA3HL with the Brahmas for three seasons.  He played in 112 games and recorded 37 goals and 31 assists for 66 points.  He has been a key to the success of the Brahmas the past three seasons and played whatever role he was asked.  Dakota especially excelled on the penalty kill leading the Brahmas to the leagues best PK at 92.4%.

Newly hired assistant with NAHL Aberdeen and Dakota’s coach for the Brahmas, Michael Hill, said, “Dakota was one of my favorite players in Texas the past two seasons.  He played with a chip on his shoulder, got under the skin of the opponent, and he always seemed to score those timely goals that changed momentum, all the while being a disruptor on the PK.  Dakota is working hard this off-season and I’m sure he will be ready to make in impact for the Trine Thunder.”

“Trine is a great fit for me academically and hockey wise. I can’t wait to get there and get started.  I would like to thank coach Rooney for giving me the opportunity to play for the Brahmas and Coach Hill for everything he has done the past 2 seasons. We ultimately came up short of where we wanted to be at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t trade my experience in Texas for anything,” said Davis.

Click here for a list of NA3HL college commitments

Full article at