A Look Inside the Draft
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The NHL Draft — beyond its importance to NHL teams — is a fun little exercise for college hockey fans, and hockey fans in general, if for nothing else than the sheer diversity of the selections. Players come from all sorts of European countries, in addition to Canada and the U.S. And those players can come from any number of North American junior leagues, such as Jr. A for those (most likely) planning to attend college, or Major Junior leagues. They can also be current U.S. college players.
The draft can also be a source of pride for us college hockey fans, as we watch players that are in school or coming to our favorite school, get taken. It also enables us to learn something about these guys as we start delving into their backgrounds more intently, what with the bevy of draft guides out there. (Bob McKenzie's draft guide of his Top 60 prospects is a model.)
In recent years, that pride has been served well, with the amount of U.S.-born and/or college and college-bound players exploding. However, the dynamic is changing, and it's not as obvious these days — unless you follow the college recruiting wars — which players are which.
When the draft age changed from 18 to 19, it was a positive for college teams. The result was that players were selected, by and large, after they were already enrolled in school. This meant that, when listed by Central Scouting or on NHL Draft boards, they were listed under their college teams. Combine this with the fact that U.S.-born and NCAA players were becoming more prominent in the draft, and NCAA players were breaking records for the amount of players selected in a given year.
But the 19-year old draft age had its drawbacks. Players could still "opt-in" to the draft at 18. Doing so, however, meant giving up collegiate eligibility. So players who were not yet 18 when their freshman year began, then had to make an unenviable choice following their freshman year — foresake the draft until after sophomore year, or give up collegiate eligibility.
College coaches like Dave Poulin, then of Notre Dame, fought for the NCAA to drop this restriction. As a result, you still have to "opt-in," but you can now do so with impunity, meaning that everyone just does it.
As a result, more and more, players are taken before they reach college. Statistically, the amount of college and college-bound players remains impressively high. But these players are listed moreso with their junior teams, and doesn't give the NCAA the same exposure and publicity.
That being said, it's interesting to note that the top three prospects in this year's NHL Draft are all American and/or college-bound players. Pat Kane, who decided against college and plays for London in the OHL, had a dominant World Junior tournament for Team USA last winter, and could go No. 1 overall. If he doesn't go No. 1, instead it will be Kyle Turris, a Canadian who is nevertheless set to go to Wisconsin in the fall — a la Dany Heatley.
The third-rated prospect is James vanRiemsdyk, an American who is headed to New Hampshire in the fall.
Keep an eye on CHN for updates.
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Anaheim had numerous college players, many obscure ones, many undrafted ones, and, if you notice, mostly from schools that are not traditional NCAA powerhouses. Twelves former NCAA players participated in at least one NHL postseason game for the Ducks, and most of these played prominent roles.
Andy McDonald (Colgate), Chris Kunitz (Ferris State), Dustin Penner (Maine), Todd Marchant (Clarkson), Ryan Shannon (Boston College), Joe DiPenta (Boston University), Kent Huskins (Clarkson), George Parros (Princeton), Joe Motzko (St. Cloud State), Ryan Carter (Minnesota State), Drew Miller (Michigan State) and Mark Hartigan (St. Cloud State).
McDonald and Kunitz were two of the top four scorers. Both players were one-time Hobey finalists who played four years of college hockey and were never drafted. Hartigan was also a Hobey finalist. Players like Huskins, DiPenta and Motzko took years to get a shot.