A total of five Nashville Predators prospects are currently attending NCAA schools.
Kevin Schaeffer, D (6th round; 2004)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 195, Current Team: Boston University
Following his freshman season in 2003-04, Schaeffer was named to an All-Rookie team by Inside College Hockey. And his role with the Terriers continues to expand. This season, Schaeffer and senior Dan Spang (SJ) make up the team’s top defensive unit.
Schaeffer, in his junior year, logs plenty of ice time in all situations for BU. Considered more of a defensive-minded player, he is charged with the responsibilities of taking care of the defending zone and often plays against the opposing team’s top forwards.
Offensively, he has begun to take advantage of shooting opportunities when presented. Through 20 games he has two goals and three assists, with 45 shots on goal. His four penalty minutes speak to his disciplined style on the ice.
Schaeffer, 21, is a native of South Huntington, New York, and is enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Ryan Maki, RW (6th round, 2005)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 215, Current Team: Harvard
Maki’s sheer size will always result in a serious look from scouting staff. Since his arrival at Harvard, Maki has provided a physical presence for the Crimson. He is developing into a well-rounded player, especially given his commitment to becoming more defensively responsible.
In his third season at Harvard, maturity and experience have contributed to his development as a stronger and more confident player. Maki, 20, has become much more aware what is happening around him as he develops the ability to see the entire ice surface with more efficiency. Like his teammates, Maki is certain to benefit by lending an ear to head coach Ted Donato, who had a successful NHL career.
Maki is the only drafted forward on Harvard’s roster. The others, all defensemen, are Tom Walsh (SJ), Dylan Reese (NYR), Peter Hafner (FLA) and Dave MacDonald (SJ).
For the most part this season, Maki has been playing with Kevin Du and sophomore Mike Taylor. He’s played with Du on his line for much of his three years at Harvard. Through 17 games, Maki has scored four goals and added five assists.
Craig Switzer, D (9th round; 2004)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 195, Current Team: University of New Hampshire
Earlier this season, Craig Switzer told Hockey’s Future he was hoping to be called upon in more situations by head coach Richard Ulime.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to take on more responsibility this season,” Switzer said. “I certainly want to contribute more offensively than I did last season and I want to take advantage of my opportunities to play on special teams.”
So far this season, the 21-year-old sophomore has gotten his wish and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity. With maturity and added experience in the Hockey East Conference, Switzer has begun to provide the offensive punch he demonstrated in the BCHL prior to enrolling at UNH. He has scored two goals and 13 assists in 23 games this season, surpassing his freshman season’s total of 14 points scored in 41 games.
Switzer has been given the opportunity to demonstrate his offensive prowess since the day he arrived at UNH. He is a regular on the UNH power play and plays on the Wildcats’ top defensive pairing with senior Brian Yandle. Among defensemen, Yandle and Switzer rank one-two respectively in team scoring.
Mike Santorelli, C (6th round, 2004)
Height: 6’, Weight: 195, Current Team: Northern Michigan University
As a team, Northern Michigan is playing just above .500 so far this season. Mike Santorelli, born in Burnaby, BC, has been a steady offensive contributor with nine goals and 10 assists in 24 games for the 13-10-1 Wildcats.
Santorelli has caught the eye of conference coaches, evidenced by his selection to the 2004-05 CCHA All-Rookie Team. In his sophomore season, Santorelli has become one of head coach Walt Kyle’s go-to-guys. He is a key member of the NMU power play. At even strength, he’s played alongside Pat Bateman and Darin Olver (NYR).
Santorelli’s bread and butter will always be his penchant to make correct decisions offensively. If he can play with more grit and become an increasingly responsible defensive player, he may force the Predators to give him a more serious look.
Kaleb Betts, F (8th Round, 2002)
Height: 5’10, Weight: 190, Current Team: University of Nebraska – Omaha
Since his freshman season in 2003-04, when he scored nine goals and 13 assists, Bett’s offensive numbers have gradually decreased. He tallied 16 points in his sophomore season.
This year has been challenging for Betts as he has found himself in and out of the head coach Mike Kemp’s lineup. Statistically, he’s picked up two goals and two assists in 16 games. Throughout his career with the UNO Mavericks, Betts has delivered toughness and grit on the ice, racking up 88 minutes in penalties last season. As one of the club’s veteran leaders, Kemp makes little secret of his expectations of players like Betts.
“Optimism with this team starts with the upperclassmen,” Kemp said. “They set the tone early in the preseason workouts and it becomes contagious.”
With Scott Parse (LA) and Bill Thomas looked upon to lead the Mavericks offensively, Betts has found himself relegated to more of a secondary role. He’s played a few games on the third line with Mick Lawrence and Bill Bagron. In recent weeks, he’s played with Nenad Gajic and Micah Sanford.
Betts will have a difficult time intimidating physically at the professional level, however, he can have an impact through his willingness to frustrate key opponents. The challenge will be to accomplish this role while managing to stay out of the penalty box.
D.J. Powers and Ken McKenna contributed to this story. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.