New Jersey Rockets Poised to Breakout in NCDC in 2017-18

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The New Jersey Rockets have cultivated a rich hockey tradition in the Garden State over the last 40 years producing multiple NHL players along the way including Jeremy Roenick, John Carlson, Kevin Labanc and Adam Erne as well as recent draft picks Jeremy Bracco, Chad Krys and Charlie McAvoy.

That tradition continues as the Rockets prepare to join the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) in 2017-18.

Recruiting players ages 16-20 from all over the world for its junior program, the Rockets have been led by head coach Sean Cromarty the past two seasons.

Cromarty, who played for Colorado College from 2000-2004 while appearing in three NCAA tournaments, went on to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ affiliate Wheeling Nailers in the East Coast Hockey League before joining the Rockets organization.

The experience Cromarty brings as a USA Hockey certified coach and personal trainer for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has Rockets’ players and fans excited for a big season ahead.

“Personally my job is simple — help these young men develop into future college hockey players,” Cromarty said. “Simple isn’t easy by any means though and it is a constant balancing act to help find the right blend of hockey and academics for each individual. It has been a rewarding experience helping players reach their goals having gone through the process myself at one point.”

Charlie McAvoy at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo (J.C. Hageny)

Through Cromarty and his staff which includes David Gibson and Frank Gilberti, the Rockets have signed forwards Paul Selleck, Mason Vukonich, Alexandre Touchette, Joshua Maine and Logan Bellar and defenseman Luc Salem to tendered contracts for the 2017-2018 season.

That contract ensures the team player’s rights for that season and that a player cannot be recruited or drafted by any other member club.

Sellick (5-7/148) is a ‘98 forward from California and has played with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18-U team. Sellick struck for 19 goals and 31 assists through 31 games this season.

Vukonich (6-3/196) is also a ‘98 forward and played this past season with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes U-18 team. Vukonich piled up 41 points this season in just 32 games to the tune of 17 goals and 24 assists and been one of the top players in the Tier 1 Elite League.

Kevin Labanc was drafted by the San Jose Sharks at the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. (J.C. Hageny)

Touchette (5-9/170) is a ‘98 forward as well hailing from Laval, Quebec, Canada and received high praise from Cromarty.

“Alexandre is a dynamic forward who is a true talent in his playmaking ability,” said Cromarty. “He has great linear speed and strong hands.”

Maine (6-0/185) is a ‘00 forward who compiled nine points in 21 games with Honeybaked U-18 and Bellar (6-1/ 165) is a ‘00 forward from Flagstaff, Arizona, while Salem (5-9/152) is a ‘99 defenseman from the Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18-U team. Salem amassed 24 points in 32 games this past season.

“We recruit players, 16-20, from all over the world for our junior program,” Cromarty said. “We have had players from as far west as Arizona and California as well as from Europe and Canadian junior programs. Each of these players are an integral piece to our program as we move forward with the NCDC.”

The Rockets will open up their inaugural season in the NCDC in the fall of 2017.

The newly-developed NCDC is is a unique, tuition-free Junior hockey division engineered toward the development and placement of Division-I athletes for now and beyond.

“The NCDC makes the long wished-for option of tuition-free hockey on the East Coast a reality,” USPHL Commissioner Jeff Nygaard said. “It’s always been a good idea but it has taken the commitment and business savvy of the current group of owners to move it forward.

“We also listened to college coaches who want to recruit prospects in their backyard so they can more efficiently develop relationships with prospects and monitoring their developmental progress,” Nygaard added. “The USPHL is excited to be part of yet another college advancement solution for high-level players.”

(Adam Erne, Tampa Bay Lightning)

Coast-to-Coast Scouting Helps Rockets Land Young Talent

The inaugural teams making up the NCDC in 2017-18 will be the Boston Bandits, Junior Bruins, Connecticut Jr. Rangers, Islanders Hockey Club, Jersey Hitmen, New Jersey Rockets, Northern Cyclones, PAL Junior Islanders, Rochester Monarchs, South Shore Kings and Syracuse Stars.

(Main Image – Before being drafted by the Boston Bruins, smooth-skating Charlie McAvoy had a stint with the New Jersey Rockets. Photo courtesy of Charles O’Brien) 

Written by Chris Costa/HockeyClan


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