The opening month of the 2005-06 NCAA season featured a little of just about everything and many of the league’s NHL prospects played prominent roles. In this new monthly feature, Hockey’s Future takes a look back at some of the high (and low) lights of the opening month of the season. All statistics indicated are for all non-exhibition games and are current through October 31st.
By the numbers
The 2005-06 NCAA features 211 NHL prospects representing 39 schools in five conferences. The University of Minnesota boasts the most NHL prospects with 14, followed by the University of Wisconsin, the University of North Dakota and Northern Michigan University with 11 apiece. The WCHA leads all conferences with 68 NHL prospects. The WCHA is also the only conference in which there is at least one NHL prospect on every member team. Hockey East features 52 prospects, followed by the CCHA with 51, the ECACHL with 39 and the Atlantic Hockey Conference (AHA) with one. College Hockey America (CHA) is the lone conference without a current NHL prospect.
All 30 NHL teams have at least one prospect playing in the NCAA this season. The Colorado Avalanche has the most NCAA representation with 14 prospects, followed by the San Jose Sharks with 13 and the Chicago Blackhawks with 12. Among the Canadian-based teams, the Edmonton Oilers and the Ottawa Senators have the most NCAA representation with eight apiece.
Quartet of prospects lead top-ranked Colorado College
Senior Brett Sterling (ATL), juniors Brian Salcido (ANA) and Matt Zaba (LA) and freshman Chad Rau (TOR) have the Tigers off to a roaring start with an excellent 6-1-1 record, that is made even more remarkable by the fact that a rash of injuries have hit the team.
Sterling, who is once again making a strong case for the Hobey Baker award, currently leads the nation in points (16), goals (8) and power play goals (6). His most memorable outing came in this past weekend’s sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato, where he racked up five points (four goals, one assist), including a hat trick. The performance also earned him the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honor. Sterling has at least a point in all eight games and has posted multiple points in six of the eight.
Salcido, a superb offensive-minded defenseman, is off to a torrid start to his junior campaign. He currently leads the nation in scoring among defensemen with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists). His 11 assists lead the nation among all skaters. Salcido enjoyed his best performance back on October 22nd, where he notched four assists in helping Colorado College to a 6-3 victory over Air Force.
Zaba has been outstanding in his full-time starting role giving the Tigers some much-needed stability. He currently sports a 6-1-0 record that include two shutouts. His 1.63 goals against average ranks tenth in the nation, while his .929 save percentage ranks 13th. One of Zaba’s best outings came in the weekend series versus Ohio State back on October 14th and 15th. He allowed two even strength goals in the Tigers 2-4 loss on Friday before going the distance to post a 34-save shutout win on Saturday. The weekend series also earned Zaba the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honor.
Rau, a smart offensive player who is excellent around the net, has stepped in and made an immediate impact on the Tigers roster. He currently leads all Colorado College rookies with eight points (four goals, four assists). His eight points is also tied for fourth in the nation among rookies. Rau’s most memorable performance came this past weekend in the Tigers sweep over Minnesota State-Mankato. In the series he posted four points and earned the WCHA Rookie of the Week honor.
Prospect injuries taking a toll on the Spartans and Saints
Aside from Colorado College, two other teams that have been hit hard by injuries this early in the season have been Michigan State and St. Lawrence. Michigan State currently has three prospects out of their lineup. Freshman Tim Kennedy (BUF) is out for six weeks due to a broken hand. Senior David Booth (FLA) is currently out with a shoulder injury, indefinitely. Sophomore Jim McKenzie (OTT) went down with a leg injury in the Spartans win over Cornell on Friday, but could return this weekend when the Spartans host Northern Michigan.
SLU’s three NHL prospects have all missed time due to injury. Senior John Zeiler (PHO) returned to the Saints lineup this past weekend versus RIT after suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener at Wisconsin back on October 7th. Freshman defenseman Matt Generous (BUF), who has yet to make his regular season debut, has been shelved due to an ankle injury that he suffered during preseason practice. His status looks to be day-to-day.
The most serious of all of the Saints injuries is to top defenseman, junior Drew Bagnall (FLA). Bagnall suffered a severed tendon in his thumb back on October 14th versus UMass. He is expected to be out until January.
Among other prospects currently on the shelf are three out of Hockey East. Maine junior defenseman Mike Lundin (TB) is out with a shoulder injury while Providence sophomore defenseman Trevor Ludwig (DAL) is out with a foot injury. Both could possibly return this weekend. Meanwhile, Northeastern senior Mike Morris (SJ) is out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome.
Blueliners red hot in Ann Arbor
The Michigan Wolverines have the most dangerous defensive duo in the nation right now in junior Matt Hunwick (BOS) and freshman Jack Johnson (CAR). Both are ranked second and third respectively in the nation in scoring among defensemen. The two have combined to post an impressive 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in seven games for Michigan. Both defensemen earned weekly CCHA honors for their sensational performances in the Wolverines sweep over Quinnipiac in the season opening weekend back on October 7th and 8th. Hunwick and Johnson combined for ten points (four goals, six assists) in the series.
Avalanche prospects among team leaders
A trio of Colorado Avalanche prospects currently leads their respective teams in scoring. Junior T. J. Hensick has helped get Michigan off to a great start. He leads the offensively explosive Wolverines in scoring with 13 points (three goals, ten assists). Meanwhile, junior Brett Hemingway is the leading the dynamic top line-up at UNH with seven points (five goals, two assists).
Despite his team’s disappointing start to the 2005-06 season, sophomore Tom Fritsche has picked up right where he left off last season. He currently leads Ohio State in scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists).
New Jersey prospect helping to make UAF a force to be reckoned with
Up at Alaska-Fairbanks, freshman defenseman Tyler Eckford (NJ) has been an integral part of the nation’s most surprising team. Eckford, an outstanding puck moving defenseman, has posted two points (goal and an assist). He has helped the formidable Nanooks to take three of four points from former top-seeded Minnesota on the road and most recently gaining a split versus top-ranked Michigan at home this past weekend.
Two prospects don’t have St. Louis singing the Blues
Two of the nation’s top-performing prospects belong to the St. Louis Blues. North Dakota freshman T. J. Oshie and Maine freshman goaltender Ben Bishop have each gotten their respective teams off to outstanding starts.
Oshie currently leads North Dakota in scoring with nine points (three goals, six assists). A player who possesses excellent puck skills and is very good around the net, Oshie is tied for second in the nation among rookies. His best performances came in the weekend series versus Northeastern back on October 14th and 15th, where he posted four assists and the following weekend versus New Hampshire where he posted two goals in the series. Oshie’s four-point weekend versus Northeastern earned him a share of the WCHA Rookie of the Week honor.
Bishop makes up half of arguably the nation’s best goaltending tandem up at Maine. The tandem, with Matt Lundin the other half, has combined to allow just nine goals and a stingy 1.12 goals per game in eight games thus far. Bishop, a towering goaltender with superb agility, has seen action in five of the nine games and has posted a 4-1-0 record. His 1.59 goals again average currently ranks ninth in the nation while his .938 save percentage ranks eighth. He made his collegiate debut back on October 8th in the Icebreaker Tournament championship game versus Colorado College, where stopped 37 of 40 shots in Maine’s heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss. The following weekend he posted his first win of the season over defending national champion Denver. His performances earned him back-to-back Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors. Most recently, Bishop earned his third the Rookie of the Week honor after his stellar 30-save effort to lead Maine to a 2-1 victory over Boston College.
Sophomore prospects help the Cats stay purr-fect
The Vermont Catamounts are off to a perfect 6-0-0 start to their 2005-06 season thanks to stellar performances by sophomores Torrey Mitchell (SJ) and Joe Fallon (CHI).
The dynamic and speedy Mitchell currently is tied for first on the team in scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and has notched at least one point in all six of Vermont’s games. His most notable performance came back on October 22nd in the Catamounts 5-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth. In the game, Mitchell notched a career-high four assists in helping Vermont to sweep the Bulldogs.
Fallon hasn’t missed a step from last season in his return as a sophomore. He has been an integral part of one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Fallon has posted five wins that include one shutout. His 1.40 goals against average ranks sixth in the nation, while his 9.28 save percentage ranks 16th. His most memorable performance came back on October 15th. In the contest, Fallon posted a 19-save shutout win over host Alaska-Anchorage to win the Nye Frontier Classic Tournament. Both he and Mitchell were among the Catamounts named to the All-Tournament team.
Wilson is wild about scoring goals
Senior Kyle Wilson (MIN) is scoring goals in just about every which way possible these days. He has helped pace Colgate to a 3-1-1 start. Wilson currently leads the team with 10 points (six goals, five assists). Four of his six goals have come on special teams. Three came on the power play and one came short-handed. His most memorable performance came back on October 21st in the Raiders 6-1 win over Army. In the game, he posted four points on consecutive goals. The first point came on Colgate’s second goal where he notched an assist. The next three goals were all Wilson’s and scored (in order) – at even-strength, short-handed and on the power play. His four-point game, which also included his first career hat trick, earned him the ECACHL Player of the Week honor.
Golden Knights NHL prospects shine
Clarkson is off to a 4-2 start to thanks to some balanced scoring. Among the contributors are the team’s nine NHL prospects, including sophomore Shawn Weller (OTT) and freshman Shea Guthrie (NYI).
Weller, a bruising power forward, has gotten off to an excellent start offensively. He currently leads the Golden Knights in goal scoring with five. All of Weller’s points thus far are goals. His two best outings came back on October 14th versus Providence and October 28th versus Wayne State. In both games, he notched a pair of goals.
Guthrie, a creative playmaking forward, has become one of the best stories coming out of the ECACHL in the early going. He is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with eight points (two goals, six assists). Guthrie’s most memorable performance came this past weekend when he racked up five points (one goal, four assists) in helping to lead Clarkson to a sweep of visiting Wayne State. The performance also earned him the ECACHL Rookie of the Week honor.
Senior prospects getting it done for the Gophers
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are off to a rough start to their 2005-06 campaign, but two prospects who have stood out in the early going are seniors Andy Sertich (PIT) and Gino Guyer (DAL). Sertich co-leads the team with six points (two goals, four assists) while Guyer is tied for second with five (three goals, two assists). The two players have played together on the Gophers’ second line in all but one game thus far this season. The line combination, which also features sophomore Kris Chucko (CGY) and most recently freshman Blake Wheeler (PHO), has been arguably Minnesota’s most consistent both offensively and defensively.
Minnesota has had to do some line juggling recently when junior Danny Irmen (MIN) suffered a finger injury in the game versus Alaska-Fairbanks back on October 15th. The injury will keep Irmen out of the lineup for the next four to six weeks. To compound matters, last season’s top scorer Tyler Hirsch has taken a medical redshirt for the remainder of this season. He played in the season opening series versus the Nanooks before opting to redshirt.
Smith devilish against the Griffs
Junior Jason Smith (NJ) recorded his first career shutout this past Friday and added a win on Saturday to backstop Sacred Heart to a sweep over conference rival Canisius. In the series Smith stopped a combined 54 of 57 shots to earn his first two wins of the season. His performance also earned him the Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Week honor.
Three players have recently verbally committed to playing in the NCAA beginning in the fall of 2006. It is important to note that these commitments are not official until the respective schools have received a National Letter of Intent.
A pair of 2004 draft selections in forward Nathan Perkovich (NJ) and defenseman Chris Peluso (PIT) have committed to Lake Superior State and Bemidji State respectively.
Defenseman Kris Friedheim, a 2005 draft selection of the Vancouver Canucks, has committed to Colorado College.
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