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Moorhead's Joe Schiller commits to Northern Michigan, gets drafted by USHL's Cedar Rapids

The 17-year-old defenseman announced on social media his commitment to play Division I college hockey Monday night before being selected 114th overall in the USHL Phase II Draft early Tuesday

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Moorhead's Joe Schiller, right, and Kai Weigel defend the goal from St. Michael-Albertville's Karson Raymond during their Section 8AA boys hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Moorhead. Schiller announced Monday his commitment to play Division I college hockey at Northern Michigan before being drafted by Cedar Rapids in the USHL Phase II Draft on Tuesday.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
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MOORHEAD — It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Moorhead hockey defenseman Joe Schiller.

Just after 6 p.m. Monday night, Schiller announced on social media his commitment to play Division I college hockey at Northern Michigan University. On Tuesday afternoon just after 12:30 p.m., Schiller was selected as the 114th overall pick by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League Phase II Draft.

Two major steps in the 17-year-old’s hockey career were taken in a matter of hours.

Schiller has spent the last two seasons manning the blue line for Moorhead, switching between third and second lines during his sophomore season before becoming a mainstay on the second line as a junior this past season.

Now, Schiller is off to being a RoughRider in the fall before joining the Wildcats in Marquette, Michigan, at a later date.

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“It’s obviously a tremendous honor,” Schiller said. “It’s really exciting and I’m just really excited for the future with Cedar Rapids.”

Schiller will play at least one season in Cedar Rapids, but is unsure of what the future holds for his juniors career after that.

“That’s another thing you’re never quite sure for when you’re going to college hockey is how fast a kid can develop and how quickly they’ll be ready to go play college hockey,” Schiller said. “So there’s for sure going to be one (USHL season) and then we’ll see from there.”

That’s not to discount Schiller’s ability on the ice, however. In 31 games last season, Schiller tallied two goals and 15 assists for 17 points.

“For sure, for sure,” Schiller said of believing in himself. “But the important thing is to remain humble and continue to do what you did before on the commitment path.”

Spuds head coach Jon Ammerman referred to Schiller as one of the best at his position across Minnesota.

“Joe is a tremendous skater, which allows him to accomplish things on the ice many are unable to do at our level,” he said. “He is an intelligent player that has tremendous puck skills. He has also worked extremely hard to improve his ability to defend and has emerged as one of the best defensemen at his age in the state.”

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Fargo Davies’ Hunter Demers tries to catch the puck and make a goal while Moorhead’s Joe Schiller tries to get ahead of him and help out Will Kunka, the goalie, during their hockey game on Thursday, Jan. 28 at the Moorhead Sports Center. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Alyssa Goelzer/Forum Communications Co.

The RoughRiders finished sixth in the USHL’s Eastern Conference standings with a regular-season record of 29-29-4 this past year, securing the last playoff spot in the East before falling to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the first round of the USHL playoffs.

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Schiller, who is listed as 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, will look to bolster the blue line in Cedar Rapids and Marquette when he does arrive at NMU, a program he chose because of its coaching staff, led by Grand Forks native Grant Potulny.

“I decided on NMU probably about six months ago,” Schiller said. “They started to recruit me and throughout the long process, they watched my games and I finally got to go on a visit this past weekend. I got to meet Grant Potulny and Nick Peruzzi and Byron Pool and all three of them are great coaches and a great staff.”

Potulny served as an assistant coach under Don Lucia at the University of Minnesota before taking the NMU job before the 2017-18 season. Peruzzi formerly worked as a scout for the Fargo Force and also had associate and assistant coaching stints in the USHL and NAHL. Pool spent seven seasons with the Force in associate head coach and assistant coach roles and served as the head coach of the NAHL’s Bismarck Bobcats from 2008-10.

“That’s really the reason I’ll be going to Northern Michigan — the staff,” Schiller said. “The facilities are cool and all, but the coaching staff is what I enjoyed the most and that’s why I chose Northern Michigan.”

Once Schiller joins the Wildcats, he’ll also be joining fellow Moorhead native and defenseman Luke Gramer. The 19-year-old former Spuds captain will play his first season with the team this fall, creating the potential for an all-Moorhead defensive pairing for the Wildcats in the future.

“I’m really good friends with his younger brother Joe and I’ve been skating with Luke for the last four or five summers,” Schiller said. “He’s a great guy and I’m super glad to be going there with him.”

Not only does Schiller see promise in NMU’s coaching staff, but he sees potential in the future of the program as well.

“I just want to spread the word that the NMU coaching staff is the best,” Schiller said. “They’re all great guys and I really think they’re going to do something special with that program.”

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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