Oilers NCAA prospects update

By Guy Flaming





NCAA Prospect Update

The Edmonton Oilers have always looked towards the colleges
and universities south of the border come draft time, but it’s been many years
since they have had as few prospects playing stateside as they presently
do. Graduating players like Harvard
captain Kenny Smith and rugged Providence blueliner Jason Platt have
moved on to the professional ranks as have New Hampshire’s Eddie Caron
and Brock Radunske of Michigan State, both leaving school early. The late season trade of Dwight Helminen
to the New York Rangers and the acquisition of Tommy Gilbert from the
Colorado Avalanche is a trade off in numbers that sees the Oilers NCAA
contingent now sitting at eight names.

 

Hockey East

 

Colin McDonald

Age: 20 Drafted: 2nd round 2003 College
Year
: Sophomore Outlook: Excellent

 

The only skater in this competitive conference with Oiler
ties is power forward Colin McDonald.
After a quick and impressive start to the season, McDonald went down
with a sprained knee and has not played since Halloween. The loss of the star winger has been a blow
to the Providence Friars who were relying heavily on McDonald for his offensive
contributions.

 

In five games the Connecticut born McDonald had registered
five goals, exactly half of the previous season’s total but in 32 fewer games.

 

“He still has to work on his skating and his foot speed a
little bit, that was obvious in Amherst where they play on an Olympic sized
rink, but with the puck he is just dangerous; he does pro things with
the puck,” said one eastern based scout.

 

For a more complete look at McDonald’s season, refer to the Top
20 Oiler Prospects
feature recently released by Hockey’s Future, where he
is ranked 11th.

 

CCHA

 

David Rohlfs

Age: 20 Drafted: 5th Round 2003 College
Year
: Sophomore Outlook: Very Good

 

The Wolverines are once again on top of the CCHA heap,
nothing new there, and David Rohlfs is having another fine season. Sounds like it’s the same old, same old in
Ann Arbor.

 

On a team packed with talented players, the sophomore
doesn’t always log the most ice time or get sent out at the best moments, but
he’s doing the things he needs to do to get better. And he’s still scoring on a pace to better his rookie year.

 

On occasion, Rohlfs finds himself on a line with T.J.
Hensick, one of the highest ranked NCAA prospects eligible for the 2005 NHL
Draft. According to Hensick, Rohlfs is
definitely a guy you want on your team.

 

“He’s a big guy, 6’4 and like 230, so he throws his weight
around,” Hensick told Hockey’s Future in November. “He’s a big power forward who likes to play in front of the net,
he’s got a good shot. He likes to go
down the wings; he’s a north and south kind of a guy. He hits guys and makes things happen in the corners and he’s a
good guy to have on your line because he’s always going to be there for you as
a teammate and a tough guy.”

 

Hensick believes that some of his success can be attributed
to the fact that he and Rohlfs have chemistry together.

 

“I played with him quite a bit last year too,” Hensick
said. “A little guy likes to play with
a big guy because he feels that protection out there, but it’s just a matter of
finding the right mix and the right chemistry.”

 

The official stats on Rohlfs have him at 6’3 and 234 pounds,
15 pounds more than he had on his frame last year. As he matures and grows into his body, Rohlfs should become and
even more effective power forward.

 

Patrick Murphy

Age: 21 Drafted: 7th Round 2002 College
Year
: Junior Outlook: Bad

 

Veterans are of course looked to for leadership and
inspiration, not to mention on-ice production.
Patrick Murphy is a junior this year with the Wildcats of Northern
Michigan. Point production is definitely not coming naturally to the winger
from Aurora Ontario, but it never has.

 

Over the two seasons and 56 college games Murphy played
prior to this season, he had only recorded 11 points. So far in the 12 games this year, Murphy has just two points, a
goal and one assist. Nothing to write
home about and probably not enough for the Oilers to get very excited about
either.

 

“Patrick’s role as a pro is going to be as a third line
banger, but his conditioning and his attitude, he has to get into a position
where he believes that’s the kind of player he’s going to be,” said
Oiler VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast.

 

Prendergast called it an understatement to say that Murphy
was not doing as well as the club would have liked. At this point it would appear that Murphy is behind the eight
ball in providing the Oilers with any reason to sign him once his college
career his done.

 

WCHA

 

Tom Gilbert

Age: Almost 22 Draft: 4th Round
2002 College Year: Junior Outlook: Good

 

Tom Gilbert is used to being one of the leading offensive
blueliners on his team, which makes this year’s lack of point production
somewhat puzzling. His four points thus
far place him tied for fourth amongst Wisconsin Badger d-men while his
defensive partner, rookie Kyle Klubertanz (ANH), leads the club with a dozen
points.

 

“I’m surprised at that because he’s playing a lot and in all
situations,” Prendergast told Hockey’s Future recently. “I talked to Mike Eaves a month ago and they
were happy with the way things were going and they were happy with his game so
I can’t really tell you why his stats aren’t there.”

 

According to Brad Winchester, former Wisconsin captain and
current Road Runner, down times in a player’s career are to be expected and
it’s not always a bad thing.

 

“It happened to me when I was there too,” said Winchester. “Sometimes you have to go through those
things and it makes you a better player.”

 

The hope still is that Gilbert can be a player who can work
a power play sometime down the road for the Edmonton Oilers.

 

Glenn Fisher

Age: 21 Draft:
5th Round 2002 College Year: Sophomore Outlook:
Good

 

Edmonton born Glenn Fisher didn’t see a lot of action last
year playing behind the eventual NCAA tournament MVP Adam Berkhoel. As a member of the defending Champion Denver
Pioneers, Fisher is now splitting time with a freshman keeper. After a slow start, Fisher has come on and
played better in the last several weeks.

 

“He still needs to work on some things; he lets up a soft
goal every now and then but technically he’s pretty good,” said one scout. “He has good quickness side to side and he’s
got a good glove. He’s a prospect
definitely.”

 

This really is the first year that Fisher has had down south
to prove himself after a tough year on a challenged Fort Saskatchewan Traders
team in the AJHL back home in Alberta.
With five wins in eight starts, Fisher already has two more victories
then he did all of last year so there definitely has been some progress made on
the ice and off of it, the goalie now tilts the scales at 180 pounds, up almost
10 from a year ago.

 

Geoff Paukovich

Age: 18 Draft: 2nd Round 2004 College
Year
: Freshman Outlook: Very Good

 

Opportunities for freshmen come slowly in college as the
majority of time the coaches tend to stick with the players they know best and
slowly work the new guys into the fold.
Geoff Paukovich seems to be an exception to the rule.

 

“He’s playing on the third or fourth line there and he’s got
to earn his stripes,” said Prendergast.
“It’s tough for the freshmen to come in and be a star on the team,
especially with the defending National Champions, but he’s working hard. The good news is that he’s getting a regular
shift every game and he’s getting power play and stuff like that so we’re
happy.”

 

Happy enough that they’re already actually envisioning
possible line combinations for years down the road.

 

“He is what he is; he’s a third or fourth line kid who’s
going to bang and muck it up in the (Zack) Stortini and (Jean-Francois) Jacques
type frame and he’s got better than average hands,” the chief scout
continued. We have some big tough grinder guys who have some pretty good hands. Paukovich, Stortini and Jacques could be a
line somewhere down the road, they all have character, and that’s something
we’re trying to build on for the future.

 

Some might question
the use of a second round pick on a player they are projecting to be a fourth
line grinder but Prendergast sees it differently.

 

We felt we
needed that type of player; he’s big and he’s very strong,” countered
Prendergast. “In this league if your
fourth line can produce for you and play solid hockey, that’s not a bad
pick.”

 

“He has not had a problem
jumping up to the college level,” one scout recently told Hockey’s Future. “I think the experience with the US team and
all those international tournaments has helped him with big time games. They played him on the fourth line against
Boston College and he had a pretty good game then so they moved him up and he
took advantage of it.”

 

Not only does Paukovich have
tremendous size and brute force, but he has underrated offensive abilities
too. With four goals under his belt
already, Paukovich has shown the ability to score a variety of ways, whether it
is from the top of the slot or while standing in the blue paint.

 

Jake Brenk

Age: 22 Draft: 5th
Round 2001 College Year: Senior Outlook: Bad

 

Tied for 15th in team
scoring with just four points, lightning quick Jake Brenk appears to be
going nowhere fast, at least with the Oiler organization.

 

“Jake is a player we think has a
lot more skill than he has shown, but this is the year he has to come
out and show us that he’s still a prospect,” said Prendergast firmly. “At this point he still is a prospect, but
he’s not very high on the depth chart.”

 

Before the season, the Oilers
through down the gauntlet in order to challenge the 6’3 center.

 

“He’s in a position where he has to
win himself a contract now and if not he’ll come to training camp as an invite
next year,” Prendergast summed up.
“He’s a centerman who can handle the puck very well and he’s got a lot
of good skills, but this is the year where it’s up to him to show us that he
deserves to get a contract.”

 

So far he hasn’t done that. Make no mistake about it, the Mavericks of
Minnesota State aren’t a great team, they currently sit seventh in a ten-team
conference and are barely playing .500 hockey.
At the same time, as a senior, Brenk is expected to step up and take
matters into his own hands and so far the Michigan product hasn’t done
that. In total, Brenk has amassed 33
points in 100 career games, which is a number most quality players reach in a
single year at college.

 

Expect Brenk and Patrick Murphy to
be camp invites but beyond that, nothing is very much of a guarantee.

 

Matt Greene

Age: 21 Draft: 2nd
Round 2002 College Year: Junior Outlook: Excellent

 

Matt Greene’s six points further
emphasize the level of disappointment for players like Brenk and Murphy in
regards to their stats. They are
forwards while Greene is the stereotypical, and perhaps prototypical, defensive
defenseman.

 

To say that the Oilers are high on
Greene would be a major understatement.
This is a player they are seeing as one of the future cornerstones on
their NHL blueline, perhaps even the anchor of the cornerstones. Along with Jeff Woywitka, Doug Lynch, Eric
Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Alexei Semenov and Roman Tesliuk, Greene figures
to be the most defensively reliable of them all.

 

As the captain of the Fighting
Sioux, Greene has lead North Dakota to the second best record in the conference
at the holiday break. With a team
consisting of Travis Zajac (NJ), Drew Stafford (BUF) and Brady Murray (LA),
North Dakota is a team packed with big time players. It’s not unlike the situation would have been with the Road
Runners had Greene decided to turn pro.

 

“If he was playing in the AHL right
now he’d be in that top 4 mix going up against Woywitka and Lynch and those
guys,” said one scout.

 

For more on Matt Greene’s season,
read the recently released Top
20 Oiler Prospects
, where he is ranked sixth.

 

Quotes

 

“His skating has improved a lot,
he’s got a great big man stride now; it’s not as effortless like Lemieux, but
it’s not as ugly as Lindros.”

         
One scout’s description of Geoff Paukovich’s
skating style.

 

“I think part of the problem for him is that he’s so strong
and a lot of the kids in college are 5’8 or 5’9 and when he hits them they fall
down.”

         
Kevin Prendergast about Matt Greene’s physical
dominance in college.

 

“Three of the four penalties he took in the first half of
the game I thought were unwarranted, but it’s something that he’s going to have
to live with for the year. They sort of
have his number; they know the way he plays.
He’s frustrated by the way it’s going, but he’s committed to the school
for this year so he’s got to make the best of it.”

Prendergast again describing the
lockdown the refs have on physical players like Greene.

 

“They’re not doing as well as we’d
like them to do? That’s an
understatement.”

         
Prendergast on Jake Brenk and Patrick Murphy.

 

Over in Europe when he went head-to-head with (Evgeny) Malkin it was a war
and this kid never quit.”

         
Prendergast in
the summer on
Paukovich.

 

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.