NCAA and NCAA-bound draft review

By DJ Powers

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft was a good one for the NCAA as 74 current and incoming players were taken. Those 74 players accounted for roughly 35 percent of all players taken in the two days.

Inside the NCAA numbers

No team enjoyed more popularity on the first day of the draft than the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers, who will bring in one of the top recruiting classes this fall, had three players taken in the first round. Kyle Turris led the way by being taken third overall by the Phoenix Coyotes, followed by a pair of defensemen in Ryan McDonagh going 12th overall to the Montreal Canadiens and Brendan Smith going 27th overall to the Detroit Red Wings.

The collegiate players taken in the draft were spread relatively evenly throughout all seven rounds. The fourth and seventh rounds saw the most collegiate players taken with 12 each, followed by the first and fifth rounds with 11. The sixth round saw 10 players taken and the second and third rounds with nine each. The 74 NCAA players taken represent 32 schools in four conferences. The CCHA led the way with the most players taken with 27 followed by the WCHA with 25, Hockey East with 16 and the ECAC Hockey League with six.

In terms of number of players taken, the University of Minnesota led the way with eight selections, followed by the University of Michigan with seven and Wisconsin and the University of North Dakota each with five. All of the North Dakota and Wisconsin recruits appearing on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings were drafted. With the exceptions of current Gopher defenseman Brian Schack and defenseman recruit Brandon Martell, all of the Golden Gophers players (current or future)
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ere taken in the draft.

Michigan had all of their ranked players selected with the exceptions of incoming goaltender Bryan Hogan and incoming forward Tristin Llewellyn. In addition, current Wolverines defenseman Steven Kampfer, who did not appear on Central Scouting’s final rankings, was also selected (93rd overall, fourth round by Anaheim).

While Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin enjoyed much success in this year’s draft, it was somewhat mixed for Boston College and Notre Dame. The Eagles, who had a disappointing showing at last year’s draft, fared better this year. Defensive recruits Nick Petrecki and Tommy Cross were both selected within the first 35 spots. Petrecki was selected 28th overall (first round) by the San Jose Sharks, while Cross was selected 35th overall (second round) by the Boston Bruins. However, three ranked players, including current Eagle Ben Smith went undrafted.

Notre Dame, one of the rising elite programs in the nation, may not have had all of their ranked players selected, but they had a number of excellent players who were. Furthermore, two of their selected players – incoming defenseman Ian Cole and current winger Ryan Thang provided two of the biggest surprises of the draft. The St. Louis Blues took Cole, who was not expected to go until the second or third round, 18th overall. What makes the selection even more surprising is that the Blues moved up from the 24th position to take Cole. Thang, who was drafted by the Nashville Predators with the 81st selection, was a surprising pick because of the fact that he was off of virtually everyone’s radar (though he did appear on Hockey’s Future’s NCAA Top 20, ranking 10th). Even more remarkable was how high Thang went in the draft, having gone in the third round and ahead of many players that Central Scouting and other scouting services/publications regarded as better draft prospects.

Inside the NHL numbers and trends

Twenty-eight of the 30 NHL teams took at least one collegian in the draft. The Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild were the only two teams that did not take an NCAA player in this year’s draft. The Washington Capitals led all NHL teams by taking six collegians. The Avalanche, Canadiens and Blues followed with each taking five apiece. The Atlanta Thrashers, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins, all teams who have had success in both drafting and developing their collegiate players, selected surprisingly few NCAA players in this year’s draft with each taking only one.

Two teams who have, until recently, shied away from drafting collegiate players are the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Red Wings continue to take few collegians in the draft. However, the few they are taking are proving to be very good. Case and point is the 2005 selection of Justin Abdelkader, now with the reigning National Champion Michigan State Spartans. This year, Detroit followed up with two more outstanding selections in Wisconsin-bound defenseman Brendan Smith and Clarkson-bound defenseman Bryan Rufenach (208th overall, seventh round).

The Maple Leafs are one NHL team that has witnessed gradually growing success in drafting collegians with selections of such notable players as Colorado College’s Chad Rau and former Wisconsin Badger Robbie Earl. This year, they added two more players who were drafted five spots apart in the fourth round. North Dakota-bound winger Matt Frattin was taken 99th overall followed by Michigan-bound winger Ben Winnett with the 104th overall pick.

The Canadiens’ penchant for Ivy League players was once again evident in this year’s draft when they selected defenseman Joe Stejskal in the fifth round (133rd overall). Stejskal will join fellow Canadiens prospect J.T. Wyman at Dartmouth College this fall.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings seem to be building up a nice prospects pipeline between Oxford, OH and the City of Angels. For the second consecutive year and the third time in five years, the Kings have drafted a Miami RedHawk. This year, it was sophomore defenseman Alec Martinez, who was chosen 95th overall (fourth round). He’ll be joining 2006 Kings selection Jeff Zatkoff on the Miami roster this fall. Prior to Martinez and Zatkoff, Los Angeles took recently graduated forward Marty Guerin in the 2003 draft.

One NHL team that has struggled to find success in their collegiate draft selections has been the Tampa Bay Lightning. That may soon change. Defenseman Kevin Quick (2006), who is headed to the University of Michigan this fall, is one reason why. This year, the Lightning selected two future collegians in the draft out of the New England prep leagues that should also help turn their fortunes around in Harvard-bound Alexander Killorn (77th overall, third round) and Vermont-bound Matt Marshall (150th overall, fifth round). Both players are not expected to matriculate until the fall of 2008. In addition, Tampa Bay may also see two more selected players headed to college in Swiss junior league player Luca Cunti (75th overall, third round) and Burnaby Express player Justin Courtnall (210th overall, seventh round). Both players are considering playing in the NCAA.

While Tampa Bay has had difficulty finding success in their drafted collegiate players, the opposite has been the case for the Ottawa Senators and the San Jose Sharks. Both teams have dipped heavily into the collegiate pool and have been remarkably successful in not only drafting college players but developing them as well. This year, both added three collegians to their respective systems. The Senators took current Minnesota Golden Gopher Jim O’Brien (29th overall, first round), Michigan-bound Louie Caporusso (90th overall, third round) and North Dakota-bound Ben Blood (120th overall, fourth round).

The Sharks have always had a knack for drafting quality collegians from all across the college hockey spectrum. Nowhere has that been more evident than in their selecting of players from the New England region that usually head to either ECAC Hockey League or Hockey East schools. This year’s selections are further proof of that. Defensemen Nick Petrecki and Justin Braun (selected 201st overall, seventh round), and center Nick Bonino (selected 173rd overall, sixth round) will all be at Hockey East schools (Boston College, UMass and Boston University respectively) this fall.

The Blackhawks are one team that is beginning to reap the benefits of selecting and building their team with many excellent collegiate players. The Blackhawks, who are expected to have now former collegians Jonathan Toews and Jack Skille on their roster this fall, have replenished their prospects pool with three newly-acquired collegians in current Colorado College speedster Bill Sweatt (selected 38th overall, second round), Bowling Green-bound Josh Unice (the first collegiate goaltender selected in this year’s draft at 86th overall, third round) and Providence College-bound defenseman Joe Lavin (selected 126th overall, fifth round).

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.