JANESVILLE, WI — Janesville Jets goaltender Grant Riley and defenseman Casey Roepke were named Monday to the 2019-20 Preliminary Players to Watch List, assembled by the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Central Scouting department.
Riley and Roepke are two of six current NAHL players on the list, joined by Fairbanks Ice Dogs defenseman Dylan Abbott, Topeka Pilots goaltender Jakub Dobes, Shreveport Mudbugs forward Tim Khokhlachev, and Minnesota Wilderness forward Zach Michaelis.
The list was finalized following the completion of the 17th annual NAHL Showcase Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota. A record number of scouts attended this season’s event, where the Jets posted a 3-1 record. Roepke played in three of the Jets’ four games, and Riley won both of his starts, allowing just one goal in more than 120 minutes of action.
“It’s an awesome privilege to be the coach of these two young gentlemen,” said Jets head coach Corey Leivermann. “At the same time, this is the standard here in Janesville. We want to get young players who are touted not only for college, but for the NHL. The bar has been set high here, especially recently with back-to-back years of NHL draft picks. This is a great day for the organization, but it’s just the preliminary list. It’s time to get to work.”
Riley and Roepke, both 2002-born players, signed tender contracts with the Jets last season. Janesville tendered Riley out of the Rochester Coalition 16U program in February, and two months later signed Roepke, who was finishing his junior year at the University School of Milwaukee.
Roepke committed to the University of Wisconsin in May of 2017 after his first year of high school hockey. That season, the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association placed him on the all-state team, making Roepke the only freshman with those honors. Roepke’s combination of positional play, skating, and puck skills helped earn him a 10-game stint with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers at the end of last season. The blueliner is one of the four ’02 Jets with a Division I commitment.
Riley has yet to announce a Division I commitment, but Leivermann knows it won’t be long before a school locks up a prime goaltending prospect.
“Anytime you have a goaltender on an NHL Central Scouting list, it’s a great indicator that your team is building from the net on out,” he said. “That’s been our plan in Janesville for a number of years, and is again with Grant. Grant is the future here in Janesville, and as a coaching staff, myself, [assistant coach] Lennie Childs, and [goaltending coach] Larry Clemens take a lot of pride in days like today. Grant and Casey represent the way we want to build this hockey team: young, high-skill kids who are ready to develop and prepare for that next step in their career. Whether it’s to the USHL, Division I, or even getting NHL attention, we’re here to help these young men pursue their goals.”
Consistently ranking among the top of the NAHL in Division I commitments, the Janesville Jets have also led the league in NHL Draft representation over the last four drafts. Goaltenders Jack LaFontaine (#75 to Carolina Hurricanes, 2016) and Cole Brady (#127 to New Jersey Devils, 2019) helped cement Janesville’s status as a prime development model for goalie talent, and forward Jakov Novak (#188 to Ottawa Senators, 2018) won the organization’s first ever NAHL MVP just two months before becoming the Jets’ first and only skater selected at an NHL Draft. LaFontaine, Novak, and Brady are three of 11 players selected from NAHL rosters at NHL Drafts in the last four seasons. Since the Jets began play in September of 2009, only the Lone Star Brahmas have equaled that mark.