The NCAA narrative begins early for most players planning to play collegiate hockey. By Grade 10 the player is being actively recruited and generally takes the next year or two to choose the school they feel will be best suited to their needs. The top recruits – the ones with NHL interest – are typically selected in the NHL Draft prior to even suiting up for their school of choice.
And then there’s the less common late bloomers. Just five players were selected out of the NCAA in last June’s draft. St. Lawrence University’s freshman defenseman Gavin Bayreuther is hoping to be one of the few selected this year.
A native of Canaan, New Hampshire, Bayreuther was passed over in the past two drafts, but is putting the scouting world on notice this season with a phenomenal campaign that has him second in the nation in scoring by a defenseman with 29 points in 30 games.
He was the 186th ranked North American skater in last year’s draft, but wasn’t picked despite being named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and collecting 33 points in 50 games. To his credit, he earned the attention of a few schools before joining Head Coach Greg Carvel’s St. Lawrence Saints program.
“He’s been an important player from day one,” said Carvel, a former assistant with the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. “And we told him that when we were recruiting him. We said ‘we have no player like you.’”
By that, Carvel is referring to Bayreuther’s offensive capabilities. He lauded the former lacrosse standout’s skill with his stick and praised his booming shot.
His 22 assists have come in a variety of different ways, but it’s his one-timer from the point – both the power behind his shot and the ability to get it through traffic – that Carvel is most impressed with. Oftentimes his assists are a result of a howitzer being mishandled by the opposing goaltender; and on seven occasions this season he’s found the back of the net himself.
“Those goals aren’t garbage. He’s blowing the puck past goaltenders from the point,” emphasized Carvel.
Already, Bayreuther has made scouts reconsider their opinion of the 6’, 181-pound defender. He was ranked 115th on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, up 71 spots from where he finished the year prior.
Carvel also recalled one scout, following a recent game against Quinnipiac, who had told him that he had completely written Bayreuther off following his one and only season in the USHL, but upon seeing the defenseman again had completely changed his mind.
And Bayreuther only continues to get better as the season progresses. His overall game has climbed, and his offensive abilities have helped to give St. Lawrence one of the top power-plays in the country.
“We were hard on him early in the year, and to his credit he’s adjusting,” said Carvel of Bayreuther’s effectiveness this season.
The coach has particularly been enthralled with his play over the last month. Since returning from the Christmas break, Bayreuther has 13 points through 11 games, and was recently honoured with the ECAC Rookie of the Week award.
There’s holes in his game – Carvel noted his skating and conditioning in particular – but not many defensemen in the NCAA possess the shot or offensive instincts he does. And as just a freshman, he has three more seasons to refine his game enough to impress his potential future employers should they select him this June.
Either way, if he focuses on his feet, he’s going to be alright.
“If he improves his skating, he’s going to be dangerous,” Carvel noted.