Michigan Star to make the Jump to Junior

By Jeff Bromley
When the Kootenay ICE finished their 1999-2000
Memorial Cup finalist season, they lost a good percentage of their offensive output when Captain Mike Green (Florida) and line-mate Jaroslav
Svoboda (Carolina) graduated to the professional ranks. For any club, even as one as deep as the ICE, it is a dent on the stats sheet that would
be a heady task to replace.

Well, if forecasts are accurate, consider it replaced.

The Kootenay ICE announced this past week that Marek Svatos, Kootenay’s 47th overall CHL import draft pick and NCAA Michigan Wolverine
star Mike Comrie, an Edmonton Oiler 1999 NHL Draft pick (91st overall) will both be joining the club for the 2000-01 season. For Svatos, a Kosice,
Slovakia native the move to North America a full two weeks ahead of the beginning of training camp will only benefit him in making the transition
to his new Canadian surroundings. For Comrie however, making the jump to junior from the NCAA is more of a strategic move. The fact that
Comrie will no doubt enhance his professional aspirations by making the transfer if only for the fact that the WHL plays almost double the
amount of regular season games (72 as opposed to 40) and the increased ice time will only be to his benefit in trying to make the jump to the
NHL. Mike Comrie’s arrival to the Kootenays also enhances his contract position with the Edmonton Oilers due to a path carved out by Comrie’s
former Michigan Wolverine teammate Mike Van Ryn.
As NHL Free Agency rules point out, a junior player drafted at the age of 19 is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent if he remains
unsigned after two years. An NCAA player remains the property of the NHL club until the draft immediately following the player leaving college.
Van Ryn, a New Jersey 1998 Draft pick, decided at the beginning of last season to make the jump to the Sarnia Sting of the OHL with the
assumption that if the Devils did not sign him by the 2000 Draft deadline he would become an unrestricted free agent, free to discuss contract
terms with any or all of the NHL’s 30 clubs. In June of this year, an arbitrator ruled that because Van Ryn made the transfer to OHL junior, he
should be classified in the ‘junior draft category’ and so if the Devils did not sign him by the 2000 Draft deadline Van Ryn would be an
unrestricted free agent. Consequently the Devils did not sign him and Van Ryn signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Blues. The surprising
aspect of this ruling is that it didn’t come any sooner. The free agency language in the NHL Collective agreement prior to the arbitrator’s ruling
was clearly discriminatory. A player who plays in the American college ranks should have exactly the same rights and privileges as his
same-aged counterpart in the CHL.

For Comrie, I suspect that the new ruling, although a clear indicator, wasn’t his only reason for coming to the ICE. The suspected lure of coming
to a Memorial Cup finalist club that has an extremely realistic shot at returning to the big dance in Regina this year was also a big contributing
factor. So, that being said, what kind of impact on the ice does the arrival of Mike Comrie do to the Kootenay ICE? In a word, lots. The obvious is
his immediate impact he will have on the offensive side of the score-sheet. His stats in Michigan speak for themselves; Games – 40, 24 g. 35 a. 59
pts, p/m +19, pim – 95mins. And he is no stranger to the junior style played in Canada as at the age of 17 he played in the AJHL for the St. Albert
Saint and was named Canadian Junior Hockey Player of the year, he also scored a whopping 138 points in 58 games that year. Last season in
Michigan he was the youngest player to be named a Hobey Baker finalist (NCAA award for the player of the year) among a slew of other awards
that fill an equally impressive resume. Yes, the departure of popular ICE captain Mike Green at the end of last season was a tough task to fill for
the upcoming season. With Mike Comrie on the scene for 2000-01, I think that order has been filled.