Paul Cotter knew he needed to develop his game a little more, now he's hoping it's enough to showcase it for the Lincoln Stars come this fall.
Cotter spent last season in the North American Hockey League as a Stars affiliate, earning the NAHL rookie of the year honor with the Brookings Blizzard.
“The NAHL is such a growing league, and there is so many guys with a tremendous amount of skill,” Cotter said. “It's a great league that gives you a lot of exposure to junior hockey and really prepares to move on to the next step. I had a great billet (host) family, great coaching and a great team to help push me to the next step. Without that year, I wouldn't be where I am now.”
After spending five preseason games with the Stars last season and not making the 23-man roster, Cotter put his development to work recording 60 points (28 goals, 32 assists) in 59 games with the Blizzard and verbally committing to Western Michigan.
The 5-foot-10 center recently attended the Stars camp, showing his development to Stars general manager Jon Hull and the Lincoln coaching staff.
“I went in with a little bit more confidence and came in expecting what I could do with my strengths knowing the coaches and knowing the returning players, I kind of had an edge over a couple of players," Cotter said.
The Canton, Michigan, native was among the Team Boll squad and returning Stars player Collin Peters for a team that posted 20 goals in three games in day four of the camp at the John Breslow Ice Hockey Center.
“What we saw from Paul is what we expected,” Hull said. “He was in a situation last year where he was probably good enough to make our team. We felt that he may be in a situation to be in and out of the lineup and we felt the opportunity that was provided to play in the North American Hockey League and be beneficial to his development. We want players to be ready when they come here, we don't want to be in a hurry and he's developed really well. He is going to be a go-to player for us.”
The number was impressive for a camp, but the Stars general manager understands that is all it was, a camp.
“You never want to get too high on a camp,” Hull said. “We understand its a long way from the season, and we understand nothing is really the same as a game of the USHL. We try to replicate it and put players in situations as best as possible. What it tells us is Paul was ready to come into camp. He has put in the work in the weight room and developed his game from the last time we saw him come out.”
The Stars' main camp was represented by 33 states and 11 different countries over the course of five days in front of the Stars' staff, college scouts and NHL scouts.
“There was some positive things, and obviously some things we want to look at internally to make things better,” Hull said. “From a players stand point there were some that impressed, some that were on the line that was acceptable and others that were below.”
Lincoln's next step is to make a 30-man protected list and 18-man affiliate list by July 9 to the USHL, where Hull feels the Stars are in great shape.
“We like our team, our job between then and now is to make our team better,” he said. “That is our continuation process here and we like our foundation and are going to look to build."