Summer of Suter
star still mulling options
month, Wisconsin defenseman Ryan Suter stated his desire to
have his hockey future spelled out by May 31.
That day has come and gone. And Suter’s
status is still in limbo. As of right now, he’s planning
on suiting up for his sophomore season at the University
of Wisconsin and not embarking on a professional career
with the Nashville Predators, the team that selected him
in the first round of last year’s NHL Entry Draft.
“We haven’t been in contact
that much,” Suter said from Madison Monday night.
Suter says a number of factors have kept
talks from progressing, the latest being the passing of
Sam Johnson, the billionaire chairman of S.C. Johnson Wax
and father-in-law of Predators owner Craig Leipold. In the
meantime, the sophomore-to-be has kept busy – he spent
a couple weeks in northern Wisconsin with his uncle, former
Badger and NHL star Gary Suter.
Some questioned the tactic of setting a
May 31 deadline, arguing that forcing the Predators’
hand wasn’t a smart negotiating ploy. Suter says picking
a date was mainly for his benefit and that of the Badgers.
“I don’t want (talks) to drag
out all summer and have Wisconsin not know what’s
going to go on or me not knowing what’s going to go
on,” he said. “Either way, I have a great situation.
I’m going to have a great time and learn a lot.”
Working in the Badgers’ favor is the
possibility of NHL owners preventing the start of the 2004-05
season with a lock-out of the players. Suter, however, hasn’t
dwelled on the prospect of a labor impasse.
“I really haven’t thought about
it,” says Suter, who scored three goals and added
16 assists in 39 games for Wisconsin last season. “It’s
definitely going to weigh into my decision.”
Regardless of whether he signs with Nashville
this summer, Suter says he’s excited about the direction
the Predators are heading. He feels the team mimicking the
growth pattern of Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay and is
on the verge of becoming a championship contender.
“They’re an up-and-coming team,”
Suter said of the Predators. “They’ve got a
lot of young guys who want to win and a great organization
from the owner down to the coaching staff. I think they’ll
make their move within the next couple years.”
the News: The Hockey News has unveiled
its top 100 prospects for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and,
as usual, there’s strong representation from the college
News Draft Rankings
Montoya, G, Michigan
Stafford, RW, North Dakota
Thelen, D, Michigan State
Zajac, C, North Dakota*
Schneider, G, Boston Coll.*
Pineault, RW, Boston Coll.
O'Neill, D, Notre Dame
Booth, LW, Michigan State
Chucko, LW, Minnesota*
Sigalet, D, Bowling Green
Baier, D, Brown*
Yandle, D, New Hampshire*
Oreskovich, RW, Notre Dame*
Auffrey, RW, Wisconsin*
Wheeler, RW, Minnesota^
Porter, F, Michigan*
Weller, LW, Clarkson*
Lewis, D, Dartmouth
Paukovich, LW, Denver*
Enrolling in fall 2004
^ Enrolling in fall 2005
Leading the way is Michigan goaltender Al
Montoya, ranked eighth by THN, one spot ahead of
North Dakota forward Drew Stafford. The only other player
from the NCAA ranks in the top 20 is Michigan State defenseman
A.J. Thelen at 15th.
North Dakota recruit Travis Zajac
is ranked 24th by the publication with Boston College goaltending
prospect Cory Schneider ranked 26th. Former Eagles forward
Adam Pineault, who left the program for major junior at
the end of the season, is ranked 33rd. Notre Dame defenseman
Wes O’Neill appears at No. 36.
Wait ‘Til Next Year: The 2004 draft
is still few weeks away, but that didn’t stop The
Hockey News from taking a sneak peak at the top
dozen prospects available for the 2005 draft, which, if
it were an episode of “Friends”, would be known
as “The One with Sidney Crosby.”
The 16-year-old wunderkind, who spent
a year at Shattuck St. Mary’s H.S. in Faribault, Minn.,
was Canadian Hockey League player or the year after scoring
139 points in 59 regular season games for Rimouski Oceanic
in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and will be the
first pick in next year’s draft.
Two players with college ties are
mentioned by the publication as high draft picks in ’05.
Center Daniel Bertram, who’ll be a freshman at Boston
College, scored 22-33—55 in 44 games with Camrose
of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Defenseman Jack Johnson,
who scouts compare to Brian Leetch, played with the U.S.
National Team Development Program Under-17 Team last season
and will enroll at Michigan in 2005.
Wait ‘Til Next Fall?:
For what it’s worth, the upstart World Hockey Association
plans to hold its inaugural entry draft July 10. Whether
the league actually materializes in November as scheduled
is subject to debate but, unlike the NHL, the WHA will allow
17-year-olds to play for its member teams. The original
incarnation of the WHA also permitted 17-year-olds on its
While the league hopes its rule will
allow it to lure Crosby into the fold before he’s
eligible for the NHL Draft, an extremely generic draft preview
on the WHA
Web site mentions Michigan State’s A.J. Thelen
and David Booth and Michigan’s Al Montoya, T.J. Hensick,
Matt Hunwick and Mike Brown as prospects.
Those signing WHA contracts aren’t
likely to break the bank – team payrolls will be capped
at $15 million, with an additional $5 million set aside
for what the league terms a “premier” player.
The expectation is teams will use that cash to attract aging
NHL stars in search of a final big payday. The name mentioned
most frequently is former Minnesota-Duluth standout and
future Hall of Famer Brett Hull, whose father, Bobby, is
the new league’s commissioner. Others rumored to be
considering a move to the WHA include Cornell alum Joe Nieuwendyk
and ex-Wisconsin star Chris Chelios. All three are unrestricted
Seven teams are confirmed for the
WHA’s launch – Dallas; Detroit; Halifax, Nova
Scotia; Hamilton, Ontario; Miami and Quebec City. Montreal
may also be added to the lineup for the 2004-05 campaign.
Goaltender Bobby Goepfert, dismissed from Providence
last month by coach Paul Pooley for an unspecified violation
of team rules, has visited Nebraska-Omaha.
A source speaking on the condition
of anonymity confirmed that Goepfert met with Mavericks
coaches and toured its campus. The 21-year-old goalie, who
was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round
of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, posted a 21-15-4 record in
his two years for the Friars, with a .921 save percentage
and a 2.46 goals-against average. Goepfert was 15-9-3 with
a .919 save percentage and a 2.49 GAA this past season.
UNO has two goalies on its roster,
both of whom are freshmen. Chris Holt was 5-17-2 last season
with a 3.24 GAA and a .900 sv%. Kris Tebbs was 2-6-2 on
the year with a 3.63 GAA and a .884 sv%.
USA Honor Roll: Denver
goaltender Adam Berkhoel was one of 10 individuals honored
by USA Hockey for notable achievements during the 2003-04
Berkhoel is the 2004 USA Hockey College Player of the
Berkhoel, who backstopped the Pioneers to
the school’s first title since 1969, was tabbed as
USA Hockey College Player of the Year. It’s the second
time the Woodbury, Minn., native has been honored by USA
Hockey – he was the organization’s Goaltender
of the Year in 2000. This year, that award was presented
to Cory Schneider, who’ll enroll at Boston College
in the fall.
Another freshman-to-be – future
Wisconsin Badger forward Joe Pavelski – was named
USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year. The San Jose draft
pick scored 52 points in 54 games for Waterloo of the USHL
while leading the Black Hawks to their first league playoff
Two former collegians captured the
Bob Johnson Award for their performances on the international
stage. Former New Hampshire goalie Ty Conklin, now with
the Edmonton Oilers, earned the honor for his efforts at
the IIHF Men’s World Championships in April. The Anchorage
native was 4-0-1 for the U.S. team with a 2.00 GAA and a
.934 sv% as the Americans won their first medal in the event
in eight years. Ex-North Dakota standout Zach Parise, who
signed with New Jersey shortly after the Sioux’s season
ended, led the U.S. National Junior Team to the gold medal
at this year’s World Junior Championship. He was selected
as the WJC’s top forward and named to the all-tournament
team after scoring 11 points in six games.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, who piloted
the U.S. National Junior Team to its first top finish in
World Junior Championship history, received the USA Hockey
Distinguished Achievement Award. The Badger bench boss also
coached the 2002 U.S entry for the IIHF World Under-18 tournament
to a gold-medal showing.