Minot, ND – The Minot Minotauros are sending six players to the 2020 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. The Tauros will send three players to play on the Central Division team as well as three more players to play on one of the NAHL Selects teams. Tauros Captain Cole O’Connell, forward Jay Buchholz, and goaltender Ben Garrity will play for Team Central which was selected by the Central Division coaches. Forward Kyler Kleven and defensemen Sam Skinner and Owen Baumgartner will represent the Tauros on the NAHL Blue Selects.
The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament will take place February 17th and 18th in Attleboro, MA at the New England Sports Village for the second year in a row. The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament is one of the most highly-scouted events in junior hockey. Last season, over 220 scouts attended the event, which featured almost every NHL team and NCAA Division I school. The event continues to provide the hundreds of NHL and NCAA scouts in attendance with a look at the best, uncommitted players the NAHL has to offer, as well as, some potential NHL Draft picks. It is an important part of the NAHL event model, which includes the NAHL Showcase in September and the NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship in May.
Jay Buchholz – The Fargo native Buchholz is in his first season as Tauro. Through 36 games played he has posted six goals and 20 assists. Tauros Head Coach and G.M. Marty Murray described Buchholz’s all around game, “Jay is a skilled, gritty player that brings so much to our team. He leads by example and is very respected in the room. Jay is very versitile as he plays all three foward positions and in all situations. You can always count on Jay to do things the right way and play a strong 200′ game.”
Ben Garrity – The second year Tauro goaltender is second all-time in Tauro history with 58 games played in his career. For his career Garrity has a 31-18-5 record, .913 SV%, and 2.76 GAA; including 16-8-3 3.00 GAA and .909 SV% this season. With 1619 minutes played this season Garrity has played the fifth most minutes in the league. Murray praised Garrity: “Ben has been a big part of our team success during his year and a half in Minot. He’s a very consistent goaltender, and has provided great leadership this season. Ben has caught the attention of D1 schools and has established himself as a top goaltender in the NAHL.”
Cole O’Connell – The Tauros Captain is in his third and final season in Minot. This season “OC” has nine goals and 18 assists through 39 games played. His 27 points are the most by a Tauro eligible for the division team. Over his career he has 42 points (14g 28a) through 88 games played. Murray heaped praise on O’Connell after Top Prospects rosters were announced, “Cole is the longest tenured Tauro we have. He was here during our Robertson Cup run, and I really think that helped him understand how to have success at our level. Cole has provided great leadership and helped new players understand our culture and expectations. Cole’s production has been very solid this season, but most nights, it’s the things that don’t make the scoresheet that are valuable to our team. Coles exemplifies what it is to be a Tauro, and is a team first player through and through.”
NAHL Blue Selects
Owen Baumgartner – Owen Baumgartner has posted 13 points (3g 10a) through 19 games in his rookie season. Injuries have kept him from playing more games. Murray sees plenty of potential in Baumgartner’s game; “Even though Owen is the youngest player on our team, there has been many nights he’s looked like a veteran player. His skating ability is exceptional, and he the sky is the limit for him. We need him to get back to being healthy, as he can be a game changer in the last third of the season and hopefully into playoffs.”
Kyler Kleven – After joining the Tauros after the Minnesota high school season ended last season Kleven is in his first full season in Minot. Through 37 games this season Kleven has posted 19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points which is second most on the team and seventh among NAHL rookies. His 19 goals are the most among NAHL Rookies and his next goal will make him just the seventh Tauro to score 20 goals in a season. Murray believes Kleven is a driving force in the Tauro offense; “Numbers wise, Kyler had a bit of a slow start to the season. But even though the points weren’t coming, he was involved in all kinds of chances and was playing the game the right way. You could see it was just a matter of time that he was going to break out. Once the first one went in, you could see his confidence pick up and he’s been one of the top goal scorers in the league since October. Kyler possesses speed and skill, and has done a very good job playing in traffic.”
Sam Skinner – Skinner is the only NCAA DI committed Tauro to be selected to Top Prospects. His 26 points are tops among Tauro defensemen and the seventh most points by any NAHL d-man. Skinner’s season started in Sochi, Russia, representing the NAHL and USA in the 2019 Sirius Junior Club World Cup. Even Murray was surprised by the jump in Skinner’s game this year, “Sam has had an outstanding season and he earned himself a D1 opportunity with Ferris State. Sam had a strong rookie year for us, but I’d be lying if I thought he’d be the impact player he is on a nightly basis for us in his second year. From the first game of the showcase, he has been on a mission. He has been very responsible in both ends of the rink, and most nights we can’t get him on the ice enough.”