have all the stars gone?
is made of “intangibles” in college hockey.
You know; those elements a player brings to the game that
can’t be measured, like locker room leadership or
big hits that keep an opponent in check.
in the college game (and at higher levels, if names like
“Gretzky” are any indication) it’s the
tangibles that make superstars. Things like goals, assists,
points and wins are what get the attention in March when
the trophy recipients are determined.
crunch the college hockey nation’s tangible numbers
in advance of the 2002-03 season, it looks much like the
outlook for the nation’s economy: sluggish at best,
bleak at worst.
words of Captain Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) from “A Few
Good Men,” these are the facts, and they are indisputable:
Of the 28 players in the nation who scored 40 points or
better last season, only 10 return. Of the 10 players who
score 50 points or better, only three (Colin Hemingway,
New Hampshire; Peter Sejna, Colorado College; and John Shouneyia,
Michigan) will play college hockey this year. Of the 10
Hobey finalists from last season, only two (Denver goalie
Wade Dubielewicz and Cornell defenseman Doug Murray) are
back for another run.
Hobey Baker Finalists
Team (as of Oct. 3)
roster of last season’s college stars who are toiling
in the NHL (or AHL) this time around is staggering: Ryan
Miller, Jordan Leopold, Mike Cammalleri, Johnny Pohl, Mark
Hartigan, Darren Haydar, Chris Paradise, Jim Fahey, Jeff
Hoggan, Mark Cullen,
Rob Collins, Nate DiCasmirro, Ryan Olson, Jeff Taffe, Chad
Theuer, Tim Skarperud, Mike Komisarek, Marc Cavosie, Mike
Bishai, Ryan Bayda... And the list, as they say, goes on.
the start of the new season mark the end of college hockey
as we know it? Not surprisingly, you get a division of opinion
between the pro hockey interests and the college hockey
asked for an explanation of pro hockey’s sudden intense
interest in college hockey’s better underclassmen,
Tom Kurvers, the Phoenix Coyotes scout who won the Hobey
as a senior defenseman at Minnesota-Duluth in 1984, offers
more interesting numbers.
three years into the last wave of NHL expansion, so there
are now 30 teams all looking to compete on some level,”
he said, while watching fellow Hobey-winning defenseman
Leopold man the Calgary Flames’ blue line during a
preseason game at Minnesota. “Every team has holes
to fill all the time, so there’s never been a greater
demand for good players.”
coaches are an eternally optimistic lot, and find the silver
lining in player departures by noting that college hockey
has rightfully gained a reputation as a top proving ground
for eventual pro players. At the same time, anyone who’s
taken a girl to the prom only to have her leave with someone
else before the Grand March knows what it’s like to
NHL signs so many great underclassmen that we don’t
get to enjoy the fruits of their maturity,” said St.
Cloud State coach Craig Dahl, who saw Hobey runner-up Hartigan
bolt early for the Atlanta Thrashers seemingly just minutes
after the Huskies 2001-02 season ended. “It’s
a problem that hits every team eventually because money
is money, and when the pros start throwing money around,
it’s tough for kids.”
while collegians are wowed by the money that the pro teams
can offer, going after talented underclassmen makes fiscal
sense for the NHL teams as well. It doesn’t take an
Ivy League economics degree to figure out why.
signing of players with college eligibility has become
as commonplace in the game as the "sieve chant."
– Jeff Sauer
more about this issue from
a coach's perspective in the first of Jeff Sauer's
bi-weekly columns for Inside College Hockey.
the pro level, teams need to win immediately, and money
is always a factor,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
“So if you’re a pro g.m. and you sign two or
three college prospects at (salary) cap level of around
$1.5 million or so, you’re bound to get some offensive
production out of at least one of them. And three prospects
at cap level still costs much less than signing one Bill
Guerin-level free agent for $8 million.”
coaches look further back, and say that the NHL’s
all-out raiding of college hockey’s top talent is
far from a new thing.
is the start of the third decade of the NHL recognizing
college hockey as a great developer of talent,” said
Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who managed to get one more
season out of Dubielewicz despite the siren’s song
of pro hockey beckoning.
a problem that affects us all eventually. For years, people
marveled at Michigan’s ability to hold onto their
top underclassmen, but this summer proved that maybe the
pendulum is swinging their way.”
University coach Jack Parker, who recently saw Rick DiPietro
depart Commonwealth Avenue for the New York Islanders after
just one spectacular season of college hockey, says that
what happened last summer in the WCHA and CCHA has been
happening in the East for some time.
it was about time some of those other guys had to pay the
price,” said Parker of his coaching counterparts to
the west. “It’s one thing for guys to graduate,
but quite another to lose a guy early. And that’s
been a bit of an epidemic in our league.”
bright spot in New England and New York is that Mazzoleni
and some other eastern coaches point out that the ECAC and
Hockey East haven’t been hit as hard
by early departures and talent graduation as the west this
season, Hockey East should be as good as its ever been talent-wise,”
best of me is up my sleeve," sings John Mayer
in his hit song "No Such Thing." The same
can be said for these 12 players, who we think, like
Mayer, will come out of the shadows to shine this
season. INCH picked two
players from each conference, not counting anyone
on our first two Preseason
– Eric Nystrom, F, Michigan, and Morgan Cey,
G, Notre Dame
CHA – Rigel Shaw, F, Findlay, and Tyler Kindle,
D, Wayne State
ECAC – Dominic Moore, F, Harvard, and Yann Danis,
Hockey East – Ed McGrane, F, UMass Lowell, and
Sean Collins, F, New Hampshire
MAAC – Ron D'Angelo, F, Connecticut, and Chris
Garceau, F, Army
WCHA – Matt Koalska, F, Minnesota, and Kevin
Doell, F, Denver
some college hockey coaches will concede that we might be
facing a down year, the optimism within reigns supreme.
In those heady anything-is-possible days when teams are
just taking the ice for the first time, coaches generally
tip their hats to those who have moved on, then profess
excitement for what’s been left behind, and for the
newcomers who will make their college hockey debuts in October.
are certainly losing more kids to the NHL early, but that
speaks volumes for the development opportunities in college
hockey,” said Minnesota State-Mankato coach Troy Jutting.
“The losses are offset by the fact that there are
a lot of great young players coming into our league and
other leagues this year. And good players will always step
up to fill any talent gaps.”
goes as far as to compare 2002-03 to what Olympic years
were like when Olympic hockey teams were dominated by collegians.
A check of the Hobey history
books shows that a few lesser-known players were given opportunities
to step up and be noticed in Olympic seasons past. The case
could be made that Hobey winners Kurvers (’84), Minnesota
goalie Robb Stauber (’88), Maine forward Scott Pellerin
(’92) and Minnesota-Duluth forward Chris Marinucci
(’94) certainly benefited by having 15 or more of
the top collegians playing for a gold medal in those seasons.
players always seem to find a way to use the extra ice time,
step up, and get noticed,” said Kurvers. “The
players coming into college hockey have all been recruited
because they’ve got talent. And those kinds of guys
with commitment and talent always seem to find a way to
make it in the game.”
there are budding stars out there waiting to fill any talent
voids, where should fans look to find them? Those who are
supposed to understand the most about the college game,
the coaches, admit that they don’t even know. At least
wait two months,” said Gwozdecky. “By mid-November
I bet you’ll find some terrific players who might
not have been on the marquee last year, but
who have been given a role and have stepped up and filled
that role beyond all expectations.”
that finding bright stars, be it in the sky or on the rink,
is a matter of patience and persistence. After all of the
brightest stars have seemingly flared up and gone dark,
you might be tempted to call it an evening. But there’s
always the chance of seeing a few shooting stars –
those bright flashes of brilliance that come out of nowhere
when you least expect them.
college hockey fans and stargazers alike, the best advice
is: keep watching.