After an extremely limited year for athletics, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is preparing for what will hopefully be a full year of sports. Tuesday afternoon saw the school make an announcement that should have plenty of students, alumni, and fans excited.
UAF head hockey coach Erik Largen announced the first four signings of the 2021-2021 season on Tuesday. Payton Matsui, Matt McKim, Connor Mylymok and Nátán Vertes will be the newest members of the class of 2025.
Matsui plays forward while McKim and Mylymok play left wing. Vertes plays right wing. Matsui, Mylymok and Vertes are all recent alumni of the NAHL with Matsui and Vertes coming over from the Aberdeen Wings and Mylymok hailing from the Austin Bruins. McKim comes from the Valley Wildcats of the MJHL.
Matsui, a 5’10, 170 pound native of Lakeville, Minnesota, previously spent two seasons in the BCHL with the Merritt Centennials. The 21-year old scored 65 points last season with the WIngs with 27 goals and 38 assists in 56 games. Matsui’s list of accomplishments in his lone season was highly impressive, being named NAHL Central Division Forward of the Year, NAHL Forward of the Year, selected to the NAHL All-Central Division Team, All-NAHL Team and was the NAHL Points Champion.
The 5’10, 174 pound McKim originally hails from St. John’s in the Newfoundland and Labrador province of Canada. Prior to joining the Wildcats, the 21-year old played one season with the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL. In 58 games with the Pontiacs, McKim scored 24 goals and had 61 assists for 85 points. He was named team Captain the following year, but left the Pontiacs after four games to join the Wildcats where he tallied six goals and 15 assists for 21 points in just 17 games. McKim brings a winner’s mentality to Fairbanks after becoming an OHL Cup Champion in 2015-16, a CISAA Champion in 16-17 and 17-18 and in 2017-18 he led the CISAA in assists (19), goals (13) and points (32).
Mylymok comes to the Nanooks as a three-year veteran with the Bruins. The 6’2, 207 pound Jackson, Mississippi native played in 54 games for the Bruins in 2018-2019, spent five games with the Youngstown Phantoms and 25 games with the Bruins in 19-20. He scored 17 points on eight goals and nine assists that season. Mylymok was named team captain last year for 43 games, scoring 27 points with eight goals and 19 assists.
Finally, there’s Vertes. Originally hailing from Budapest, Hungary, the 5’11, 172 pounder was with the Wings for the past two seasons. He saw time in 44 games his first season, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists for 30 points. He had 38 points with 19 goals and 19 assists for the Hungary U20 team for 18 games after that. Vertes rejoined the Wings the following season and scored 47 points in 56 games with 28 goals and 19 assists. Vertes brings both championship experience and an impressive trophy shelf to the ‘Nooks. He was an EBJL Champion in 2015-16 and 16-17, won the U20 WJC (D1B) Gold Medal in 16-17 and 19-20, and won the Bronze Medal in 18-19. He was voted the Best Hungarian Junior Player in 17-18 alongside winning the EBYSL Championship while scoring the most points (68) and the most goals (32).
As of now, the UAF hockey season is slated to return to play later this year.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.