Coach Joe Shawhan and his staff have remained very active on the recruiting trail. In the last week he’s received his fifth, sixth and seventh commitments. The Huskies added two brothers with Yooper ties to the fold with Trevor and Kyle Kukkonen. The name definitely has a Yooper feel to it and to many its probably somewhat familiar as their parents went to Michigan Tech and their aunt is someone that everyone here will definitely recognize, athletic director Suzanne Sanregret. The November 6 Joe Shawhan Hour will get a lot of discussion today as it hit on a few different important points relating to recruiting. The first is family connections. The legacy assistance for cost of attendance really helps MTU on the recruiting front as a smaller percentage of a full ride actually needs to count against the athletic scholarship limit to non-residents who had parents attend the school. Trevor and Kyle Kukkonen are the first great examples of this as both are likely to get pretty substantial scholarships but if a large portion of it is discounts because their parents, that will allow MTU to spend more of their athletic scholarship limit elsewhere. Shawhan hinted that there are other legacies out there and THG is keeping an eye on a few of them but we don’t plan on giving out names as it hurts the program in locking up commitments.

Now back to discussing what exactly to expect from these brothers. Trevor Kukkonen is the older of the two. He’ll be entering his junior year at Maple Grove High School in Minnesota where he will be the leading scoring from last year’s Section 5AA Champions. Trevor even scored a goal in last year’s state quarterfinal matchup against eventual champion Grand Rapids.

Maple Grove isn’t expected to be a top flight team as they lost a very large senior class but Trevor should be one of the team leaders along with another junior (Tyler Kostelecky) and a trio of seniors (Tyler Borsch, Ryan Brandt, and Matt Jaglo). None of them were top-5 on the team in scoring but they were all top-10. The younger brother, Kyle, could have probably made the varsity team alongside Trevor despite being a freshman, but he and his cohorts have decided to stay together at the Bantam level and go for a state championship for OMG (Osseo-Maple Grove). Kyle has been talked about fondly for a very long time. Youth Hockey Hub had an article on Kyle and another OMG youth player, Justin Janicke back in 2013 when they were lighting up squirts. As mentioned by Chris Dilks, Kyle has played along side Brock Faber, who’s already committed to Notre Dame. THG already has a few dates circled to get to the rink and watch Trevor Kukkonen play for Maple Grove, along with a few Duluth Marshall games in the Twin Cities (to see Levi Stauber). We’ll have to figure out some nearby tournaments or games for the OMG bantam team yet, but hope to get out to a game or two for Kyle as well. While both of these brothers should be big time contributors to Michigan Tech when they arrive, depending on how things go, neither is expected to get to Houghton before Fall 2020 and our recruiting grid will have them penciled in for 2021 at this time. That’s quite different from the other recruit to commit recently.

Credit: Shelley Schmidt Photography

The last recruit to discuss involves a familiar face in former assistant coach Gary Shuchuk. His departure must have been amicable because on Halloween the Huskies received a commitment from TJ Polglaze. The 20-year-old forward currently plays for Shuchuk with the Janesville Jets. While his stats are flashy, he appears to be a high character guy. He has 10 point through 16 games as one of the alternate captains in Shuchuk’s first year as head coach. When asked about TJ (Tanner) for a release from the Jets, here is what Shuchuk had to say:

I’ve seen Tanner play through youth, I’ve seen him play in Janesville and with Team Wisconsin, so I’ve known him for years, and his success around the state says a lot for him. It also says a lot to the guys in the locker room, to see someone have success through hard work, I was happy for him.

Former Jets head coach Joe Dibble said during a time when some players could get discouraged about lack of playing time or points on a deep team, T.J. didn’t look for another place to play … he just kept pushing.

Polglaze was actually brought to Janesville before Shuchuk took over this season. The former head coach Joe Dibble also commented in the Jets’ feature on Polglaze’s commitment:

Everything we recruited in a player for Janesville, T.J. was leaps and bounds above everybody else … He didn’t let anybody cheat the team, he held everyone accountable. At the end of the day, he didn’t have as big of a role on Friday and Saturday nights, but in order for us to have some of those outcomes and those wins, a lot of it came from what T.J. brought Monday through Thursday.

Polglaze appears to compare well to current Husky Ray Brice, a guy that’s not afraid to get dirty and who can bring much needed energy and intensity to the Huskies. Polglaze and the Kukkonen brothers join current goaltender Packy Munson and two forwards likely two plus years away from Houghton (Levi Stauber & Jake Crespi) as commitments under Joe Shawhan since he became head coach. Because of his age, Polglaze is expected to join the Huskies next fall. With all the other changes to the future with turnover, including three to Michigan, the Huskies are still looking for a top-6 type forward for next year and might need a top-4 type defenseman if Mitch Reinke gets too many calls from the pros and leaves early, which at this point is completely possible with the way NHL teams have approached college free agents.

Another item discussed during the November 6 Joe Shawhan Hour, was what it takes in the primary junior leagues for a team to expect a top-flight college scorer. Based on those numbers (80 points in BCHL, 70 points in NAHL, 40 points in USHL) here are some names that might be possibilities for that top-6 scorer addition for next season:

NameTeam (League)GamesGoalsAssistsPoints
Jasper WeatherbyWenatchee (BCHL)21191231
Desi BurgartSurrey (BCHL)2391423
Ben BrarPrince George (BCHL)2591524
Levi GlasmanTrail (BCHL)23121527
AJ VanderbeckWenatchee (BCHL)1211617
Lucas SowderWenatchee (BCHL)1481523
Jack OlmsteadWilkes-Barre Scranton (NAHL)18101222
Reed RobinsonWilkes-Barre Scranton (NAHL)20101020
Julian BiondoLone Star (NAHL)2051621
Nick GranowiczTopeka (NAHL)21121123
Trenton BlissGreen Bay (USHL)135813
Santeri VirtanenDubuque (USHL)7246
Alec BroetzmanMadison (USHL)116713
Carter RandklevFargo (USHL)7257

The ones that really stick out are Jack Olmstead because of his home town (Troy, Mich.) and Trenton Bliss because of his current decommitment from Wisconsin, his home town (Appleton, Wis.) and his head coach, former Husky Pat Mikesch. Anyone in that table, especially the BCHL guys, could be a target of Michigan Tech, but for some reason those two really stick out because of the kind of connections we spoke about earlier in this piece. The biggest reason none of the BCHL guys jump out is because it’s still yet to be determined where this staff will have extra pull in that league. Joe Shawhan and his staff have done a great job so far of snagging some popular recruits that it was pretty obvious that other teams wanted so who knows what direction they’ll take on the final few spots to fill out the 2018-19 roster.

Featured Image courtesy of John Finley, YouthHockeyHub.com

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