This Wednesday is the 2023 NAHL Draft, but that doesn’t mean the St. Cloud Norsemen coaching staff weren’t hard at work last week recruiting and doing everything they could to improve the team before the draft. And improve the team they did as they landed a last-minute tender with Eagan High School defenseman Keaton Orrey.
A tender is a contract of sorts or an arrangement that both a player and an NAHL team agrees to that says if the player plays in the NAHL, they will play for that organization. A player could still elect to play for another junior league or decide to play for their high school but it gives their NAHL rights to that team and prevents the player from being drafted or going to another team’s Main Camp.
Orrey had a prolific junior season with the Wildcats last year scoring 8-4-12 in 25 games. Not only did he lead Eagan in goals and points as a defenseman but he was third on the entire team in goals and fifth in points for the 2022-23 campaign.
Keaton talks about why he wanted to be a part of the St. Cloud organization, and a lot of it had to do with how much the Norsemen wanted him to be a part of the club. “The conversations I have had with the coaches have really made me feel welcomed into the program,” admits Orrey. “They make me feel like I have the best chance at developing and getting to that next level.”
Last season, Broten Sabo and Duke Kiffin were first and second in goals, assists and points for the Norsemen from a defenseman respectively but neither will be returning as they’ve aged out of the NAHL, being 2002 born players. Orrey is a leading candidate to step in and fill in the need for offensive production from the blue line. “I am a very offensive minded defenseman that is able to join the rush and create opportunities in the offensive zone, plus I’m able to play a strong defensive game,” Orrey describes his game. When asked about professional players he strives to play like, he answers, “I try to model my play off of Cale Makar.”
While the offensive talent is there, St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz stresses that Orrey isn’t just a one-trick pony who plays offensively but sacrifices the defensive third of the ice to do so. “Keaton is a very talented player. He is a great skater and sees the ice well,” compliments Kautz. “He takes a lot of pride in playing the right way and doing the little things to help his team win. We are very excited to see what he can do in our league.”
Getting to play about an hour and a half from home is certainly something that Keaton is excited about. “It was definitely a plus getting the tender from a team close to me,” Orrey confides. “Especially since I’m still young, it will be nice being close to home.” Orrey is a 2006 birth year.
Orrey’s also excited to play in St. Cloud specifically, a town he’s familiar with already. “I’ve been up there a few times and it’s always been an amazing experience,” beams Orrey. “The city is so welcoming and I’ve always had a great time.”
Orrey and the rest of the St. Cloud tenders will be viewing the NAHL Draft this Wednesday with vested interest as they watch to see what players will be selected to join them and the returning veterans at Norsemen Main Camp at the end of the month. You too can watch the NHL Draft, coverage will be on hockeytv.com or you can follow along online at nahldraft.com.