reloads after back-to-back championships.
With two straight
Frozen Four titles under its belt, the present state of the University
of Denver program is as solid as it has ever been. Now it's the
future the Pioneers are working hard to protect. And they're doing
so by utilizing their typical “spanning the globe”
Rock stars usually
beat to their own drum, and so does 2006 Pioneers recruit Rhett
Rakhshani (rock-SHA-knee), a 1988-born forward from Huntington
Beach, Calif., who previously played for the California Wave.
The Wave is a burgeoning amateur hockey program in suburban Los
Angeles whose fast-growing list of alumni includes WCHA forwards
Robbie Earl (Wisconsin) and Brett Sterling (Colorado College).
academic road to Denver is entirely atypical. Rakhshani doesn't
attend school in the traditional sense. He has been home-schooled
by his mother, Joan, who moved with Rhett to Ann Arbor, Mich.,
last fall after Rakhshani earned an invite to play in the United
States National Team Development Program.
"I take courses
through the American School,” Rakhshani explained. “They
send me the course work and textbooks. I take exams and then I
send them in. My mom helps me out as I need it, but most of it
I do on my own."
Rock” taught us anything, it was that three is a magic
number. Blake Geoffrion is too young to remember the animated
vignettes that appeared on ABC years ago, but he can certainly
attest to the veracity of the powerful qualities of the
17-year-old Geoffrion, a third generation hockey player,
is the grandson of Hall of Famer Bernie "Boom-Boom"
Geoffrion, who won six Stanley Cups during his 16-year NHL
career and is widely regarded as the inventor of the slap
shot. Blake’s father, Dan, nicknamed “The Boom”,
spent one season in the WHA and three in the NHL, including
a turn with the woeful 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets (they finished
the season 9-57-14).
Blake “Boomer” Geoffrion make a similar journey
to the NHL, it’ll include a stop in Madison, Wis.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward – fresh off his first
season with the U.S. National Team Develop-ment Program
– last week gave his verbal commitment to Wisconsin
over Michigan and Miami. He’ll join the Badgers for
the 2006-07 season.
"I have nothing but respect for the other schools,
but I think what pushed it over the edge for me was the
fan support Wisconsin gets for hockey,” said Blake,
who calls the Nashville suburb of Brentwood, Tenn., home
(it’s where his father settled after his career ended).
“They play at the Kohl Center, and what do they get,
some 12,000 [fans] or so per game? It's just an incredible
While his recognizable surname naturally draws attention,
college and pro scouts have had their eyes on Blake for
nearly three years. After developing in the Nashville area,
Blake went on to Culver (Ind.) Military Academy before heading
to the NTDP. In his first season in Ann Arbor, Geoffrion
struggled early on – “at one point, I had less
points than our goalie," he remarked – but improved
as the season progressed, scoring nine goals and 23 points
in 40 games.
through an identity transformation," said NTDP coach
John Hynes. “Things he could do in prep hockey, he
couldn't do here. He began to realize what he had to do
to be successful."
breakthrough moment came at the World Under-17 Challenge
in Lethbridge, Alberta, during the holiday break where he
scored two goals and five points in six games. "He
really came into his own," said Hynes. "Scouts
saw someone with smarts and competitiveness.”
Hynes was great and he helped me [defensively] and become
a more all-around threat,” said Blake, who has played
all three forward positions but seems to prefer the wing.
“I've become pretty good at blocking shots and playing
on the penalty kill."
part of Geoffrion’s identity as a player has been
cast by his bloodlines, and he wisely embraces his family’s
hockey past. "I have a great relationship with my grandfather,"
Blake said of "Boom-Boom," 74, who lives in suburban
Atlanta. "'Pappy' and I talk on many occasions."
best advice he’s received from his grandfather? "Shoot
da puck, score de goal," said Blake, mimicking “Boom-Boom's”
signature broken English.
father, Steve, stays back in southern California where he works
in the real estate business. Rhett shares a one-bedroom apartment
with his mother in Ann Arbor. "She gets the bedroom, I get
the dining room," Rakhshani said. “But I don't sleep
on the floor. Even better, I use an air mattress."
Rakhshani said this season in Ann Arbor has been as rewarding
as any other. He skated for the Under-17 squad and scored 12 goals
and 27 points in 36 games. He'll play with the Under-18s next
season before heading to Denver for the 2006-07 season. "The
weight training program has been terrific," he said of the
NTDP. "I want to keep getting stronger, and on the ice I
want to keep working on my timing and always be making the right
decision at the right time."
Observers have readily
noticed how Rakhshani's hard work has paid off.
"He's extremely skilled," said one midget AAA coach.
"He has great vision and great instincts with the puck."
As for choosing Denver, Rakhshani couldn't be happier.
"I'm really excited," Rakhshani said. "I took an
unofficial visit there and it just felt very comfortable. The
city, the campus, the coaching staff. Sure they've won it twice
in a row, but honestly that wasn't the biggest part of it."
Denver first got interested in the right-shooting Rakhshani in
the summer of 2004 when he skated at the US Select 16 Festival.
From there, the two parties did all they could to keep in close
contact. Rakhshani also considered Colorado College, Wisconsin,
Michigan, and Michigan State.
Best In Glass
If you think Denver is excited about having Rakhshani in the fold,
the Pioneers are every bit as giddy over Alberta Junior Hockey
League forward Matt Glasser's 2006 commitment. From Calgary, the
January 1987-born Glasser plays for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons,
this year's AJHL playoff runner-up. There's nothing second best
about Glasser, who stands 5-10 and weighs 180 pounds and over
62 regular-season games scored 25 goals and 49 points.
"Matt's really an outstanding boy," Oil Barons coach
Gord Thibodeau said. “He struggled for a while but the good
thing is he knew he was in a funk and he worked hard to get out
of it. His best assets are his speed, his shot, and the ability
to go to the net."
Glasser did some of his best work in the playoffs. He scored six
goals and 10 points in 18 games. He'll be back for one more season
of AJHL play and has every intention of being better. "I
want to keep getting bigger but without sacrificing my speed,"
Glasser said. "The big thing I need to keep working on is
going strong to the net and not getting knocked off the puck.
When I get to D-I, I'll be playing against 24- and 25-year-old
players, and I don't think at 180 pounds I'll be able to get by."
Glasser works just as hard off the ice as well. He is a B+ student
and scored a solid 1060 on his SAT on only three hours sleep.
"We came back late from a road trip," he explained.
"I guess I didn't do too badly under the circumstances, but
I plan on sitting for it again."
Born in Saskatoon, Glasser moved with his family to Surrey, British
Columbia when he was 2 years old. Four years ago, the family settled
in Calgary where they remain today. Prior to joining the Oil Barons
in 2003-04, Glasser skated for the Calgary Blackhawks midget squad.
Glasser's father is a homebuilder, and Matt is one of six children
(one sister, five brothers). Glasser's younger brother Andrew,
now playing for the Calgary Buffalo bantams, has some long-term
potential as well.
Glasser also considered
Minnesota Duluth, Boston University and Harvard.
More Worth Watching
DU also has
sturdy 1986-born defenseman Cody Brookwell on board. Another Calgarian,
the 6-4, 195-pound Brookwell skated for the Williams Lake TimberWolves
of the BCHL, for which he scored one goal and 15 points in 49
games this past season.
"Brookwell can skate and handle the puck," said TimberWolves
coach Rick Pitta. "I think he's going to be a stud."
Of course, these lads are solely for 2006-07. The Pioneers will
have five key recruits coming in for 2005-06. Having lost senior
defensemen Matt Laatsch, Nick Larson, and Jussi Halme at season's
end, the Pioneers' class has a definite bias toward the blue line.
You might even call it a “Crystal Blue (line) Persuasion”
if you’re willing to forgive the shameless 1960s send-up.
Tommy James & The Shondells is one of this author's all-time
DU will welcome defensemen Chris Butler (6-1, 175-Sioux City,
USHL), Julian Marcuzzi (5-11, 185-Salmon Arm, BCHL), T.J. Fast
(6-1/190-Camrose, AJHL), and 6-1, 200-pound walk-on J.P. Testwuide
from the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL). Testwuide, a 20-year-old,
is an in-state product from Vail.
Denver's lone offensive recruit is a dandy. Brock Trotter is a
5-10, 170-pound center from the USHL's Lincoln Stars. A native
of Brandon, Manitoba, the 1987-born Trotter scored 20 goals and
58 points in 60 games this past season.
"Denver is sort of the best of both worlds to me," Trotter
explained. "It's a big city, but the campus has a nice size
that makes you feel right at home. The coaches were very good
to me, and I think I've developed a good relationship with them."
on track to join Denver this fall, there remains an outside chance
he'll defer for one more year. "They told me they're ready
to have me next year," said Trotter at the time of his commitment
in February. "But they also said if I felt I needed another
year of Junior A that they wouldn't rush me."
Paul Shaheen is the publisher of Research on Ice and will contribute
recruiting updates to Inside College Hockey throughout the year.
To subscribe to Research on Ice's free daily recruiting e-mail
newsletter, contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.