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Mesa product, AHU, AHSHA star Craft joining Arizona teammates in ’22-23 with USPHL’s Mullets


The USPHL’s Minnesota Mullets have announced another Arizona recruit for the 2022-23 roster in forward Oliver Craft.

The Mesa native joins the Mullets alongside several other Arizona-born teammates in recruit Ben Willcoxson and veterans Austin Poole, Tyler Ortega, and Brent Scott.

His Arizona roots, and more particularly Willcoxson himself, played a major factor in Craft’s decision to join the Mullets.

“I was lucky to have my friend, Ben, chime in for me, giving me the chance to talk to Coach,” Craft mentioned. “Ben is super awesome, and his travel team always smoked mine so I’m super excited to be able to play with him instead of against him.”

Some would say Willcoxson is a highly reputable source of information. Those “some” would include Mullets head coach Chris Walby.

“I was thrilled when Oliver signed earlier this month,” said Walby. “I received a great reference from a trusted source and things went well from there.”

With a great reference and great stats, Craft will make a great addition to the squad, and only time will tell if Willcoxson has a future in scouting.

The forward and the coach have already established a solid connection which bodes well for the player-and-coach dynamic.

“After a lot of talking to Coach Walby, I found him to be a stand-up, honest guy with a mindset just like mine,” said Craft.

On Craft as a player, Walby noted, “Ollie is a left-handed power forward with a scoring touch. He plays a physical game and skates well, especially for his size.”

As a person, Walby had even better things to say.

“He’s a good kid, works hard, has skill and is going to fit in fantastic here,” said Walby. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to coach and further develop him. I think it’s going to be a great run.”

Coaching staff and teammates aside, several other factors also played a role in Craft’s decision to play in the Twin Cities – namely the location and the competition.

“From the unreal setup at the U, the winning culture that comes with it, (and) the perfect hockey-focused schedule,” he seemed to find everything he was looking for in his advancement of his playing career.

“And how could you not want to be a part of a team called ‘the Mullets?’” he playfully added.

Between the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 seasons, Craft double-dipped between playing for the Arizona Hockey Union 18U AA program and high school hockey, playing one season at Campo Verde High and one season at Corona del Sol High. Meanwhile, he was still attending Highland High School, which doesn’t have a team, noted the forward.

“I played for Campo Verde until all my friends graduated, and then switched the next year to play with some other friends,” Craft said. “Corona was a division higher that year as well.”

The advancement to a higher level of play proved to raise a bar that Craft was willing to meet. In his time with Campo Verde, he recorded three points (three assists) in 10 games. After transferring to Corona del Sol, he improved to 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in the same amount of games, averaging nearly two points per game. He ranked tied for second in goals and fourth in assists and scoring.

Clearly something special happens when the pressure is on and the bar is raised. The future is bright for Craft, giving Mullets fans and Walby a reason to be excited.

“I really look forward to playing with players that are all here for the same reason, and that’s to get better and move up,” he concluded.

Photo/Laura Craft

— Brandon Laxson

(July 22, 2022)

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