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Bobcats beef up defense in NAHL draft

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After Wednesday's NAHL draft, next up for Bismarck Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie is the team's main camp, scheduled for July 23 in Hudson, Wis.

Bismarck Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie says it's hard to know what to make of the annual North American Hockey League draft.

 It's both exciting and exhausting. He looks forward to it, but he said he was glad it was over on Wednesday after the last athlete had been selected.

 "It's fun. You have a plan, but I will say from years past it doesn't go as planned, that's for sure. ... Until it's your pick, you don't know," Sedevie said.

  Coming off a successful 29-21-6 season, the Bobcats had one of the bottom rungs in the league draft. Thus they had to revise their plans multiple times before they got to make their first pick.

 Fifteen players had been taken out of circulation before the Bobcats chose Charles Larsen, an 18-year-old defenseman from Minot as their No. 1 pick.

 Before the day was through, Bismarck had the NAHL rights to seven new players -- four defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender. Sedevie said the Bobcats were focused on blueliners in this draft.

 "We've got one returning defenseman, so that's where our emphasis was this year," he observed.

 Bismarck and Austin each grabbed four defensemen on Wednesday, but the other four Central Division teams stocked up on forwards. North Iowa chose six forwards and Aberdeen nabbed five as Central teams collected 20 attackers.

 Only four goalies got the call from Central Division teams. Sedevie said teams had been busy on the goaltender front prior to the Wednesday draft.

 "Aberdeen took one in the (June) supplemental draft and Minot tendered one before the draft. And Amarillo, which is now North Iowa, had a couple back and Austin has goalies back," he noted.

  The Bobcats had taken care of their selections when the fourth round was complete, while some other NAHL teams were active much later in the day. The Johnstown, Pa., Tomahawks of the East Division kept dipping into the talent pool until the 17th round. 

 With seven returning players and seven tendered players, the Bobcats had a limited number of draft picks. Tendered athletes — each team is allowed seven — are protected from the draft, even though they are not rostered players.

 "You need your sixth pick to be as valuable as your first pick if you can possibly do it. ... It's a nerve-wracking deal. It gets your heart ticking," Sedevie said. "It's important to us this year, that's for sure."

 Although the league's draft is conducted in one day, Sedevie said the bits and pieces that make up a team's draft-day file are collected 365 days a year. He calls it homework.

 "You build a notebook all year long in order to have a plan this time of year. ... You have to have good scouts and a staff that can do a good job," he observed. "You're trying to build the best team. You work with the connections you have in college and in the USHL. ... You make phone calls. You talk to agents and other coaches in order to build the best platform you can. You want to build a good (player) list and have a plan B, if that's what you want to call it."

 Sedevie has been through a dozen drafts as the Bobcats' head coach, and he said drafting is not an idle pursuit. His recent draftees include Johnny Witzke, Thomas Bergsland, John Gormley, Ryan Taylor and Tim Piechowski. Piechowski was the Bobcats' first-round pick three years ago.

 Going farther back, Sedevie recalls the draft yielding such stalwarts as Dan Zawacki, Stan Dzakhov and Niko Rosenthal.

 Wednesday's draft revealed some changes in the NAHL's divisional alignments for the coming season.

 There will be three expansion teams — the Anchorage Wolverines, the El Paso Rhinos and the Amarillo Wranglers — taking the ice for the first time. Anchorage will compete in the Midwest Division with Amarillo and El Paso skating in the Southern Division.

 The expansion Amarillo Wranglers moved into a void left when the Amarillo Bulls moved to Mason City, Iowa. The Bulls are now members of the Central Division with the Minnesota Wilderness sliding over from the Central to Midwest Division.

 Three teams will return to action after year-long coronavirus-related breaks. They are the Springfield Jr. Blues in the Midwest Division, the Jamestown Rebels in the East Division and the Corpus Christi IceRays in the Southern Division.

 The realigned 29-team league will have eight teams each in the Midwest and South Divisions, seven in the East and six in the Central.

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