College Prospects Notebook: November

By DJ Powers

With all 58 teams’ 2010-11 seasons now underway, college hockey is officially in full swing mode. Hockey’s Future takes a look back at some noteworthy items involving NHL prospects in the previous month. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Nov. 30.

Thanksgiving Tournaments Roundup

The Thanksgiving weekend kicked off college hockey’s annual holiday tournament season with four tournaments.

The University of Wisconsin emerged as the big winners in the 18th and final College Hockey Showcase, salvaging a 4-4 tie versus Michigan on Nov. 26 before handing Michigan State a 4-1 loss the following night. The Badgers excellent defensive duo of sophomore Justin Schultz and junior Jake Gardiner, both Anaheim Ducks prospects, led the way. Schultz notched a goal and an assist versus the Wolverines on Friday and netted his first career hat-trick against the Spartans on Saturday. Equally impressive was Schultz’s defensive partner Gardiner, who posted a pair of goals and an assist versus Michigan then added three assists versus Michigan State.

Michigan State split the weekend after defeating Minnesota 5-2 on Friday before falling to Wisconsin on Saturday. Sophomore Derek Grant (OTT) posted a goal and an assist and junior Brett Perlini (ANA) added his team-leading ninth goal of the season to propel the Spartans on Friday.

After falling to Michigan State on Friday, Minnesota came back to defeat Michigan 3-1 on Sunday, Nov. 28 at Mariucci Arena. Junior Nick Larson’s (WSH) first goal of the season was also the game-winner. Junior Jake Hansen (CBJ) and senior Jay Barriball (STL) each added two assists on the weekend for the Golden Gophers.
Michigan saw its three-game winning streak snapped after tying Wisconsin on Friday and falling to Minnesota on Sunday. After staking out to a 4-3 lead versus the Badgers going into the third period, the Wolverines failed to hang on to their lead, settling for a tie instead. Sophomore Chris Brown (PHO) recorded a goal and an assist to lead Michigan on Friday. Junior David Wohlberg (NJ) chipped in an assist on senior Scooter Vaughan’s goal versus Minnesota on Sunday.

Another weekend series matching collegiate powerhouses took place up in Grand Forks, ND as host University of North Dakota faced off against Notre Dame in the Subway Holiday Classic. The Fighting Sioux got the upper hand on the Fighting Irish finishing the weekend with a resounding 6-3 win on Nov. 26 and posting a 2-2 tie the following night. Junior Jason Gregoire (NYI) posted a pair of goals and added an assist to guide North Dakota on Friday. Senior Matt Frattin (TOR) continued his torrid scoring pace netting his team-leading 13th goal on Saturday. Frattin’s goal, which came on the power play, was his sixth of the season and currently co-leads the nation in that category.

Freshman Jeff Costello (OTT) has become one of Notre Dame’s early standouts. He netted his fourth goal on the season on Friday and added an assist on Saturday to help guide the Fighting Irish.

Further out west, host University of Denver successfully defended their title in the 15th annual Denver Cup tournament after downing Lake Superior State 6-3 on Nov. 26 and fending off relentless Air Force 3-1 the following night. Sophomore Drew Shore (FLA) was sensational posting six points (four goals, two assists) to earn the tournament’s MVP honor. On Friday, Shore netted his first career hat trick and added an assist to guide the Pioneers. His 22 points currently leads all NHL-drafted prospects and ranks tied for third overall in the nation. Fellow Florida Panthers prospect freshman Sam Brittain (FLA) was stellar in goal for Denver. Brittain posted his eighth and ninth wins on the season on the weekend and earned a spot on the All-tournament team. His nine wins are currently tied for first in the nation.

In the tournament’s consolation game, Clarkson got by Lake Superior State 2-1 on Saturday after falling to Air Force 2-1 the previous night. Sophomore Cody Rosen (NYI) got his first career start on Friday versus the Falcons. Despite the loss, Rosen played remarkably well stopping 32 of Air Force’s 34 shots. Equally good on Saturday was junior starter Paul Karpowich (STL) on Saturday. The Thunder Bay, ONT native stopped 30 of Lake Superior State’s 31 shots to record his seventh win of the season.

Over in New York’s Capital District, host RPI had to endure two tough matches versus the University of Connecticut and Bowling Green respectively to win the 60th annual Rensselaer Invitational. The tournament win was the first for the Engineers in nearly a decade. Senior defenseman Jeff Foss (NSH) chipped in a pair of assists and junior defenseman Mike Bergin (DAL) added an assist in the tournament. In Friday’s tilt versus UConn, RPI exploded for four goals in the third period to get the win. In Saturday’s championship game versus Bowling Green things didn’t get easier for the Engineers as they needed overtime to hand the Falcons a 2-3 loss. Junior Allen York (CBJ) made 24 saves to earn his sixth win on the season.

Bowling Green earned a trip to the tournament championship after defeating Alabama-Huntsville 5-1 on Friday. Senior netminder Nick Eno (BUF) improved his record to 4-4-0 after stopping 19 of the Chargers 20 shots in the win. Sophomore Jordan Samuels-Thomas (ATL) netted a goal and an assist on Friday and a goal on Saturday for the Falcons. The performance also earned him a spot on the All-tournament team. Samuels-Thomas currently leads the team with 13 points (five goals, eight assists).

Central Scouting releases NCAA Watch List for 2011 NHL Draft

The NHL’s Central Scouting has released their NCAA Watch List for the 2011 NHL Draft that features 26 current collegians.

Among those heading the list include Boston University freshmen Matt Nieto and defenseman Adam Clendening. Early projections have both players being taken either in the first round or early second round. Other top notable players on the Watch List include RPI defenseman Patrick Koudys, University of Wisconsin freshman Michael Mersch and University of Denver freshman Nick Shore.

The 2011 NHL Draft will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN on June 24-25.

Anaheim getting mileage out of collegiate prospects

The Anaheim Ducks have eight prospects playing NCAA hockey this season, and four of them are enjoying outstanding early starts.

The list is headed by the Wisconsin defensive duo of sophomore Justin Schultz and junior Jake Gardiner. One of the biggest questions for the Badgers heading into this season was their blue line and who would be able to fill the void left by the early departures of Cody Golubef (CBJ), Ryan McDonagh (NYR) and Brendan Smith (DET). Schultz and Gardiner have resoundingly answered the call. Now nearly two months into the season, Wisconsin sports not only the nation’s best defensive pairing but arguably the best defensive corps as well. Heading into the month of December, Schultz and Gardiner currently rank first and second in the nation respectively in defenseman scoring. Both players are coming off stellar outings in the College Hockey Showcase. Schultz’s 19 points (nine goals, ten assists) currently ranks second on the Wisconsin team. Gardiner ranks second on the team in defenseman scoring with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists). His 14 assists also currently co-lead the nation among all NHL prospects in that category as well. Both Schultz and Gardiner have appeared in all 16 games to date.

Last season, Brett Perlini was limited to just 20 games for Michigan State and wasn’t exactly all over the NHL Draft radar either. But the Anaheim Ducks saw something in the Sault Ste. Marie, ONT native to take him in the seventh round (192nd overall) in the 2010 draft, and so far it is paying off for both Anaheim and Michigan State. As a sophomore last season, Perlini posted just 12 points (seven goals, five assists). This season, he has already surpassed that in 15 games. The Spartans junior forward currently leads the team with nine goals and co-leads with 14 points. What is perhaps most impressive about Perlini this season is the fact that he has been held without a point in only three games to date.

Another 2010 late round selection (sixth round, 177th overall) of Anaheim is defenseman Kevin Lind. The Notre Dame freshman has been one of the college hockey’s most pleasant early-season surprises among all newcomers and has become a mainstay on the Fighting Irish’s blue line. Lind, who was originally slated to come to Notre Dame next fall, opted to come in a year early after highly-touted incoming defenseman Jarred Tinordi (MTL) backed out of his commitment to play in the OHL. In 13 games, Lind has posted six goals (one goal, five assists). His plus-eight currently ranks second on the team.

Injuries plague Thrashers collegiate prospects

With the season nearly two months old, the injury bug is already being felt all over the college hockey community. And no NHL team is seeing more of their collegiate prospects being hit harder than the Atlanta Thrashers.

Atlanta has already lost two prospects for the season. Denver centerman Jesse Martin saw his senior campaign halted on Oct. 30 versus North Dakota after sustaining a neck injury from a hit by Fighting Sioux senior Brad Malone (COL). Boston University freshman Yasin Cisse barely got his collegiate career started when a torn ankle tendon forced him out for the season. Cisse sustained the injury in the Terriers season-opener versus Wisconsin in the Icebreaker Tournament back on Oct. 8, but it wasn’t until recently that it was announced that Cisse would be done for the year.

Two of the nation’s top defensemen are also currently shelved with injuries in Maine junior Will O’Neill and Ferris State senior Zach Redmond. Both players are expected to return after the Christmas break. O’Neill was off to a terrific start with the Black Bears before suffering a knee injury on Nov. 6 versus Boston University. Through eight games, he has posted five points (one goal, four assists). Redmond picked up from where he left off last season in the first month of the season before suffering a foot injury versus Miami on Nov. 5. Though he has only played in nine games thus far, Redmond continues to lead the Bulldogs with nine points (four goals, five assists).

Three prospects providing outstanding support for their teams

Justin Jokinen (BUF), Ken Agostino (PIT) and Joe Cannata (VAN) aren’t exactly household names among the current crop of collegiate NHL prospects, but that is starting to change as each have provided key roles in helping their respective teams.

Junior Justin Jokinen is off to the best start of his collegiate career at Minnesota State-Mankato. His stronger play and presence around the net has paid great dividends to the Mavericks thus far. Jokinen leads Minnesota State-Mankato with six goals and ranks fourth on the team in points with eight appearing in all 14 games to date. His most memorable performance came on Nov. 26 versus UMass-Lowell. In that contest, Jokinen posted his first career hat-trick in the Mavericks 8-3 win.

Few NCAA teams this season have a more explosive offense than Yale and freshmen like Kenny Agostino are providing some crucial secondary scoring that makes an already deep Bulldogs team even deeper. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect has posted three points (one goal, two assists) in five games as part of Yale’s outstanding line that includes fellow freshman Jesse Root and sophomore Antoine Laganiere. Agostino’s most memorable game thus far came on Nov. 20 where he notched his first collegiate goal and added an assist in Yale’s 6-4 win over Colgate.

For the last few years, Merrimack College has been known as Hockey East’s cellar dwellers. But the Warriors want to change that and so far things are going in the right direction. One reason has been the stellar play of junior netminder Joe Cannata. The Wakefield, MA native has been Merrimack’s workhorse between the pipes having started all 13 games thus far. Cannata comes into December with a 6-3-4 record. His 2.15 goals against average and .923 save percentage both currently rank in the top 20 in the nation. Cannata’s most memorable game came back Nov. 12 at Boston University. In that contest, he stopped 32 shots to preserve a 1-1 tie versus the Terriers.

On the shelf

Colorado College sophomore Scott Winkler (DAL) is currently out with a wrist injury that he suffered back on Oct. 22 versus Minnesota State-Mankato. He is expected to return sometime after the Christmas break.

Boston College junior defenseman Tommy Cross (BOS) and freshman forward Kevin Hayes (CHI) are both currently out with knee injuries. Cross suffered his injury back on Oct. 29 versus Merrimack, while Hayes suffered his during practice in mid-November. Both players are expected to return sometime after the Christmas break.

Minnesota sophomore Zach Budish (NSH) is out indefinitely and could be lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in a moped accident on Nov. 1.

Clarkson freshman Ben Sexton (BOS) is out indefinitely and could be lost for the season after breaking his arm on Nov. 5 versus Colgate.

Denver junior defenseman John Lee (FLA) is currently out with a hand injury that he suffered back on Nov. 12 versus Minnesota State-Mankato.

New Hampshire sophomore Greg Burke (WSH) is currently out with mononucleosis and is expected to return after the Christmas break.