Success follows former Smokies

Former Trail Smoke Eater and current Western Michigan Broncos defenceman, Dan DeKeyser, chooses education over NHL.

Former Trail Smoke Eater and current Western Michigan Broncos defenceman Dan DeKeyser, one of the most sought-after free agents in NCAA hockey, has decided to return to college for another year.

DeKeyser tweeted his decision last week, following much speculation on the highly touted player.

According to the Windsor Star, the Detroit Red Wings were believed to be the favourite to land the Michigan native.

“He’s only played two years of college,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “I know education is important to him. Probably every team is talking to him, asking him to turn pro.”

The 21-year-old DeKeyser played last year for Detroit assistant coach Jeff Blashill at WMU.

He also knows the Nill family from his playing days with Nill’s son.

However, Nill said just because of those ties he didn’t think the Wings necessarily had any inside edge.

“He loves the Detroit Red Wings, but he might like another team too.” Nill said.

Nill describes the six-footthree, 186-pound DeKeyser as a stay-at-home defenceman who moves the puck well.

“He’s got great potential,” Nill said. “He’s got great size, but has to get stronger.”

DeKeyser had five goals, 16 points and was a plus-15 in 40 games this season. He was selected to the CCHA’s second All-Star Team.

He played the 2008-09 season with the Smoke Eaters, in which he played in 58 games, scoring eight goals and 17 assists on his way to being named Trail’s defenceman of the year. He played the 2009-10 season with the Sioux City Muskateers of the United States Hockey League.

Another Smokie and Dekeyser teammate was also recognized this week for his great play in the NCAA.

Ex-Smoke Eater and current Iowa State University junior, Brandon Clark, was honoured with best defenseman and MVP awards. He was also named as next year’s Captain of the Cyclones, at the end-of-season announcement last week.

The Central States Collegiate Hockey Association (CSCHA) also named the Spokane native to the all-league team and the all-defensive team.

Clark played 44 games for Trail during the 2008-09 season, netting 8 goals and 12 assists. This season with the ISU Cyclones, Clark scored eight times and added 24 helpers in just 42 games.

Trail’s 2010-11 all-star goalie Kiefer Smiley, was named to the Southern Professional Hockey League All-Rookie Team after registering 19 wins, two losses and two ties this season, for a 2.48 GAA, and a .907 save percentage with the Mississippi Surge.

In his two seasons in Trail, Smiley won 35 games, posting a .338 GAA and .898 save percentage in 85 games.

From the same 2010-11 Trail Smokie squad, Cullen Bradshaw helped the NCAA Div. III St. Norbert College to the national championship. It’s the second title in as many years for the Green Knights, beating Oswego State 4-1 in the tournament final to claim the championship.

St. Norbert topped their division with a 21-5-5 record and Bradshaw finished second in scoring in his freshman year with 8 goals, 22 assists for 30 points in 31 games.

In his only season with the Smokies, Bradshaw finished third in scoring with 30-33-63 in 60 games.