NCAA remains steady source of talent for Carolina Hurricanes

By Cory Lavalette

Dennis Robertson - Carolina Hurricanes

Photo: Defenseman Dennis Robertson has recently completed his four-year career at Brown University. Robertson managed six goals and 11 assists as a senior. (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes have six prospects playing collegiate hockey and two more in Europe. In recent years, the team has done well developing NCAA talent – particularly defensemen – but has had little success with overseas prospects playing and then making the leap to North America.

The jury is still out on all of Carolina's NCAA and European prospects, but once again – like the Hurricanes did with the likes of Justin Faulk, Jamie McBain, and Brian Dumoulin (PIT) – the collegiate rearguards seem to be the cream of the crop.

NCAA

Brendan Collier, LW, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th round, 189th overall, 2012

Collier's start to his collegiate career was rocky. He was scratched in six of the Terriers first 14 games and played 11 games before recording his first point, assisting in BU's lone goal in a 1-1 tie versus Merrimack on December 7th. Collier has since played in all but one of the Terriers' games – he and three teammates did not play in the March 1st win over Northeastern due to reported disciplinary reasons.

He also notched his first collegiate goal against New Hampshire on February 17th, opening the scoring in a 3-1 loss to the Wildcats. In his first 28 games with BU, Collier has one goal and three assists.

Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan Wolverines (Big 10)
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2012

Inconsistency has been Di Giuseppe's biggest issue in his three years in Ann Arbor, but with goals in five of his last six games – including his recent three-point outing against rival Michigan State – perhaps the once-expected sniper is finally finding his rhythm.

Di Giuseppe snapped a seven-game pointless streak February 21st against Penn State and has not stopped scoring since, notching six goals and eight points in the last seven games to push his season totals to 11 goals and 11 assists through 33 games. The 11 goals match his career-best from 2011-12, with a regular season game, the Big 10 Tournament and potentially an NCAA bid still on tap for the Wolverines.

Brett Pesce, D, New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2013

Carolina's second pick in last summer's draft has developed into New Hampshire's top underclassman scorer, totaling 18 points in 37 games – including five power play goals – after managing just six points in his freshman year. Pesce had a point in every game in February for the Wildcats, and had a 10-game point streak that began in late January and ended on March 14th.

Pesce was the final defenseman cut from Team USA's entry in the World Junior Championships, but his new-found offensive output should make him a shoe-in for the 2015 team if he sticks around for his junior campaign.

Dennis Robertson, D, Brown Bears (ECAC)
Trade with Toronto Maple Leafs, January 1st, 2014

The Hurricanes acquired Robinson in the Tim-Gleason-for-John-Michael Liles trade on January 1st. Two and a half months later, Robertson now needs to strike a deal with his new team to begin his professional career.

Brown was swept in the opening round of the ECAC tournament, and with that Robertson – the captain and veteran of 128 games over the past four seasons – saw his collegiate career come to a close. Robertson finished fourth on the Bears in scoring with six goals and 11 assists, and he finished his career with 70 points and 271 penalty minutes.

Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2012

Slavin has emerged as one of Carolina's most intriguing prospects. Drafted two summers ago, Slavin is now in his freshman year at Colorado College and is battling for the team scoring lead with 23 points (five goals, 17 assists), just one behind sdenior forward Alexander Krushelnyski.

For his efforts, Slavin was named to the NCHC's all-rookie team and was second-team all-conference – the only freshman to earn a spot on both lists. Slavin also represented the United States at the World Junior Championships, scoring one goal and adding an assist in five games for Team USA.

Barring a miraculous run in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Slavin and Colorado College's season will end after the conference postseason tournament.

Collin Olson, G, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Drafted 6th round, 159th overall, 2012

Olson was used sparingly in his freshman year at Ohio State, but expected to be the Buckeyes' number one goalie in 2013-14. But some early season struggles opened the door for Matt Tompkins, and Olson decided to transfer out of Ohio State.

That means sitting out a year according to NCAA rules. So while Olson still has his sights set on playing collegiate hockey, he has been playing with the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers since late December after fulfilling his fall semester obligations at Ohio State. In his first 15 contests with the Musketeers, Olson is 9-2-1-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage, statistics that would rank him among the USHL's best if he had played enough games to qualify for the league's leaderboard.

Europe

Erik Karlsson, C, Frolunda HC (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2012

Karlsson is pleased with his playing time and development with Frolunda, so he has re-upped with the SHL squad for another year. He continues to work his way toward a full-time job with Frolunda, registering five goals and an assist in 41 games this season.

Karlsson also played for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, notching three assists in seven games for the host team. Unfortunately for the 19-year-old and his countrymen, they were one goal short of winning gold, losing 3-2 in overtime to Finland.

Tommi Kivisto, D, Ilves Tampere (SM-Liiga)
Drafted 7th round, 208th overall, 2009

Kivisto was loaned back to the SM-Liiga for 2013-14, joining Ilves after spending last year in North America with Carolina's two minor league affiliates. In 56 games with his new team, Kivisto has four goals and 11 assists, far and away the best numbers of his for seasons in Finland's top league. His plus-eight rating is also tops among all Ilves blueliners.

Like Karlsson, Kivisto, 22, has signed for another year with his European team.