By Joshua Boyd / USPHLNCDC.com
We’ll be taking time over the month of June to look at how some NCDC teams are working on building their 2023-24 squads through the acquisition of tenders, commitments from returning players and past draft selections they continue to evaluate.
The Provo Predators are one of the five former USPHL Premier Mountain Division member organizations making the jump to the NCDC for the 2023-24 season. They are approaching the building of their first Tier II roster as essentially a brand new team, working with new Head Coach Ray Tremblay to build towards what they hope will be a year in which no one wants to play Provo on any given weekend.
All quotes in the sections below are from General Manager Nick Dreyer.
Ben Cleary – Fox Motors 18U AAA
An ‘05 forward from Fox Motors, Cleary also played games this past season with the NAPHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs 18U AAA team. For all of his 18U games this past season, he totaled 17 points in 18 games.
“Ben is a tremendous skater and has a very high IQ. He is a very mature kid and should really push the pace on Olympic ice.”
Nick Noble – Colorado Springs Tigers 18U AAA
Originally from Missouri, Noble – an ‘04 forward – has played the last three seasons with the Colorado Springs Tigers and served as their Captain this past season. He put up 14 points in 18 games this past season and posted a total of 47 points in 44 games over two 18U seasons in Colorado Springs.
“Nick is an absolute dog when it comes to hunting down pucks and has a cannon of a shot. He is an athlete and a competitor all the way around.”
Jason Grey – Connecticut Chiefs 18U AAA
Grey, an ‘05 forward, posted 55 points in 42 games for the Chiefs in his first year there. He’s also played for the Rochester Coalition and Syracuse Nationals in his native New York prior to this year.
“Jason is involved in everything. He goes to the dirty areas and does the things most other players don’t want to do.”
Gavin O’Hara – North Jersey Avalanche 18U AAA
An ‘05 defenseman, O’Hara brings great size at 6-feet-5-inches and 190 pounds, and picked up nine points in 16 Atlantic Youth Hockey League games with the Avalanche this year. The Chicago native previously played 16U with the Vegas Golden Knights AAA program.
“Gavin is a mack truck on ice skates. He moves and defends extremely well for a 6-5 guy and has blossomed quite an offensive skill set.”
Lance Mengel – Cleveland Barons 18U AAA
The ‘04 forward from Cleveland has only played for the Barons, and his 18U age-out season saw him post 50 points in 56 games.
“Lance has a ton of offensive upside and works hard in all three zones. He’s a very powerful skater and hard to knock off the puck when he drives the net.”
Gavin Black – Team Alaska
Played up at 18U for Team Alaska this past season as an ‘06, jumping from Team Alaska’s 15U squad in 2021-22. At the 18U level, he posted 41 points in 43 games. He has been named to the Pacific Team for the upcoming USA Hockey Select 17 Festival.
“Gavin is definitely one of our most exciting prospects who plays the game the right way in all three zones. He plays a 200-foot game and has all the makings of a potential NCAA Division I talent.”
Campbell Epp – Winnipeg Wild 18U AAA
The ‘06 Winnipeg native put up 30 points in 44 games for an 18U squad that has produced several NCAA Division I players and has NHL alumni including Travis Hamonic (Ottawa Senators).
“Campbell is a man child at around 6-5 and 200 pounds. He is a big strong power forward who is junior hockey-ready we feel.”
Nicholas Christianson – Long Island Gulls 16U AAA
An ‘06 from California, he’s played Bantam and Midget hockey the last few seasons in his home California (L.A. Jr. Kings), Chicago (Windy City Storm) and with the 16U AAA National Champion Gulls this past season. He posted six points in 11 regular season games and played in all six Nationals games, adding an assist.
“Nick is a very offensively gifted player and has a compete level that should translate well. He plays the game like a man and can generate offense anytime he touches the puck.”
Lazarus Ebanoidze – North Jersey Avalanche 16U AAA
The ‘06 Illinois native split this past season between the Windy City Storm and the Avalanche. He put up 26 points in 56 games for the Avalanche, and added four more assists in four USA Hockey Nationals games.
“Laz won the ‘All-American Defenseman Award’ last season in the AYHL 16U division and is among the elite when it comes to his skating ability. He has a poise and situational awareness that’s beyond his years and really thinks the game at an NCAA Division I level.”
The Road Ahead
“We just had our main camp in Chicago that went extremely well. We are looking forward to training camp Aug 7-11 in Provo.”