April 8, 2004
NCAA to Allow Opt-in Waiver for NHL Draft

By Nate Ewell and Mike Eidelbes
Inside College Hockey.com Exclusive

BOSTON – The NCAA has decided to allow current student-athletes to opt-in to this spring's NHL Entry Draft and retain their college eligibilty, Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin told Inside College Hockey.

Poulin – who has an opt-in prospect on his roster in defenseman Wes O'Neill – spearheaded an effort to convince the NCAA to reverse its policy, which previously allowed future collegians to opt-in without jeopardizing their college eligibility, but not current collegians.

2004 NCAA Opt-In Candidates
Player Team
Sean Bentovoglio Niagara
Steve Birnstill Northeastern
Jeff Caron Merrimack
Matt Cohen Yale
Steve Hartley Miami
T.J. Hensick Michigan
Wes O'Neill Notre Dame
Adam Pineault Boston College
Jonathan Sigalet Bowling Green
Drew Stafford North Dakota
Paul Szczechera Western Michigan
A.J. Thelen Michigan State

The opt-in rule, enacted in 1995, requires prospects born between Sept. 16, 1985, and Sept. 15, 1986 to declare their intentions by May 1 in order to enter the pool for the upcoming National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Twelve current players are affected by the rule, including top NHL prospects O'Neill, A.J. Thelen of Michigan State, Drew Stafford of North Dakota and Adam Pineault of Boston College.

Officials from Notre Dame sent a waiver request for O'Neill on Wednesday. The NCAA will send waiver requests to the other 11 schools impacted by the situation.

According to Poulin, an NCAA Management Council sub-committee modified the organization's opt-in rule on a short-term basis. Any long-term change to the policy would have to proceed though the NCAA’s standard legislative path.

The only player to forgo his remaining college eligibility by opting in to the NHL Draft is former Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro, who left the Terriers after his freshman season and was selected by the New York Islanders with the first overall pick in 2000.

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