Big Changes Coming for Prep Tournament
In a major change to the prep tournament format, the regular-season champions from each of the four Div. I prep hockey leagues – Founders, Keller, NEPSHC East, and NEPSHC West – will receive an automatic bid to the NEPSIHA Tournament.
The change will take place with the upcoming season.
The remaining four teams that will advance to the NEPSIHA quarterfinals will be determined by a refined criteria system that will go one step beyond what currently exists. Instead of simply factoring in a team’s strength of schedule, as happens now, the improved system will also factor in the strength of schedule of each school’s opponents.
The goal, according to NEPSIHA president and Choate coach Patrick Dennehy, is to establish league tournaments which could well make mathematical calculations a thing of the past.
“We’ve always wanted to get more teams in the tournament, but it can’t be done in just one week. The only way to do it is on the last weekend of the regular season (i.e. the last weekend in February).”
“This will keep kids motivated throughout the season,” Dennehy added. “League tournaments will allow more teams to be playing for something down the stretch. Right now, you can have six losses in January and be out of contention. Having a league tournament will allow more kids to take part in post-season play.”
The support for the proposal among coaches was close to unanimous.
Dennehy is hoping league tournaments could take place in the upcoming season, but acknowledges that time is short. Realistically, he sees the auto bids for league regular-season champions getting ushered in immediately, then league playoffs commencing in the 2007-08 season.
Traditionally, the headmasters (who get the final say) have presented an obstacle to league tournaments, so the trick is presenting it to them in a way that is palatable (i.e. doesn’t increase the length of schedule). The Founders League, for example, only allows 25 regular season games. Dennehy’s proposal calls for cutting that number back to 23, then, on the last weekend of the regular season, eight of the ten Founders League teams would go into playoffs – quarterfinals followed by semis and finals. The two teams in the finals would be playing their 26th regular season game but, since only two teams would be affected, the headmasters might be OK with it.
The winner of that “26th game” would be the playoff winner and automatically move on to the NEPSIHA playoffs at Salem.
Independent teams – i.e. Tilton, South Kent, and Bridgton – would have to move into leagues. (NEPSHC needs two more teams just to get to eight).
Andover is an independent and questions remain about what they would do. They’ve balked at the proposal and will likely fight it at the fall coaches’ meeting. Both Exeter and Andover appear determined to hold onto their traditional end-of-season game, so something will have to give there – or not.
Dennehy envisions a scenario where not only do the four league playoff champions get an automatic invite to the NEPSIHA playoffs, but the regular season champions as well. Naturally, scenarios in which the league regular season champion and the playoff champion are one and the same will be common. In those situations, the other league representative would either have to be the tournament semi-finalist, the regular season runner up, or a mathematically determined entry.
Under the present mathematical system of determining the eight teams eligible for the NESPIHA playoffs, teams that get off to a weak start, like Tabor did this season, are basically cooked, no matter how well they play in the second half. This will give a team that gels after Christmas a legitimate chance to overcome a poor start and go all the way.
“I think league tournaments will come about. If not next year, then the year after.”
“I’m excited,” Dennehy said. “I’m pumped.”
-- For the record, right now there are ten teams in the Founder’s League, nine teams in the Keller Division, six teams in NEPSHC East, and eight teams in NEPSHC West.
The independents are Andover, Tilton, South Kent, and Bridgton. At least two teams will have to join the NEPSHC in order to have two eight-team divisions, the minimum number of teams needed for playoffs.
-- The upcoming season will be Dennehy’s last at NEPSIHA’s helm.
6/28/06 -- Updated
Select 16 Penalty Festival
The USA Hockey Select 16 Festival, going into its last two days here in Rochester, NY, has been a major frustration for both participants and observers.
Just two weeks ago, at their annual congress in Colorado Springs, USA Hockey unanimously adopted “a new standard of play and rule emphasis” effective immediately. Didn’t give the 16 year olds heading to Rochester much time to wrap their minds around a game quite different than what they are accustomed to.
Technically, the “new” rules are not new at all -- they are simply a literal reading of the rule book. Interpretation is out the window. Now, it’s just the book and that’s that. The five principles are, and this is verbatim from USA Hockey:
* The stick will not be allowed to in any way impede a player’s progress.
* Players who use their physical skills and/or anticipation to gain a positional advantage shall not lose that advantage as a result of illegal acts by the opponent.
On the first day, over the course of six games, a total of 176 penalties were called – that’s right: penalties, not penalty minutes. In one game, the two teams combined to go 1-for-30 on the power play. In the next game, the two teams went a combined 1-for-32. And in the game right after that, the result was a combined 1-for-30.
Day Three was a little better, with penalties dropping to 148 minutes. In one game, two teams combined for just 14 penalties!
“There is no flow,” one recruiter said. “Kids are sitting on the bench for 8-9-10 minutes and are ice-cold when they get out there. And they’re extremely tentative, too.”
“It’s a complete disaster. I’m disgusted, and I’m leaving.”
Time will tell, of course, but for now it’s very painful to watch. All we can suggest is that parents perhaps point out to their kids, be they mites or midgets, that things will be very different when play starts in the fall.
*** On another front, we think it’s time for USA Hockey to go back to districts and put the competitiveness back in these tournaments, which have devolved into glorified summer hockey.
In the not-too-distant past, when teams represented their districts, there was a passion and fire to the games which made them the very best summer hockey available. Fans would jam into the back rink at St. Cloud to see, say, Michigan and Minnesota go at it. The atmosphere was electric, for summer hockey. Just great stuff. The games were free, but worthy of a price of admission.
Districts were abolished when USA Hockey realized that some coaches were bringing their teams together for winter tournaments and, at the festivals, were playing some players more than others. In other words, putting too much emphasis on winning. So rather than just telling the coaches to cut it out or face consequences, they tore down the whole system. To us, that’s a little like burning down a house to get rid of termites.
In addition, USA Hockey eliminated playoffs.
Hey, it’s an honor to be chosen to come here, and it’s great to see so many top players in one place, but it’s really time to put the districts back, and make these festivals fun again. Boys of this age are geared to play competitive hockey. This is not a soccer league for eight-year-olds.
*** One other thing that would be nice would be putting the players’ names on the backs of their jerseys. When recruiters are confronted with 240 players and a limited amount of time, they need all the help they can get. Since the kids get to keep their jerseys, USA Hockey could easily press on last names. The cost? Three or four dollars per jersey.
*** At the end of the tournament, we will put together an article giving you the players we feel stood out. This summer, we will not be doing a Green Book for the 16 or 17 Festivals (maybe we should do one evaluating the referees?), but we will be doing one for the 15s. We’ll be posting ordering info shortly.
Boston College Wins the Prize
Big 6'2", 200 lb. wing Jimmy Hayes, the top available recruit in New England, and quite possibly the country, committed to Boston College today.
Hayes, a Dorchester, Mass. native who played at Noble & Greenough for the past two seasons, is a November '89 birthdate who completed his sophomore year at Nobles earlier this month. In late August, Hayes will be leaving Nobles and going out to Ann Arbor for one year to play on the U.S. Under-18 Team. Like Patrick Kane, Hayes, unless he accelerates -- and indications are that he won't do that -- will still have another year of high school after aging out of the NTDP. He could go back to Nobles for his senior year, or he could opt for a year in the USHL.
At any rate, look for him at the Heights in the fall of '08.
Hayes is eligible for the NHL draft in '08, and, while it's early to be saying these things, he has a legitimate chance of going #1 overall, or at least being the highest-drafted American.
Hayes made his final choice from between BC, BU, and Harvard.
Major Changes Coming for Maine
Grant Standbrook, who played an indispensable role in turning two fledgling college hockey programs into powerhouses, is ready to officially retire.
There has been no word from Maine, and there won’t be until the details of the retirement package are worked out. However, Maine is a state school, and there’s a process that has to be followed. It’s 95 percent certain that it will happen shortly. If it doesn’t happen, Standbrook will stay on as a fulltime assistant for one more year. The chances of that happening though, are slight.
Standbrook won’t be shuffling off to Florida, though. When the retirement announcement is made, look for an announcement that Standbrook will be staying on as a volunteer coach with the Black Bears.
Standbrook, 68, has a vast wealth of hockey knowledge, and while observers tend to focus on his scouting and recruiting acumen, his on-ice teaching is valuable to the program and something Standbrook enjoys doing.
He could be doing it for quite a while, too. A lifelong athlete, and excellent golfer, he’s in great shape. He’s got the bloodlines, too – his mother is over 100 years old.
The bottom line, though, is the fact that Standbrook will no longer be on the road recruiting for the Black Bears from his customary spot behind the end boards, in the least-populated corner of the rink.
We’ll get back to Standbrook and his achievements in a moment, but there are other developments up in Orono, chief among them being the fact that second assistant Campbell Blair has been offered the #1 assistant’s position on Dave Shyiak’s staff at the University of Alaska-Anchorage and has accepted it. However, Blair, a native of Prince George, British Columbia, is in limbo while his visa application is in the works. When and if it’s approved, Blair will be bound for Alaska.
Blair was hired as an assistant at Maine shortly after Tim Whitehead was hired in the summer of 2001. In the five years since, they – along with Standbrook – have led the Black Bears to the NCAA tournament every single year. In three of those five years, they’ve reached the Frozen Four. And twice in those five years, they’ve reached the championship game only to lose by one goal, 4-3 to Minnesota in OT in 2002 and 1-0 to Denver in 2004. Maine’s consistency is remarkable, especially considering that they rarely get the blue chip recruits. Of course, by March they all look like blue chippers, which is no small feat.
But this looks to be a challenging time for Whitehead. However, he’s been around the game for a long time and knows who’s out there. So stay tuned.
As of now, we know that Whitehead has already offered the top position to Colorado College assistant coach Norm Bazin, who has declined it due to the fact that both he and his wife are comfortable with their work situations where they are. Bazin, a Winnipeg native like Standbrook, is a graduate of UMass-Lowell. After his playing days ended, Bazin worked as an assistant for four years on Whitehead’s staff there. Bazin is highly respected in college hockey circles and would have made a great hire for the Black Bears.
What can we say about Standbrook? Where to start? It’s as hard to imagine the college hockey scene without him as it is without Tim Taylor, yet that’s the way it’s turning out.
Sticking to the bare outlines, we can point you to two key moments. The first was when Standbrook joined Bob Johnson at Wisconsin in the mid-70s and helped turned what was then a new program into a powerhouse in very short order, winning three NCAA titles in 12 years and reaching the title game in two other years. Standbrook was hired at Maine by Shawn Walsh in 1988 and the Black Bears have gone on to nine Frozen Fours and two NCAA titles. Between the two schools, he’s recruited 31 All-Americans, big names like Chris Chelios, Mike Richter, and Paul Kariya. Equally impressive has been the way he’d find players that others had missed. Dustin Penner, for example, was playing at Minot State University –Bottineau (North Dakota) when Standbrook saw him in a summer tournament in Saskatoon. Penner transferred to Maine and was a key player on the team that lost to Denver in the ’04 final. Last month, Penner was appearing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with Anaheim. "I think about it all the time,” Penner told a reporter. “If Grant Standbrook hadn't found me that one summer, I'd probably be working at the gas station in Winkler (Manitoba) right now.”
Standbrook, who grew up in Winnipeg, not only played hockey, but judo, soccer, lacrosse, and golf as well. After his playing days at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (he graduated in 1961) he got a job at nearby Coleraine High School, on the Iron Range. In the late 60s, he went to Dartmouth as an assistant to the legendary Eddie Jeremiah, and also coached soccer and lacrosse. In 1970, Standbrook was named head coach at Dartmouth, where one of his players was Jeff Kosak, who played for him back at Coleraine High. Standbrook quickly turned Dartmouth, which had come off some down years, into winners. And Kosak would later turn into one of the top coaches in New England prep hockey, leading some powerful Hotchkiss squads.
In the ’75-76 season, Standbrook, who was also an innovator when it came to off-ice training, was an assistant on the U.S. Olympic Team.
The following season, he joined former Warroad (Minn.) High School coach Bob Johnson at the University of Wisconsin, and things just took off from there. The rest is history, and a rich one at that. Thirty years have come and gone since then, and one of the constants has been Standbrook. But, as we said, he’ll still be around, just in a different capacity.
A Record 10 Americans Selected in First Round
6’4”, 222 lb. US Under-18 Team defenseman Erik Johnson was, as expected, selected first overall in last night’s 2006 NHL Draft.
In all, ten U.S. born and raised players were selected in the first round, a record for the U.S.
Of the 213 players selected in last night’s draft, 60 were Americans, which computes to 28%, a hefty number. Canada had 84 players selected, good for 39%. Europeans accounted for 68, which accounted for 32%.
(The number of drafted Europeans, while historically low, is still greater than many observers predicted. The new draft rules that went into effect with the latest CBA were expected to keep the number low. Under the new agreement, NHL clubs must sign their European draft picks within two years or lose them to free agency. In addition, transfer fees have risen.)
As for the U.S. players, the answer to the question is Minnesota. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is producing skilled hockey players at a rate that leaves the other states in the dust.
We broke down the drafted players by place of birth and found that 15 Minnesota-born kids were drafted yesterday. One could say the number is really 17 because Kyle Medvec was born in Colorado and Mike Carman was born in Georgia. (We’re operating on the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that in most cases where a player was born was where he started skating.) At any rate, 15 is a lot, and 17 is even more noteworthy – as is the fact that eight of those Minnesotans were drafted in the first three rounds, including four in the first round.
New York state followed Minnesota by several lengths, producing 10 draft picks.
Here’s the list by state and round.
Minnesota 4-2-2-0-2-2-3 = 15
New York 1-1-2-2-2-1-1 = 10
Mass. 0-1-1-1-0-2-3 = 8
Michigan 2-1-1-2-0-0-1 = 7
Wisc. 1-0-0-1-0-1-0 = 3
Illinois 0-1-0-0-1-0-1 = 3
Calif. 0-0-0-2-0-0-1 = 3
Utah 1-0-0-1-0-0-0 = 2
Colorado 0-0-0-1-0-1-0 = 2
Seven other states -- NJ, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Maine, Texas, and Washington -- produced one player apiece.
Yesterday was also a big day for the Des Moines Buccaneers, who went from last to first in one year, won the league title, and last night had two players selected in the first round, one in the second, and one in the fifth. That’s four of the first five picks out of the league, which produced six overall.
Here is where the U.S.-born players were drafted directly out of:
US Under 18 -- 13
NCAA – 11
Minnesota High Schools – 10
Major Junior – 8
USHL – 6
New England Preps – 6
Wisconsin High Schools – 2
NAHL -- 1
Atlantic Jr. Hockey League – 1
BCHL – 1
Shattuck – 1
Make of it what you will: only one of the first 18 Americans selected last night was a New Englander, and that was Joey Ryan, a Malden, Mass. native who has spent the past two years playing major junior.
Round 1 (10):
1. St. Louis, Erik Johnson, RD, US Under-18
5. Boston, Phil Kessel, RC, University of Minnesota
7. NY Islanders, Kyle Okposo, RW, Des Moines (USHL)
8. Phoenix, Peter Mueller, RC, Everett (WHL)
17. LA, Trevor Lewis, RC, Des Moines (USHL)
19. Anaheim, Mark Mitera, LD, University of Michigan
20. Montreal, David Fischer, RD, Apple Valley HS
21. NY Rangers, Bobby Sanguinetti, RD, Owen Sound (OHL)
28. Nick Foligno, LW, Sudbury (OHL)
29. Phoenix, Chris Summers, LD, US, US Under-18
Round 2 (8):
32. Pittsburgh, Carl Sneep, RD, Brainerd HS
42. Philadelphia, Michael Ratchuk, LD, US Under-18
45. Edmonton, Jeff Petry, RD, Des Moines (USHL)
48. LA, Joey Ryan, RD, Quebec (QMJHL)
51. Colorado, Nigel Williams, LD, US Under-18
56. Nashville, Blake Geoffrion, LW, US Under-18
57. Buffalo, Mike Weber, LD, Windsor (OHL)
63. Carolina, Jamie McBain, RD, US Under-18
Round 3 (7):
65. Pittsburgh, Brian Strait, LD, US Under-18
74. LA, Jeff Zatkoff, G, Miami University
78. Kevin Quick, LD, Salisbury School
80. Atlanta, Michael Forney, Thief River Falls HS, RW
81. Colorado, Michael Carman, LC, US Under-18
85. Tommy Sestito, , LW, Plymouth (OHL)
89. Calgary, Aaron Marvin, LC/LW, Warroad HS
Round 4 (10):
94. St. Louis, Ryan Turek, RC, Omaha (USHL)
96. Chicago, Joe Palmer, G, US Under-18
100. NY Islanders, Rhett Rakhshani, RW, US Under-18
102. Minnesota, Kyle Medvec, LD, Apple Valley HS
107. New Jersey, T.J. Miller, LD, Penticton (BCHL)
110. Colorado, Kevin Montgomery, LD, US Under-18
116. Florida, Derrick LaPoint, LD, Eau Claire North HS
119. NY Islanders, Doug Rogers, RC, St. Sebastian’s
120. Dallas, Richard Bachman, G, Cushing
122. Washington, Luke Lynes, LC/LW, Brampton (OHL)
Round 5 (7):
124. St. Louis, Andy Sackrison, C/LW, St. Louis Park HS
126. NY Islanders, Shane Sims, RD, Des Moines (USHL)
130. Phoenix, Brett Bennett, G, US Under-18
134. LA, David Meckler, RC, Yale
135. Atlanta, Alex Kangas, G, Sioux Falls (USHL)
140. Edmonton, Cody Wild, LD, Providence College
145. Philadelphia, Jon Rheault, RW, Providence College
Round 6 (7):
154. St. Louis, Matt McCollem, LW, Belmont Hill
157. Washington, Brent Gwidt, LC, Lakeland HS
166. Toronto, Tyler Ruegsegger, C/RW, Shattuck-St. Mary’s
171. NY Islander, Brian Day, RW, Governor Dummer Academy
176. Nashville, Ryan Flynn, RW, US Under-18
178. New Jersey, Tony Romano, RC, NY Bobcats (AJHL)
179. Calgary, Jordan Fulton, LC, Breck HS
Round 7 (11):
188. Phoenix, Chris Frank, LD, Western Michigan
190. NY Islanders, Troy Mattila, LW, Springfield (NAHL)
191. Detroit, Nick Oslund, RW, Burnsville HS
192. Minnesota, Chris Hickey, RC, Cretin-Derham Hall
196. Phoenix, Benn Ferriero, C/RW, Boston College
199. Montreal, Cameron Cepek, RD, Portland (WHL)
201. Colorado, Bill Sauer, G, University of Michigan
202. San Jose, John McCarthy, LW, Boston University
203. San Jose, Jay Barriball, LW, Holy Angels
210. Atlanta, Will O’Neill, LD, Tabor Academy
211. Ottawa, Erik Condra, RW, Notre Dame
U.S. Players on the final Central Scouting list passed over in yesterday’s draft:
Skaters: Brian Gibbons (Thayer Academy), Tysen Dowzak (Kelowna – WHL), Joe Devin (Catholic Memorial), Chad Morin (Sioux City – USHL), Zach Jones (University of North Dakota); Kai Kantola (Fargo-Moorhead – NAHL), Jordan Willert (Tri-City – USHL), Eric Baier (Brown), James Pouliot (Halifax – QMJHL), Erik Felde (Vernon – BCHL), Michael Griffin (Nobles), Matt Lombardi (Governor Dummer), David Grun (White Bear Lake HS), Zach Cohen (Tri-City – USHL), Tim Filangieri (Boston College), Dan Lawson (Chicago – USHL), Josh Burrows (Boston Jr. Bruins – EJHL), Sean Dolan (Cedar Rapids – USHL), Ben Smith (Westminster School), Chris Higgins (Boston University), Andrew Rowe (Sioux City – USHL), Jack Christian (Harvard), Mike Devin (Catholic Memorial), Sean Coffey (Sioux City – USHL), Chris Huxley (Nobles), Jeremy Beller (Lake of the Woods HS), Jimmy Fraser (Harvard), Austin Mayer (Walpole Jr. Stars – EJHL), Jason Lawrence (Boston University), Carter Camper (Cleveland – NAHL), Mike Testwuide (Waterloo – USHL), Brett Motherwell (Boston College), Joe Smith (Phillips Andover), Ray Kaunisto (Cedar Rapids – USHL), Chris Clackson (Chicago – USHL), Gary Steffes (Cedar Rapids – USHL), Vladimir Nikiforov (Barrie – OHL), Phil Axtell (Cedar Rapids – USHL), David De Kastrozza (Culver Academy), Scott Fletcher (Saginaw – OHL), Mike Brennan (Boston College).
Goaltenders: Alec Richards (Yale University), Ryan Simpson (NH Jr. Monarchs – EJHL), John Murray (Sioux Falls – USHL), Joey Perricone (Moose Jaw – WHL), Austin Lee (Bloomington-Jefferson).
Some of the above – depending, of course, on their birthdates – will remain eligible for next year’s draft. And some will certainly get drafted. Benn Ferriero, Jon Rheault, Cody Wild, David Meckler, and Jeff Zatkoff were all passed over in last year’s draft, yet selected yesterday.
Junior Team Notes
In August, when the U.S. National Junior Team hopefuls convene at Lake Placid, big stay-at-home defensemen from the major junior ranks will be conspicuous by their absence.
Is this a big kiss-off to the U.S. kids who backed out on the NTDP and opted for major junior? Hard to say, but it does look like head coach Ron Rolston hasn’t entirely thought this through. Since the absence of a couple of big, rugged, experienced blueliners badly hurt the U.S. last winter in Grand Forks – check out the difference between the U.S. and Canadian defensemen -- you’d think a close look at as many of those types as possible in Lake Placid might be in order.
Regardless, the United States will once again be a favorite to win the tournament – at least on paper. If they can overcome the character issues that plagued last year’s team, which were horrendous and worse than publicized, they should win gold. But if dissension rears its ugly head again, they could just as easily be sunk, as Rolston lacks the ability to smooth over rough seas.
What defensmen might the U.S. keep on their watch list?
How about 6’2”, 208 lb. Sean Zimmerman? New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello just signed the ’87 to an entry level deal. Zimmerman plays a very effective physical, defensive game. He’s strong on his skates and has improved his puck handling to the point that New Jersey moved him up from major junior to their AHL Albany team for the final six games of the season. His exclusion is a major surprise. Although he’d be on the outside looking in as far as projecting who might make the team, there’s always the possibility of injuries depleting the pool by December. With that in mind, perhaps Zimmerman might be somebody worth having a line on
Ditto for 6’2”, 190 lb. Quebec Remparts late ’87 d-man Joey Ryan, a key to the Remparts Memorial Cup winning team and a potential first round pick in Saturday’s NHL draft? Ryan is a tough, hard-nosed, physical d-man – a Corey Potter type with even more of an edge. No defenseman here has improved his puck handling and passing more than Ryan, who rarely gets beat 1-on-1. Ryan may not play the sort of game Rolston likes, and he did renege on his commitment to the NTDP, but he would be a perfect match up to shut down the Russians, Canadians, or Czechs first line.
Another on the depth list should be 6’2”, 195 lb. Plymouth ’87 d-man Ryan McGinnis, a solid hard-nosed defenseman. He’s quietly developing his stay-at-home game, and becoming a solid two-way defenseman. With his growth and improvement, McGinnis, a sixth-round pick of the LA Kings last summer, should get a look.
For a long shot how about Windsor Spitfires 6’2”, 199 lb. Mike Weber, a late ’87 from Pittsburgh, PA who’ll get drafted on Saturday? He’s displayed very solid growth in his overall game. Exhibits excellent defensive instincts and, when he keeps it simple, is very effective making strong tape-to-tape outlet passes. Skates well enough. Weber is a defensive defenseman worth bringing into camp, somebody who could possibly match up against some of the more physical teams in international play. Doesn’t lose many battles in front of the net.
Those are four physical, stay-at-home defensemen. Certainly one or two bears close following.
In addition, a defenseman of a different stripe who should definitely be in Lake Placid is 6’1”, 182 lb. Owen Sound ’88 Bobby Sanguinetti, another player who reneged on his NTDP commitment. A likely first round pick in Saturday’s NHL draft, Sanguinetti, a New Jersey native, is not exactly physical, but is a smooth skating offensive powerhouse who is nonetheless sound in his own end. In 68 games, Sanguinetti, who will almost certainly add more strength in the offseason, had a 14-51-65 line, which is very impressive. He lacks international experience, though, something USA Hockey puts a huge premium on. And then there's that reneging on the NTDP. Get over it, we say.
Anyway, out of that group, one or two could impress.
Instead, two high schoolers – David Fischer and Carl Sneep – are being brought in. And Nigel Williams isn’t. Williams is raw as all get-out and struggled at the World Under-18s, but Fischer and Sneep, had they been there, probably would have, too. Kevin Montgomery, for all his skill, has his shaky moments defensively. Mike Ratchuk is fast, but his size will hurt him against the bigger forwards. Tim Filangieri is an enormous long shot. The U.S. does not lack for talented two-way defensemen. They will handle the puck well. The question mark will be how they fare physically in their own end.
Goaltending is a question mark, too. There’s no hands-down #1 guy like Cory Schneider last winter, but there are some intriguing prospects, which should make for some excellent competition for the slot.
Here’s the tryout list:
Jeff Frazee -- Minnesota, 6-0/201, ‘87, Burnsville, Minn. -- Won a gold medal with a stellar performance for Rolston on the Under-18 team two years ago. Back up to Schneider on last year’s World Junior team. Still, question marks remain after a so-so freshman year serving mostly as a backup to Kellen Briggs for the Gophers.
Brett Bennett -- Boston University, 6-1/185, ’88, Williamsville, N.Y. -- Came back from injury the second half of the season to back up Palmer in the World Under-18 Championships. Displays good mobility and handles the puck well. His two years at NTDP could earn him a spot.
Joe Palmer -- Ohio State, 6-1/205, ‘88, Yorkville, N.Y. -- Won a gold medal at this year’s World Under-18 Championships with solid play in net. Was a bit inconsistent during the regular season against NCAA competition. A big goaltender who plays a technically sound, but unspectacular game in net.
Alex Stalock -- Minnesota-Duluth, 5-11/175, ‘87, St. Paul, Minn. -- Won the USHL Clark Cup a year ago but suffered through a bit of a down year (for him) this past season. Still, he’s the best goalie coming out of US juniors this year and has international experience for the US.
Jeff Zatkoff -- Miami (Ohio), 6-2/160, ‘87, Chesterfield, Mich. -- The #1 surprise last year in the NCAA. Fifth in the nation with a 2.02 GAA and a stellar .928 save percentage, good for sixth in the nation. Helped lead Miami to a 26-9-4 record and the CCHA regular season title. Central Scouting has him as the top ranked goalie in the NCAA for this year’s NHL draft. Should have gotten more consideration last season for the spot given Frazee. Zatkoff had a better year, but wasn’t even scouted for the junior team.
Taylor Chorney -- North Dakota, 6-0/180, ’87, L, Hastings, Minn. -- Member of last year’s team. Coming off an excellent freshman year for the Fighting Sioux (can we still say that?).
Tim Filangieri -- Boston College, 6-2/195, ’87, L, North Massapequa, N.Y. -- Frankly, we were surprised he was invited. Was recruited to Boston College by Rolston.
David Fischer – Minnesota, 6-3/185, ’88, R, Apple Valley, Minn. – Played for Apple Valley HS last season (see above). Excellent offensively. Will likely be drafted high on Saturday.
Erik Johnson – Minnesota, 6-3/215, ’88, R, Bloomington, Minn. – Will be the #1 pick in this year’s NHL draft after his dominant performance at this year’s World Under-18 Championships. Has size, can skate, and has good hockey sense.
Jack Johnson – Michigan, 6-1/210, ‘87, L, Faribault, Minn. -- A lock for the team if he decides to play, but will he show up to camp? Passed on last year’s camp and frosty relationship with Rolston makes it interesting. Turned down the opportunity to sign with Carolina after his freshman season. Clearly ready for the pros now.
Zach Jones -- North Dakota, 5-10/187, ‘87, L, Lisle, Ill. -- Went to the junior camp last year after winning a gold medal with the Under-18s. A very solid defensive defenseman, who skates well and is an excellent penalty killer. A Rolston favorite who works hard every shift and, through effort, makes up for his lack of size.
Kyle Lawson -- Notre Dame, 5-11/195, ‘87, R, New Hudson, Mich. – Smart, heads-up player who sees the ice well. Played in USHL this season.
Brian Lee -- North Dakota, 6-3/190, ‘87, R, Moorhead, Minn. – Two years of World Junior experience, even though he wasn’t ready the first time around. Excellent puck handler who has really improved his defensive game. Demonstrated a more physical side to his game late in the year.
Jamie McBain – Wisconsin, 6-1/190, ‘88, R, Faribault, Minn. -- Comes off a stellar World Under-18 gold medal performance. Outstanding offensive instincts and puck handling ability. Solid enough in his own zone. The type of two-way defenseman USA Hockey loves to utilize in international play.
Mark Mitera – Michigan, 6-3/210, ‘87, L, Livonia, Mich. -- Member of last year’s junior team. Won a gold medal under Rolston with the Under-18s. Has demonstrated the tools to play at this level, but was unsteady in a limited role in last year’s WJC and sort of faded down the stretch with Michigan.
Kevin Montgomery -- Ohio State, 6-1/185, ‘88, L, Rochester, N.Y. – A smooth-skating d-man with excellent offensive skills. Will be a high draft pick on Saturday.
Mike Ratchuk -- Michigan State, 5-10/175, ‘88, L, Buffalo, N.Y. – Small and fast. Longshot to make the team
Michael Sauer -- Portland (WHL), 6-2/198, ‘87, R, St. Cloud, Minn. -- Invited to last year’s camp but injuries forced him out. Didn’t impress USA Hockey when they saw him in the WHL early last season. Skates well and can move the puck. Is a very solid, two-way defenseman with the skill set Rolston likes. Has the size to clear out in front of the net.
Carl Sneep -- Boston College, 6-3/215, late ‘87, R, Nisswa, Minn. -- Big, dominant defenseman played for Brainerd HS last winter. Skates well for his size. A three-sport athlete with tremendous upside. Can he make the transition to this level of play? USA Hockey will try to find out.
Brian Strait -- Boston University, 6-1/200, ‘88, L, Waltham, Mass. -- Captain of the US Under-18 gold medal team. A stay-at-home defenseman who moves the puck well and plays a very solid game in his own zone. Will likely battle Jones for a 7th or 8th spot on the team.
Chris Summers – Michigan, 6-2/180, ‘88, L, Milan, Mich. – Excellent skater played well as a forward at the World Under-18s. He’s physical and loves to hit. Will be drafted in the first round on Saturday.
Justin Abdelkader -- Michigan State, 6-2/203, ’87, L, Muskegon, Mich. -- Invited last year and is coming off an excellent freshman year at Michigan State. Could fill a third line role on the team.
Matt Butcher -- Northern Michigan, 6-1/185, ’87, L, Bellingham, Wash. – Don’t know too much about Butcher.
Mike Carman -- University of Minnesota, 6-0/180, ’88, L, Apple Valley, Minn. -- Coming off an excellent performance at this year’s World Under-18s. A goal scorer who doesn’t forget his defensive responsibilities. Will challenge for a spot here.
Dan Collins -- Plymouth (OHL), 6-1/185, ’87, R, Syracuse, N.Y. -- A late season add to Rolston’s gold medal team of two years ago. Overcame back surgery late last season with no ill affects. Not fast, but has demonstrated a much better ability to finish. Will be competitive for a third line spot.
Benn Ferriero -- Boston College, 5-11/185, ’87, R, Essex, Mass. -- Another late season addition to Rolston’s World Under-18 team of two years ago. Rolston has loved him since he recruited him for BC out of Governor Dummer. Had a strong freshman season for the Eagles, making a big impression in the second half.
Ryan Flynn – Minnesota, 6-2/220, ’88, R, Lino Lakes, Minn. – Two-way power winger, who is a little slow footed which may hurt him here.
Nick Foligno -- Sudbury (OHL), 6-0/180, ’87, L, Buffalo, N.Y. -- A USA Hockey favorite who would have been at the Under-18s playing for Rolston except his team was still in the playoffs. Excellent two-way player with international experience who has greatly improved his backchecking and defensive awareness.
Michael Forney – North Dakota, 6-3/200, ’88, R, Thief River Falls, Minn. – Coming out of high school, and likely too raw to have a legit chance to make team. However, he’ll be a first round draft pick on Saturday.
Jim Fraser – Harvard, 5-11/185, ‘87, R, Port Huron, Mich. -- Invited to camp last year. A Rolston favorite. Solid defensive forward and character player who might find a niche as a fourth line role player. A leader on and off the ice. Does a lot of little things well.
Blake Geoffrion – Wisconsin, 6-1/190, ’88, L, Brentwood, Tenn. -- Solid power forward whose skating holds him back a bit. Not the best finisher but works hard and competes. Will battle for a fourth line role on the team.
Nate Gerbe -- Boston College, 5-6/160, ‘87 L Oxford, Mich. -- Repeat player. The energizer bunny keeps going and going.
Michael Gergen -- Minnesota-Duluth, 5-11/185, ‘87 L Hastings, Minn. – A long shot to make the team.
Patrick Kane -- ??????, 5-9/160, ’88, L, Buffalo, N.Y. -- Broke Kessel’s single season scoring mark at the NTDP. Could find a great role as an offensive specialist, much as Kessel did two years ago as an underager.
Phil Kessel – Minnesota, 6-0/190, ’87, R, Madison, Wisc. – Great hands, great breakaway speed with an extra gear, great shot with quick release, great moves, great scorer. Not so good defensively.
Jason Lawrence -- Boston University, 5-10/185, ’87, R, Saugus, Mass. – Has a legit chance to win a spot.
Trevor Lewis – Michigan, 6-1/200, ’87, R, Murray, Utah -- Top USHL forward can find the back of the net and plays a hard, physical two-way game.
Peter Mueller -- Everett (WHL), 6-2/204, ’88, R, Bloomington, Minn. -- Repeat player. Rookie of the year in the WHL and probable top 10 pick in Saturday’s NHL draft. Sees the ice well. Not fast, but is strong and gets around well enough.
Kyle Okposo -- Minnesota, 6-1/205, ’88, R, St. Paul, Minn. -- A sure first-fire first rounder in the upcoming NHL draft. A freight train of a power forward. Can shoot. Can hit. Can lead by example.
Rhett Rakhshani – Denver, 5-10/170, ’88, R, Huntington Beach, Calif. – A long shot among this group.
Chad Rau -- Colorado College, 5-11/178, ’87, R, Eden Prairie, Minn. -- A late edition to Rolston’s Under-18 team two years ago. Now, he’s coming off an excellent rookie season at CC. Superb on face offs, one of the few things Phil Kessel is not.
Bobby Ryan -- Owen Sound (OHL), 6-1/213, ’87, R, Cherry Hill, N.J. -- Repeat player. Already signed to a three year entry level NHL contract.
Jack Skille – Wisconsin, 6-1/205, ’87, R, Madison, Wisc. -- After what some called a sub par regular season freshman year, he was, by far, the Badgers best forward when it counted in the Frozen Four.
Ryan Stoa – Minnesota, 6-3/213, ’87, L, Bloomington, Minn. -- Bypassed for last year’s camp after an average performance in the World Under-18s two years ago. Exploded in the second half of his freshman year for the Gophers. Should be a lock this time around.
Bill Sweatt -- Colorado College, 6-0/177, ’88, L, Elburn, Ill. -- On the small side but a pure skater who can fly. Great second gear and slips checks well. Coming off a very good performance at the World Under-18s. Deserves a look and might compete well as an offensive specialist, seeing spot duty in certain situations and match ups.
Union College head coach Nate Leaman, who worked along with Rolston as an assistant at Harvard and was later asked by Rolston to be his assistant on the gold-medal winning team at the World Under-18s in 2005, will be an assistant coach on the World Junior Team.
Phil Housley, who retired in 2003 after 21 NHL seasons, has also been tabbed as an assistant. This will be Housley’s first time coaching for USA Hockey.
The World Juniors will take place in Mora and Leksand, Sweden from December 26, 2006 to January 6, 2007.
The National Junior Evaluation Camp will take place in Lake Placid from August 4-12. Games begin on August 8. Split squads will face Sweden and Finland. Keith Allain (Yale), P.K. O’Handley (Waterloo – USHL), and John Harrington (St. John’s) will be helping Rolston, Leaman, and Housley.
Of the 45 players invited to camp, 25 played for the NTDP. Of those, 14 were on the gold-medal winning team of 2005.
Eleven players are returnees from the team that finished fourth at Grand Forks.
Cichy Top New Englander Selected in QMJHL Draft
Boston Junior Bruins (Empire Jr. B) forward Mike Cichy headed up a list of eleven New England players selected in the June 11 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
In addition to the New Englanders, we included Canadian players – Kelsey Tessier, Scott Jenks, and Michael Biega -- who played in the U.S. last season.
‘90s can only be selected in the first five rounds.
Halifax – Mike Cichy, LC, Boston Junior Bruins (Empire), ‘90
Quebec – Kelsey Tessier, LC, Colorado Outlaws Midget AAA, ‘90
Cape Breton – Chris Steele, LD, Nobles, ‘89
Lewiston – Matt Bourdeau, RW, New England Jr. Falcons (Empire), ‘89
St. John’s – Keith Bombaugh, LD, Lawrence Academy, ‘89
Moncton – Jimmy Hayes, RW, Nobles, ‘89
Acadie-Bathurst – Scott Jenks LD, Choate, ‘89
Prince Edward Island – Jack Downing, RC, Taft, ‘89
Gatineau – Jason Silvia, LC, Belmont Hill, ‘89
Prince Edward Island – Derek Pallis, LD, Nobles, ‘89
Gatineau – Michael Biega, LW, Salisbury, ‘89
Lewiston – Steve Moses, RW, Boston Jr. Bruins (Empire), ‘89
Moncton – John Heffernan, LC, BC High, ‘89
Lewiston – Nick Broadwater, G, Portland Jr. Pirates, ‘89
In addition, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan traded the rights to Cushing’s Brad Malone to the Halifax Mooseheads. In return, they got themselves an additional pick in the fifth round.
First Recruit of Appert Era
The first recruit of the Seth Appert era at RPI is big right shot D Peter Merth of the Royal Bank Cup champion Burnaby Express (BCHL).
Merth will be coming to RPI in September.
A 6’3”, 225 native of Anmore, BC, just outside of Vancouver, Merth was named best defensive player at the Royal Bank Cup. In 60 regular season games, he had a 5-17-22 scoring line.
Appert became familiar with Merth’s game while Denver was successfully recruiting Keith Seabrook, his teammate.
An ’87 with three years experience in the BCHL, Merth is a stay-at-home physical defenseman. He’s a good skater for his size, meaning the big sheets of the WCHA might have been a stretch for him, but on the smaller surfaces of the ECAC he should be OK.
Parise to Turn Pro; Fighting Sioux Add Goaltender
University of North Dakota goaltender Jordan Parise will not be returning to the Fighting Sioux for his senior year, and will sign a pro contract shortly. Parise is coming off a stellar season, having played 34 games, posting a 2.20 gaa and a .929 save percentage in 34 games played.
Phillipe Lamoureux, who will be a junior next season, can expect to see a huge leap in minutes. Lamoureux played in 14 games this season.
North Dakota has just added a new goaltender to their roster for this fall: 6’1, 177 lb. goaltender Anthony Grieco from the Wellington Dukes (OPJHL). Grieco is an 11/27/88 birthdate from Brampton, Ontario. In 26 regular season games he had a 2.28 gaa with a .906 save percentage. In 12 playoff games, he had a 2.82 gaa and a .902 save percentage.
Grieco was a 12th round pick of the St. Mike’s Majors in the 2004 OHL draft, but has always been pointing towards the NCAA route.
Former Avon Assistant Lands NHL Job
Former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, an assistant coach at Avon Old Farms in ’04-05 before moving on to the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) this past season, has been named as an assistant on Wayne Gretzky’s staff with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Samuelsson replaces Rick Bowness.
Ohio State Loses an Assistant
An assistant’s job has opened at Ohio State as Steve Brent, after nine years on John Markell’s staff, is resigning effective June 19th to go into private business.
Brent, who played for the Buckeyes from 1994-97 and was a three-year captain, became a volunteer assistant after graduation, then went full-time the season after that.
Markell is beginning his search for a replacement immediately.
RPI Gains an Assistant
Army assistant Shawn Kurulak will be leaving West Point, NY and heading fifty miles north to Troy to set up shop as an assistant on Seth Appert’s all-new staff at RPI.
Kurulak, 31, is a Calgary, Alberta native who played at Denver from 1995-99. After graduating, the big defenseman who had been a two-year captain, served as a graduate volunteer on the staff that Appert was a part of. After his year as a volunteer assistant, Kurulak spent two years as an assistant at Bemidji State, then two years as head coach of the Fargo-Moorhead Jets (NAHL), before serving the last two years as an assistant on Brian Riley’s staff at Army.
Riley is beginning his search for a replacement for Kurulak immediately.
Kurulak joins former Maine forward Jim Montgomery on Appert's staff at RPI.
Biega Gets Nod from the Dons
Salisbury School defenseman Alex Biega has – finally -- been admitted into Harvard University and will be skating with the Crimson when October arrives.
Since arriving at Salisbury 21 months ago the Montreal native’s goal has been to play at Harvard. He’s had to jump through a lot of hoops to get there, specifically taking the SATs numerous times in order to meet the requirements laid out by admissions. Biega took the SAT for the last time on May 6 and met the threshold.
It’s been a long and peculiar process. We can’t recall such a high-profile recruit being uncommitted so late in the process, particularly in this era of high school freshmen committing to college.
Meanwhile, as the process at Harvard took its slow course, a battalion of scholarship schools stood by ready to pounce should Biega’s resolve weaken. It never did. Biega, who was the USHR Prep Player and Prep Defenseman of the Year, hung in there – and finally got in.
Biega, who was coached at Salisbury by Dan Donato, will, be coached at Harvard by Donato's older brother, Ted. We figure anyone reading this publication will know that already, but we're throwing it in anyway.
Wallack Hired at Yale
New Yale University head coach Keith Allain has added Kyle Wallack to his staff in New Haven. Wallack has been an assistant the last two years at Holy Cross. Before that he was at UConn for two years, and at Quinnipiac for three years. He also coached for one year apiece at Nichols and, in his first college job, at the University of Delaware (with NMH head coach Josh Brandwene). Wallack, a 1997 graduate of Springfield College, has twice reached the NCAAs as an assistant. He was behind the bench when Holy Cross upset the Gophers this season, and was also behind the bench when Quinnipiac lost to Cornell in the 2002 NCAA tournament.
Wallack, who signed his contract today, is a native of West Hartford, Conn.
With C.J. Marotollo being retained, Allain now has his staff in place.
Wallack said his role would be “recruiting, just like Holy Cross, but with a bigger budget.”
He’ll be heading out on the road immediately, hitting some USHL camps this weekend and then Minnesota’s Model Camp next week.
-- Mike McCourt, a defenseman at St. Lawrence University from 1990-94, has been named as an assistant on Derek Schooley’s staff at Robert Morris Univeristy.
For the past three seasons, McCourt, a native of Brockville, Ontario, has been head coach/GM of the Brockville Braves (CJHL).
McCourt was an assistant at Clarkson in ’02-03 and before that both played and coached minor league hockey.
Schooley, by the way, has had his contract extended though 2011.
-- Look for Glenn Stewart to move up and take the #1 assistant’s slot at UConn vacated by Peter Belisle (now head coach at UMass-Boston). Stewart, a former forward at UNH, has been at UConn for the last two seasons, and was at AIC for a year before that.
-- NAHL commissioner Mike Santos has resigned to take a job as Director of Hockey Operations for the Nashville Predators. Also, the Predators have promoted former BU star Paul Fenton from Director of Player Personnel to Assistant GM.
Santos, who has a law degree, was the NAHL commissioner for the past three seasons, taking the job after a number of years working with NHL clubs and the league’s front office.
-- Look for Denver to hire Derek Lalonde, an assistant at Ferris State for the past several seasons, to take the spot on the Pioneers staff recently vacated by Seth Appert. Dartmouth’s Dave Peters and UNH’s Dave Lassonde were offered the job but opted to continue living free in the Granite State.
-- In Troy, Appert has already hired former University of Maine forward Jim Montgomery as an assistant and should be adding a second assistant shortly. One name we heard mentioned is that of former Union assistant Andrew Will, now coaching at Upper Canada College.
Montgomery, the captain of the NCAA champion 1992-93 Black Bears squad that went 42-1-2, scored 304 points in his college career, which puts him #4 on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list.
Last season, Mongomery, who played 14 years in pro hockey (mostly minor leagues but also 122 NHL games), was a volunteer assistant on the staff of Jeff Jackson at Notre Dame.
Gagner Opts for the OHL
London Knights GM Mark Hunter made it official today: 16-year-old center Sam Gagner has signed a contract with the OHL club, thus giving up his NCAA eligibility.
Gagner, the son of former NHLer Dave Gagner, had committed to the University of Wisconsin for the fall of ‘07.
London had drafted Gagner in the fourth round of the 2005 OHL draft. However, Gagner chose the USHL route in order to keep his NCAA eligibility. Gagner played this past season with the Sioux City Musketeers and, as an ’89, was one of the top players in the league. In 56 games with Sioux City, Gagner posted an 11-35-46 line. He also played for Ontario in the World Under-17 Challenge and had 13 points in five games.
This, obviously, is a major get for London, and a loss for college hockey.
Only One Direction to Go
Peter Belisle, who has spent the past nine seasons as an assistant at UConn, has been named head coach at UMass-Boston.
Belisle faces a herculean task, as the Div. III Beacons, members of the ECAC East, were 0-23-3 overall last season, getting outscored 139-39. They had two coaches, as well. Mike Bertoni started the season but was forced out in December, with John Giuliotti taking over.
Belisle played forward for UConn, graduating in 1995 and working as an assistant at Holy Cross for a year before returning to his alma mater.
New Jersey Hitmen (EJHL) assistant coach/GM Toby Harris, who played for Boston College in the '90s, has been offered Belisle's job at UConn, and is thinking it over.