Ten players join NMU Hockey program
The Northern Michigan University hockey program has signed 10 individuals to their 2020-21 incoming class in seven forwards and three defensemen. Coming to Marquette from across North America, the incoming class includes forwards Ian Malcolmson, Rylan Van Unen, Mack Byers, Grant Johnson, Brett Willits, Michael Colella and Connor Marritt while the Wildcat defensive corp will be joined by Tim Erkkila, Noah Ganske and Colby Enns.
"We are very excited to add this group of players to our team," head coach Grant Potulny said. "This class includes former Mr. Hockey winners, state champions, national champions and players that were voted captain's of their teams. All 10 players are outstanding people and will add different athletic qualities to our hockey club."
Byers played three years of junior hockey, competing in the BCHL, USHL and NAHL prior to his arrival at NMU. He most recently spent time as a member of the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL, competing in 35 games, leading his team in goals with 19 and finishing second in points with 43 (19-24-43). The 5'11" forward out of Long Lake, Minnesota also competed for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL) last season, registering five points in just 11 games played. Byers spent the latter half of the 2017-18 season and all of 2018-19 in Trail, British Columbia as a member of the Trail Smoke Eaters (BCHL), playing a combined 74 games and boasting 33 points. He also spent time with the Philadelphia Rebels (NAHL) in 2017-18, competing in 15 contests. Prior to junior hockey, Byers spent two seasons with his high school team, Holy Family Catholic.
Colella will join the Wildcats after a year in the BCHL, competing for the Trail Smoke Eaters where he averaged 1.17 points per game, including 27 goals and 41 assists for 68 total points for second on the team. With his 68 points in 58 games, he also finished third in the league in points. Prior to his stint in the BCHL, Colella skated for the Omaha Lancers, Tri-City Storm, and Lincoln Stars, all of the USHL, in 2018-19.
Johnson joins the Wildcats after his third and final season (2019-20) with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL where he tied for a team-high 43 points while leading his squad in assists with 29. He spent his first two years of junior hockey competition with the Bobcats before moving over to the USHL where he competed for the Lincoln Stars in 2018-19, skating in 53 contests. As an alternate captain for his high school squad, Grand Forks Central, Johnson tallied 85 points (29-56-85) in just 26 games, a team high in each scoring category. In three seasons with Grand Forks Central, Johnson scored 202 points, including 76 goals and averaged 2.56 points per game. In 2018 Johnson earned the honor of North Dakota's Mr. Hockey.
Malcolmson has spent parts of the last three years in the United State Hockey League (USHL), most recently having played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he appeared in three games and posted three assists. Prior to his time with the Stampede, he spent two seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers, serving as team captain in 2019-20. In 106 games with the Musketeers, Malcolmson registered 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 total points. He also appeared in seven games for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL as well as dressing for the North American Hockey League's (NAHL) Janesville Jets in 2016-18. A graduate of Waukesha High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and named Mr. Hockey Wisconsin in 2018, Malcolmson spent four years as a member of his high school hockey team and was named team captain by his peers during his senior season.
Marritt joins the team having spent the previous three full seasons with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, serving as team captain in their most recent season. Before their season was cut short in 2019-20, he was the leading playoff scorer among all BCHL players with 12 points (3-9-12). A Kelowna, British Columbia native, Marritt dressed in 165 games for Vernon, posting 97 points, including 35 goals and 62 assists. Following three seasons with the Okanagan Hockey Academy, he played the final game with the Vipers in 2016-17 before becoming a large contributor to their offensive efforts from 2017-20.
Rylan Van Unen
A native of Kamloops, British Columbia, Van Unen will join his twin brother, Michael, at NMU this fall. Van Unen spent the last four seasons skating with the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), tallying 89 points in 212 games played. He registered a career high 28 points in 2019-20, including 17 goals and 11 assists while serving as captain of the Centennials.
Hailing from London, Ontario, Willits spent the previous two seasons as a member of the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) where he appeared in 112 games and posted 71 points. In 2019-20, Willits finished fourth on the team in scoring, registering 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points. He attended Salisbury School in Connecticut from 2016-18 where he led his team in points (17-21-38) during his final season with the Crimson Knights.
A native of Minot, North Dakota, Enns played 24 games for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in 2019-20, following a semester at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he appeared in one game. He also spent time with the Central Illinois Flying Aces (USHL, 2018-19) and the Minot Minotauros (NAHL, 2017-18). In Minot, he registered 27 points off nine goals and 18 assists in 58 games played before jumping into the USHL where he tallied 15 points (3-12-15) as a member of the Flying Aces. Most recently, in 24 games played in Lincoln, Enns recorded three goals and 10 assists for 13 points.
A native of Brighton, Michigan, Erkilla returns to his home state as a member of the 2020-21 Wildcat roster. He spent his junior career with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL), competing in 49 contests with the Alaskan team and registering 18 points off two goals and 16 assists in 2019-20 and was named to the NAHL All-Rookie Team. Prior to his season in Fairbanks, Erkilla spent four years as a member of the Brighton High School varsity team and served as team captain during his senior year. In 111 contests with the Bulldogs, he posted 18 goals and 69 assists for 87 points.
Ganske spent the past two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, appearing in 84 games and recording 26 points (8-18-26). After tallying four goals and four assists during his first season in the USHL, Ganske finished the 2019-20 season with an additional four goals and 14 more assists. Prior to his time in Green Bay, the 6'6", 203 lbs., Bloomington, Minnesota native spent part of the 2017-18 season in both Minot, North Dakota with the Minotauros and in Richfield, Minnesota as a member of the Minnesota Magicians, both of the NAHL. In 28 games with the Magicians, the defenseman tallied six points and recorded a plus-three on-ice rating while he added another five points as a member of the Minotauros. His high school career included three seasons with Bloomington Jefferson High School where he registered 74 points through 74 games.
The Wildcats will return nearly 70 percent of their scoring from 2019-20, including three of their top-four scorers and nine individuals who tallied double-digit points last season. In addition to the 10 new skaters, the team looks to bring back 20 members from the 2019-20 squad.