March college prospects notebook

By DJ Powers

The final installment of the 2009-10 notebook takes a look at the news and notes involving NHL prospects from around the country in the final full month of the season.

Hobey Hat Trick announced

University of New Hampshire senior Bobby Butler (OTT), University of Wisconsin senior Blake Geoffrion (NSH) and University of Maine sophomore Gustav Nyquist (DET) were named the three “Hat Trick” finalists for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award, giving to the nation’s top player.

Butler, a recent free agent acquisition by the Ottawa Senators, finished his collegiate career in stellar fashion. In 39 games this season, he posted 53 points (29 goals, 24 assists). His 29 goals currently lead the nation, while his 53 points rank tied for second. He earned the Hockey East Player of the Year after co-leading the conference with 41 points and guiding the Wildcats to the Hockey East regular season championship. Butler was also named the recipient of this year’s Walter
Brown Award and named the New England Player of the Year.

Geoffrion has been a driving force behind Wisconsin’s run up to the Frozen Four. His five points in the West Regional earned him the MVP and currently ranks third in the nation in NCAA Tournament play. In 38 overall games, Geoffrion has posted 48 points (27 goals, 21 assists). He has proven to be particularly dangerous on the power play, currently leading the nation with 14 tallies. Geoffrion finished second in WCHA scoring this season with 34 points and was named to the All-WCHA First Team.

Nyquist took his play to a whole new level this season. Nyquist helped guide Maine to the Hockey East Tournament championship final. Though he has not played since his team was eliminated in the championship final, Nyquist finishes the season still leading the nation in scoring with 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 39 games. His 42 assists also lead the nation. Nyquist was also one of the nation’s most consistent point producers this season, having tallied points in 32 of the 39 games he played in.

Those that were chosen among the original ten finalists include University of Denver junior netminder Marc Cheverie (FLA) and senior Rhett Rakhshani (NYI), Northern Michigan University junior Mark Olver (COL), and University of Wisconsin junior defenseman Brendan Smith (DET).

The winner of the 2010 Hobey Baker Award will be announced on Apr. 9 during the Frozen Four in Detroit.

A banner year for two Montreal rookie prospects

Montreal Canadiens rookie prospects Louis Leblanc and Danny Kristo took home top honors for their outstanding performances this season.

Leblanc was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after leading all Ivy League freshmen with 11 points (seven goals, four assists). Leblanc also led Harvard University in scoring with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 32 games. 22 of his 23 points came in ECAC play, where he also earned a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie Team.

Kristo was a key cog behind the University of North Dakota successfully claiming the WCHA Final Five championship this season. His WCHA rookie-leading 10 goals helped earn him the WCHA Rookie of the Year honor. Though he missed time due to his participation in the World Junior Championships, Kristo never missed a beat upon his return to the Fighting Sioux lineup. He finished the year with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 41 games. Kristo also led North Dakota with nine power-play goals.

University of Denver pair wins WCHA awards

Junior goaltender Marc Cheverie and senior Rhett Rahkshani were two keys behind the University of Denver’s success in claiming the WCHA Regular Season title this season and were honored by the conference.

Cheverie was named the WCHA’s Player of the Year after leading the conference in both goals against average (2.05) and save percentage (.934). He was also the WCHA’s goaltending champion and named to the All-WCHA First Team as well. Cheverie finished an impressive junior campaign with a record of 24-6-3 in 35 appearances. His .932 save percentage currently ranks second in the nation, while his 24 wins and six shutouts are tied for second.

Cheverie’s teammate Rhett Rahkshani was equally impressive in his final year as a Pioneer. The Huntington Beach, CA native won the WCHA’s regular-season scoring title after posting 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in conference play this season. He was also selected to the All-WCHA First Team and is one of the three finalists for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes the nation’s top senior in the areas of classroom, character, community and competition.

Rahkshani finishes his stellar senior season with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 41 games.

Five NHL prospects take home defensive player awards

The 2009-10 season was a banner year for collegiate defensive prospects and five of them took home some hardware for their outstanding years.

The CCHA honored two blueliners this season in Northern Michigan University junior Erik Gustafsson (PHI) and Miami sophomore Will Weber (CBJ).
Gustafsson, who recently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, took the conference’s Offensive Defenseman of the Year award. Gustafsson was a pillar on the Wildcats blueline this season and was a mainstay on Northern Michigan’s top power-play unit. His 22 points (one goal, 21 assists) led the CCHA among defensemen. He finished the season with 31 overall points (three goals, 28 assists) in 38 games.

Weber took home the CCHA’s Defensive Defenseman award. The Gaylord, MI native may not score a lot of points, but he has contributed in big ways for the Miami University RedHawks this season. Weber is part of one of the finest defensive units in the nation and his imposing style has simply added another dimension to it.
The sophomore rearguard comes into the Frozen Four having posted 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 40 games.

University of Wisconsin junior Brendan Smith (DET) took home the WCHA’s top Defensive Player of the Year and was also selected to the All-WCHA First Team. The Mimico, ON native ripped up the scoresheet this season and comes into the Frozen Four leading the nation in defenseman scoring with 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 40 games. Of Smith’s 15 goals, 11 have come on the power play. University of Massachusetts senior Justin Braun (SJ) took home Hockey East’s Defensive Player of the Year. Braun was one of the conference’s top rearguards this season, both offensively and defensively. He finished the season with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) playing in all 36 games. Braun was an All-Hockey East First Team selection as well.

Cornell University senior Justin Krueger (CAR) was named the ECAC’s Top Defenseman of the Year. Krueger was a cornerstone of the nation’s stingiest defensive corps this season. He was a mainstay on the Big Red’s penalty killing and was one of the team’s top shot blockers as well. Krueger posted 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) playing in all 34 games this season.

Phoenix netminding prospect suspended indefinitely

It has been a tumultuous year for University of Maine sophomore goaltender Scott Darling (PHO) and it came to an end sooner than expected. In early March, the Black Bears suspended Darling indefinitely due to violation of team rules. This wasn’t the first time this season that Darling had been suspended by the team. He served a two-game suspension at the beginning of the season for an incident last summer. It remains to be seen when and if Darling will return to the team next season.

Four collegians have rights traded on NHL Trade Deadline Day

A quartet of collegians saw their NHL rights traded on Trade Deadline Day.

Two of the four were Michigan Wolverines. Senior defenseman Steve Kampfer saw his rights go from Anaheim to Boston in exchange for a fourth-round selection in this year’s Entry Draft. Kampfer recently signed with the Bruins after completing a strong year at Michigan, leading the team’s defensemen with 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) playing in all 45 games.

Kampfer’s teammate, junior Matt Rust also saw his rights traded. The Bloomfield Hills, MI native became property of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the deal that sent defenseman Mathieu Roy to the Florida Panthers. Rust was one of Michigan’s most consistent players this season, both offensively and defensively. He finished third on the team in scoring with 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) playing in all 45 games. Rust also led Michigan in plus/minus with a plus-22.

Florida also sent the rights to Ohio State sophomore defenseman Matt Bartkowski to the Boston Bruins. The deal was comprised of four players, including former Cornell forward Byron Bitz, and a second-round draft selection. Bartkowski, along defenseman Dennis Seidenberg went to Boston. Bitz, forward Craig Weller and the Panthers second-round pick in this year’s Entry Draft went to Florida. Bartkowski was an imposing presence on the Buckeyes blueline this season. He led the team in defenseman scoring with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) playing in all 39 games. He also led Ohio State with 99 penalty minutes.

The final collegian whose rights were traded on Deadline Day was Bemidji State senior defenseman Chris Peluso. His rights went from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a sixth-round selection in the upcoming Entry Draft. Peluso enjoyed a solid senior campaign helping to guide the Beavers to another NCAA Tournament berth. He finished the year with nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 29 games.

College to pro: The early exodus begins

As the college hockey season winds down each year, so starts the pro signings. To date, 19 underclassmen have opted to leave the collegiate ranks early. Nine of the 19 were undrafted free-agent signees. Below is the list of players who have left their respective collegiate teams with eligibility remaining. An asterisk (*) denotes players that signed as free agents.

*Lee Baldwin, D – Freshman, University of Alaska-Anchorage (NYR)
*Hunter Bishop, LW – Junior, The Ohio State University (MON)
Nick Bonino, C – Junior, Boston University (ANA)
*Rob Bordson, LW – Junior, University of Minnesota-Duluth (ANA)
Colby Cohen, D – Junior, Boston University (COL)
Joe Colborne, C – Sophomore, University of Denver (BOS)
Ian Cole, D – Junior, University of Notre Dame (STL)
Zac Dalpe, C/RW – Sophomore, The Ohio State University (CAR)
*Erik Gustafsson, D – Junior, Northern Michigan University (PHI)
*Matt Irwin, D – Sophomore, University of Massachusetts (SJ)
*James Marcou, C – Junior, University of Massachusetts (SJ)
*Jake Newton, D – Freshman, Northeastern University (ANA)
Mark Olver, C – Junior, Northern Michigan University (COL)
Jeff Petry, D – Junior, Michigan State University (EDM)
Jordan Schroeder, C – Sophomore, University of Minnesota (VAN)
Kevin Shattenkirk, D – Junior, Boston University (COL)
*Cameron Talbot, G – Junior, University of Alabama-Huntsville (NYR)
*Casey Wellman, C – Sophomore, University of Massachusetts (MIN)
Patrick Wiercioch, D – Sophomore, University of Denver (OTT)