Minot, ND – The Minot Minotauros are proud to announce that forward Kyler Kleven has been named the North American Hockey League Rookie of the Year. This caps a busy awards season for Kleven who was named was named to the NAHL All-Rookie First Team along with teammate Owen Baumgartner on Tuesday, and named to the All-Central Division Team and Central Division Rookie of the Year yesterday. The NAHL Announced the Divisional Awards today.
The Kleven described what an honor the award is, “it is a great honor to me. It would be pretty special to be recognized as the top rookie in the league this year. There’s a ton of great players in the NAHL and some really good players have won this award so really mean a lot to me.” Kleven added, “I couldn’t thank the Minot’s coaching staff enough. Both Coach Marty and Coach Wagner gave me the chance to be creative and showcase my skills right from the start. They had a huge impact on my success helping me develop and play my game.”
Kleven led the Tauros and all NAHL rookies in scoring this season posting 53 points in 48 games on 25 goals and 28 assists. His 1.10 points per game give him the best offensive season in Tauros history. He finished just two points behind Miroslav Mucha for most in a single season and undoubtedly would have passed Mucha had the final 10 games of the season not been lost to the COVID-19 crisis.
Tauros Head Coach and General Manager Marty Murray praised Kleven “This caps off a terrific rookie season for Kyler. It was fun watching him grow and become an impact player every night. Their line was exceptional, especially after Christmas.”
The line Murray was referencing was Kleven along with Jay Buchholz and Dan Russell who skated together most of the season and formed one of, if not the most dangerous lines in the league. The trio combined for 54 goals and all three represented the Tauros at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.
Russell pointed to each player’s unselfishness as a key to the groups success, “we had really good chemistry and moved the puck really well between the three of us.” Kleven added that each player’s strength complimented each other, “Playing with both Jay and Russell was a great experience for me. Jays ability to see the ice and Russell’s ability to finish gave our line great chemistry.” Buchholz agreed about the chemistry and added that it extends away from the game as well, “Our line has very good chemistry on and off the ice so I think that helps. Also I think all three of us are the same type of player so we really know what we are going to be doing once we get the puck.”
Tauros Captain Cole O’Connell knew Kleven before they were Tauros, O’Connell was the Captain at Moorhead High School in Minnesota for Kleven’s first two seasons there, a role Kleven would take over after O’Connell joined the Tauros. O’Connell for one was not at all caught off guard by Kleven’s success; “I knew Kyler was a good player with high end skill. This year he put it all together. His shot improved a ton and he became a very complete player. His confidence really helped him become better this year. I’m not surprised at how good of a year he had. His future is very bright.”
Buchholz, who is from Fargo, ND also knew Kleven before they arrived in Minot and like O’Connell “was not surprised at all.” Buchholz explained “at the beginning of the year it took him a little bit to get on the scoresheet but I knew once he started to get a few points more would definitely follow behind. Kyler has deserved every single one of the awards he’s got this year and I’m glad the league recognized him for it.”
Murray agreed, “Kyler is very deserving of all of his recognition this week, he put together one of the most memorable season performances in a Tauros uniform to date.”
When talking to Tauros about Kleven there was one common theme that everyone mentioned, hard work. O’Connell said, “Kyler is a very competitive player. He’s always working to get better himself and push teammates. He’s always working on new things to help him score.” Russell added, “Kleven is a great teammate, he works really hard which makes teammates around him work really hard as well.” Buchholz also praised Kleven as a teammate, “Klev is a really good teammate. He’s a big part of our locker room and is always supportive with everything. He’s also a huge lead by example kind of guy and that just shows with the impact he made this year.”
Kleven joins Blake Lizotte (2014/15) as Tauros who have won the NAHL Rookie of the Year honors. Aside from Lizotte who plays for the L.A. Kings, other notable NAHL Rookies of the Year the year include: David Booth (2001, Compuware, Florida Panthers) Brandon Saad (2009, Mahoning Valley Phantoms, Chicago Blackhawks), Tanner Kero (2010, Marquette Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (2012, Odessa Jackalopes, Winnipeg Jets), and Paul Cotter (2017, Brookings Blizzard, Vegas Golden Knights draft pick).