Kings NCAA prospects review

By David A. Rainer

The 2004-05 NCAA season brought injuries and bounce-back campaigns for Los Angeles prospects. The Kings college ranks will get temporarily smaller by two as Ryan Murphy and Richard Petiot graduate, each coming close but failing to win a National Championship in their careers.

Two new prospects got their freshman seasons out of the way. Paul Baier went to Brown University as one of the top defensive recruits in the nation and made an immediate contribution to the Bears on the blueline. Playing on the right side, Baier fluctuated between all three defensive pairings including a midseason stint on the top pair alongside senior Gerry Burke. Baier’s ten points placed him second amongst defensemen for the Bears and exemplifies the two-way defensive game he has been noted for.

John Michael Curry’s freshman season did not go as smoothly. While splitting time between the second and third lines, Curry jumped out to three goals and three assists in his first six games as Minnesota-Duluth began to dream of big things after a 5-0-1 start. Undisciplined play would relegate Curry to the bench for a large portion of the season. He would finish the year back on the ice, but having only scored three points in his last 16 games.

Injuries have been the theme of the Los Angeles Kings organization over the last couple of years, and they were the theme of their college prospects during the 2004-05 season as well. Brady Murray began the season centering the top line for North Dakota before falling to a knee injury early in the season. The sophomore would intermittently miss several more games over the course of the season due to nagging injuries, including a major shoulder injury in February, which he would re-aggravate in March, ending his season before the NCAA tournament. Despite the injuries, he still managed to finish with 20 points in 25 games while showing a toughness for playing with pain.

Sophomore Marty Guerin roared out to start the season with Miami of Ohio. His ten points in the first four games would lead the nation as nothing appeared to be capable of slowing his pace. A foot injury in late October interrupted his hot streak. However, he would not miss a beat once back on the ice. His 34 points in 34 games would be a slight improvement over his freshman campaign despite seven fewer games played.

The last of the Kings walking wounded for 2004-05 was the physical senior defenseman for Colorado College, Richard Petiot. Separate knee and groin injuries sidelined him for 17 games. An anchor on the second pairing for most of the season, Petiot would also spend time on the third pairing as he recovered from the injuries that would nag him all year. He would ultimately finish the season with the highest point per game total of his career and would forgo immediately signing with the Kings organization at the conclusion of the season in pursuit of his degree.

“They’ve [the Kings] have basically let me play. I’ve had about three talks with them this year but nothing serious,” Petiot informed Hockey’s Future with his primary focus on helping Colorado College to the Frozen Four. The Tigers would again make it back to the tournament but the National Championship would finally elude Petiot.

Injuries were not the only storyline for Kings prospects. Three talented forwards would experience banner years in 2004-05. Junior Jeff Tambellini struggled for most of the 2003-04 season with Michigan. A wrist injury would limit his scoring ability and while his production slipped drastically in both goals and assists. But a new year gave new opportunity and Tambellini established new career highs in assists (33) and points (57) and power play goals (9). With 25 points in his final 14 games, including a four point performance against Wisconsin in round one of the NCAA Tournament, Tambellini would prove to be the hottest forward in all of college hockey by the end of the season. His efforts would be honored as Michigan won the CCHA Tournament and Tambellini took home the MVP award.

Brian Boyle also experienced a tumultuous 2003-04 season, seeing sporadic ice time and riding the bench for several midseason games. With only three points in his first eight games, Boyle’s season appeared to be heading down the same path. However, by midseason, Boyle established himself as one of the best forwards for Boston College while centering the third line and anchoring the power play unit. Like Tambellini, ten points in his final nine games, while leading BC to the Hockey East Conference Tournament title and MVP honors, would reflect the extensive growth of Boyle’s sophomore season.

Alongside Boyle at Boston College was senior forward Ryan Murphy. Murphy continued to fill his role on the energy “stopper” line for BC. Never asked to provide scoring punch, Murphy instead honed his game as a defensive forward with good speed and skating ability. Upon finishing his college eligibility when BC was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Murphy signed an amateur tryout contract with Manchester and has already appeared in five games for the Monarchs.

For the last couple of years, Nebraska-Omaha had been one of the bottom-feeders of the CCHA Conference. The 2004-05 season witnessed marked improvements out of this young team. So improved, in fact, that the Mavericks had faint hopes of earning a berth in the tournament, due in no small part to the achievements of Scott Parse. The sophomore would set career highs in goals (19), assists (30) and points (49) while remaining amongst the scoring elite all season. As his young team grows and develops, so too will the fortunes of Nebraska-Omaha such that at this time next year we might be speaking of the Mavericks as one of the biggest surprises of the season with Scott Parse leading the headlines.

Sophomores Mike Sullivan and Matt Zaba continued their steady progress this past season. Zaba remained as the Colorado College back-up goaltender, but with the graduation of Curtis McElhinney is poised to take over starting duties full time. With consistently impressive goals against averages and save percentages over his first two full seasons, Zaba has already won the trust of coach, player and fan alike. Likewise, Sullivan’s 17 points this season are consistent with his production as a freshman. With graduation to three of Clarkson’s four top scorers, Sullivan will be relied on more heavily next season and might see him dominate as a physical force on the team’s top scoring line.

DJ Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.