UPDATED: July 30, 2007
INCH Flight Risks
Dodge led Clarkson to the ECAC Hockey League playoff
championship last season. Will he be back to help the
Golden Knights defend their crown?
As we learned a year ago, the NHL's new collective
bargaining agreement has the head honchos of the league's
30 franchises beating paths to college campuses nationwide.
The draw? A bevy of young (read: inexpensive) talent ready
to contribute at the professional level.
Since March 8, when Union's T.J. Fox signed
a free agent deal with the San Jose Sharks, nearly two dozen
underclassmen have bid adieu to the college life
in favor of playing for pay. And that number is sure to climb
as we hit the NHL Entry Draft and the league's salary cap
is established for the upcoming season. It leads to an anxious
offseason for players considering the leap to pro hockey,
and perhaps even moreso for the coaches who would have to
fill their skates if they depart.
With that in mind, Inside College Hockey takes
its annual look at a collection of players who are potential
Flight Risks. A few players who've publicly declared their intentions to return to school next season — most notably North Dakota's Taylor Chorney and T.J. Oshie — do not appear on the list for that very reason.
School (NHL Rights)
Abdelkader, Michigan State (Detroit Red Wings)
The Spartans proved that four-year players
who grow to maturity in the college ranks makes a
nice mix for a national championship team. Holding
on to their assets in the sophomore class will prove
to be difficult. Abdelkader, who played with the United
States World Junior Championship team in the middle
of last season, has a solid two-way game and the size
and skill to contribute on the wing at the pro level
right now. The Red Wings might covet an in-state product
who can start in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey
League before moving up to Motown.
Flight Factor: 3.0
(0-register for fall classes, 10-make plans for training
Bertram, Boston College (Chicago Blackhawks)
The Blackhawks need scoring, but they're
unlikely to find it in Bertram, whose best point year
thus far at Boston College was a 10-goal, 26-point
campaign as a sophomore. Chicago
still lists Bertram among its best left wing prospects,
and hopes he fulfills the potential that made him
a second-round pick and a two-time member of the World
Junior Championship outfit from Canada, where he won
two gold medals.
Flight Factor: 1.0
Bishop, Maine (St. Louis Blues)
If you had your eyes and ears open at
the Frozen Four in St. Louis, you know that hockey
fans definitely know about local product and Blues
draft pick Ben Bishop. Also during the Frozen Four,
Blues president John Davidson said the franchise is
happy with Bishop's development at Maine. Davidson
also has to like the work load and training that Bishop
gets at Maine – he started every game for which
he was healthy and works with Grant Standbrook in
Flight Factor: 0.5
Davis, Miami (Chicago Blackhawks)
Davis's talents may be more appreciated
by college hockey fans than by NHL talent evaluators.
Despite scoring 50 points last season, solidifying
his status as one of the nation's top defensive forwards,
and earning a spot on the U.S. team that competed
at the recently completed IIHF World Championship,
his name's not among the team's top 10 prospects by
The Hockey News, and the Hockey's Future
website ranks him ninth on the list of future Blackhawks.
Davis could sign, opting to hone his skills in the
AHL for at least one season, but recent history suggests
Miami skaters can complete their college eligibility
and make a seamless transition to the the pro game
as evidenced by ex-RedHawks Dan Boyle and Andy Greene.
Flight Factor: 3.5
Dodge, Clarkson (Carolina Hurricanes)
Dodge has publicly declared that he
will return to Clarkson, but Carolina needs to build
some depth in their system with five of their eight
top-scoring forwards over the age of 33. Dodge's lack
of physical prowess or a measurable skill set (skating,
shooting, size) made him a late-round draft pick but
he's been a captain at the junior and now a two-year
captain at the collegiate level. His leadership, consistency,
and hockey sense make him a strong pro prospect..
Flight Factor: 2.0
Duncan, North Dakota (undrafted free agent)
The reigning Hobey Baker winner's stock
won't get any higher than it is now, unless he returns
to North Dakota and wins the Hobey again next year.
Nobody's ever won back-to-back Hobeys before, and
since we suspect linemate Jonathan Toews will sign
with the Blackhawks, Duncan's potential to put up
huge numbers again next year is less likely. The other
member of the Sioux's top line, T.J. Oshie, has declared
that he will return to Grand Forks for the 2007-08
Flight Factor: 3.25
Gilroy, Boston University (undrafted free agent)
Nearly one-quarter of the collegians
who've signed NHL contracts since March 8 are undrafted
free agent defensemen. That Gilroy, a walk-on who's
paid his own way to BU, isn't among that group isn't
due to a lack of opportunities. The other signees
can't match his credentials (first-team Hockey East,
second-team East All-American last season), versatility
(he can play forward or defense), and combination
of size and skating ability. Gilroy could bypass a
certain BU scholarship for his junior and senior seasons
for an NHL contract.
Flight Factor: 6.75
Goligoski, Minnesota (Pittsburgh Penguins)
through last season, Goligoski certainly looked NHL
ready, but he wasn’t nearly as effective during
the second half of the year. Part of that was due
to a shoulder injury; still, Goligoski was a non-factor
down the stretch when the Gophers needed him the most.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is looking to add at least
one veteran defenseman during the off-season to provide
a steadying influence for the youthful Pens. A smooth-skating
offensive defenseman, Goligoski will get back on track
in Minneapolis next season, then spend at least one
year as an apprentice in the AHL before competing
for a job with the parent club.
(July 11): In somewhat of a surprise, Goligoski
came to terms with the Penguins on a two-year contract
worth a total of $1.1 million.
Lee, North Dakota (Ottawa Senators)
Until Lee signs, we’ll remind
everyone that after taking him ninth overall in the
2005 draft, Ottawa general manager John Muckler said
he expected Lee to be one of the team’s top
four defensemen by the 2007-08 season. Bear in mind
the Sens have four regulars under contract through
at least next season and two restricted free agents
likely to re-sign – and all of them are under
30. Mix in the fact that the team’s AHL affiliate
in Binghamton isn’t a great situation for player
development, and it appears Lee would be better off
in Grand Forks for at least one more year.
(July 4): Lee agreed to a deal with Ottawa
on the same day another green-clad underclassman (Michigan
State forward Jim McKenzie) signed with the Sens.
Nodl, St. Cloud State (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Philadelphia Flyers can use offensive
help right away and Nodl might be a guy who can provide
it. A highly coveted junior player, he made a successful
transition to the college game and led St. Cloud State
in scoring as a freshman with 46 points. Nodl has
already seen teammate and fellow underclassman Andrew
Gordon (Washington Capitals) sign a professional contract.
Will he be the next to make the leap? We don't think
so, but there's a chance.
Flight Factor: 4.0
Okposo, Minnesota (New York Islanders)
Islanders GM Garth Snow showed he was
willing to go against the tried-and-true practices
upon taking over last year and signing goalie Rick
DiPietro to a 15-year contract. If the Isles like
Okposo they'll definitely sign him and get him into
the system. Okposo did finish second on the Golden
Gophers in scoring with 40 points, but he had just
eight points in Minnesota's last 14 games, indicating
that another year on campus to increase strength and
consistency might be the best thing for him.
UPDATE (June 6): Okposo
announced that he would return to Minnesota for his
Porter, Michigan (Phoenix Coyotes)
Phoenix's youth movement will start
in full force in 2007-08, and even though Porter would
get a lot of ice time with the Coyotes' AHL affiliate
in San Antonio, he'll likely come back to Ann Arbor
and be the focal point for the Wolverines' attack.
With his offensive ability and excellent defensive
play, he'll battle Miami's Nathan Davis for the title
of the country's top two-way forward and emerge as
a prime candidate for the 2008 Hobey Baker Award.
Flight Factor: 3.5
Schneider, Boston College (Vancouver Canucks)
Schneider’s ready to embark on
a pro career and definitely has the potential to be
a No. 1 goaltender, but Roberto Luongo stands in the
way. Schneider's status was explored in recent articles
in the Vancouver
Province and Boston
Globe. One possibility Kevin Paul Dupont
floated in the Globe: Schneider returning to BC for
his senior season and not signing with the Canucks,
opting to become an unrestricted free agent as of
Aug. 15, 2008.
UPDATE (July 3): The
Canucks inked Schneider, their top pick in the 2004
NHL Entry Draft, to a contract, the terms of which
were not disclosed.
Toews, North Dakota (Chicago Blackhawks)
Toews, college hockey’s most dominant
player over the second half of last season, proved
his readiness for the next level by scoring 2-5—7
in eight games with the gold-medal winning Canadian
team at the IIHF World Championships in Moscow. The
Blackhawks sorely need scoring punch – only
Martin Havlat and Radim Vrbata scored more than 40
points for the team last season.
UPDATE (May 16): As
expected, Toews signed a three-year contract with
Wheeler, Minnesota (Phoenix Coyotes)
Phoenix has glaring holes to fill up front
– only Shane Doan and former Badger Steve Reinprecht
are top-six caliber forwards – and its AHL affiliate
in San Antonio lacks talent. The ‘yotes have about
$17 million in cap money, some of which will definitely
be thrown in the direction of a proven scorer, and some
homegrown talent – most notably ex-UNO wing Bill
Thomas. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Wheeler
leave, but we think he’s a slight lean to return.
Flight Factor: 4.5