In June of 2007 when Anaheim won their first Stanley Cup, nine players with college hockey backgrounds saw their name engraved on hockey’s sacred chalice. There’s little doubt that the Ducks benefit greatly from finding and developing NCAA talent and a lot of the credit has to go to David McNab, the Ducks’ Assistant General Manager, who legendary Michigan coach Red Berenson calls "one of the best in the country." Here’s a look at how the next wave of Anaheim’s college prospects are developing.
Kyle Klubertanz, D
University of Wisconsin Badgers
Drafted in the third round in 2004, Klubertanz is playing in his final year with the University of Wisconsin. After winning the national championship in 2006, both Klubertanz and the team as a whole took as step back in the 2006-07 season. Klubertanz posted the lowest numbers of his NCAA career with 13 points and the Badgers missed making it to the Division I Tournament, let alone a chance at defending their national championship.
The 2007-08 season has been a rebound of sorts. Wisconsin is again a middle-of-the-pack squad with a 14-12-6 record which has them hovering around tenth on the NCAA rankings. Meanwhile, Klubertanz has four goals and 18 points in 32 games, with two goals and eight points coming on the power play. These numbers place him tied for fifth in the WCHA in scoring by a defenseman.
An assistant captain with the Badgers, Klubertanz will need to be signed prior to the August 15th NCAA deadline in order to continue his career with the Ducks.
Steven Kampfer, D
University of Michigan Wolverines
The learning curve has been steep for Kampfer. In just his sophomore year for the Wolverines, Kampfer has had to take on a larger role on Michigan’s blue line, due in part to the numerous freshmen in the system. That’s not to say the 5’11 defenseman still doesn’t have plenty of things to work on, as Berenson explained. "He’s a player that will take some time. We’re not sure where exactly he will end up in terms of a description of his game. His puck touches are pretty good, I think he has a good head for the game, his skating will continue to improve. His defensive play has to continue to develop as well as his physical play."
A two-way blue liner, Kampfer has two goals and 14 points in 31 games with Michigan. Although he sees time on the power play and killing penalties, his pair of goals both came at even strength, with one of them being a game winner. With that said, Berenson has high hopes for his sophomore defender, both now and in the future. As the veteran coach explains, "I think he has more skill, but we haven’t seen the productivity. He’s capable of being more productive than he is. He hasn’t had a great track record in terms of offense. He’s been rushed all the way along. He was too young to play in the US Hockey League. Then he came here and was he ready for Division I hockey? You get rushed sometimes. So now he’s just starting to take some steps and I think next year will be an important year for him. Not that this year isn’t but he’s got a long way to go and he needs to keep working at it."
Under Berenson’s guide, Michigan is one of the top teams in the NCAA, currently ranked first in the country with a record of 25-3-4. As exceptional as that record is, it is even more remarkable when it is considered that half their team are freshmen. As Berenson noted, "We’ve done much better then anyone anticipated."
Mark Mitera, D
University of Michigan Wolverines
A player that Berenson called "one of our best players game in and game out," Mitera is a big reason why his Wolverines are the top team in the country. A stay-at-home defensive defenseman, Mitera was called upon to step up his game prior to this season and has risen to the task. After a 2006-07 season of inconsistency, Mitera’s steady play as a leader on the young Wolverine blue line has answered many of the doubts, both of himself and of Michigan as a whole. Often playing with a freshman partner, Mitera sees time against the opposition’s top lines and is Michigan’s top penalty killer, while also seeing time on the Wolverines second power-play unit.
Never known for his offensive play, Mitera has a single goal, scored on the power play, and nine points on the season. As Berenson explained, "he takes pride in being a physical defensive defenseman and we want him to continue to work on those things. He has good smarts, he has good size. He works hard off the ice."
Playing in his junior season with the Wolverines, there’s a chance that Mitera will turn pro at the end of this year. Berenson admited that there was a discussion on Mitera signing a contract prior to the 2007-08 season. "It came down to whether he was ready to turn pro. I don’t think there was any question that it would have been premature." He was also quick to note that "in Mark’s case, he’s one of our top students, as well as one of our top young defensemen. He’s a serious student, he’s not just a casual student. He’s an ideal student-athlete."
Justin Vaive, LW
Miami University (Ohio) RedHawks
A player for one of the top teams in the NCAA, Vaive bears little resemblance to his father, a former 13-year NHL player Rick Vaive. While his dad was known to be a hard-shooting sniper, the younger Vaive makes his name as a hard-skating physical force. Measuring in at 6’6, half a foot taller then his father, Vaive has little trouble imposing his way in the corners and cycling the puck.
A freshman with the RedHawks, Vaive’s statistical impact is much less than Carter Camper, a fellow Miami freshman who is averaging more than a point-per-game. In 31 games, Vaive has three goals and nine points as well as 46 penalty minutes, more than respectable for a first-year college player, especially one not known for his flashy offensive skills. The RedHawks currently have a record of 25-6-1 and have been among the top teams in the country all season long.