NCAA 2011 NHL Draft review

By DJ Powers
Photo: Rocco Grimaldi will be playing for North Dakota in 2011-12. (Photo courtesy of DJ Powers/HF)

The NCAA enjoyed another strong year at the NHL Draft as 59 current and future collegians were taken. The 59 players represent 27 of the 30 NHL teams and 24 of the 58 NCAA teams. All NCAA conferences except Atlantic Hockey had players taken in the draft. The NCAA comprised 28 percent of all the players selected in this year’s draft. 11 of the 59 players chosen played in the NCAA this past season.

Inside the Numbers (NCAA)

The WCHA once again led all NCAA conferences with 23 players taken. The University of Minnesota led all NCAA teams with five selections, followed by the University of Denver, Harvard University, Miami University, and the University of Wisconsin with four each.

Northeastern University defenseman Jamie Oleksiak was the first NCAA player taken when the Dallas Stars selected him 15th overall in the first round. Oleksiak was one of only four NCAA players selected in the opening round – the fewest since 2008. The first NCAA goaltender taken in the draft was top-ranked John Gibson. The incoming University of Michigan netminder went to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round (39th overall) and was the second goaltender overall to be taken in this year’s draft.

Although Hockey East had the top collegian selected, the conference also had a disappointing draft. Only eight conference players overall were selected, representing just four of the ten member schools. However, six of the eight Hockey East players selected were taken in the first four rounds. Even more surprising was the fact that powerhouses Boston College, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire did not have a single current or future player selected. All three schools have typically done quite well at the NHL Draft. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell saw their first player taken in the draft since 2006 when the Pittsburgh Penguins selected incoming C/LW Scott Wilson in the seventh round (209th overall). The last River Hawks player to be taken in the NHL Draft was Chris Auger, who went to the Chicago Blackhawks in the sixth round (169th overall).

While Hockey East saw few players taken in this year’s draft, it was a banner year for the ECAC. The 14 players selected tied the conference with the CCHA for second most taken this year. Six of the 12 member schools saw at least one player taken. Incoming Cornell University RW Brian Ferlin was the first ECAC player taken in the draft when the Boston Bruins selected him with the 121st overall pick (fourth round). Ferlin was one of three incoming Big Red players taken in the draft. Harvard University had the most players taken by any ECAC school with four, led by incoming netminder Stephen Michalek, who went to host Minnesota Wild with the 161st overall pick (sixth round). The steadily improving recruiting efforts have continued to pay off for Quinnipiac University at the draft. After seeing Kellen Jones taken by the Edmonton Oilers last year, the Bobcats saw two future players taken this year. Defenseman Josh Manson, who will matriculate in the fall of 2012, went to the Anaheim Ducks with the 160th overall pick (sixth round). Incoming (fall of 2011) recruit Matthew Peca followed in the seventh round (201st overall), going to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown University saw their first player taken in the NHL Draft since 2004 when defenseman Dennis Robertson went to the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 173rd selection (sixth round).

The CCHA continues to do very well at the NHL Draft as 14 players representing six member schools were taken this year. Miami University led all conference schools with four selections including two in the first round – defenseman Connor Murphy going to the Phoenix Coyotes (20th overall) and RW Tyler Biggs going to the Toronto Maple Leafs two picks later. Incoming RedHawks centerman Blake Coleman was the most pleasant surprise at this year’s draft among NCAA players. Coleman, who was ranked 198th on Central Scouting’s final ranking, was taken in the third round (75th overall) by the New Jersey Devils. Another surprise pick coming out of the CCHA (and also in the third round) was T.J. Tynan. The CCHA and National Rookie of the Year did not appear on Central Scouting’s final rankings, despite leading the nation in rookie scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 2010-11. Tynan went to the Columbus Blue Jackets with the 66th overall selection.

The WCHA once again dominated NCAA conferences at the NHL Draft. Incoming University of North Dakota center J.T. Miller led the parade of conference players selected, going in the first round (16th overall) to the New York Rangers. Miller, who will be part of North Dakota’s stellar incoming class this fall, was one of three Fighting Sioux players taken in this year’s draft – all of whom went in the first four rounds. The University of Denver is another program that will be bringing an excellent incoming class this fall. The Pioneers had four players selected, led by incoming defenseman Scott Mayfield, who went to the New York Islanders with the 34th overall pick (second round). Three of the four University of Denver players taken in this year’s draft will be with the team this fall. Defenseman Josiah Didier, who was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth round (97th overall), will matriculate in the fall of 2012. The University of Minnesota continues to stockpile draft picks as five future Golden Gophers were selected. One of the biggest decliners in this year’s draft was incoming RW Seth Ambroz. The New Prague, MN native was considered to be one of the top players heading into the 2011 draft, but saw his stock steadily drop over the last year. Ambroz was eventually taken in the fifth round (128th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Among the notable collegians not taken in this year’s draft include incoming University of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Matt McNeely; incoming University of North Dakota center Colten St. Clair; incoming Yale University defenseman Matt Killian and University of Massachusetts LW Mike Pereira.

Inside the Numbers (NHL)

Every NHL team except the Carolina Hurricanes, the Colorado Avalanche, and the St. Louis Blues took at least one NCAA player in this year’s draft. Of the three aforementioned teams, the Blues’ lack of NCAA selections may be the most surprising. St. Louis has traditionally done well selecting NCAA players at the draft. Among their notable past collegiate selections include former Minnesota State-Mankato standout David Backes in 2003, former North Dakota All-American T.J. Oshie in 2005 and most recently, Colorado College sensation Jaden Schwartz in 2010.

After failing to select an NCAA player in last year’s draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs opted to go back into the NCAA pool this year. Toronto, along with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the New Jersey Devils led all NHL teams with four NCAA selections each. They were followed by the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals, and the Winnipeg Jets with three apiece.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of three NHL teams that didn’t take an NCAA player in last year’s draft. The others were the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams took two collegians this year.

The Dallas Stars were the first team to select an NCAA player when they took towering Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak with the 15th overall pick. Oleksiak was also Dallas’ only NCAA selection in this year’s draft.

The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins used their two NCAA picks this year to select Ivy League-bound players. Boston chose incoming Cornell University RW Brian Ferlin in the fourth round (121st overall) and incoming Yale University defenseman Rob O’Gara in the fifth round (151st overall).

Another NHL team with two NCAA selections in this year’s draft was the Ottawa Senators. Interestingly enough, both of their picks will be attending Ohio State this fall. The Senators first selection came in the sixth round (171st overall) when they took LW Max McCormick. Soon-to-be Buckeyes teammate C Ryan Dzingel followed in the seventh round (204th overall).

The Los Angeles Kings have, in recent years, favored the WCHA when drafting collegiate players. And while the Kings have continued that trend this year, not all of their NCAA selections were from the WCHA. LW Joel Lowry, who was taken in the fifth round (140th overall), is off to Cornell University this fall.

It is often said that good things come in small packages. Apparently the Florida Panthers and the Columbus Blue Jackets thinks so too. Florida’s only two collegiate selections in this year’s draft are under 5’9, centers, and were taken relatively early. University of North Dakota-bound Rocco Grimaldi, the smallest player in this year’s draft at 5’6, was chosen 33rd overall (second round). 5’8 Kyle Rau, the 2011 recipient of the Mr. Hockey Award as Minnesota’s top high school player, was taken in the third round (91st overall). The other diminutive collegian taken in the draft was 5’7 T.J. Tynan from the University of Notre Dame. Tynan, like Grimaldi and Rau is also a center and was also taken relatively early. He went to Columbus in the third round (66th overall).

The team now known as the Winnipeg Jets selected three players in this year’s draft, including local product Jason Kasdorf. The RPI-bound goaltender was taken by the Jets in the sixth round (157th overall). This year also marked the second year in a row that the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise has taken a Colorado College-bound rearguard. After taking incoming defenseman Peter Stoykewych in last year’s draft (199th overall, seventh round), the team took another incoming Tigers defenseman in Aaron Harstad this year. Harstad, who was also Colorado College’s lone drafted player this year, went 187th overall (seventh round).

Trades

Several trades involving NCAA players took place at and prior to this year’s draft. The following are some of the more notable ones.

One of the biggest deals made at this year’s draft involved Boston University RW Charlie Coyle. The Hockey East Rookie of the Year was shipped to host Minnesota Wild by San Jose. He, along with RW Devin Setoguchi and the Sharks’ first round pick (28th overall) were traded to the Wild in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns and Minnesota’s second round draft pick in 2012. Coyle was taken 28th overall (first round) in the 2010 draft.

The Minnesota Wild traded their third round pick (71st overall) and fourth round pick (101st overall) to Vancouver for the Canucks’ second round pick (60th overall). The Wild used the 60th pick to take highly-touted Wayzata High School LW Mario Lucia. Lucia, who is currently uncommitted, has gotten interest from several NCAA schools, including the University of Notre Dame, Colorado College, the University of Denver and the University of Minnesota. The Canucks meanwhile used the 101st pick to take University of Wisconsin-bound center Joe Labate. Labate was also Vancouver’s lone NCAA selection in this year’s draft.

The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Ottawa’s third-round pick (66th overall) in the deal that sent LW Nikita Filatov to the Senators. The Blue Jackets used the 66th pick to take University of Notre Dame center T.J. Tynan.

The New York Rangers acquired St. Louis’ third round pick (72nd overall) in the deal that sent LW Evgeny Grachev to the Blues. The Rangers used the pick to select University of Notre Dame-bound center Steven Fogarty.

One trade involving two centermen who played in the NCAA in 2010-11 took place between the Los Angeles Kings and the Nashville Predators. The Kings traded their sixth round pick (170th overall) and their third round pick in 2012 to the Predators for the 82nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Los Angeles used the 82nd pick to take University of Denver center Nick Shore, while Nashville chose Western Michigan University center Chase Balisy with the 170th pick.

Another trade that involved two collegians actually took place at last year’s draft between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks. Both teams swapped seventh round picks in 2010 and 2011. San Jose received Pittsburgh’s seventh round pick (200th overall) in last year’s draft, while the Penguins received the Sharks’ seventh round pick (209th overall) in this year’s draft. San Jose used last year’s 200th pick to take then-incoming Ohio State RW Chris Crane, while Pittsburgh used this year’s 209th pick to take incoming University of Massachusetts-Lowell C/LW Scott Wilson.

Did You Know?

Boston University LW Matt Nieto was the first ever California-born player selected in the NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks. Nieto, a native of Long Beach, was taken by the Sharks in the second round (47th overall).

Incoming University of Denver LW Zac Larraza holds the distinction of becoming the very first Arizona-born player selected in the NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. Larraza, who hails from nearby Scottsdale, was taken by the Coyotes in the seventh round (196th overall). Larraza was one of two Arizona-born players chosen in this year’s draft. The other was Phoenix native and Drummondville (QMJHL) center Sean Couturier, who was selected eighth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Looking Ahead to 2012

The early top NCAA committed player for the 2012 NHL Draft is Sioux City (USHL) defenseman Jordan Schmaltz. The Verona, WI has committed to the University of North Dakota for the fall of 2012. USNTDP defenseman Jacob Trouba is the early top overall US player for next year’s draft. Currently uncommitted, Trouba has reportedly narrowed his college choices down to the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame. At this point it is unclear whether Trouba will go the collegiate route or the Major Junior route (the Kitchener Rangers hold his OHL rights).