The University of Minnesota and the WCHA were popular sources of talent in the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday in Vancouver.
To virtually no one’s surprise, University of Minnesota bound defenseman Erik Johnson went first overall to the St. Louis Blues. Johnson was the first US-born player taken first overall since the 2000 draft when former Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro went to the New York Islanders.
The question now on the minds of the maroon and gold faithful is whether or not Johnson will actually attend the University of Minnesota this fall or completely forego college altogether and sign with St. Louis. There is speculation that Johnson could sign with the Blues prior to the start of the 2006-07 season, but given the new rules on years of service leading to free agency in the NHL, it’s unlikely St. Louis will want to burn a year.
The first current collegian taken in the draft came two picks later when University of North Dakota sensation Jonathan Toews went to the Chicago Blackhawks with the third overall selection. Toews joins a long list of outstanding collegiate prospects in the Blackhawks system that also includes University of Wisconsin forward Jack Skille and University of Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon.
Inside the numbers
Of the 213 players taken, 69 (32 percent) are current or future NCAA players. The majority of them are future collegians. While most of the players taken in the draft are expected to be with their respective committed teams this coming fall, there are a few who’ll be arriving later. Seventeen will arrive in the fall of 2007 and one will arrive in the fall of 2008.
The fifth round saw the most collegiate (current or future) players taken with 13, followed by the seventh round with 11.
Twenty-seven of the 30 NHL teams chose at least one current and/or future collegian. The Blackhawks and the Islanders led the way with six apiece. The teams not selecting a current and/or future (committed) collegian were the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the host Vancouver Canucks.
Four of the six NCAA conferences had at least one current or future player selected. The WCHA led the way with 26, followed by the CCHA with 18, Hockey East with 14 and the ECACHL with 11. A total of 32 schools had players (either current or future) taken. Minnesota led with eight, followed by the University of Denver with five.
One position that was highlighted this year was goaltending. The first collegiate goaltender (current or future) taken was Miami University’s Rookie of the Year Jeff Zatkoff, who went to the Los Angeles Kings with the 74th selection (third round). In all, 10 collegiate goaltenders were taken.
Draft day observations
The collegiate team that saw perhaps the most disappointment at the draft was Boston College. With several outstanding current and incoming players eligible, only two were selected. Incoming defenseman Carl Sneep went to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round (32nd overall), while soon-to-be sophomore Benn Ferriero went to the Phoenix Coyotes in the seventh round (196th overall). Eligible notables such as defenseman Tim Filangieri and future Eagle Brian Gibbons were amongst the Boston College players not taken.
The draft day also saw a few surprises.
Highly-regarded incoming University of Wisconsin defenseman Nigel Williams wasn’t taken until the mid-second round, when he was selected 51st overall by the Colorado Avalanche. Nebraska-Omaha recruit Jan-Mikael Juutilainen, one of two NCAA-bound Europeans drafted, was not taken until the sixth round. He was selected by the Blackhawks (156th overall).
There were also some pleasant surprise selections that flew under most, and in some cases all of the scouting services radars including that of NHL Central Scouting. One such player came in the sixth round.
The newly crowned Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes took Clarkson’s leading scorer Nick Dodge with the 183rd overall pick in the sixth round. Dodge, who will serve as the Golden Knights’ team captain this fall, enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign in 2005-06. He joins forward Erik Cole as the other Clarkson connection currently in the Carolina system.
NHL teams draft capsules
The Anaheim Ducks selected only one NCAA player in the draft this year when they took University of Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera with the 19th overall selection. The defensive defenseman was considered one of the top collegiate defensemen eligible coming into the draft. He was one of four Wolverines taken in this year’s draft.
The Atlanta Thrashers, one of several NHL teams that like to choose players from the collegiate ranks each year, selected three WCHA-bound players in this draft. Michael Forney, the highest of the three selections going 80th overall (third round), will be one of three Thrashers prospects on the North Dakota roster this fall (Andrew Kozek and Rylan Kaip are the others). The other two 2006 selections were center Jesse Martin, who is headed to Denver in 2007 and Alex Kangas, headed to Minnesota in 2007.
The Boston Bruins made their only collegiate pick really count when they selected University of Minnesota sensation Phil Kessel with the fifth overall selection. Kessel led the nation in rookie scoring in 2005-06 with 51 points. He was one of four current or incoming Golden Gophers selected in the first round.
The Buffalo Sabres was another NHL team that made a single collegiate selection this year. The player they chose was defenseman Alex Biega with the 147th overall selection (fifth round). Biega joins an outstanding group of defensemen that will make up Harvard’s blue line corps this fall.
The Calgary Flames took Minnesota-Duluth bound center Jordan Fulton with their lone collegiate pick, selecting him in the sixth round (179th overall). Warroad (MN) High School standout Aaron Marvin could also be heading to the NCAA in the future. The Flames took him in the third round (89th overall).
The Carolina Hurricanes, who won their first ever Stanley Cup with a plethora of former collegians on their roster, added three more to their stable of prospects. In addition to Dodge, they also took University of Wisconsin bound defenseman Jamie McBain in the second round (63rd overall) and incoming Cornell defenseman Justin Krueger with the final selection of the draft at 213th.
The Blackhawks continue to be impressive with their collegiate selections this year. For the second year in a row, the team selected a University of New Hampshire bound player. After taking Joe Charlebois last year, they took incoming Wildcat center Peter Leblanc this year with their 186th selection (seventh round).
The Colorado Avalanche have also continued to add to an impressive list of collegiate prospects to their system. This year, they added four including University of Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer. The Walworth, NY could turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the draft as far as collegians go. Sauer was taken in the seventh round, going 201st overall.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made only one collegiate selection this season when they selected Michigan State forward Nick Sucharski in the fifth round (136th overall). Sucharski, who didn’t make his collegiate debut until a month into last season, is poised to have a breakout year for the Spartans this fall.
The Dallas Stars have been one of the more intriguing teams to watch on draft day as far as selecting collegiate players. The Stars took two future collegians this year. Center David McIntyre, taken in the sixth round (138th overall) will be attending Colgate in the fall. Goaltender Richard Backman, taken in the fourth round (120th overall) will arrive at Colorado College in the fall of 2007.
The Detroit Red Wings, who rarely draft from the collegiate ranks, made it a second year in a row that they have selected a future collegian. The lone selection came in the seventh round when the Red Wings chose Burnsville (MN) High School right wing Nick Oslund. Oslund, a 2006 Mr. Hockey finalist, will be attending St. Cloud State beginning in the fall of 2007.
The Edmonton Oilers are among a handful of NHL teams that have consistently been one of the best at drafting from the collegiate ranks. While they only chose two collegians this year, both are great blue line selections. Michigan State bound Jeff Petry was taken in the second round (45th overall). Cody Wild joins teammate Colin McDonald as Oilers property on the Providence College roster. Wild was taken in the sixth round (140th overall).
The Florida Panthers took two WCHA bound players who will not arrive in the NCAA until the fall of 2007 in defenseman Derrick LaPoint (116th overall, fourth round) and goaltender Marc Cheverie (193rd overall, seventh round). LaPoint is a University of North Dakota recruit and Cheverie is a University of Denver recruit.
The Los Angeles Kings have four new outstanding additions to their already deep collegiate prospects arsenal. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles has chosen a UMass bound player. Last year, they selected goaltender Jonathan Quick. This fall, Quick will be joined by incoming freshman Martin Nolet as the other Kings prospect on the Minutemen roster. Nolet was taken in the fifth round (144h overall).
The Minnesota Wild have gradually taken advantage of some of their excellent home grown talent in the draft. This year, they selected two NCAA-bound players out of their state’s high school ranks. The first came in the fourth round, when they selected defenseman Kyle Medvec out of Apple Valley High School. Medvec will be attending the University of Vermont beginning in the fall of 2007. The Wild’s second selection came in the seventh round. Forward Chris Hickey, out of Cretin-Derham Hall, was selected 192nd overall. Hickey has committed to the University of Wisconsin and is not scheduled to arrive there until the fall of 2008.
The Montreal Canadiens have done very well drafting from the collegiate ranks, particularly from the Ivy League schools. This year, however they opted to buck the Ivy League trend by selecting University of Minnesota bound defenseman David Fischer with their first pick in the first round (20th overall). The selection was also Montreal’s lone pick out of the NCAA ranks in this year’s draft.
The Nashville Predators continue to increase their stock of collegiate players, adding three more to their system. Leading the trio is a local product with great hockey bloodlines. Forward Blake Geoffrion, selected 56th overall (second round), is the grandson of NHL Hockey Hall of Famer Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. The younger Geoffrion is a member of the excellent incoming freshman class this fall for the reigning national champion University of Wisconsin Badgers.
The New Jersey Devils have traditionally been one of the best NHL teams at selecting and developing their collegiate talent. For the second year in a row, the Devils have limited the number of collegians that they have taken in the draft. This year, they took two quality, incoming players in Northern Michigan bound defenseman T.J. Miller with the 107th pick (fourth round) and Cornell bound center Tony Romano with the 178th pick (sixth round).
One of the biggest surprises as far as number of collegians taken by an NHL team was the New York Islanders. Former USHL standout and incoming University of Minnesota forward Kyle Okposo leads the way, going seventh overall. Of the Islanders six new collegiate prospects, three will not arrive in the NCAA until the fall of 2007: goaltender Jase Weslosky, a St. Cloud State recruit drafted 108th overall (fourth round); defenseman Shane Sims, an Ohio State recruit drafted 126th overall (fifth round); and right wing Brian Day, a Colgate recruit drafted 171st overall (sixth round).
Aside from the Edmonton Oilers, another Canadian-based NHL team that has done remarkably well drafting from the collegiate ranks has been the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa made one of the most pleasantly surprising collegiate selections of the draft in the seventh round, when they used their 211th selection (third to last in the draft) to take Notre Dame’s leading scorer and CCHA All-Rookie Team selection Erik Condra. Taking excellent collegiate (current or future) players very late in the draft is nothing new to the Senators. In the 2003 Entry Draft, then incoming University of Wisconsin goaltender Brian Elliott was taken next to last in the ninth round (291st overall).
The Philadelphia Flyers have continued to add to their growing list of impressive collegiate prospects this year taking four collegians. Among their selections were two players who led their respective NCAA teams in goal scoring this past season. Bowling Green’s Jonathan Matsumoto was taken in the third round with the 79th selection, while Providence College’s Jonathan Rheault was taken in the fifth round with the 145th selection. Rheault was drafted just five picks after fellow Friar Cody Wild was selected by the Oilers.
The Phoenix Coyotes have proven that potential collegiate draft picks can be found anywhere and that they don’t always show up on scouting reports either. Such was the case with their seventh round selection (188th overall) of punishing Western Michigan defenseman Chris Frank. The Lynwood, WA native was one two CCHA defensemen selected in this year’s draft. The other, University of Michigan bound Chris Summers, was selected in the first round (29th overall). Summers will be one of three Coyotes prospects on the Michigan Wolverines roster this fall.
One team that has dipped heavily into the NCAA ranks (current or future) in recent years is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins selected three collegians this year including University of Alaska (Fairbanks) Rookie of the Year Chad Johnson. The Calgary, AB native, who was selected 125th overall (fifth round), is the latest addition to a growing list of superb NCAA goaltenders in the Penguins system, joining St. Cloud State’s Bobby Goepfert and Notre Dame’s David Brown.
In addition to landing the top prospect in the draft, the St. Louis Blues added three other quality players to their prospects ranks as well. Two of the three are incoming 2007 freshmen: St. Louis Park (MN) High School center Andy Sacrison (selected 124th overall, fifth round) is a Minnesota State-Mankato recruit, while Belmont Hill left wing Matt McCollem (selected 154th overall, sixth round) is a Harvard recruit.
Another traditionally great collegiate drafting and developing NHL team is the San Jose Sharks. Interestingly, the Sharks took both of their collegiate picks this year not only off the board but very late in the draft as well. Boston University left wing John McCarthy and future University of Minnesota right wing Jay Barriball were selected 202nd and 203rd respectively in the seventh round.
The Toronto Maple Leafs selected two incoming collegians in this draft, one from each side of the Atlantic and both coming in the sixth round. The first was left wing Viktor Stålberg, out of Frolunda (Sweden) and an incoming University of Vermont freshman this fall, was selected 160th overall. The Leafs’ next pick came six spots later at 166th overall with the selection of 2007 incoming University of Denver center Tyler Ruegsegger.
After selecting four collegians in last year’s draft, the Washington Capitals opted to draft just one this year. For the second straight year, the Capitals decided to take another University of Denver blue line recruit. In 2005, it was Andrew Thomas. This year, Washington opted to take incoming freshman Keith Seabrook, the younger brother of Blackhawks prospect Brent Seabrook. The younger Seabrook was taken in the second round with the 52nd overall selection.
Several collegiate draft selections were also parts of trades that took place either on or prior to draft day. Among them were:
Incoming University of Michigan forward Trevor Lewis, selected by the Kings in the first round (17th overall), was a part of the draft day deal that sent forward Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild.
University of Maine defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin, selected by the Blackhawks in the second round (61st overall), was a part of the trade deadline deal in March that sent former St. Cloud State husky Tyler Arnason to the Ottawa Senators. In addition to the draft pick that became the selection of Danis-Pepin, Chicago also acquired former University of North Dakota standout Brandon Bochenski in the deal.
Incoming Boston University defenseman Eric Gryba, selected by the Senators in the third round (68th overall), was the compensatory pick for the Bruins recent signing of GM Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli played at Harvard University from 1983-87.
Incoming UMass-Lowell center Chris Auger, selected by the Blackhawks in the sixth round (169th overall), was a part of the deal that sent defenseman Todd Simpson to the Canadiens at the NHL trade deadline in March.
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