Congratulations to our Midwest West Division All-Stars, who were selected from votes made by the coaches with support from the League Media Director.
Mathias Rakell, New York Aviators
No surprise here. Two years ago, Rakell (‘02/Stockholm, Sweden) played in his first season in North America and impressed all onlookers by posting 56 points in 41 games. After a season spent back in Sweden in 2021-22, Rakell returned to Brooklyn and put his old already strong points total to shame by posting 102 points in 41 games, the first 100-point season in the Aviators’ history. Not only averaging 2.49 points per game, but also better than one goal per game by scoring 42 times this year. In seven postseason games, he upped his points per game to 3.00 by posting 21. He also led the division with a +49 rating, largely of his own making.
Christopher Friberg, New York Aviators
And what a bonus for the Aviators. Rakell went back to play for the Huddinge IK Juniors in Sweden and when deciding to come back, he compelled Friberg – a fellow ‘02 from Stockholm – to join him in signing with the Aviators. What did the Brooklyn Boys get? A guy who scored 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 44 games, all good for a 1.77 points per game average. Second on his team, but better than many leading scorers in entire divisions. His six game-winning goals led the Aviators.
Max Granlund Wennerberg, New York Aviators
Friberg and Rakell would have lined up last year in the Sweden J20 league against Nacka HK. And before you know it, one more Swedish scoring whiz comes to the Aviators. He came in second on the Aviators with 36 goals, which was also third in the entire Mid-Atlantic Division after only Rakell’s 42 and Elmira super-rookie Nathan Garau’s 50. He also posted 28 assists for 64 points in 40 games for a 1.60 points per game average.
J.D. Speer, Utica Jr. Comets
Committed To Neumann University
Speer (‘02/Hamilton, N.Y.) pushed the envelope on what had been an already productive three-year career with the Jr. Comets here in Year 4. He put up 25 goals and added 42 assists for 67 points in just 41 games, which was an improvement on his last two seasons combined. He also got a four-game call-up with the NCDC Jr. Comets, where he posted three more points. Speer passed teammate Andrew Martino (who spent most of the season in the NCDC) and former teammate Anthony Morin to become the No. 1 all-time scorer for the Jr. Comets with 139 points.
Sean Tyrie, Utica Jr. Comets
Tyrie (‘04/East Quogue, N.Y.) was a junior rookie who saw time with both the Jr. Comets’ 18U and NCDC teams in addition to the Premier this year. He posted a line of 28-38-66 in 42 games, the best rookie season in Jr. Comets history. His point total of 66 was second best in a single season for his franchise after only J.D. Speer’s 67 points, also scored this year.
Caleb Turner, Utica Jr. Comets
A USPHL veteran going back to 2019 with the Palmyra Black Knights 16U team, Turner’s first USPHL Premier season was a resounding success. His 1.69 points per game was the team’s best, as he put up 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in just 35 games. Turner (‘03/Port Matilda, Pa.) was also tapped for seven NCDC games, in which he posted three points. He also posted seven points in five postseason games as the Jr. Comets were just a win away from Nationals after starting their series against the WBS Knights with a win before falling in three games. Turner’s power forward game also saw him rank third in hits in the division with 54.
Justin Ryan, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Ryan (‘03/Endwell, Pa.) blew the doors off his prior USPHL Premier experience by more than doubling his 2021-22 point total here in Year 2. He posted 35 goals and 38 assists for 73 points, averaging 1.66 points per game. He had 29 points last year, and had played Elite games earlier in 2021-22. This year, he was brought up to the NCDC Knights team for six games and registered two goals there, illustrating just how quickly his USPHL Advancement is moving. Ryan was also better than a point per game in the playoffs, posting 10 points in nine games, including a Nationals run.
Aidan Darlington, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Darlington (‘04/North Kingstown, R.I.) was one of the best junior rookies in the Mid-Atlantic, jumping into a 43-point season in 38 games with the Knights this year after playing 18U AA with Mount St. Charles Academy in his home state last year. His two-game call-up to the NCDC may be prophetic for his future, as he certainly proved he can already handle the Premier grind. Plenty of upside and runway remaining for this rising star.
Hunter Parker, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Injuries slightly hampered Year 2 for Parker (‘02/Granite City, Ill.) but that didn’t stop him from improving on an already impressive Year 1 total of 47 points, as he racked up 14 goals and 39 assists for 53 points here in 2022-23. With his final regular season point, he became the second Knight to hit 100 career points, just behind teammate Justin Ryan’s 102.
Nathan Garau, Elmira Jr. Enforcers
Unquestionably the division’s best rookie, the near-unanimous selection Garau registered 50 goals and added 32 assists, standing as one of only two in the league to attain the 50-goal mark. Fresno’s Christopher Miraldo was the other, as he posted 62 in the more highly offensive-leaning Pacific Division. Garau, a native of Bolzano, Italy, was the leading scorer among all USPHL Premier 2005-born players this year, and was one of the few in the league to enter with prior professional experience after playing 10 games last year in Italy’s third division. His 82 points ranked Garau second in the division and 11th overall in the Premier.
Yakov Yakzhin, Rockets Hockey Club
The leading scorer for the Rockets, carrying the flag this year for the 2021-22 season defending National Champions, Yakzhin (‘03/Moskva, Russia) improved on his point total by moving from 40 with the former Jersey Whalers last year to 53 this year off a 22-31-53 line, good for 1.26 points per game. He impressed coaches to the point of earning votes from beyond his own club. He was fantastic in the postseason, putting up nine points in five games, and he also scored a goal in his only NCDC call-up game.
Elias Holunga, Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Like Yakzhin, Holunga is another player who made a franchise change and found great success in his new home. The third-year Premier veteran showed just how great a leader he could be by putting up 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points in 44 games to stand as the top scorer for the Jr. Rangers, and he put up the team’s best individual season points total since 2020. Holunga currently has 79 points in 92 career Premier games since 2020-21.
Ayden Frolik, Hershey Cubs
Frolik (‘03/Lafayette, Ind.) made a great move to the Premier from the NA3HL and found his groove quickly in ChocoTown, posting 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points in 43 games to lead the Cubs in their second season, the best individual performance in the young history of the up-and-coming franchise co-owned by longtime NHL head coach and television analyst Bruce Boudreau.
Hunter Scanlon, New York Aviators
The USPHL Premier’s leading goal-and point-scorer among true defensemen this year, Scanlon put up 23 goals and 49 assists for 72 points over 42 games, cementing his legend status in the USPHL Premier after just two seasons for the ‘03 from Rockford, Ill. He improved his point total by 40 over last year’s 32, and also helped the Aviators return to the Premier Nationals after missing the mark in 2022, posting 10 points in seven total postseason games. Scanlon also earned a four-game call-up to the NCDC’s New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs this past season.
Connor Santay, Utica Jr. Comets
The Mid-Atlantic Division’s leader in defensive takeaways (with 68), Santay was an immense two-way threat for the Jr. Comets as he also posted 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points, good for a 0.95 points per game average. The rookie blueliner, an ‘04 from Baldswinville, N.Y., set the team record for the best single season points total by a true defenseman in the process.
Jeremy McDonald, Utica Jr. Comets
The Framingham State University recruit McDonald (‘03/Lockport, N.Y.) is another Jr. Comets blueliner who just had an outstanding first junior season. He put up seven goals and 24 assists for 31 points in 32 games, earning votes from outside of his own team to the division All-Star squad. He had 42 blocked shots and 47 takeaways this year, as well.
Niilo Kaipinen, Rockets Hockey Club
Following the successful trend of first-year European players finding success in the Mid-Atlantic Division, this ‘04 out of Finland joined up with the defending National Champs and gave them a fantastic all-around defensive and offensive leader on the blue line. He posted 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 32 games. Kaipinen also saw five games of D duty with the NCDC Rockets Hockey Club. He absolutely steamrolled through the postseason, putting up five goals and six assists for 11 points in five playoff contests.
Luke Remenyi, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Remenyi’s first season with the WBS Knights (and his second in the Premier) was an astounding success, as he went 16-1-0-0 with a 1.75 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. That put him at fourth in the league in GAA and eighth in save percentage. He was the only goaltender with more than 10 wins to register just one loss on the season. The ‘04 from Margate, Fla., may just be getting started with what could be a mind-boggling junior career.
Tade Carman, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
The veteran returning Knights goaltender, an ‘03 from Cary, N.C., was driven by the internal competition with Remenyi and put similarly insane numbers up in the crease. He posted a 2.01 GAA and a .938 save percentage, while going 17-6-2-0 for the year. His save percentage was second best in the league, and his GAA was 10th. That distinction set the Knights apart from all Premier teams as the only squad to have two goaltenders in the Top 10 for both goals against average and save percentage.
Michael Marino, New York Aviators
Marino put up a 15-3-1-0 record to help the Aviators to help the Brooklyn Boys register the league’s best winning percentage and the top seed overall going into the postseason. The Mid-Atlantic was the only Premier division to feature three players in the Top 10 overall in save percentage, as the ‘02 from Staten Island, N.Y., put up a .934. He also registered a 2.50 goals against average in his best of three seasons at Aviator Sports and Events Center. Marino also went 5-2-0-0 with a .921 during seven Aviators postseason games.