A Who's Who, Day 2
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Day 2 of the draft saw some more interesting names come through the draft board. Following up the selection of Chris Bourque from Day 1, two more sons of ex-NHLers were selected on Day 2. One was Providence-bound Trevor Ludwig, son of long-time NHL defenseman Craig Ludwig, by the Dallas Stars. The other was ...
Ryan Walter spent much of his career battling the Boston Bruins tooth and nail. Now his son Ryan is part of the Bruins organization.
Ryan spent nine years with the Montreal Canadiens, and a total of 15 in the NHL. Ben, heading back for his junior year at Massachusetts-Lowell, was not a certainty to be selected in the draft, ranked 226th among North American skaters in the final CSS Rankings. But influenced by his character and bloodlines, Boston made the move in the fifth round.
"Boston is such a great area. Everyone loves hockey there," Ben said. "It's a lot of fun to be going back there and hopefully staying there a long time. I've been there for two years, and it's been a pleasure to play there. My dad has a lot of good things to say about Boston from playing against them."
Said Boston general manager Mike O'Connell, "That's not a big factor [the bloodlines], but we look at how they're doing, how they're progressing. ... If they watch [their fathers] close enough, which most of them do, they've seen it and have a taste of it."
Ryan Walter downplayed his role in his son's development, attributing it all to Ben's work ethic.
"Nothing's easy for Ben. He's had to work his crackers off every day," Ryan said.
"I give Ben all the credit. I think the only advantage the son of a former player has is, they see the type of commitment it takes. Maybe it's some genes, but I think most of it is the commitment. Making the NHL is not about on ice — there's a lot of talented players. Making the NHL is about your commitment off ice."
The elder Walter said that, despite the dominance of major junior hockey back in his day, he almost went to college.
"I had a chance to go to North Dakota or Denver, two great schools. But I felt the thing for me to do at the time was come up through the Canadian Hockey League, and it proved correct," said Ryan Walter, who played a referee in the movie "Miracle," filmed in Vancouver, near his current home. "So it is an individual — I try to tell parents, because there's a lot of parents who don't know this game, and they have to make these decisions, and that's the hard part. Do what's best for your kid — make a good decision in that area, but it's not easy.
"Ben really wanted to go to college. We have another boy that I think really wants to play in the Canadian Hockey League. The problem is, as a family, you get zoned in and everybody says, 'Oh, you're a college family.' It's a great thing to do, but don't forget, from my experience, I was drafted No. 2 in the world from the Canadian Hockey League. So it's an individual decision, it's what the kid wants to do. If you don't send him where his heart's at, he's not going to prosper."
Ben Walter, meanwhile, is looking forward to the upcoming season at Lowell. Many are expecting the RiverHawks to be a major factor in next season's Hockey East race.
"We're very excited. I can't wait to get back there and get started," Ben Walter said. "Only losing one senior, expectations will be high for our team, and we expect a lot out of ourselves."
Boston is making a habit of picking sons of former rivals — Benoit Mondou, whose father Pierre had a productive NHL career in Montreal, was selected last year.
The highest-rated player by the CSS who was not selected was Yale recruit Blair Yaworski, No. 47 on the final rankings. But if not for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it could have been Brown's Brian Ihnacak.
Ihnacak was ranked No. 44 by the CSS, but lasted until the 259th overall pick, when he was taken by the Penguins, early in the ninth round.
"His name came up earlier than the ninth round, and obviously you just keep sitting there and it comes down to the ninth round and it becomes a no-brainer," said Greg Malone, chief scout for the Penguins. "We've talked about this kid for a few rounds. And the one thing is, it doesn't matter where we take these kids, they're all thrown into a hat and it's just a matter of who's the best kid out there on the ice. If he comes in, a ninth-round pick, and he's better than someone else, he's going to get a spot.
"We have faith in the scouts. We saw this kid play at St. Mike's last year and we actually had him rated last year a little bit. So we have a good history on the kid, and we know the kid, and we think it's a good selection, especially at that time."
Ihnacak was the ECAC's co-Rookie of the Year last season, scoring 10 goals and 30 points in 31 games. He was held without a goal, however, in his last 12 games.
Ihnacak's father, Peter, was a quality NHL center for Toronto eight years, so the bloodlines are strong.
"You take everything into consideration, but that's not the main reason," said Malone. "We took him because of the person that he is and the hockey player that he was. He's very good with the puck and he creates offensive opportunities, and we look to him to score some goals at Brown."
The Central Scouting rankings are hardly gospel, so there is always bound to be players selected who aren't on their list. But when it's a player who was already passed over during his first year of draft eligibility and was never on any radar screen, you take special notice.
Unless your idea of fun is studying the Finnish Elite League stats, the draft is filled with players you never heard of. But when a college hockey reporter hears "Jon Gleed, Cornell," you do a double take. Gleed is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound, steady, agile defenseman, who is progressing nicely. But for someone who is going to be 21 in January, even he had to be surprised to find out he was selected in the seventh round by Montreal.
"I talked to [Cornell coach] Mike Schafer a lot during the year, we're really good friends," said Montreal's chief of amateur scouting, Dave Mayville. "And we have a player there [at Cornell] already, [Ryan] O'Byrne.
"I watched him play and thought he was a pretty good looking prospect. Even though he's an older player, I still felt he had a chance. I watched him again and again, and other people watched him, and felt he was a good prospect."
Mayville said he was impressed at how Gleed recovered from an injury this season, and how his offensive game has developed.
"His strength will increase because of maturity, and he'll get on more of a program, and continue the program Mike has for him," Mayville said. "He's a good skater. His defensive play is outstanding as far as we're concerned, and we compare him to a guy like Ken Klee. Those type of people, you don't even know they're on the ice — which is great. Coaches love those kind of guys. And he has a good shot.
"We know Mike is a good coach and he runs a good program and we have two prospects there now, and we're happy with them. Players improve there. That's why they always win."
A year ago, Mike Lundin didn't yet have a college to attend. But after Maine lost Francis Nault to NCAA eligibility rules, the Black Bears scoured the rinks, found Lundin, made him an offer, and within two weeks, he was on the Maine campus.
The Minnesota High School Player of the Year in 2002-03, Lundin didn't take long to fit in with the Black Bears. He became an integral part of the team, particularly fitting in on the power play, and was on the ice during the frenzied 6-on-3 in the closing minutes of Maine's championship game loss to Denver.
Lundin's skills made him an early-Day 2 pick, by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fourth round.
"He's a very smart defenseman. Skates well, carries the puck well," said Tampa Bay chief scout Jake Goertzen. "He's not really physical, but he doesn't shy away. And he plays in a great program at Maine, and they're always competing for the top spot.
"He actually didn't know he was going to Maine until [very late]. We like that he's able to make a decision quickly. He seized an opportunity.
"There's some offensive upside, because he thinks the game so well, he can get out in the open and pass the puck."
Some other names of note:
Wes O'Neill may not have dropped the farthest from his CSS ranking, but it was perhaps the most surprising. He was No. 23 on the final list, and some people thought he may even be a first rounder. In fact, he was the main impetus for the move to eliminate the NCAA's stance against opting in to the draft at age 18. O'Neill's Notre Dame coach, Dave Poulin, is the one who pushed for the rule, motivated in part out of his fear of losing O'Neill next season. As it turns out, it may have been better to wait a year. O'Neill was not in attendance in Raleigh when his name was called on Day 2, in the fourth round by the New York Islanders.
Dusty Collins became what is believed to be the first Arizona native to be selected. The Northern Michigan forward was taken in the fifth round by Tampa Bay.
J.D. Corbin could be the definition of homebody. Corbin, who grew up in Littleton, Colo., and stayed home to play for Denver, was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the eighth round, 249th overall.