NCAA college prospects notebook for March, 2013

By DJ Powers

Riley Barber - Miami University

Photo: Although Washington Capitals prospect Riley Barber and his Miami University teammates had their season ended by St. Cloud State, Barber had an enormously successful freshman season with the RedHawks (courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon SMI)

The final 2012-13 edition of the NCAA notebook takes a look back at some of the month’s memorable performances and fantastic finishes. The notebook also takes a look at a few surprises that took place around college hockey involving a number of NHL prospects playing in college hockey. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Mar. 31st.

Former Penguins prospects headed to Pittsburgh

Just days before the start of the NCAA Tournament, Yale forward Kenny Agostino and St. Cloud forward Ben Hanowski saw their NHL rights traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Calgary Flames as part of the Jarome Iginla deal. Now, Agostino and Hanowski are both headed back to the Steel City as members of two of the teams participating at this year’s Frozen Four. Agostino posted two goals and an assist to help guide Yale to their second trip to the Frozen Four. Hanowski posted a goal and an assist in helping guide St. Cloud State to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance.

Four prospects among top ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award

On Mar. 21st, the top ten finalists were announced for this season’s Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. Among them were three NHL-drafted prospects and one recent NHL free agent signee in Boston College sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), North Dakota seniors Corban Knight (FLA) and Danny Kristo (MTL), and St. Lawrence senior and recent Philadelphia Flyers signee, Kyle Flanagan. The top ten finalists will be narrowed down to the three “Hobey Hat Trick” finalists that will be announced on Apr. 3rd. The winner of the 2012-13 Hobey Baker Award will be announced on Apr. 12th during the Frozen Four weekend at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Two prospects key in teams’ first ever trip to Frozen Four

UMass Lowell freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) and Quinnipiac sophomore Matthew Peca (TBL) played the biggest roles in leading their respective teams to their first Frozen Four appearances.

Hellebuyck was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Northeast Regional after backstopping the River Hawks to victories over Wisconsin and New Hampshire to reach the Frozen Four. Hellebuyck was brilliant between the pipes, stopping a combined 59 of 60 shots in the regional. The Commerce, MI native sports a 20-2-0 record that includes an NCAA co-leading six shutouts. He currently leads the nation in goals-against average (1.31), save percentage (.953) and winning percentage (.909).

Peca was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional after guiding the Bobcats to wins over Canisius and Union College to earn their first-ever Frozen Four appearance. The Petawawa, ON native posted his first career hat trick (a natural hat trick) in the regional final versus Union College on Mar. 31st that set a new NCAA tournament record for the fastest hat trick. Peca completed his hat trick in a span of 3:12 minutes in the opening period. Peca finished his superb regional performance with five points (four goals, one assist). Overall, he leads Quinnipiac with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists).

Flames prospects take home two top individual Hockey East awards

Boston College sophomore Johnny Gaudreau and Providence College freshman Jon Gillies were named the recipients of two of Hockey East’s top individual awards.

Gaudreau was named the Hockey East Player of the Year and earned a selection to the All-Hockey East First Team. The Carney Points, NJ native, who was also named a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, led Hockey East in both points (36) and assists (24) in conference play during the regular season and was one of the nation’s most prolific and consistent point producers. Gaudreau and his Boston College team saw their season come to an end in their loss to Union College in the East Regional semi-finals on Mar. 30th.  Gaudreau finishes his stellar sophomore campaign with 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 35 games and currently leads the nation averaging 1.46 points per game.

Gillies was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Year after backstopping Providence College to a 17-14-7 record. The South Portland, ME native finished his sensational freshman campaign with a 17-12-6 record that included five shutouts. His five shutouts set a new school single-season record among freshmen netminders. It also currently ranks second nationally among all NHL-drafted goaltenders. In Hockey East play, Gillies compiled a 13-8-5 record. His 2.17 goals-against average and .929 save percentage both finished third in the conference.

In addition to being named the Rookie of the Year and to the conference’s All-Rookie Team, Gillies was also named to the All-Hockey East First Team. He is the first freshman goaltender and just the third freshman in conference history to earn such an honor. In January, Gillies served as the backup netminder on Team USA’s gold medal-winning World Junior Championship team.

Barber named CCHA’s final Rookie of the Year

Miami freshman sensation Riley Barber (WSH) was named the CCHA’s final Rookie of the Year. He was also named to the CCHA’s All-Rookie and All-Conference First Team's. The Pittsburgh, PA native led the CCHA in rookie scoring with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 28 conference games during the regular season. He finishes his excellent freshman campaign currently leading the nation in rookie scoring with 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 40 games. Barber, who was also a member of Team USA’s gold-medal winning World Junior Championship squad, is also a top candidate for National Rookie of the Year.

After the completion of its conference tournament on Mar. 24th, the CCHA was officially done as a conference after 42 years. The 11 conference member programs will move to four different conferences next season.

Jets prospect named ECAC Rookie of the Year

RPI freshman netminder Jason Kasdorf (WPG) was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year after guiding the Engineers to a second-place finish in the ECAC. He was also named to the All-ECAC Second and All-Rookie Teams. In conference play during the regular season, Kasdorf compiled a 12-2-2 record that included three shutouts in 17 ECAC appearances. Overall, he finishes his outstanding freshman campaign with a 14-5-2 record that includes three shutouts in 23 appearances. The Winnipeg, MB native also etched his name into the RPI hockey record books, with Kasdorf’s .935 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against average ranking him second and third all-time in a single season performance.

Vesey named Ivy League Rookie of the Year

Harvard freshman Jimmy Vesey (NSH) was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year. The North Reading, MA native led both Harvard and the Ivy League in overall rookie goal-scoring with 11. He finished his stellar season co-leading the Crimson in rookie scoring with 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 27 games. Vesey, who won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championship, finished with four points (one goal, three assists) in nine Ivy League regular season games this season.

Kerdiles finishes season on a hot streak

Wisconsin’s season came to an end in their loss to UMass Lowell in the NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional semi-final on Mar. 29th, but freshman phenom Nic Kerdiles (ANA) went out with a bang. The Irvine, CA native was one of the nation’s hottest players in March and a driving force behind the Badgers’ successful run in the WCHA tournament that yielded an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Kerdiles finished the season on a 12-game point streak, amassing 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in that span. He was last held pointless on Feb. 17 versus Minnesota. Kerdiles closed out the season scoring a goal in Wisconsin’s last four games and was the lone player to score on UMass Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck in the NCAA Tournament. Despite missing nearly the first month of the season due to an NCAA-imposed suspension, Kerdiles still managed to finish among the Badgers’ top scorers with 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 32 games.

Early departures and free agent signing frenzy begins

As NCAA teams see their seasons come to an end, the plethora of NHL signings begin.

Several NHL-drafted prospects, including some non-seniors, have already begun their pro careers, including Harvard senior defenseman Danny Biega (CAR) and senior forward Alex Fallstrom (BOS); Michigan junior defenseman Jon Merrill (NJD); and Colgate senior defensemen Thomas Larkin (CBJ) and Jeremy Price (VAN).

Notre Dame junior Anders Lee and Boston University junior Matt Nieto have signed their first NHL contracts, with the New York Islanders and the San Jose Sharks, respectively.

Two of the NCAA’s most prized available free agents in junior defensemen Dan DeKeyser of Western Michigan and Andrej Sustr of Nebraska-Omaha have also been snapped up. DeKeyser, the CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year and All-CCHA First Team selection, signed with the Detroit Red Wings on Mar 29th. The towering Sustr signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Mar. 25th.

Among the other notable free agents that have been signed by NHL teams is St. Lawrence senior and Hobey Baker Award top-ten finalist Kyle Flanagan, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on Mar. 25th.

End of an era at Boston University

For four decades, head coach Jack Parker’s name has been synonymous with Boston University Men’s Ice Hockey. On Mar. 11th, Parker announced his retirement. When the Terriers fell to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East tournament championship game on Mar. 23, it marked the end of Parker’s illustrious career and the end of an era at Boston University. Parker retires with 897 career wins, the third-most in D-I college hockey history. He guided the Terriers to three national championships, 11 conference titles and 21 Beanpot tournament championships.

Since assuming the head coaching duties at his alma mater in 1973, Parker has seen many of his former players go on to have successful NHL careers, including Tony Amonte, Shawn McEachern and Keith Tkachuk. Among his former players currently playing in the NHL are Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino, Nashville Predators winger Brandon Yip and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. And, with current Terriers like defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (BOS) and forward Danny O’Regan (SJS) that could potentially go on to successful NHL careers in the coming years, Parker’s legacy will continue to live on.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF