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Rebels are ‘betting’ draft strategy will be successful

Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Rebels The Jamestown Rebels selected center Joey Larson out of Brighton, Michigan with the eighth overall pick in the North American Hockey League 2020 Entry Draft on Tuesday.

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — COVID-19 has negatively impacted numerous aspects of the sports world.

Head coach Joe Coombs and the Jamestown Rebels are hoping to turn one of those negatives into a positive.

The North American Hockey League held its 2020 Entry Draft on Tuesday afternoon and with their top three picks, the Rebels took American players who would have otherwise been playing in Canada if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re betting on the Canadian border not opening,” Coombs said during a post-draft phone call Tuesday evening. “There is going to be a two-month delay going back to Canada. We took some pretty good players that we’re betting we’re going to get. Kids have decisions to make. Do they want to sit out two more months or do they want to play hockey?”

Coombs believes Jamestown’s first pick Tuesday, Joey Larson, is the real deal.

Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Rebels The Rebels used the 15th pick in the first round to select Hunter Sansbury, a defenseman from Lomita, Calif.

Taken eighth overall, Larson is a 19-year-old center from Brighton, Michigan.

“Joey Larson is an awfully good hockey player with multiple options,” Coombs said.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is a right-handed shot who scored 14 goals and added 19 assists in 52 games for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.

“I think he can be one of the top 10 players in the league,” Coombs said. “He’s be the best offensive guy we’ve had here.”

Larson has already committed to Northern Michigan University, an NCAA Division I program in Marquette, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Jamestown Rebels Reilly Herbst had a .901 save percentage in 34 games for the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.

“I know that program really well,” Coombs said of the Wildcats, coached by Grant Potulny. “Joey needs to touch the puck and continue to grow. We think we’re the best option for him to do that.”

With their second pick, 15th overall, the Rebels selected defenseman Hunter Sansbury from Lomita, California.

“We recruited Hunter for a year and a half,” Coombs said. “He’ll be a top-four defenseman.”

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder with a right-handed shot scored three goals and had 21 assists in 54 games for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL last season.

“He has the ability to contribute in all aspects of the game,” Coombs said. “He’d be one of the best defensemen we’ve had here in the past two years.”

Continuing its trend of picks from the BCHL, in the third round Jamestown selected 20-year-old goaltender Reilly Herbst from Niwot, Colorado.

“Reilly has two years of experience. He’s 20 years old and already committed,” Coombs said. “He’s capable of being a No. 1 in our league.”

In 34 games for the Vernon Vipers last season, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Herbst had a 2.91 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.

“We didn’t have a lot of holes going into the draft so we took high-impact players. Maybe in another year we take one or two high-risk guys, but this year we took three kids,” Coombs said. “It’s crazy times. There’ll be a lot of hockey players available if that border doesn’t open.”

In the sixth round, with the 143rd overall pick, the Rebels went local with the selection of 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward Logan Tobias of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. In 25 games last season, Robias scored 15 goals and added nine assists.

“Logan is a 2001 (birth year) who can score goals,” Coombs said. “We’re confident we can recruit him down here. The NAHL would be a step up in his career.”

Jamestown brought back a familiar face with its seventh-round selection, at 170th overall with defenseman Jack Page. The 18-year-old played in four games for the Rebels last season after arriving from his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“Jack Page has been on and off our affiliate list for two years,” Coombs said. “He’s a talented, taller defenseman who can develop.”

With their final pick of the draft, the Rebels took forward Jacob Cummings in the eighth round at 197th overall. Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, the 5-foot-11, 201-pound forward had four goals and seven assists in eight North American Tier III Hockey League games for the Louisiana Drillers and Sheridan Hawks last season.

The Rebels roster currently stands at around 35 players with Coombs expecting to bring in four or five more free agents to get up to 40 prior to training camp in a couple of months.

“We know there are other leagues that will be calling guys,” Coombs said. “We’ll have to recruit the heck out of these kids to get them to come.”

The NAHL has yet to make an announcement on whether or not the season will start on time, but Coombs expects that to happen in the next day or two.

¯ Round 1, Pick 8

Joey Larson, center

19-year-old from Brighton, Michigan

6-foot-1, 185 pounds

right-handed shot

14 goals, 19 assists in 52 games for Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League

¯ Round 1, Pick 15

Hunter Sansbury, defenseman

19-year-old from Lomita, California

5-foot-11, 185 pounds

right-handed shot

3 goals, 21 assists in 54 games for Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League

¯ Round 3, Pick 62

Reilly Herbst, goaltender

20-year-old from Niwot, Colorado

6-foot-1, 185 pounds

left-handed catch

2.91 GAA, .901 save percentage in 34 games for Vernon Vipers or the British Columbia Hockey League

¯ Round 6, Pick 143

Logan Tobias, left winger

19-year-old from Buffalo

6-foot-1, 187 pounds

left-handed shot

15 goals, 9 assists in 25 games for Buffalo Jr. Sabres in Ontario Junior Hockey League

¯ Round 7, Pick 170

Jack Page, defenseman

18-year-old from West Chester, Pennsylvania

6-foot-4, 190 pounds

right-handed shot

4 goals, 11 assists in 12 high school games last season before joining Rebels for four games

¯ Round 8, Pick 197

Jacob Cummings, forward

19-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska

5-foot-11, 201 pounds

right-handed shot

4 goals, 7 assists in 8 NA3HL games last season for Louisiana Drillers and Sheridan Hawks

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