Penguins NCAA prospects update

By Adrian Barclay

Matt Moulson, LW Cornell Big Red Selected in the ninth round (263rd<br />overall) of the 2003 Entry Draft

With a couple of
ninth round picks leading their respective teams in scoring in the NCAA, you
could forgive the scouts for the Pittsburgh Penguins for cracking a smile or


Cornell’s Matt Moulson (263rd overall
in 2003) and Brown’s Brian Ihnacak
(259th overall in 2004) are enjoying hot streaks that have taken
them to team leads in goals and points, leading a strong group of Penguin
prospects in all positions within the college ranks.


Moulson is in
scintillating form for Cornell, already posting 14 points, including eight
goals, in only 10 games. His two matches from the weekend were no exception. On
December 3, Moulson scored a goal and two assists as Cornell scored five second
period goals to thump Yale 6-2. He followed that up with a power play goal at
12:03 of the second period on December 4 against Princeton that would put his
team ahead for good. That would also be the winger’s team-high fifth power play
goal, with no other Cornell player with more than one.


Slovakian-born Ihnacak is showing no signs of slowing
down his scoring after a sensational rookie year in 2003-04, which saw him gain
the dual honor of being named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and ECAC Co-Rookie
of the year. Ihnacak posted 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) and in doing so became
Brown’s highest scoring rookie since 1976. Already this season Ihnacak has
notched up seven goals and five assists in 10 games and is a +5.


Continuing the trend
of low draft picks performing well offensively is Joe Jensen of St. Cloud State. The eighth round pick in 2003 has
already powered to 11 points (four goals, seven assists) from 16 games, about
half of his totals from his sophomore campaign in 2003-04 which saw him post 10
goals and 14 assists. Jensen is a smallish but rugged forward who’s not afraid
of traffic, and is known for his strong work ethic. Jensen also spent one
season as a teammate of current Pittsburgh Penguins player and St Cloud State
alumni, Ryan Malone.


On the blueline, the
Penguins are heavy with great prospect talent. High profile Harvard star Noah Welch is playing his senior year
for the Crimson, and continues to impress with three goals and four assists
from his first 11 games. Taken in the second round in 2001, Welch has
consistently performed strongly in his time with Harvard, becoming their No.1
defenseman and according to some, the best college defenseman in the country.
Welch will look to crack the Penguins lineup in 2005-06, joining other young
talent on the blueline including former college players Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney.


Hot on the heels of
Welch is University of Minnesota rookie, Alex
. Selected higher than predicted at 61st overall in the
2004 draft, Goligoski has burst onto the college scene and shown plenty of the
offensive capability that so impressed Penguins scouts while watching him play
high school hockey. Goligoski currently leads Golden Gophers rookies and
defensemen in scoring with two goals and nine assists in 15 games. He is also
fourth in scoring amongst defensemen in the WCHA, and fourth in overall rookie
scoring. His form this season has
attracted the gaze of the US Junior team officials, selecting him this week to
try and defend America’s title in the 2005 World Junior Championships, to be
held on home turf.


Goaltending within
the Penguins organization certainly is strong, with names like No.1 overall
draft pick of 2003 Marc-Andre Fleury
on the depth chart. That depth continues in the college ranks, with two young
netminders taking the ice.


Brandon Crawford-West
is in his second season as starter for Miami University (Ohio), where last
season he posted an excellent record of 21-8-3, with a 2.50 GAA and three
shutouts. His season ended in the first round of the NCAA Tourney when Miami
was knocked out by eventual champs Denver. Crawford-West was drafted in the
eighth round in 2001, and spent the next two seasons playing US amateur hockey
before joining the Redhawks.


In 2004-05, the
Redhawks aren’t performing quite as well overall, but Crawford-West’s numbers
have continued to improve. Despite a modest 7-7-1 record thus far, he has
dropped his GAA to 2.29 and already has two shutouts.


The other backstop
playing this season is Notre Dame’s Dave
Brown completed a fantastic rookie season in season 2003-04, where
he posted a record of 14-7-3, with a GAA of 2.32 and a save percentage of .925,
making him 17th and 7th respectively for those categories
in the nation. Those numbers, along with his four shutouts and a scoreless
streak of 193:27 were single season school records.


2004-05 hasn’t been
as kind to Brown, as he was shelled for nine goals in his first 70 minutes of
action in a couple of heavy losses to Michigan. Brown is seeing limited action
now behind senior Morgan Cey, whose numbers are much better at this point.
Brown has made six starts so far this season with only the one victory, a
35-save performance on November 26 against Alaska. His record has now moved to
1-4-1, with a G.A.A of 4.15, and a save percentage of .877.


Briefly – Talented 2004 third round selection Nick Johnson is nine games into his freshman year at Dartmouth,
where he is looking to make an impact with his powerful two-way game. The
winger currently has one goal and one assist…Defensive teammate of Noah Welch
at Harvard is fellow senior Ryan Lannon.
The 6’2, 220 pound blueliner doesn’t get on the score sheet often, with only
the 25 points in his first three full seasons in the Ivy League. Serving as an
alternate captain this season, Lannon’s only point has come from a
goal…University of Minnesota winger Andy
hasn’t been lighting the lamp on a regular basis this season, but
is showing a strong two-way game. The Minnesota native has two goals, two
assists and is a +2 in 15 games, with both of his goals coming while the
Gophers were shorthanded… North Dakota defenseman Andy Schneider is struggling to find the offensive flair that saw
him score 11 goals and 30 assists in 43 games in the 2002-03 season. He has one
goal and one assist through 16 games… Former Boston College captain Ben Eaves is expected to return from a
knee injury this weekend to make his professional debut for
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.


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