SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Nikita Krivokrasov was perhaps one of the best skaters nobody had even heard of before his participation in the Sioux City Musketeers’ Main Camp held July 21-25 at the IBP Ice Center.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound right wing, a native of Westminster, CO., wasn’t selected in last May’s United States Hockey League Phase II Draft. Yet, he’ll be among the 32 participants aiming for a spot on the 2020-21 roster when the Musketeers begin training camp on Sept. 1.
“He’s a dual citizen who resides in Florida right now,” said Musketeers fifth-year head coach Luke Strand. “Nikita came in with experience on his side from his time with junior hockey. He has offense. He plays very hard. He makes a lot of plays. Given the day, he makes plays the hard way by being in traffic and rebounds and making players better around him.”
Krivokrasov has competed on the junior level in the NAPHL, ECEL, NAHL, WHL and for 10 games with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers where he scored a goal in the 2018-19 season. He played for two Western Hockey League teams during the 2019-20 season, the Tri-City Americans (2 goals, 2 assists in 10 games) and the Prince George Cougars (4, 3 in 27 games).
Krivokrasov played for the Team DeKeyser All-Star squad that won each of its two All-Star games over Team Pacioretty in the final two days of camp. DeKeyser’s squad was a 3-0 winner on Friday, then a 7-4 winner on Saturday.
Strand’s Main Camp featured 160 American players. The Main Camp featured eight teams of 20 players each for the first 2 ½ days, before being whittled down to a 22-man Team Pacioretty roster and 21 for Team DeKeyser, for the remainder of camp.
Four returning Musketeers played for each of the All-Star teams, including Team Pacioretty defenseman Christian Jimenez, who had seven goals and 21 assists while making last season’s USHL All-Rookie squad. The two teams each had an opportunity to practice before the first of the two All-Star games and by then, Strand could already feel a new intensity level on the ice.
“When the All-Star games came upon us, I think we found our guys very competitive, very respectful of each other,” said Strand. “When we got to that point, you are hoping to see the guys take another step, not only in the plays they were making, but you’re also looking for another step in the competitive level of the camp. For sure, we got that out of our draft picks and we got that out of our returning players.”
Strand discovered the Musketeers’ depth, especially at defensemen. He described two blue-liners, Daniel Laatsch and Michael Adamson, players who were respectively, selected seventh and 12th in last May’s USHL Phase II Draft, as “sound” on defense.
Meanwhile, two affiliate defensemen, Mason Langenbrunner (2002 birth year) and Shai Buium (2003), are each in position to make the team as well, according to Strand. Buium, who played the last three seasons for the famed Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) program, is a 6-foot-3, 214-pound University of Denver recruit who had one assist in three games towards the end of the season.
“Shai is a big left-shot defenseman who’s strong, he’s sturdy and he has a big presence,” said Strand. “Those two guys have made the adjustment from our affiliate list coming in to try to make our roster. We are very impressed with what they did.” Fourth-round Phase II pick Tabor Heaslip made an impression on Strand as a forward along with Brian Carrabes, who came to the Musketeers in a late-season trade from Sioux Falls. The same can be said with another veteran Musketeer in Sam Antenucci (10 goals, 8 assists last season) along with two players who came in trades who will each enter their third USHL season, former Omaha Lancer Chase Bradley (7, 12 last season) and former Sioux Falls Stampede Brenden Olson (10, 5 last season).
“They were outstanding,” said Strand. “Not only do we have good returning players, we have those additions to our group that are going to be very impactful.”
Goaltender was the position Strand described as “weird” going into camp, because of foreign players being unable to attend because of COVID-19 restrictions. Among those were last season’s stopper between the pipes, Akira Schmid (3-4, 3.41 GAA) of Bern, Switzerland.
It set the stage for Alex Tracy to shine for Team DeKeyser. Tracy was a third-round Phase II pick who went 17-4-1 with a 2.12 GAA and a .935 save percentage for the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks.
Playing in front of goaltenders like Tracy will be a team that excites Strand, because of the enthusiastic depth he discovered at the camp.
“We definitely set a goal through the draft process about strengthening the depth of our team,” said Strand. “We did at forward, we did it in defense and we did it at goal, immediately. Those were the ideas we needed to attack, and we got that accomplished.
“We want to play a faster game. We have a ton of team speed. We have guys who showed they can get up and down the rink, not only with their own feet, but with the way they move the puck. For me, we are going to play with a lot of pace and a lot of tempo. Having returning players is such a huge factor to our league. These guys being there will be impressive.”
Two young All-Star games were also contested. Friday night, Team Pionk blanked Team Guentzel 4-0, but on Saturday, Team Guentzel was a 5-4 overtime winner over Team Pionk.