Through the tireless efforts of longtime Assistant GM David McNab, the Anaheim Ducks have made a habit of unearthing gems in the NCAA ranks like Dustin Penner, Andy MacDonald and Chris Kunitz and turning them into NHL players. Although these players were signed as undrafted free agents, the Ducks have also looked to the college ranks during the entry draft as well. With five NCAA players selected in the last five years, along with four additional college-bound players, the Ducks currently have three players in the college ranks, after starting the season with four at that level.
Matt Christie, LW, Miami (Ohio)
Drafted 236th overall (8th round) in the 2004 Entry Draft
One would expect a senior like Matt Christie to be one of the scoring leaders for the RedHawks, one of the top teams in the CCHA, but that simply isn’t the case. Christie finds himself eighth in team scoring with five goals and 17 points in 25 games played. Some might view these numbers (as well as last season’s seven goals and 24 points in 39 games) as a bit of a regression. During his first two seasons with Miami, he scored 35 and 36 points respectively, leading the team in scoring in his sophomore year. But his drop in production isn’t a sign of his play.
Christie is Miami’s top defensive forward and one of the best in the CCHA. He excels on penalty killing and is often the first man back to cover for defensemen jumping into the play. A quiet leader for the RedHawks, Christie may not always be noticeable, but that’s more of an indication of how well he fills his role.
He missed five games at the beginning of the year after breaking his hand in the season opener.
Kyle Klubertanz, D, Wisconsin
Drafted 74th overall (3rd round) in the 2004 Entry Draft
In his junior year with the Wisconsin Badgers, Kyle Klubertanz is going through a season rife with adversity. Coming off a national championship, the Badgers are sixth in the WCHA with a record of 11-13-2. Klubertanz himself was expected to replace star defenseman Tom Gilbert (EDM), who graduated. Unfortunately, he has not been able to meet those expectations, nor has he been able to duplicate his own results from last year. In 23 games so far, Klubertanz has just six points, all of them assists, after garnering four goals and 21 points in 43 games last season.
Klubertanz was hampered by a leg injury earlier in the season, and also had some off-ice issues that may have affected his play, but by and large, both he and the Badgers have been unable to consistently produce any sort of offense. Their power play, which Klubertanz was expected to quarterback, is currently tied for 37th in the NCAA. Klubertanz recorded a three-assist game earlier in January, which prompted some to hope this was an indication of him turning his season around, but unfortunately hasn’t recorded a point in the past four games. He has all the skills to be a top offensive defenseman, but he just has not been able to get it done this season.
Mark Mitera, D, Michigan
Drafted 19th overall (1st round) in the 2006 Entry Draft
Entering the 2006-07 season, a lot was expected out of Mark Mitera. He was returning to a loaded Michigan Wolverine blue line featuring players such as Jack Johnson (LA), Chris Summers (PHX) and Matt Hunwick (BOS). However, he hasn’t exactly lived up to those expectations to date. His one goal and 13 points in 28 games are an improvement over last season’s 10 assists in 39 games, but his defensive game hasn’t come as advertised.
Although third in the CCHA with a record of 19-9-0, the Wolverines have allowed 89 goals against this year, fourth most in the league. Mitera in particular has been inconsistent in his own end and tentative in his play. Although he’s played with more confidence lately, his problems earlier in the season no doubt had a lot to do with his exclusion from the American World Junior squad. He still needs to refocus his attention in his own zone, but all the reasons why the Ducks drafted him in the first round — physical play, hard work and decision making — are still there.
Jason Bailey started his season with the Michigan Wolverines, skating in 19 games without a point and a -11 to go along with 28 penalty minutes. He then left the team to join the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League, where he’s had a bit more success. In 15 games with Ottawa, Bailey has scored six goals and has 11 points, with a -2 and 29 penalty minutes.
Bailey’s reasons for leaving were due to his dissatisfaction with his role with the Wolverines. Unable to crack the top two lines in Michigan, Bailey was relegated to a checking line role, where he filled his role well, but felt he was being misused. He was originally scheduled to play on a scoring line, but could not find chemistry with any of the Wolverines top forwards during the preseason and dropped in the lineup chart. Bailey has been used in a larger role with Ottawa, and two of his goals have come on the power play.
D.J. Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.