College hockey is alive and well in the hearts of NHL scouts. Proof of this is in some of the numbers from this weekends NHL entry draft. Two of the top ten picks were NCAA players. In the first three rounds, 24 current or soon to be college players were picked and a total of 72 NCAA or incoming NCAA players were drafted. Overall, only 11 of the 87 college players ranked by the CSB were left un-drafted.
Some surprises: Buffalo made a somewhat bold move by picking defenseman Keith Ballard from the Minnesota Golden Gophers as their first pick in the draft. While teammate Judd Stevens, who was ranked 70th in North American skaters was completely past over by all 30 NHL teams.
A few teams hoped to find a diamond in the rough by drafting NCAA players that were not even on the Central Scouting Bureau’s final rankings. Minnesota found Michael Erickson playing right under their noses with the Golden Gophers. Defenseman Taylor Christie dropped of the CSB list from the preliminary rankings but the Colorado Avalanche are hoping that he will follow in the footsteps of fellow Bowling Green alumni Rob Blake. And Calgary did their homework by picking up back up goalie Curtis McElhinney from Colorado College. McElhinney will take over the net minding duties fulltime this season and will show the world his talent.
The following is a report card of all 30 NHL teams and how well they did in picking up NCAA talent. The number in parenthesis is the total number of college AND incoming colligate players by their respective teams drafted in 2002.
A+ Vancouver (4) -alert scouts snagged both Brent Skinner and Matt Gens
A+ Pittsburgh (4) -one big name player and 3 soon to be big name players
A+ Colorado (5) -quantity and quality, 5 of their 10 picks were NCAA boys
A+ Calgary (4) -Nystrom was the easy pick but McElhinney was the gutsy pick
A Edmonton (3) -all three picks ranked high by CSB
B+ Buffalo (3) -yet ANOTHER goaltender to add to their stockpile
B+ Phoenix (4) -ex Avs head scout is working his magic in the desert
B Montreal (1) – just one, but a good one (Chris Higgins)
B- San Jose (4) -again, quantity and quality
B- Atlanta (4) -a variety of interesting potential
B- Philly (2) -the Harvard goalie was the gem of this pair
B- Los Angeles (4) –a variety of different styles to add to their line up
B- Florida (3) -two from the top fifty of North American skaters
C+ Chicago (2) -Duncan Keith was a solid pick up
C Tampa Bay (3) -bold picks of some unknown players
C Rangers (6) – quantity and some quality, their last pick was their best
C St Louis (2) -finally picked up a top ranked player in the 5th round
C Columbus (3) -a trio of diamonds in the rough
D+ Nashville (2) -at least they are trying
D New Jersey (3) -suckered by all the hype
D Dallas (2) -too early to tell
D Boston (1) – ignored so much talent so close to home
D Minnesota (2) -see Boston
D Toronto (1) -Ohio State, great football team = great hockey team right?
I Anaheim (0) -no more Kariyas left to draft
I Carolina (0) -too busy watching college basketball
I Detroit (0) -see Minnesota and Boston
I Islanders (0)
I Ottawa (0)
I Washington (0)
Any questions or comments are welcome at the College message board.