Oilers NCAA prospects update

By Guy Flaming

One thing is for sure, when they want to view the players they already own, the Edmonton Oilers are saving some serious money on their scouting trips.

Edmonton has nine prospects toiling in the NCAA this season but they are concentrated on just four teams, which makes it handy for someone like Kelly Buchberger, the player development coach of the Oilers.  With a little luck he could even time it so that two of those teams would be playing each other and if so, Bucky could check in on as many as five Oiler kids in one sitting.

Providence College — Hockey East

Colin McDonald, RW – Senior
2nd Round, 51st Overall in 2003

Expectations and hopes are two different things but it would be fair to say that to varying degrees, Colin McDonald has failed to live up to either this year.  Expectations were that as a senior, McDonald would be able to take his game to a higher level statistically, dictate the outcome of games and lead the Friars into a formidable unit.  How has he fared?

Well, McDonald has equaled his college high 11 goals from his sophomore season but only has a grand total of 13 points after 30 games, well below his pace from last year when he recorded 28 points in 36 total outings.  It’s noteworthy that McDonald is the only Friar with more than 10 goals showing the apparent ineptitude of Providence this year from an offensive point of view.  Even his yawn -inspiring 13 points is still third best on a club whose leader has just 16 to his credit.

The hope for McDonald in his final year was to see the very likeable winger break the 20-goal plateau and surpass his previous best for points.  McDonald himself told Hockey’s Future last summer that he felt the Friars could have a strong year as the club hadn’t lost any juniors to the lure of pro hockey.  Unfortunately, Providence is tied for eighth in their ten-team conference and will surely end their season in March.

Something is clearly wrong in Providence but it might be premature to suggest that McDonald is headed to Bustville, the retirement home for promising draft picks gone bad.  It might be more accurate to hypothesize that the 22-year-old is one of the few bright spots on a team stuck in an incredibly strong conference without much of a chance to succeed.

Cody Wild, D – Sophomore
5th Round, 140th Overall in 2006

Weeks of playing through the pain of an undiagnosed torn labrum followed by a couple weeks of rest and still Cody Wild is the points leader amongst Friar rearguards.  With four goals and 11 points thus far, Wild is slotted directly behind McDonald on the list of scoring leaders for Providence and one has to wonder how good of a year he could have had if the painful injury bug had not bitten him early on.

Wild chose not to pull the chute on the season by having corrective surgery but by all accounts he’ll have to undergo the procedure in the off-season which will then cut into valuable training time during the summer.  It’s a tough call to make; do you sacrifice half a year of playing development yet be 100 percent prepared for the following campaign or do you risk the junior year by continuing to play?  Is the injury something that could be career threatening?

“It will set him back a little bit,” said one Oiler source, “but my experience with this type of surgery is that it comes back stronger than it was beforehand so he could actually turn out to be in a better position than before any of this ever happened.” 

There is definitely no room on the farm for Wild to leave Providence and turn pro so it will definitely be back to the Friars next year for his junior season.

Michigan Wolverines — CCHA

David Rohlfs, RW/D – Senior
5th Round, 154th Overall 2003

It’s funny what opportunity can do for a player.  After three years of relative run of the mill reports, David Rohlfs suddenly broke out this year while playing on the top line with the Wolverines.  Moving back to forward after spending last year on the blueline and riding shotgun with offensive dynamos like T.J. Hensick (COL) and Kevin Porter (PHO) may have inflated Rohlfs’ numbers this year but the fact that he has smashed his previous highs in all offensive categories has captured the attention of the Oilers.  Perfect timing since this is basically a contract year for Rohlfs.

In 2007 Rohlfs has been playing further down the depth chart and his production has tailed off considerably, probably a true indication of exactly how much he was benefiting from his early-season linemates.  But, at 6’4 and 235 lbs, he is a big body that can play forward or defense and that versatility will earn him a look with the Oilers.

“He’s a big, strong player.  He’s a good skater for his size, and although he’s played both defense and forward I think he’s a good defensive forward,” advised head coach Red Berenson. “He goes to the net, strong along the boards, he’s a good honest player and is very coachable.  I hope David gets a chance some day because he’s another player who wasn’t as widely heralded but he’s taken full advantage of his four years of college hockey and now he’s our top right winger.”

Andrew Cogliano, C – Sophomore
1st Round, 25th Overall 2005

Arguably Edmonton’s top prospect, Andrew Cogliano has built on his impressive freshman campaign and now has 41 points in 31 games, 13 more than he amassed all of last year.  Most importantly for Cogliano watchers to note is that unlike late season, his production hasn’t tailed off at all since returning from the World Junior Championships, in fact, he’s gotten better.

Cogliano has recorded a point in all but one of the 13 Michigan games since he got back from Sweden and has totaled 18 points in that time span.

Coach Berenson paid these compliments in regards to Cogliano’s development since last season.

“He just needs to get a little older and a little stronger but he’s improved so much in just the one year that he’s been at Michigan,” said the 30-year coach. “You could see that at the World Juniors and as he develops he’s going to be a fun player to watch.”

It is expected that Cogliano will return to Michigan again for next season where he will be the top-line center and the consensus go-to player.  The bigger question will be whether he stays for a fourth year or turns pro.

Denver Pioneers — WCHA

Glenn Fisher, G – Senior
5th Round, 148th Overall 2002

Head coach George Gwozdecky has been content to use the platoon system with his goaltenders ever since Adam Berkhoel graduated from the program.  Alternating every weekend between Fisher and Peter Mannino, the Pioneers won a second national championship before taking a step back last year.  It would take some kind of performance for Gwozdecky to alter his goalie agenda but earlier this year, he did just that.

“I will say this; Glenn has played extremely well,” the Pioneers bench boss described in November. “He’s a senior in his final year of eligibility and you can really see that he’s got an edge to his game that he hasn’t probably had on a consistent basis over the previous three years.”

Fisher has played two thirds of Denver’s games this year, having won seven of his first nine, two of them featuring shutouts.  His performance this year has put him squarely in the sights of the Oilers who will need to decide this summer if the hometown product is worthy of a contract.

“A couple of National Championships and certainly he’s experienced a lot but his confidence level has risen even more so this year,” said Oilers GM Kevin Lowe recently.

As hot as he was, Fisher and the Pioneers have tailed off in the second half.  His 12-7-2 record has been tarnished lately due to being winless in his last four games and 3-5 in the last eight.  The entire club will have to rebound and find their rhythm again in time for the postseason.

Geoff Paukovich, C – Junior
2nd Round, 57th Overall 2004

The polar opposite to Fisher is Geoff Paukovich in terms of when he’s played well for the Pioneers.  Through the 14 games of October and November, the towering middleman had contributed just three points for Denver.  However, in the 14 games since Christmas, Paukovich has bagged six goals and 10 points and is currently riding a streak of having hit the score sheet in eight of his last nine contests.

There is no talk of Paukovich leaving Denver early to pursue a pro career, not that there is room for him on the farm as things are now anyway, but as a senior Paukovich could pay a bigger role than he has now.  The Pioneers currently have seven seniors in the line-up who obviously won’t be around next year.  It should be noted however that it’s the freshman and sophomore class that is leading the team in scoring, so even next year Paukovich’s offensive role may not develop.

Even before he regained his offensive side, Paukovich was getting rave reviews from his coach.

“I think when he’s ready to become an Edmonton Oiler, and hopefully that’s not for a couple more years, I think the fans are really going to like what he brings to the table,” Gwozdecky commented.  “He is a big, strong, very physical player who is very nimble on his skates.  He’s a terrific athlete.”

Matt Glasser, LW – Freshman
7th Round, 220th Overall 2005

It’s never a good thing when your name appears below that of the goalies on the team scoring leader list, but that’s the situation that Alberta product Matt Glasser is in these days.  Zero points in just 10 games played leave very little to talk about.  Earlier in the year coach Gwozdecky spoke highly of Glasser but described a played needing to find his place at a higher level.

“[Glasser’s] done a great job for us,” said Gwozdecky back in early November, “He’s got great quickness and once the game slows down for him in more of a cognitive sense I think you’ll start to see him putting up numbers.”

Unfortunately for Glasser his role with the team this year has been extremely limited.  Perhaps next season as a sophomore he will be able to contribute to the program on the ice.

North Dakota Fighting Sioux — WCHA

Taylor Chorney, D – Sophomore
2nd Round, 36th Overall 2005

A most impressive year for the son of a former Sioux player has the younger Chorney being regarded as North Dakota’s premier blueliner ahead of Ottawa’s Brian Lee.  The second-year rearguard leads all Sioux defensemen with 22 points in 28 games and has held a hot hand of late recording nine points in a five-game stint recently.

The Sioux have been rolling in 2007, having only lost once in their 14 games since Christmas.  It should come as no surprise that North Dakota is peaking at the right time of year and after his performance in Sweden at the World Junior Championships, you should also expect Chorney to be able to turn it on as the pressure increases as well.

Chris Vande Velde, C – Freshman
4th Round, 97th Overall 2005

It can be tough for a freshman to get a significant role on a team as talented and loaded as North Dakota is and that seems to be the problem facing Chris Vande Valde in his first foray with the Sioux.  He’s dressed for 27 games but only has two assists on the year to show for it.

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