Lake Superior State Lakers
The world of sports constantly evolves and changes, with new talent emerging and teams constantly seeking to improve their rosters. The competition for top high school talent is fierce, with many college and professional teams vying for the best players. One team that has consistently excelled in recruiting top high school hockey players is the Lake Superior State Lakers.
Located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) is a small public university with a student population of just over 2,000. Despite its size, the LSSU Lakers have proven themselves to be a formidable force in the world of college hockey, consistently ranking among the top teams in the nation.
So how does a small university in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan manage to attract top high school talent from all over the country? It all starts with the coaching staff.
Head Coach Damon Whitten has been at the helm of the LSSU Lakers since 2014 and has built a strong reputation as a top recruiter in college hockey. Under Whitten’s leadership, the Lakers have seen their fair share of success, making it to the NCAA tournament in 2019 for the first time since 1996.
Whitten’s approach to recruiting is based on developing relationships with players, coaches, and families. He takes the time to get to know each potential recruit and understand their goals and aspirations, both on and off the ice. This personalized approach has helped the Lakers build a strong, cohesive team with players who are committed to the program and its success.
Additionally, Whitten and his coaching staff have a keen eye for talent. They attend numerous games and tournaments throughout the year, always on the lookout for players who have the potential to excel at the college level. The Lakers also utilize scouting agencies and rely on recommendations from trusted sources, such as current and former players, to identify top prospects.
In addition to having a successful coaching staff, the LSSU Lakers also have state-of-the-art facilities that rival those of bigger, more well-known universities. The Taffy Abel Ice Arena, home of the Lakers, underwent a $3 million renovation in 2016, adding new amenities such as a video room, locker room, and training and medical rooms.
The renovations not only provide top-notch facilities for the current players, but they also serve as a major selling point for potential recruits. The Lakers can offer recruits the best training and development opportunities, comparable to that of larger schools, without getting lost in the shuffle.
One thing that sets the LSSU Lakers apart from other college hockey programs is the strong sense of family and community within the team. The coaching staff and players work together to create a welcoming and supportive environment that makes the transition from high school to college hockey less daunting for incoming players.
This supportive atmosphere extends to the players’ families as well. The Lakers make a point to involve families in the recruiting and decision-making process, and they often have events and activities that encourage family participation throughout the season.
In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for young athletes to balance academics and athletics. The LSSU Lakers recognize this and prioritize academics, providing a strong support system for players to succeed in both areas. The team has a dedicated academic advisor, and professors are accommodating of players’ schedules and travel requirements.
This commitment to academics not only sets the Lakers apart from other college hockey programs, but it also enhances the overall college experience for players and their families.
Success on the Ice
All these factors have contributed to the success of the LSSU Lakers on the ice. In addition to their recent NCAA tournament appearance, they have won three Great Lakes Invitational titles and consistently rank among the top teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Lakers have also seen several players make the jump from their program to the professional level, including current NHL players Kellan Lain and Jim Slater. This success not only showcases the talent and development of the players, but it also speaks to the program’s ability to attract and develop top recruits.
The Lake Superior State Lakers have built a reputation as a recruiting powerhouse, and it’s no surprise why. Through the leadership of Head Coach Damon Whitten, state-of-the-art facilities, a supportive team atmosphere, and a strong commitment to academics, the Lakers have created an unbeatable recruiting package that has consistently attracted top high school talent from around the country.