Blue Jackets NCAA Season In Review

By Michael Simmons

With the excitement of the entry draft still lingering and amid the speculation over the free agent signing period, it is easy to overlook some of the hardest working prospects in the Blue Jackets system. Whereas there may not be any top end players like Rick Nash or Nikolai Zherdev lighting up the university ranks, Columbus has collected a fine assortment of role players and is allowing them to continue their development at the US college level. The following is a recap of the Blue Jackets prospects from the 2002-2003 NCAA season

Juniors

Tyler Kolarik, Junior, Harvard:
Center 5’10” 185lbs, drafted 5th round 2000

Kolarik is viewed by the Jackets organization as a potential third liner, but he is out to prove that he has the scoring touch to be more than an NHL grinder. Although he fought through some injuries during the past season, he managed to post decent numbers. Kolarik is a slick player that likes the puck in key situations, which might explain his team leading four game winners. He is a hard worker who has a great shot and has averaged nearly a point per game throughout his college career, but he might be limited at the pro level by average size.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
30gp 15g 13a 28pts 20 PIM

Peter Zingoni, Junior, Providence College:
Center 6’0” 180lbs, drafted 8th round 2000

Zingoni’s third season with the Friars was much like his first two, consistently solid in both ends of the ice, but not a reliable offensive threat. He has established himself as checking line center who uses his speed to create offense and breakaway opportunities. Surprisingly, he was second on the team in shots on goal and managed to increase his scoring by nine points. He is also a valuable penalty killer and fore-checker.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
32gp 12g 13a 25pts 26PIM

Sophomores

Justin Aikens: Sophomore, University of New Hampshire
Center 6’0” 176lbs, drafted 6th round 2000

Aikens will begin his junior season next fall with the University of New Hampshire. UNH has been to the NCAA Frozen Four in both years that Aikens has been with the team and next year they are again poised to return. Last season Aikens did not have the breakout year that was anticipated but he showed glimmers of premier ability. He has the speed and playmaking ability to be a top scorer on this team, but needs to drive to the net and shoot more instead of first looking for the nifty pass. Look for him to continue to earn top six minutes and see significant time on the special teams units. If he has a successful season, UNH should be playing late in the NCAA playoffs once again this coming season.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
42gp 4g 18a 22pts 54PIM +9

Andrew Murray, Sophomore, Bemidji State University:
Center 6’2” 210lbs, drafted 7th round 2001

Murray is a big center who likes to play a physical style. He was second in team scoring as a sophomore after leading the team in goals as a freshman. Murray’s goal production dropped from 15 to nine this past season but his points remained on par with his freshman totals. Bemidji State plays in the far less competitive CHL, so it is hard to determine where Murray would fit on powerhouse like UNH or Boston U. Regardless, he is a young leader on the Beavers and needs to step up his production in his junior season.

2002-2003 Season Stats:
36gp 9g 18a 27pts

Greg Mauldin, Sophomore, U Mass- Amherst:
Center 5’11” 180lbs, drafted 6th round 2002

The success of the Minutemen can be attributed in part to the rise of Greg Mauldin as a premier NCAA center. Mauldin led UMass in scoring for the second consecutive season and may eventually garner some consideration for a Hobey Baker nomination. As the UMass youth movement continues to develop and the talent level continues to rise, Mauldin will only become better. He is a tremendous skater and playmaker, but unlike Aikens, he can put the puck in the net. A runner-up for the Hockey East 2002-2003 All-Star team.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
36gp 21g 20a 41pts 26PIM +18

Freshmen

Jacobs Redlihs, Freshman, Boston University:
Defense 6’2” 180lbs, drafted 4th round 2002

The big Latvian had a an easy transition to the college game and worked his way into the top four defensive rotation as well as earned time on the power play. For his excellent two-way play, he was named to the Hockey East 2002-2003 all rookie team. Redlihs is a very good skater and puck moving defenseman who should become a solid power play quarterback.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
40gp 4g-12a 16pts 56PIM +11

Jeff Genovy, Freshman, Clarkson University:
Center 6’3” 191lbs, drafted 3rd round 2002

Genovy had a solid first season with Clarkson. He led all freshmen in points and due to his consistent two-way game played in all situations. Of his 13 points, five came on the power play. Genovy is a very hard worker, a good skater and is aware of his defensive responsibilities on the ice. According to his former coach, Genovy needs to develop his shot, but he is very effective around the net, using his size and strength to create scoring opportunities for his teammates as well as capitalizing on rebound opportunities.

2002-2003 Season Stats:
34gp 5g 8a 13pts 45PIM

Turning Pro

Joe Motzko, Senior, St. Cloud State University:
Right Wing 6’0” 180lbs, Free Agent 2003

After a three game amateur try-out with the Crunch at the conclusion of the NCAA season, Motzko signed as a free agent in May and will officially begin his pro career this fall with the Syracuse Crunch. As a senior at St. Cloud State, Motzko led the team in scoring, and earned MVP honors. Motzko finishes his collegiate career as the school’s fourth leading scorer, averaging nearly a point per game. A character guy, Motzko earns his goals through hard work and determination and many of his team leading goals were scored from high traffic areas. Red Line Report ranked him the 10th best college free agent.
2002-2003 Season Stats:
38gp 17g 25a 42pts 59PIM

With the exception of Joe Motzko, the Blue Jackets college prospects are expected to return to their respective schools this fall. Some, like Kolarik and Mauldin, may elect to turn pro providing they have strong showings at the developmental camp in July. However, the likelihood of that happening is slim. It will more than likely be another two or three years before the Blue Jackets expect any of these players to make an impact at the pro level.