By Ross Forman – Anders Sorenson was the head coach for that monster Chicago Mission team that won the U14 (Bantam Major) Nationals in 2017 and then, the following season, the U16 (Midget Minor) National Championship. They dominated Tier 1 hockey, yet it was their practices that Sorenson still remembers. Namely, the competition, the battles, the friendships among those Mission players.
“There were some special moments during those practices which showed that they really are special players,” said Sorenson, now the Director of Player Development for the Mission and assistant coach for the Rockford IceHogs.
Sorenson and those players are celebrating yet again – along with the entire Mission organization and Illinois hockey overall. Four players from those title-toting Mission teams were selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, held in early-October.
After a four-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 216 selections were made virtually for the first time. Alexis Lafreniere was selected No. 1 overall by the New York Rangers, followed by Quinton Byfield (Los Angeles Kings).
Jacob Perreault was the 27th overall pick, grabbed by the Anaheim Ducks, and three of his Mission teammates were later drafted: Landon Slaggert (3rd round, Chicago Blackhawks), Kyle Aucoin (6th round, Detroit Red Wings) and Wyatt Schingoethe (7th round, Toronto Maple Leafs).
“I knew we had potential draft picks out of that birth year because it’s always been a strong birth year,” said Gino Cavallini, the president and hockey director for the Mission – and himself an NHL player from 1984-2000.
Sorenson said he “was not surprised,” the four were drafted and added that he would not be surprised if others from those Mission teams also skate professionally.
“It’s pretty cool,” seeing the four get drafted, Cavallini said. “We take a lot of pride as a coaching staff. It’s pretty rewarding as coaches. You can’t put a price tag on that good feeling you get when, somehow, you may have helped a player succeed,” and reach the next level.
Cavallini coached the foursome when they were youth players, for three seasons.
“You don’t know when a kid is 10-years-old if he will be drafted, but you know they are talented,” Cavallini said. “It’s gratifying, no question about it. They each love the game, but they still had to put the work in … and they have.”
A right-handed shooting wing, Perreault played the past two seasons for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL, where he had a combined 69 goals, 56 assists in 120 games.
“Dynamic” was the way Cavallini described the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Perreault, who is from Hinsdale. “He’s an 18-year-old who shoots the puck like a man. He’s got a harder backhand than my wrist shot. He’s strong on the puck and has a flair for offense.”
Cavallini added, “It’s crazy how good he was,” as a peewee.
“When he got upset, there was no one getting the puck off his stick. He was that good. When he wanted to go, no one was touching the puck on his stick. It was almost ridiculous how good he was,” Cavallini said.
Sorenson said Perreault’s offensive instincts on the ice and his ability to find open areas on the ice in the offensive zone are keys to his play. Plus, “he has quick hands and a quick mind in terms of playing offense,” Sorenson said.
A freshman forward at the University of Notre Dame, Slaggert played the past two seasons for the USNTDP – and last year he played in all 47 games, scoring 13 goals, 11 assists.
“It didn’t surprise me,” that he was drafted, Cavallini said. “He’s like Mr. Everything. He plays an honest 200-feet of hockey. From the start of his shift to the end of his shift, he gives you everything he has got, every time he’s on the ice.”
Sorenson echoed those sentiments. “His motor and his competitiveness stand out. He played every shift like it was his last.”
A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is the brother of current Notre Dame forward Graham Slaggert and son of Irish associate head coach Andy Slaggert.
“Landon is very coachable and he has only one gear when he plays: full,” said Cavallini, who added that it’s “pretty cool” that he was grabbed by the Hawks, a franchise that has been the NHL home to other former Mission skaters, too.
The son of former NHL player Adrian Aucoin, Kyle played the past two seasons for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. A defenseman, Aucoin had 2 goals, 11 assists in 48 games this past season.
“Kyle is one of the nicest, strongest skaters you’ll see. It was not a surprise,” that he was drafted, Cavallini said. “He played well all the time. He defends well.
“I don’t think Adrian was as good of a skater as Kyle is now; there definitely are similarities between the two. Having grown up in his father’s shadow, Kyle has still cut his own path. He’s definitely earned everything he’s gotten.”
Sorenson added: “His skating really sets him apart; he’s a very strong skater, with a long stride that is very efficient and powerful. He is a very good teammate; he gets along with everyone in the locker room, makes everyone feel good when they’re around him.”
A left-handed shooting center, Schingoethe “could dominate a game as a 12-year-old just as he could as an 18-year-old,” Cavallini said. “He is a pure, unselfish hockey player who really sees the ice well and has a high Hockey IQ.”
Schingoethe has played the past two seasons for Waterloo in the USHL, where he had a combined 28 goals, 43 assists in 109 games.
“He was a great teammate, often more interested in setting up his teammates to score as opposed to scoring himself,” Cavallini said. “It was always tough pairing him up with players who would be ready for the puck at the most unlikely moment.
“He is a team-first player, always.”
Sorenson added: “Wyatt has always been a very dynamic player, even when he was younger. His skating and his ability to make plays are his biggest strengths. He is more of a passer than a goal-scorer. He will make his teammates, his linemates better when he’s on the ice. Many players wanted to play alongside Wyatt, which was a testament to him as a player.”
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.