by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
First, some numbers. Current or incoming college hockey players accounted for off the pace of the last couple of years, but still a significant amount.
Friday, BU's Colin Wilson became the first college or college-bound player selected in this year's NHL Draft, going No. 7 to Nashville. Round 1 saw just four college players taken, and four other American major junior players. (Zach Bogosian of Peterborough (OHL) was the first American selected, third overall.)
That's a far cry from the last couple of years, when Americans and college players dominated the early part of the draft. American Patrick Kane was taken No. 1 overall last year, and Erik Johnson, who played one year at Minnesota, was No. 1 overall in 2006. In the last two years, five of the top six combined picks were Americans or college players, or both.
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It's hard to know what to think about the Tampa Bay Lightning selecting David Carle in the seventh round of the NHL Draft.
A couple days earlier, Carle, who was ranked No. 60 among North American skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting Service, informed the NHL that his career was over because of a heart condition that was diagnosed.
But the Lightning picked him anyway. Their new incoming owner, Oren Koules, said on the team's web site: "The kid worked his whole life to be drafted in the NHL, and I didn’t see a reason he shouldn’t be."
This is one heckuva magnanimous gesture, but it's hard to believe Tampa had to be that magnanimous, to essentially forfeit a draft pick.
Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who was very gracious upon hearing the news, offered to honor Carle's scholarship and make him an active part of the team somehow — details to follow. A great gesture, which doesn't cost Gwozdecky much.
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Garth Snow's infamous spat with Minnesota coach Don Lucia didn't prevent the New York Islanders general manager from selecting three college players in a 31-pick span early in this year's NHL Draft.
And one of the picks was Minnesota-bound defenseman Aaron Ness, taking No. 40 overall.
Snow was blasted in college circles for plucking Kyle Okposo out of Minnesota in the middle of the season, last December. Okposo was the Isles' first-round pick, No. 7 overall, in 2006. Snow then ripped into Lucia, accusing him of hampering Okposo's development.
This did not stop Snow from selecting Ness this year, which calls into question whether a) Snow will try to stop Ness from going to Minnesota, or b) last year's criticism was just nonsense. It's more likely 'b'.
The Islanders also selected Boston University-bound center Corey Trivino at No. 36, and incoming North Dakota recruit David Toews at No. 66, or 63 spots lower than his brother Jonathan was taken in 2006.
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Remarkably, four Wisconsin defensemen were taken in the top 43 picks of the draft — Jake Gardiner, the only first rounder at No. 17 overall, Cody Goloubef (No. 37), Patrick Wiercioch (42) and Justin Schultz (43). Of those, only Goloubef played for the Badgers last year.
Another Wisconsin-bound player, center Derek Stepan, was taken No. 51 overall by the New York Rangers. For the day, Wisconsin had seven total players drafted, the most of any school.
This is in addition two a pair of Wisconsin defensemen who were taken in the first round last year — Brendan Smith and Ryan McDonagh. Jamie McBain was taken in the second round in 2006.
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It didn't match last year's record (percentage wise) of 78 selections (out of 211), but this year's 61 college or college-bound selections is still very good. It's the top that didn't match last year — when 11 college players were taken in the first round. This year, it was only four. But the later rounds this year, matched up favorably with recent years.
Of the 61, the WCHA again led the way with 22 selections. There were 14 from Hockey East, 13 from the CCHA and 10 from the ECAC. Two players are still uncommitted — Nicholas Larson, and Derek Grant.
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After Wisconsin's seven, two other schools had six players selected — North Dakota and Boston University. For the Sioux, that's not an unusual amount in recent years. But for BU, it's not a typical amount in the recent past.
One of Boston University's selections is Vinny Saponari, who joins brother Victor at BU. Saponari was selected in the fourth round by Atlanta, which is noteworty because Saponari hails from Marietta, Georgia and his hero is Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk. Saponari went to Culver Military Academy in Indiana to play hockey, then became the first native Georgian to play for the U.S. Development Program in Ann Arbor. His dad is originally from Cleveland, but moved south because he hated the cold.
After those three teams, Michigan and Clarkson came next with the most selections, with four each.
Among NHL teams, Anaheim and Columbus selected the most college players, five — followed by Toronto and the New York Islanders, four each.
Surprisingly, despite the Philadelphia Flyers' raid of college players during this summer signing season, they did not select any college players this year.
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None of the players rated among North American goaltenders were actually selected. The highest of which is Joe Cannata, who is going to Merrimack; he was No. 13 according to the CSS list. At No. 17, also unselected, is Brady Hjelle, who is going to Minnesota-Duluth.
The highest rated player not selected was Northeastern-bound right wing Brodie Reid, at No. 81.
Of the 61 players selected, just 10 have already played in college, continuing a trend over the last decade.