Four College-Bound Players Taken in First Round
Michigan-Bound Larkin Tops List at No. 15
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
PHILADELPHIA Four incoming college players were selected in a six-pick span of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft's first round Friday. Those four constituted the entirety of the college hockey contingent in this year's first round, which ties for second fewest in the last 15 drafts.
It was an improvement, however, over last season, when just one NCAA-bound player was selected in the first round, the lowest since 1998.
Three of the four players were part of the U.S. National Team Development Program, and members of the U.S. Under-18 team, and all four are forwards.
First was Dylan Larkin, taken 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, his hometown team. Larkin is headed to Michigan.
Larkin was followed by dynamic forward Sonny Milano of Long Island, taken by Columbus. At 18th overall, Alex Tuch was selected by the Minnesota Wild. Both Milano and Tuch are headed to Boston College, and were linemates with the Under-18 team this year.
"I lived in Ohio for a year and got to know Columbus pretty well," Milano said. "It's definitely a lot of relief. I was sitting there nervous. You just want to get picked."
Milano originally committed to Notre Dame, but said Boston College was a "dream school" where he always wanted to play. It didn't hurt that Tuch committed there, and then did a bit of a sell job on him when an opening arose. He has a lot of friends there, with BC loaded with so many former National Team players — like Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen and Thatcher Demko.
"Seeing skilled players like (Johnny) Gaudreau, gets your hopes up that maybe I can have that kind of success," Milano said. "They're a winning team evey year. They have a lot of guys leaving. Hopefully I'll be an impact player and we'll win right away. ... (But) you just want to go in there and get along with the guys."
Tuch said he didn't know Minnesota wanted him.
"They stood back in the shadows a little bit, I was really surprised they picked me," Tuch said. "But it's a good, winning culture with a lot of good players. ... I think I'll fit in. I bring my size and presence on the ice, and make room for my linemates. ... I'm a big, strong power forward - I'm very versatile, highly-skilled, heavy shot — I use my body, but I also play all three (zones) of the ice."
Tuch, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., said he's been enamored of Boston College since, as a six-year old, he saw them win the 2001 Frozen Four.
Boston College coach Jerry York usually makes it a habit to be at the NHL Draft, not least of which because he usually has a number of players selected. But this year, despite potentially three first-round picks, he wasn't in attendance; his brother recently passed away from cancer.
"He's in our hearts, and I feel really bad about that," Tuch said.
Said Milano, "He's probably one of the greatest college coaches of all time. "I'm just really excited to get playing with him."
The Minnesota Wild feel comfortable with Tuch at Boston College.
"He's a power forward but obviously has quality offensive potential," said former Princeton defenseman Brent Flahr, current Director of Scouting for the Wild. "(BC plays) a game where it seems players flourish there. There's not too many programs like Boston College right now.
"He'd figure it out wherever he goes, but certainly later in the draft, there's certain programs, whether it's junior or college, where we figure they'll develop better. ... They've got a good thing going there, and he'll be there a couple of years."
At No. 20 overall, the Chicago Blackhawks traded up to select Nick Schmaltz, who is headed to North Dakota to play with brother Jordan, a first-round selection two years ago. Schmaltz is a lifelong Blackhawks fan.
"I couldn't be happier," Schmaltz said.
The Blackhaws jumped seven slots, moving one spot ahead of St. Louis, to take Schmaltz. Many thought St. Louis would take Schmaltz at 21, because that's the team that drafted Jordan two years ago.
"I wasn't too much aware of any of that stuff until it all happened, I was filled in rather quickly," Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville said. "He was excited."
Schmaltz heads to North Dakota, where his brother plays, and where his father and two uncles once played football. The Blackhawks are happy having him there, the former home, of course, of Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
"A lot of the college game now is 21, 22-year old men, which is great," Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said. "He'll be with his brother which will help on a personal level, but it's a chance to play against quality competition. He's got so much talent — offensively he's one of the most talented kids in the draft. Consistency is something a lot of young players can work on. But this puts him in an environemnt to mature and get stronger.
"His feet, his hands, his playmaking ability — so you look at his potential there — give him some time to develop and grow into being a professional, and we're really excited."
Schmaltz said, despite the Toews connection, Patrick Kane was his favorite player.
"This is obviously a huge honor but now the work starts," Schmaltz said. "You have to keep pushing and working hard. ... Hopefully, I'll be 2-3 years at North Dakota, but if it takes four, I'll do it. Whatever it takes to get to the NHL."
Not selected in the first round was Boston College sophomore-to-be Thatcher Demko. He was projected as a borderline first-rounder coming in, as were incoming freshmen defensemen Jack Dougherty (Wisconsin), Jack Glover (Minnesota) and Ryan Collins (Minnesota).
Rounds 2-7 of the NHL Draft take place Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. (ET).