September 8, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

CHN Mailbag #2: 2018 Champion? Olympic Signings? What Does Committing Really Mean?

by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer (@MikeMcMahonCHN)

To submit a question or comment for the CHN Mailbag, email mailbag@collegehockeynews.com.

What program will win the Frozen Four and why? - Bill (Parts Unknown)

The early favorite has to be Denver. The Pioneers are obviously the returning champions, but moreover, they lost seven games last season. They were the top team in the nation from wire-to-wire, and that's rare. Meanwhile, they return almost everyone. I'm having a hard time coming up with another national champion that returned as much talent and production as Denver will this season. They were a dominant team last year, and now you're adding a year's worth of experience to that group, including a national title. That should be terrifying to teams in the NCHC and around the country.

With Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom and Dylan Gambrell, it's possible the Pioneers have three players in the top-10 finalists for the Hobey Baker this season. I'd be shocked if at least two of those players weren't in the top-10. That doesn't even include Tanner Jaillet in goal. 

Denver is insanely talented, and now they're battle tested. When this team gets into tight games in March and April, they'll know how to win those games.

I'd guess one of the biggest things on Jim Montgomery's agenda this season is motivation. After losing in the national semifinals in Tampa, last year's Denver team was on a mission from start to finish. Now they've won the ultimate prize, so where does that motivation come from? There's no more pot of gold to chase. Some teams don't need that motivation, other teams do. Some adversity at the beginning of the season might not be the worst thing for this Denver team, and they have October games at Notre Dame and at BU to test them.

Where is Oscar Skiold committing? - Bill (Parts Uknown)

I'll be honest with you, I don't know much about Skiold. But, as a '96 birth year, he needs to find a school quickly. He's a product of Sweden who seemed to have some good numbers in the USPHL last season, but that league is below the NAHL and especially USHL in terms of level of competition. A 20 year old in the USPHL should dominate the league and be more than a point per game, and Skiold was.

Do you foresee players selected for the Olympics, a Jordan Greenway perhaps, not returning to school after the event due to its long duration plus the opportunity most would have to turn pro? Would totally disrupt how to evaluate teams. — Matthew (Parts Unknown)

We will absolutely see college players in the Olympics. But, I think all if them will return to finish their college seasons. 

The schedule doesn't seem to be as rigorous as it was in the 1980s. It's not like Tony Granato has to leave Wisconsin or take a hiatus in order to coach the Olympic team. It's going to be about a three-week commitment. 

Any players taking part in the Olympics will be back around the end of the regular season or conference playoffs, depending upon where they play. That's so close to the end of the season, I'd imagine NHL teams would be willing to allow their drafted prospects to finish up their college duties before signing the players they want to in the spring. Undrafted free agents having big years don't usually sign with an NHL team in the middle of February, even if everyone knows they're en route to an NHL contract at the end of the year. I don't think the Olympics will change that timeline. 

Johnny Gaudreau, back in 2014, could have signed with Calgary in January. Everyone knew he was the best player in the nation and he was on his way to the NHL. But he didn't, and there's a reason for that. 

Now, a good performance at the Olympics might raise the stock of a player, but I don't think anyone would sign immediately and not return to finish the season. It happens with the World Juniors once in a while, but that's also at a semester break, where sometimes academics and other factors can come into play.

Ok, at the risk of sounding dumb, here is my question. I see all these websites saying that this kid committed here and this kid there and I ask myself, What does that mean? Did he get a full ride? Is it a partial scholarship? Does he just like the school or his great grand pappy went there? what is it? There can't be that many scholarships available every year. I feel like a lot of these leagues use the word commitment to give a sense of accomplishment for there organization when all that is happening is that a kid is going to college just like the millions of other kids out there. I would love to here your expertise on the matter or if you can direct me somewhere so that I may enlighten myself. — Jeff (Parts Unknown)

When a player announces he's committing to a school, the intention is that he's going there to play hockey. While I agree that teams and leagues often exaggerate when it comes to the number of "commitments" they have, anyone who is committing to a school is going there for hockey purposes.

What happens a lot is that leagues will take credit for a player as long as the player played there at some point. For example, I remember four or five different teams and leagues took credit when Jack Eichel committed to Boston University.  

Not every player is getting a full ride. In fact, I'd say the majority aren't. Sometimes it's half (the player pays for two years and the college pays for two years), sometimes it's more or less than that, but I think the most common offer is "2 for 4" which means that the school and player each pay for two years.

Teams have 18 scholarships at their disposal at any given time. With about 25-28 players on each roster, not all of them can be on full scholarships. There are also some players who are true walk-ons and paying their full way. I know of other examples where a player comes to a team as a walk-on, performs well, and then the team rewards that player with scholarship dollars in future years.

With 60 teams, there are 1,080 "full" scholarships available at any one time. But, there could also be more than 2,000 players on half or partial scholarships (if you broke up that 1,080). 

There are many problems with today's recruiting environment, but I think the number of players isn't one of them. It adds up. Players committing at 14 years old? Teams over-committing and then reneging on commitments before players arrive? Players committing to a school only to use it as leverage and then backing out when a bigger school comes calling? Those are all much bigger issues.

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