It was a good weekend for the NCAA at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Of the 211 players selected, 62 (29%) were either current or incoming collegians. Most were taken late in the draft. The seventh round saw the most collegians taken with 15, followed by the sixth round with 11 and the second round with 10.
Twenty-seven of the 30 NHL teams selected at least one collegian. Of the three NHL clubs who didn’t, the most surprising was the Edmonton Oilers. In recent years, the Oilers have found great success in drafting collegians, most notably former University of Michigan center Andrew Cogliano and former University of North Dakota defenseman Matt Greene. The Vancouver Canucks and the Philadelphia Flyers were the other teams not taking collegians in this draft.
Anaheim, Columbus, Toronto and the New York Islanders selected the most collegians with four apiece. The Ducks and the Maple Leafs are two NHL teams that continue to make a habit of drafting players out of the collegiate ranks.
There are seven teams with three selections apiece, among them the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. In recent years, the Red Wings have favored Canadian major junior, and especially the European ranks, despite being in the middle of CCHA country. However, this year Detroit delved more into the collegiate pool, with pick led by future Terrier Max Nicastro. The Red Wings took the Boston University recruit with the 91st pick overall (third round).
Four of the six NCAA conferences saw players taken in the draft. The WCHA led with 22 players selected, followed by the CCHA and Hockey East with 15 apiece and the ECAC with 10.
No school enjoyed more success at this year’s draft than the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers had seven players selected, five of whom were in the first two rounds. Among them was sophomore-to-be Cody Goloubef, who went to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round (37th overall).
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Goloubef. “It’s every kid’s dream to be drafted in the NHL, no matter where you go…You play against men at school. Being young, everybody is bigger and stronger than you are. Everyone targets you because maybe you’re not going to be as good or be as big or strong. But I fought through that, worked hard with (University of Wisconsin assistant coach) Mark Osiecki all year long to keep my game up and become a difference-maker out there. He’s a big part of why I’m so successful, so I’ve just got to thank him.”
Following Wisconsin with the most selections were Boston University and the University of North Dakota with six apiece.
Two surprising program stories coming out of the draft have to do with Clarkson’s four selections and Minnesota’s two.
The Golden Knights haven’t had four recruits selected since 1991, when they had five. One of them is incoming defenseman Mark Borowiecki. He was taken by host Ottawa in the fifth round (139th overall) and was especially thrilled at having been selected.
“I was little surprised. I was talking to a few teams but Ottawa wasn’t one of them,” Borowiecki said. “I was thrilled when they took me being a kind of Kanata boy. My old personal trainer from the gym phoned me. He was listening to it on the radio, decided to phone me. My parents were crying when they heard about it. They were all thrilled for me down there (at Clarkson) too, and they’re kind of like a family being a small school. I’m going to Clarkson next year and I’m really looking forward to that because they have a great hockey program. I can’t wait to get that started.”
The Minnesota Golden Gophers, who seem to always be all over the NHL draft map, had only two players taken – incoming defenseman and 2008 Mr. Hockey Award winner Aaron Ness and 2009 recruit Nate Condon. Ness went to the New York Islanders with the 40th overall selection (second round), while Condon went to the Colorado Avalanche with the 200th selection overall (seventh round).
The newly crowned national champion Boston College Eagles bounced back nicely this year after having disappointing drafts in 2006 and 2007. Among their three selected players is junior-to-be Ben Smith, who nearly tripled his point total this season from a year ago.
As expected, Boston University center Colin Wilson was the top collegian selected, when the Nashville Predators moved up to grab the Hockey East Rookie of the Year with the seventh overall selection. Interestingly, Nashville’s previous seventh overall pick in 2003 was also a collegian – former Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Ryan Suter.
Wilson was one of four collegians taken in the first round. The three that followed are all incoming freshmen this fall. The Boston Bruins took center Joe Colborne next at 16th overall. Colborne, who’ll be headed to the University of Denver, saw his draft stock gradually rise since January. Immediately following Colborne was the first of the University of Wisconsin (current or future) players taken in defenseman Jake Gardiner, who went to the Anaheim Ducks with the 17th overall pick.
Michigan State-bound Daultan Leveille rounded out the collegians taken in the opening round when he was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers with the 29th overall selection. Like Colborne, Leveille also saw his draft stock progressively rise, but his may be the more notable of the two because he was originally projected to go either in the second or third round. As Leveille explained, speed is an asset that he’ll bring to East Lansing this fall and to Atlanta in the future.
“I believe I’m more of a speedy centerman. That’s my main asset. I’ve got good vision on the ice and I’m good with the puck. I work hard game-in and game-out, so I’m just going to do my best to be the best. One of the things that I need to focus on is defensive zone coverage. When you go to school, you do work on those and also getting into the physical training. So I’ll be ready for it pretty soon.”
Colin Wilson was one of nine collegians selected that played in the NCAA this season. While players such as Wilson, Goloubef, Smith and Northern Michigan forward Mark Olver (COL) have all been on scouting radars for some time, the same cannot be said of some of the others. The most surprising was the selection of Ferris State defenseman Zach Redmond. The Atlanta Thrashers went off the board to take to the soon-to-be sophomore with the 184th selection in the seventh round.
The Los Angeles Kings may end up with one of the best sleeper picks in the draft with the selection of current St. Cloud State Husky Garrett Roe in the seventh round (183rd overall). The diminutive native of Vienna, VA was one of the WCHA’s most consistent point producers in 2007-08. The WCHA All-Rookie Team selection finished with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) leading the conference in rookie scoring.
Another Kings draft pick that also looks to have a bright future in Los Angeles is incoming University of Michigan forward Robbie Czarnik. The Washington, MI native was a third-round selection (63rd overall). As Czarnik explains, he is as delighted to be in the Kings organization as he is heading off to Michigan this fall.
“It was an eventful weekend and I didn’t know what to expect," he said. "I was talking to LA and I thought they liked me. I kind of expected them to draft me, so I was pretty happy when they called me up there. I expected to go second through fourth round. I’m still surprised that I went this early."
As far as his choice of Michigan went, he said, "I committed when I was 15. I didn’t really look at anyone else because that’s where I wanted to go my whole life. I just can’t wait to get there. I’m going to come in this year, see what happens and do my best.”
While the draft featured lots of surprises and a bit of intrigue, it also included a very sad note. University of Denver-bound David Carle’s playing career has been cut short due to a serious heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that is so severe that overexertion could result in sudden cardiac death. University of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky told the Anchorage Daily News, who broke the story, that the school will honor his scholarship and that he will be in school (and with the team) this fall. Carle is the younger brother of current San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle. The Tampa Bay Lightning selected David Carle with the 203rd overall pick (seventh round).
Incoming University of Minnesota center Jordan Schroeder is the early projected top collegian eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft. Many will remember Schroeder as a member of Team USA’s top line at the 2008 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic, playing alongside 2007 second overall pick James vanRiemsdyk (PHI) and this year’s seventh overall pick Colin Wilson (NAS).