Local Sports Journal

The rest of the hockey world is starting to discover what Muskegon hockey fans learned last season:

Muskegon Lumberjacks forward Matt Iacopelli is a bona fide talent with a lot of professional potential.

The Chicago Blackhawks displayed their level of interest in Iacopelli Saturday by making a trade to move up in the third round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft, then using the pick they acquired (23rd in the third round and 83rd overall) to take Iacopelli.

Iacopelli was the second player taken by Chicago, which did not have a second-round pick.

To move up and grab Iacopelli, the Blackhawks traded veteran forward Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames. Bollig had seven goals, seven assists and was a minus-1 in 82 regular-season games last season. He played on the Blackhawks’ fourth line throughout the 2013-14 season.

“He’s very intriguing for us,” Mark Kelley, the Blackhawks’ senior director of amateur scouting, said about Iacopelli in a video posted on the team’s website. “He’s got a pro body and a pro shot.”

Iacopelli, a native of Woodhaven, Michigan, drew the attention of the hockey world last season by leading the United States Hockey League with 41 goals and tying for seventh in overall scoring with 63 points.

He also set all time single-season records in goals and points for the Lumberjacks, who will begin their fifth season in the USHL in September.

The first-team All-USHL forward is committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan University, but is expected to spend one more season with the Lumberjacks.

Iacopelli is the seventh Lumberjack drafted by an NHL team. The others are Matt DeBlouw (2012 – Calgary); Jaycob Megna (2012 – Anaheim); Michael Brodzinski (2013 – San Jose); Adam Gilmour (2013 – Minnesota); Matej Paulovic (2013 – Dallas); and Ben Storm (2013 – Colorado).

Paulovic is also expected to play with the Lumberjacks in 2014-15.

“It’s a huge honor to be drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks organization and getting a chance to be a part of an original six team someday,” Iacopelli said. “It’s a surreal feeling right now as I really didn’t have any expectations of how high I was going to get selected.

“I was just happy to be picked as I couldn’t have accomplished it without the help of my family, friends, and coaching staff. This past season (with the Lumberjacks) was all about hard work, sacrifice, and having a little fun along the way to help get to me to where I am at today.”

The Blackhawks also drafted two other players who are familiar to Muskegon fans.

Their first round selection was center Nick Schmaltz, who played last season for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. Their fifth pick was defenseman Luc Snuggerud, who played a handful of games for Muskegon last year before being traded to Omaha.