DULUTH - You'd think Jeff Pyle would have the inside track on recruiting the younger brother of Gwinnett Gladiators' two-time all-star defenseman Troy Milam.
Even if the family ties weren't enough, Jamie Milam was coming out of the head coach's own alma mater, Northern Michigan.
But it wasn't easy locking up the powerful 22-year-old, Pyle said the day before Gwinnett announced the signings of Michiganers Milam and defenseman Brian Lee.
"It was a struggle to get him," Pyle said. "But he knows we're going to have a good team. I know its a tough decision. A lot of teams were after him.
"He's a kid that'll be pumped to be here."
Milam, who like his brother has a cannon of a shot, comes to the Gladiators after four seasons at Northern Michigan. As a forward, Milam averaged 24 points per year and had his best numbers as a senior (29 points in 40 games) and subsequently earned the Ed Ward Most Improved Player award for the Wildcats.
But he's coming to Gwinnett as a defenseman.
"I told him, up front we had a lot of guys," Pyle said, "and playing back, he'd have time to get his feet wet.
"He's a good kid, a good fit."
Pyle had similar words of praise about Lee, who played 47 games last season with Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Pyle tried to get the Berrien Springs, Mich., native last year after Lee's junior career was complete and renewed his interest again this summer.
"He didn't get to play as much as he would have liked (last season)," Pyle said. "He has a chance to come here and if we get off to a good start, be called up."
Lee was impressive in the Atlanta Thrashers' prospect camp in July. He was a late addition after draftee Nathan Oystrick was too ill to participate and the Thrashers asked Pyle for replacement suggestions.
"I like Brian," Pyle said. "He's a good kid. He's going to work hard and pick up the systems."
Lee got a head-start on learning those - he was part of the Thrashers' team that participated in the Traverse City NHL prospects tournament last week where Pyle was the head coach.
Lee only had seven points last season with Norfolk, but that was in limited action and his junior numbers playing for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League are significantly higher. The 22-year-old, who was a third-round draft pick by Anaheim in 2002, had 40 points in 2003-04 and 34 in 2004-05 playing as a winger.