Shattuck Forward to Minn-Duluth
5’11”, 180 lb. Shattuck-St. Mary’s LC Michael Gergen has committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
Gergen, a senior this year, will become the first Shattuck player to play for the Bulldogs. He’ll start play next season. Duluth gave Gergen, who was also beginning to get interest from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Mankato, a time frame in which to make a decision. It was a firm offer and Gergen opted for it.
Gergen, a Hastings, Minn. native, is a great skater who can shoot the puck well, and can also play physically. He didn’t play on the first power play unit at Shattuck last year (he is this year), but still finished with a 30-37-67 line in 57 games played. Gergen is off to a good start this year: last weekend, he had five goals in three games.
Gergen, a 2/27/87 birthdate, is eligible for the June ’05 NHL draft.
Goaltender Nate Ziegelmann, who played 21 minutes for North Dakota as a freshman last year, has transferred to Minnesota-Duluth and will be eligible in the fall of ’05.
Ziegelmann, who played for Grand Forks Red River HS and the Lincoln Stars (USHL) before going on to the Fighting Sioux, didn’t feel he would have received much playing time this year. North Dakota, under new coach Dave Hakstol, goes into the season with senior Jake Brandt, sophomore Jordan Parise, and freshman Phil Lamoureux.
In a year, when Ziegelmann is eligible to begin NCAA play for Duluth, he will be a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining. Current starter Isaac Reichmuth will be a senior then, and Josh Johnson will be a junior.
U.S. Kids in the OHL
Here are the U.S.-born kids playing major junior in the Ontario Hockey League right now. There are 56, up from last year’s total of 49. Included among the 56 are 14 rookies, denoted with an asterisk.
These names are taken from each team's roster, which vary from 21 to 26 players. Each team has a handful of players who haven't seen action due to injury (as of noon Oct. 1), coach's decision, or release by the team -- their names are preceded by a # sign.
Included on the list are three dual citizens.
We’ll get to the WHL and QMJHL in short order.
Steven Spade, RD, 12/10/87, Rochester, NY
Bellevill#Thomas Samaris, G, 2/6/86, Brooklyn, NYe:
*Luke Lynes, LC, 11/28/87, Ellicott City, MD
Nick Duff, LD. 12/12/85, Novi, MIn:
*Chris Greene, RW, 9/24/85, Massena, NY
Sean O’Connor, RW, 1/31/87, Trenton, MI
Jacob Heller, RD, 2/13/85, Skokie, IL
Brian Lee, LD, 7/5/84, Berrien Springs, MI
Chad Loikets, RD, 5/28/87, Yorkville, IL
Derek Merlini, RD, 7/6/85, Clinton Township, MI
Ryan Callahan, RW, 3/21/85, Rochester, NY
Mick Okrzesik, LD, 1/21/85, Houston, TX
*Jack Combs, RW, 1/26/88, St. Louis, MO
Patrick Davis, LW, 12/28/86, Detroit, MI
#Matt Lashoff, LD, 9/29/86, Albany, NY
Devereaux Heshmatpour, RD, 2/15/87, Toronto, Ont.,Canada
Eric Pfligler, G, 5/22/85, Palatine, IL
#Chris Gravelding, D, 12/7/87, Clinton, NY
Robbie Schremp, LC, 1/7/86, Fulton, NY
#Frank Rediker, LD, 3/15/85, Sterling Heights, MI
Gerald Coleman, G, 4/3/85, Romeoville, IL
Patrick O’Sullivan, LC, 2/1/85, Winston-Salem, NC
Scott Zimmerman, LW, 6/2/87, Rochester, MI
Adam Abraham, RD, 3/27/87, Grosse Point Park, MI
*Colin Hanley, RW, 6/10/87, East Moriches, NY
Bobby Ryan, RW, 3/17/87, Collingswood, NJ
*Bobby Sanguinetti, RD, 2/29/88, Lumberton, NJ
*Neil Conway, G, 1/17/88, Concord, OH
*Payton Liske, LW, 11/28/88, Fonthill, Ont., Canada
Patrick Kaleta, RW, 6/8/86, Angola, NY
Aaron Dawson, LD, 3/11/85, Peoria, IL
Dan Collins, RW, 2/26/87, Carthage, NY
Mike Martinelli, RC, 1/22/86, West Chester, PA
Gino Pisellini, RW, 8/5/86, Itasca, IL
Tim Sestito, LW, 8/28/84, Rome, NY
*#Tom Sestito, LW, 9/28/87, Rome, NY
John Vigilante, LW, 5/24/85, Dearborn, MI
Mike Letizia, LD, 2/15/85, Chicago, IL
Ryan McGinnis, LD, 3/3/87, Fenton, MI
*#Justin Garay, G, 2/16/87, Monaca, PA
Gary Klapkowski, RW, 2/13/85, Pittsburgh, PA
Taylor Raszka, LW, 10/22/86, Petersburg, MI
*Scott Fletcher, RD, 1/12/88, Haslett, MI
Mike Brown, G, 3/4/85, Baldwinsville, NY
#Aaron Rock, G, 7/5/87, Wheaton, IL
*Adam Abrahamson, RW, 2/14/86, Livonia, MI
#Danny Fritsche, RC, 7/13/85, Parma, OH
Drew Larman, RC, 5/15/85, Canton, MI
*Steve Savor, RW, 7/1/88, Cooper City, FL
David Pszenyczny, LD, 2/18/85, Sterling Heights, MI
Erik Schwanz, RD, 2/18/84, North Lakeport, MI
*Nick Tuzzolino, RD, 1/19/86, E. Amherst, NY
Sault Ste. Marie:
Matt Puntereri, LC, 6/17/85, Wampum, PA
*Nick Foligno, RC, 10/31/87, Sudbury, Ont., Canada
Tyler Haskins, RC, 5/26/86, Madison, OH
#Michael Cox, RW, 3/17/86, Fraser, MI
Tommy Mannino, RW, 2/19/87, Farmington Hills, MIMike Weber, LD, 12/16/87, Pittsburgh, PA
5’10”, 185 lb. RD Steven Kampfer of the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) has committed to the University of Michigan.
Kampfer, a Jackson, Mich. native, was born on 9/24/88, so he’s just a few days past his 16th birthday. A member of the US Under-17 Select team that went to Germany this summer, Kampfer played for the Little Caesar’s Midget AAA squad last season. He’s a highly mobile player with good feet. It’s hard to characterize him as either a defensive or offensive D -- he contributes equally at both ends.
This season, Kamper is a junior in high school. He’ll begin playing for the Wolverines in the fall of ’06.
Kampfer made his final choice from between Michigan and Michigan State. As recently as a week ago, though, we had heard that Kampfer was about to pick from between Notre Dame, which had offered him early, and Michigan State. Then late last week, we received word that the Spartans had the inside track. The big change? According to sources, the Wolverines jumped in at the 11th hour -- with a full scholarship.
6’3”, 195 lb. LD Brendan Milnamow, who’s taking a PG year at Taft, from whence he graduated last spring, has committed to Union College.
A 1/17/86 birthdate from Wilton, Conn., in leafy Fairfield County, Milnamow is a defensive defenseman. A smooth skater, he keeps it simple, plays hard in his end, has size, and an edge to his game.
Other schools in the picture included Yale and Army.
He’s the fifth commitment Union has received in the last two months for the fall of ’05.
Garry Steffes, a Michigan native who had been playing for the Stratford Cullitons (Mid-Western Ontario Jr. B), has left to join the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL).
A 6’1, 185 lb. RW, Steffes had to leave the Cullitons because of a Hockey Canada residency ruling that calls for U.S.-born players to commute rather than reside in Ontario. Steffes’ hometown of Grand Blanc is right outside of Flint, Michigan -- a bit of a haul from Stratford.
A second-year player for the Cullitons, Steffes played the team’s first six games, scoring six goals and adding two assists.
Drafted by the Roughriders in the August USHL underage draft, Steffes played on the Under-18 Select team that went to the Czech Republic a couple of weeks later. He’s a good skater who has hockey sense, exhibiting patience and poise with the puck.
A number of Div. I schools, like Brown, Miami, Western Michigan, and Quinnipiac, are showing interest in Steffes.
By the way, we’ve always thought the Stratford Cullitons had a pretty neat moniker, perhaps because it made us wonder ‘What exactly is a Culliton?’ Well, there’s no such thing as a Culliton, really, but we still think it sounds great, and can even conjure up a tremendous wing span. However, its origins are rather pedestrian. In the mid-70s, the team was named after a local construction company owned by… the Culliton family.
Shattuck Romps at Marquette
Shattuck-St. Mary’s romped through the competition at the 14th Annual Marquette Electricians Fall Classic, concluding with a 10-1 win over the Chicago Chill in Sunday’s final.
In that pasting, senior Jonathan Toews had five points (2g,3a); junior Tyler Ruegsegger had four points (2g,2a); senior Michael Gergen (2g,1a), senior Kevin Deeth (1g,2a), and senior defenseman Mark Anderson (3a) each notched three points; and junior Kyle Okposo (2g) and senior Charles Genoway (2a) each had two points apiece. Senior Drew Pierson and junior Angelo Esposito each added a goal.
Senior Bryce Eberwein stopped 14 of 15 in net. Shattuck poured 52 shots on Chill goalie Thomas Speer, who played a large role in getting his team to the final, as did the other Chicago goalie, Kyle Jendra, an ’89.
Shattuck’s domination here was total, as the Faribault, Minn. boarding school went 6-0-0, outscoring their opponents 36-4. The top five scorers in the tournament were all Shattuck kids: Toews (5-7-12); Okposo (10-1-11); Ruegsegger (3-8-11); Gergen (5-4-9); and Deeth (1-7-8).
Getting back to Shattuck, up front Toews and Okposo are the top uncommitted prospects. Esposito, the baby of the team, has all the tools to be a star, too, and will be fun watching over the near future. LW Gergen (Minnesota-Duluth) and LC Deeth (Notre Dame) and are already committed for next fall. Ruegsegger, a junior RW, needs to work on his skating but his offensive skills guarantee that he’ll be an excellent Div. I player.
On defense, 5’11” Taylor Chorney, a senior who’ll be heading to North Dakota next fall, is the top guy. A likely second or third round pick in next June’s NHL draft, Chorney, a Hasting, Minn. native and the son of ex-NHL defenseman Marc Chorney, is a textbook perfect d-man who makes a mistake in his end about as often as tropical hurricanes hit Finland. The other Shattuck d-man who getsa lot of attention is 6’5”, 225 lb. ’88 born Tysen Dowzak, a defensive defenseman. Dowzak has limited puck skills but good feet for such a big young kid. In other words, he could be a first-round NHL draft pick in 2006.
With such skill up front, you seldom see the Shattuck d-men skating the puck deep into the other team’s end. Chorney certainly can do it, but with his team almost constantly in the lead, doesn’t really need to. Shattuck’s second-best puck-handling D is Anderson, an ’86 senior. RD Jason Fredericks, an ’87 from Eagle River, Wisc., is a solid 6’1”, 180 and has a strong shot. He notched two goals in Shattuck’s 3-0 win over the Alaska All-Stars Friday night.
Shattuck goaltenders are seniors Stephen Caple and Eberwein, and they do not see many quality shots in games, though you can be sure they do in practice. That’s probably where you’d want to evaluate them.
Let’s get back to Toews and Okposo, the uncommitted big-time forwards who, throughout the weekend, came up big.
Okposo, a 6’0”, 195 lb. ’88-born RW, started out with a bang in Thursday’s 7-0 pasting of the Pittsburgh Hornets, notching a hat trick. On one goal he burst in from the left faceoff circle and put an eye-popping move on the goalie. Okposo is physical, sees the ice, can make a pass, and can finish. His shot is powerful and his ten goals in six games here were twice as many as any other player in the tournament. He plays with passion and power, and is extremely dynamic. On the power play, he plays the left point, and will drift down low to convert a pass. His competitive instincts come naturally. His dad played on the Nigerian national soccer team, went to the University of Minnesota and is a chemist. The younger Okposo is a good student, and could possibly accelerate, which would put him in school next fall. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Harvard are all pushing hard for him. He’s a special player, and the school fortunate enough to get him will have a star.
Toews is a 6’1”, 180 lb. ’88-born left-shot center. A smooth skater who swoops around the offensive zone like a California condor, the Winnipeg native has soft hands and can carry the puck like it’s glued to his stick. His shot is excellent, too. On Saturday, he scored a goal against the Alaska All-Stars which was a thing of beauty, zipping into the top corner to the goalie’s stick side. No one could have stopped it. Toews was drafted #1 overall by the Tri-City Americans in the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft and may – or may not -- take that route. As for college, the only school that gets mentioned is North Dakota. He’s playing his decision pretty close to the vest.
Toews and Okposo are both April ’88 birthdates and should go very high in the 2006 NHL draft. Ditto for Dowzak.
Esposito is an early top candidate for the 2007 draft. An ’89 left-shot right wing from Montreal, the junior could be filling Toews’ role next season. At 6’1” and170 lbs., Esposito has size, speed, acceleration, and great hands. But he’s also only 15 years old and the youngest player on the team. He didn’t produce much at Marquette, scoring only one goal all weekend – and this on a team that lit the lamp three dozen times. Esposito had no assists either, finishing the six games here with just one point. But make no mistake about it: he has a ton of ability and projects better than any other ’89 forward we’ve seen. Now, he just has to go out and do it. A smooth, strong skater, Esposito (no relation to Phil, by the way) has an extra gear he uses to go wide on d-men. He should progress rapidly as he gets comfortable and finds his place on the team, plus he has a highly experienced coach in Tom Ward. Watching him progress promises to be a treat. Esposito had only one point in the six games here, and that was the final one in yesterday’s blowout. BU was out watching him again a couple of weekends ago.
Esposito’s center, Tony Mosey, a 5’10”, 175 lb. ’88 from Prior Lake, Minn., is skilled, too, and finished the weekend with six points. We’d like to see a little more jam, a presence in his game. He’s an 11th grader and should contribute on the NCAA level.
Shattuck’s fourth line – all ‘87s – of senior Drew Pierson, and juniors Zachary Harrison and Joe Brock – is solid. Brock notched four goals; Harrison four assists.
We don’t see how any full-season Midget AAA team in the country can beat Shattuck in the nationals, to be played in Chicago March 30-April 3. Split-season teams can certainly do it, as the GBL Boston Junior Bruins, an all-star aggregate loaded with nine Massachusetts prep kids committed to DI schools (including a handful of NHL draftees in that number), showed in this past April’s National Midget AAA championship game.
The traditional full-season midget teams -- TI, Compuware, Caesar’s et al – may never win it all again, unless the landscape of midget hockey changes. Right now, their chances are getting slimmer, as the number of midget AAA teams in cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh is growing, thus spreading the local talent over an ever-larger number of teams and assuring that no one team from any one city can be a regional powerhouse strong enough to really test Shattuck. And with kids who would, in years past, have been playing midgets now gravitating towards leagues like the NAHL (19 teams), the talent is diluted even further.
In time, all this could spell the end of midget hockey as we know it, which would be unfortunate, especially so in outposts like Marquette, a close-knit community where the team gets strong community support. Here, people actually pay good money to attend the games, which feature the excitement and community feel you normally find only at high school football, basketball, and hockey games. And when the snow gets too high to open the front door, fans can often find the Electricians games on community cable. In Marquette, there’s a town/team bond that’s rare in midget hockey today.
While we’re on the subject of Marquette, which at the turn of the last century was a bustling port shipping iron ore around the world, it’s now been twenty years since this typist was first introduced to the small Upper Peninsula city. It’s remarkably unchanged since then, with no patina of gentrification like you might find in a historic waterfront city in the Northeast.
Lake Superior is a constantly visible presence. Downtown Marquette, perched on a hillside, overlooks it. The Electricians tournament takes place a mile or so north, at Lakeview Arena (Northern Michigan’s former home; the new arena is right next door.) All you have to do is step out the back door, walk perhaps a hundred yards, and find yourself on a sandy beach overlooking Lake Superior. A mile or so up the road is Presque Isle Park, a stunning point of land featuring huge cliffs over the water, and deer so protected that they’ll practically get in your car and take a drive around with you. Mount Marquette, a few miles outside of town, offers great views of the Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior, which is worthy of its name, being the largest lake in the world (by surface area), and holding half of all the water in the Great Lakes. Toss in some sharks, lobsters, and salt and it could pass as an ocean. The weather was beautiful over the weekend, and people were out in droves, walking, sailing, and even swimming.
In short, it’s a great place to hold a tournament, and perhaps that’s why the top midget teams enter it every year. Tim McIntosh and a group of volunteers run a tight ship. Everything goes off like clockwork. All the games start on time. There are no mix-ups. Teams that create trouble aren’t invited back (eg. Little Caesar’s was not invited this to this year’s edition because of bad behavior at last April’s nationals, hosted by the Electricians.) This is a class tournament, and a pleasure to attend.
A large number of USHL and OHL scouts and recruiters were on hand. So, too, were NCAA Div. I colleges. Among others, Minnesota, Wisconsin, CC, Maine, Notre Dame, Brown, Cornell, a number of Michigan schools, were on hand. The most prominent Div. I head coach on hand, unless we missed someone lurking in the shadows, was Maine’s Tim Whitehead.
The Price is Right
BC’s Jerry York, Michigan’s Red Berenson, UNH assistant David Lassonde, and UMass assistant Len Quesnelle were the only Div. I coaches on hand for the Hamilton Red Wings-Milton Ice Hawks Provincial League game Monday night in Hamilton, Ontario
The center of attention was the Icehawks’ Matt Price, a 5’10, 170 lb. LC. A 7/3/88 birthdate, Price had a couple of shots on net but was kept off the board. Still, he impressed. A very good skater, Price uses a long stick and handles the puck well. He makes plays and knows where to go both with and without the puck. An Ontario Under-17 candidate, Price is also hard-working, tenacious, and can handle himself physically.
Hamilton’s young standout Peter LeBlanc, an ’88 who months ago committed to UNH, looked very good, too. LeBlanc, a speedster, explodes in transition, and usually gets himself several good scoring chances per game. On Monday night, he buried a beauty by going to the net, reaching for a rebound and, while falling down across the goalie, roofed a backhander over the netminder’s outstretched pads.
Stealing the show was Hamilton goalie Dan Giffen, an ’84 who handles rebounds well, deflecting pucks away or just smothering them. Giffen, who’s also quick and hard to rattle, stopped a penalty shot with 30 seconds remaining, keeping a close game from turning into a rout.
Other Div. I prospects included Price’s linemate Stefan Legein, a 5’11” ’88 and a fifth round OHL draft pick reportedly set to go to Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Fast, skilled, and a very good one-on-one player, Legein needs to fill out a little, but will be good in time.
Jason Fortino, a LD for Milton who was the top ’87 picked in May’s OHL draft (#1 in the third round), will also be a solid college player. Not big or particularly tough, Fortino is simply a steady defenseman, with no apparent flaws, but no overriding strengths that would lift you out of your seat, either.
College commitments this week include Julian Zamparo, a 6’2, 195 lb. RD from the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL). Zamparo will be going to Western Michigan in the fall of ’06. A big, stay-at-home D with a big shot, Zamparo also drew interest from Ferris State, Clarkson, and RPI.
6’3”, 186 lb. Kyle Kucharski, a big, strong LW from Phillips Andover, has committed toBoston College. Kucharski skates well for his size, and has steadily improving skills. Needs to fill out and play more physically.
The Host was Toast
The USHL debut of center Brock Bradford with the Omaha Lancers in the Buc Bowl marquee game Sat. night vs. host Des Moines was a strong one, with the ex-BCHLer scoring two goals on four shots and showing what college hockey fans at either Boston College, Minnesota, or Denver have to look forward to next season.
Centering Tim Miller on the left and Corey Carlson on the right, Bradford, wearing #91, got off a shot on his first shift as Omaha pinned Des Moines in their end for virtually the entire first two minutes of the game.
Bradford, a right-shot listed as 5’10”, 170 lbs., displayed poise, confidence, creativity, and a keen sense of the game. With the puck, he keeps his feet moving throughout the zone while looking for the open man, or a high-percentage shot. If he finds a clear lane, he zips a hard tape-to-tape pass that’s usually right on the money. Without the puck, Bradford keeps moving through the offensive zone, ducking in and around, trying to get open. When he gets the puck, he fires it with accuracy. His game is one of quick, decisive puck movement. He has hockey’s geometry down.
Bradford, manning the left point on the power play, scored a second-period goal with team up a man, and added an even-strength goal in the third. The latter was a beauty, with Bradford snapping one off against the grain, the puck zipping past Des Moines goaltender Pat Watson low to the glove side.
It was a good debut for Bradford, who’s eligible for the NHL draft next June. It will be a tough call as to how high he goes. As we said, he’s a smallish guy, similar in size to fellow British Columbian Paul Kariya. However, unlike Kariya, he’s not a burner. He won’t be consistently beating Div. I defenseman wide with his speed. He’s not that kind of player, but he quickness, which he exhibited with bursts in heavy traffic. He’ll be an excellent college player.
For now, though, Bradford, whose sister plays for the Colgate women, is a USHL rookie, several years younger than a number of players in the league. He has a strong chance, though, to lead the loop in scoring.
With all that said, Saturday’s game was not a particularly tough test for Omaha. The Lancers’ opponent, Des Moines, was beaten by Tri-City 7-1 the night before, getting outshot 54-16. Saturday night against the Lancers they were no better, getting outshot 41-21 and again losing by six goals, this time 8-2. In the third period, fog became clearly visible along the boards in Omahas’s end. This is not poetic license; it’s fact.
We expect Bucs coach/GM Bob Ferguson to make cuts (tonight at midnight is the deadline) and some trades. The defensemen really struggled, and are particularly vulnerable.
A Des Moines note: F/D Brandon Longley, an ’84 from Elk River, Minn., quit the Bucs last week, saying he’d “lost his passion” for hockey. He’s now in electrician’s school in Duluth.
The Bucs played four games in the tournament (all other teams play three) and lost them all.
We’ll have more on the Buc Bowl later.
Today. as many of you may have noticed, the USHR server was down. It finally came back on at around 5:30 pm or so. The cause? An underground fire in downtown Baltimore, hundreds of miles from Boston. We apologize for the inconvenience.
RIT Going Div. I
Look for the Rochester Institute of Technology, which plays in Div. III ECAC West, to take its program Div. I with the commencement of the ’05-06 season, joining Atlantic Hockey.
Reportedly, RIT has already received the approval of the Atlantic Hockey coaches. Sources indicate that the league athletic directors will be meeting to discuss the subject this Wednesday.
Atlantic Hockey consists of AIC, Army, Bentley, Canisius, UConn, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Quinnipiac (through the upcoming season only), and Sacred Heart.
RIT, which has a student body of approximately 15,000 students, plays at 2,100-seat Ritter Arena in Rochester, NY.
The hockey program, in existence for over 40 years, has enjoyed much success, reaching the Div. III Final Four eight times and winning it all twice, most recently in 1985.
The current coach is Wayne Wilson, a defenseman on Bowling Green’s 1984 Jerry York-coached NCAA champions. Wilson, 41, was a long-time assistant at his alma mater before coming over to RIT as head coach in the fall of 1999. In five full seasons, Wilson has led RIT to a gaudy 103-21-11 record.
Bradford to USHL’s Lancers
Des Moines, Iowa -- Coquitlam Express (BCHL) forward Brock Bradford, a prized recruit who has narrowed his college choices to BC, Minnesota, and Denver, has left the BCHL after two games and will report to the Omaha Lancers.
Bradford, according to Omaha coach/GM Mike Hastings, is expected to be in uniform for the Lancers third and final game here tomorrow night at 7:30 pm local time.
Bradford, who visited Boston College on Tuesday, is a 5’10”, 165 lb. highly-skilled forward who was the only BCHL player on the heavily major junior-laden Canadian Under-18 Team that won gold at last month’s Under-18 Junior World Cup in Piestany, Slovakia.
Bradford’s arrival here hinged on both the USHL’s continuing ascendancy – the league is a step up from BCHL play -- and Hastings work recruiting Bradford, an effort stretching back to last year. As for Bradford deciding now to join the Lancers, Hastings says “it happened quickly – all in the last 72 hours.”
Hastings added that there were no unusual circumstances that led to Bradford’s decision to head south other the fact that he wanted to play in the best possible league in which to prepare for college.
Omaha, which in recent years has been known as the River City Lancers, has a new owner in John Donovan.
Phoenix first round draft choice (#5 overall) Blake Wheeler, a Gopher recruit, played his first game here yesterday (Thurs.) evening and seemed to this observer to be a little tentative with the puck -- nothing unusual on opening night with a brand-new team. The USHL is a significant step up from high school play, but, after he gets a few games under his belt, this observer expects the 6’4” Wheeler, who played well at last month’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, to quickly establish himself as a dominant forward in the league.
By the way, given the NHL lockout, and the fact that there are no training camps to attend, NHL scouts, both part and full time, and directors of player personnel are here in far larger than usual numbers.
As an addendum to our article a few days back on players who played college hockey last season and subsequently signed NHL contracts, we have a couple more names, as there was a a flurry of last-minute signings before the deadline of the expiring CBA. They are:
F Lee Falardeau, who gave up his senior year at Michigan State and signed with the New York Rangers. He'll report to Hartford (AHL). Terms not released. Sept. 14 signing.
D Ryan Caldwell, a Denver graduate, signed a two-year deal with the New York Islanders. He'll report to Bridgeport (AHL). Terms not released. Sept. 13 signing.
In addition, Danny Richmond, former University of Michigan defenseman (most recently with the OHL’s London Knights) and a member of the US World Junior Championship Gold Medal team, signed a 3-year-deal with Carolina. Terms were not released. He'll report to Lowell (AHL). Sep 15 signing.
Also, Frank Doyle, a Maine grad, signed with Utah (AHL). Terms not released. Sept. 14 signing.
5’11”, 170 lb. Fort Erie forward Ryan Bellows, the Golden Horseshoe League scoring champ as a 16-year-old last season, committed to Dartmouth over the summer, but to little fanfare.
Despite the fact that everyone who saw Bellows last season reported back that he was tremendous prospect who could go anywhere he wanted, the Ontario native chose to focus his interest on a small number of top academic schools in the northeast, which dampened speculation – and the attendant buzz -- before it had a chance to get going.
Bellows made his final choice from between Dartmouth, Yale, and Colgate, the latter, of course, being able to offer money. Harvard, whose staff didn’t get to see him play last season, took a shot at him sight unseen, as Ted Donato made a visit to the Bellows home shortly after being hired as the new Crimson coach in late June.
Bellows, a left wing, is a high-skill type with speed and deadly stick skills. He’s very dangerous with the puck on his stick in tight areas, and around the net. Bellows, who started last season as a 15-year-old, ripped up the Golden Horseshoe League, posting a 38-41-79 line and leading the loop in goals, assists, and total points. In addition to being the scoring champ, Bellows was also MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Ontario Top Prospect Award winner.
A 10/1/87 birthdate, Bellows won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until 2006 – after his freshman year in bucolic Hanover.
Bellows’ uncle is former NHL forward Brian Bellows, a junior sensation with the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) who seemed so much a lock to be the #1 overall pick in the June ’82 NHL Draft that reporters began referring to that year’s draft simply as The Brian Bellows Derby. As it turned out, Bellows, went #2 overall when the Boston Bruins, picking first that year, and the Minnesota North Stars, picking second, engineered a trade, Boston agreeing to pass on Bellows in exchange for two Minnesota North Stars forwards, Brad Palmer and Dave Donnelly. After the Bruins used the #1 pick to select defenseman Gord Kluzak, the North Stars then picked Bellows.
As an aside, it’s likely that Kluzak and Bellows may be the best students ever taken #1-2 in an NHL draft. Bellows was an honor roll student in high school in St. Catharine’s and, of course, would have had his pick of colleges it he went that route. Instead, he was in the NHL by 18. Same with Kluzak. However, Kluzak’s Bruins career was plagued by injuries (he had 11 operations on his knee), and he had to hang them up for good in 1990 when, at the age of 27, he entered Harvard as a sophomore, graduated and then went on to the Harvard Business School, from where he graduated in 1998.
Bellows had a much longer career, playing 1,188 games over 17 seasons, mostly with Minnesota and Montreal.
The New Millionaires
When 6’1” University of Wisconsin defenseman Ryan Suter, a sophomore-to-be, signed with the Nashville Predators last week, he became the 17th NCAA underclassman to sign an NHL contract this off-season.
Suter, represented by Minneapolis-based agent – and former Harvard defenseman -- Neil Sheehy, signed a three-year deal for the rookie cap. The 18-year-old Madison native will be paid $3.72 million – a $1.24 million signing bonus spread over the first two years, a $620,000 salary for each of the first two years, and a $1.24 million salary in the third year.
Over the summer, agents have been trying to work out deals under the current collective bargaining agreement for their top rookies. That CBA will terminate this Wednesday night, likely with a lockout by NHL owners.
Leaving aside the debate over whether players should leave college early to pursue professional hockey, signing now is a win-win for players, agents and NHL teams. Top prospects like Suter have been able to sign for a larger base salary and bonus -- especially on three-year contracts -- than they would under a new CBA. The view around the league is that the rookie cap will be slashed significantly when the new collective bargaining agreement gets done, possibly by as much as $1.5 million.
Since it’s expected that contracts signed under the current CBA will be grandfathered in and honored in full, players have been more willing to leave college early – and for more money – this off-season. If the lockout does indeed come to pass, NHL teams will only be paying AHL salaries on a "two-way" contract. In addition, they envision moving players such as Suter along quicker in the AHL, where parent clubs will have roster space since many current "two-way" players have too much NHL experience, thus will not be able to report to AHL clubs in the event of a lockout. Let’s not forget the agents either -- they will be earning more based on their percentage of an overall increased contract in terms of dollars under the current CBA.
Here, in the order in which they signed, are the other 16 underclassman to sign NHL contracts since March.
Phoenix -- Joe Callahan (Yale)
New Jersey -- Aaron Voros (Alaska-Fairbanks)
Columbus -- Greg Mauldin (UMass)
Anaheim -- Curtis Glencross (Alaska Anchorage)
New Jersey -- Zach Parise (N.Dakota)
Pittsburgh -- Ryan Whitney (BU)
San Jose -- Tim Conboy (St. Cloud St.)
Dallas -- Matt Nickerson (Clarkson)
Anaheim -- Dustin Penner (Maine)
Phoenix -- Keith Ballard (Minn.)
Edmonton -- Brock Radunske (Michigan St.)
N.Y. Rangers -- Dwight Helminen (Michigan)
N.Y. Rangers -- Jake Taylor (Minn.)
Edmonton -- Eddie Caron (UNH)
Buffalo -- Thomas Vanek (Minn.)
Ottawa -- Brandon Bochenski (N. Dakota)
Significant underclassmen staying put include Michigan goaltender Alvaro Montoya (NY Rangers), Dartmouth forward Hugh Jessiman (NY Rangers), BC forward Patrick Eaves (Ottawa); and CC defenseman Mark Stuart (Boston).
Thirty players who were seniors in college last season have signed. They are.
Montreal -- Yann Danis (Brown)
Philadelphia -- Stephen Wood (Providence)
N.Y. Rangers -- Thomas Pöck (UMass)
Chicago -- Nick Kuiper (UMass)
Ottawa -- Neil Komadoski (Notre Dame)
Detroit -- Brett Lebda (Notre Dame)
Ottawa -- Grant Potulny (Minn.)
Los Angeles -- Greg Hogeboom (Miami)
Columbus -- Prestin Ryan (Maine)
Washington -- Justin Eddy (Quinnipiac)
Dallas -- Junior Lessard (Minn-Duluth)
Toronto -- Andy Wozniewski (Wisconsin)
Florida -- Rob Globke (Notre Dame)
Colorado -- Frantisek Skladany (BU)
Atlanta -- Brian Sipotz (Miami)
Detroit -- Todd Jackson (Maine)
Atlanta -- Jeff Dwyer (Yale)
San Jose -- Aaron Gill (Notre Dame)
San Jose -- Shane Joseph (MSU-Mankato)
Atlanta -- Colin Stuart (CC)
Columbus -- Tyler Kolarik (Harvard)
Atlanta -- Adam Berkhoel (Denver)
Philadelphia -- Tony Voce (BC)
Edmonton -- Jason Platt (Providence)
Chicago -- Rene Bourque (Wisconsin)
Tampa Bay -- Dennis Packard (Harvard)
Pittsburgh -- Ben Eaves (BC)
N.Y. Islanders -- Matt Koalska (Minn.)
N.Y. Islanders -- Vince Macri (Brown)
Toronto -- Cam Keith (Alaska-Fairbanks)
Under-18s Start Tonight; Kemp Sent Home
The US Under-18 Team, under new head coach Ron Rolston, opens up the season at 7:00 tonight with a game in Ann Arbor against the Indiana Ice (USHL).
One player, forward John Kemp of Arcadia, CA, who was in and out of trouble last year, has already been sent packing for an unspecified violation of team rules.
“As a coach,” says Rolston, “I have to set the environment we want for the team. You can’t break team rules – and he did. Hopefully, he’ll learn from it.”
Look for Kemp to surface in the USHL, most likely with Waterloo.
The team is going into the season with some injuries and illness. Returning defensemen Chad Morin (mono), new defenseman Kyle Lawson (ribs and shoulder), and new forward Justin Mercier, who has had an appendectomy, will all be out of action tonight. Morin will likely be ready to return first, and Lawson could be ready in a couple of weeks. Mercier will likely take longer. He’ll be seeing the doctor early next week.
Forward Jimmy Fraser will be the team captain, and was an overwhelming choice. While the coaches – Rolston is assisted by John Lilley -- had a vote, they didn’t really get involved. “The kids knew who they wanted,” Rolston said. “Jimmy typifies what you look for in a captain. He works hard, he’s accountable, he gets in guys faces, and he competes.”
Fraser, though a Port Huron Michigan native, is strongly considering eastern schools and will likely be visiting Harvard and BC shortly.
The assistant captains are defenseman Zach Jones, a North Dakota recruit; and forward Nathan Gerbe, a Boston College recruit. Like Fraser, Jones and Gerbe are leaders by example, working hard every shift, and doing all the little things needed to win games.
Rolston, according to reports, is running a tight ship – no favorites and no excuses.
Asked about it, Rolston said that there are no major changes.
“We’re just tightening things up a bit.,” he said. “I like the chemistry we have on the staff. We’re all on the same page, and we all share the same philosophy.”
Under-17 head coach John Hynes, Rolston says, “has done a great job setting the philosophy that he wants for his team. We’re just tightening things up, that’s all.”
The Under-17 Team opens on Sat. Sept. 18 with a game at Toledo (NAHL).
For Indiana, the relocated Danville Wings franchise, tonight’s game is an exhibition game. For the Under-18’s, it’s an exhibition game, too, but then again most games on their schedule are, at least technically, exhibition games. The games that really count are in April.
US Under-18 Team forward Phil Kessel scored a natural hat trick in a five-minute span of the first period to lead the Under-18s past Indiana, 5-2.
A D-man for the Dutchmen
Mike Harr, a 5’11, 185 lb. LD from Xaverian HS, which plays in Boston’s Catholic Conference, has committed to Union for the fall of ’05.
Harr will not spend his senior year with Xaverian, instead joining the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL). A 4/7/87 birthdate from Norwood, Mass., he’s a rugged, mobile D who’s very strong defensively.
Harr is the fourth Union recruit for the fall of ’05, joining forwards Augie DiMarzo, Matt Cook, and Chris Potts. Potts and Cook committed just last week, so the Union staff has been busy.
Harr’s father, John Harr, grew up in Amsterdam, NY, not far from Union’s campus in Schenectady.
Playmaking Center Commits to Pioneers
6’1”, 180 lb. LC Brian Gifford, who helped lead Moorhead High School to the title game of the Minnesota State Tournament (they lost, 1-0, to Centennial), has committed to the Denver Pioneers.
Gifford, a rangy playmaking center with a great head for the game and the ability to make plays in heavy traffic, played 26 games for the Spuds last season and posted a 19-37-56 line. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round (#85 overall) of June’s NHL draft, a surprise to many – including Gifford himself, who didn’t attend the draft.
An 11/12/85 birthdate, Gifford, who battled a case of mono last season, will play this season in the USHL for the Indiana Ice (formerly the Danville Wings), under new head coach Red Gendron. Gifford, who was a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, was excellent in the Great 8 last March, and was selected by Indiana in May’s USHL draft.
Gifford, who needs to gain strength and a little more speed this season, was also recruited by UNO and Ferris State. He will join the Pioneers in the fall of ’05.
Power Forward Commits to Badgers
6’2”, 195 lb. power forward Zach Bearson of the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) has committed to the University of Wisconsin for the fall of 2006.
Bearson, a big, raw power forward who is not afraid to throw his weight around, has pro potential and, as a 6/13/87 birthdate, is eligible for next June’s NHL draft. He has two more years in the USHL to refine his skills before college.
Bearson is a native of Naperville, Ill. who played for the Team Illinois Midget AAA squad before going to Waterloo last fall. As a rookie in the USHL, Bearson played 53 regular season games and posted a 7-11-18 line with 65 pims. In the playoffs – Waterloo defeated Tri-City to win the Tier I National Championship -- Bearson had a 4-1-5 line in nine games.
Small, Skilled Forward for UNH in ‘07
5’8”, 155 lb. LC Mike Borisenok of Albany Academy has committed to UNH for the fall of ’07.
Borisenok, who, as a sophomore last season, led Albany Academy in scoring with a 25-20-45 line in 33 games, will play one more season there before moving on to juniors for his senior year plus a post-grad year. Boresinok will either play for the Waterloo Black Hawks – he was their third pick in last month’s USHL futures draft – or in the EJHL with the Boston Jr. Bruins.
Borisenok, a 2/25/88 birthdate from Watervliet, NY, skates well with the puck and often seems to have it on his stick below the dots, makes plays, and wins faceoffs with regularity. He’s a classic UNH-type centerman.
UNH has been watching him since last season, liked what they saw, and jumped on him quickly. Union, the local school, was also very interested in Borisenok.
Joined at the Hip
Tabor senior forwards Chris Potts and Matt Cook, a pair of New Jersey kids who have been teammates since pee wees, have committed to Union College.
Cook, with 49 points, and Potts with 44, were the #2-3 scorers as the Seawolves reached OT in the prep school final, only to lose to Avon. Peter Lenes, for the record, led Tabor in scoring with 52 points.
A 5’11”, 200 lb. native of Belle Mead, NJ, Cook is a digger who wins battles all over the rink, and is equally good killing penalties or on the powerplay. A 10/29/86 birthdate, Cook led Tabor with 36 assists.
Potts, a 6’0”, 195 lbs. native of Phillipburg, NJ, is a bit more of a skill guy, possessing an excellent stick and a great release. A goal scorer, he’s a 9/30/86 birthdate.
Both players played well in summer hockey and raised their stock. Both visited Princeton in the spring (Cook is a Princeton legacy), then visited Union about a month ago, and Harvard after that. Potts also visited Brown.
The two seniors will go directly to Union without stopping at juniors.