One of the most important decisions of an NCAA player’s career is when to leave school. The college game not only provides a mix of great hockey and what would have been an expensive education for free, but also allows NHL teams to watch their prospects grow for up to four years without starting the clock on the player’s entry level contract.
Ah, but some teams can’t wait – they want their prospects now. Sometimes, this situation is win-win. For example, last year Kyle Okposo wasn’t super-enthused about his year at the University of Minnesota and the New York Islanders wanted him right away, so the burgeoning power forward took off for Long Island.
Conversely, still-burgeoning power forward James van Riemsdyk has been more than happy to hang out at the University of New Hampshire since joining the Wildcats for the 2007-08 campaign. According to some reports, however, the Philadelphia Flyers were hoping he would join their pro ranks, like, yesterday.
Did JVR make the right call by staying in Durham this year? His Wildcats are on the road to the Frozen Four, so it’s hard to fault him for going after a title. But what about some other high-profile college boys?
Colin Wilson, C, Boston University – Nashville’s top pick in the 2008 draft, the burly Wilson is looking like a fantastic prospect after steering the Terriers to a No. 1 seed in the Frozen Four and winning the Hockey East scoring title with 50 points in 39 games. So fantastic in fact, it’s hard to see the Preds not begging him to join their shallow forward ranks next season.
Brock Trotter, C, University of Denver – Trotter actually left the Pios last season, signing with Montreal as a free agent and heading off to Hamilton (AHL), where he has been good, but certainly not a game-changer. He has yet to garner a call-up to the NHL and with so much young talent in the Habs’ system, Trotter may want to get comfortable in Steeltown for the long haul.
Max Pacioretty, LW, University of Michigan – Another Montreal prospect who left school early, Pacioretty was one and done with the Wolverines last season and is one of the prospects ahead of Trotter on the depth chart. With speed and size, Pacioretty went on an early tear for Montreal, netting four points in his first five games before cooling off. His grit makes him a serviceable and versatile forward, but the Habs sent him to Hamilton Monday.
Aaron Palushaj, RW, University of Michigan – A player who might have benefited from Pacioretty staying in Ann Arbor, Palushaj instead found a new running mate in Ottawa draft pick Louie Caporusso and actually bested his freshman totals in the process. Palushaj led the CCHA in scoring with 50 points in 38 games and was very dangerous for Team USA at the world juniors. Much like fellow St. Louis prospect T.J. Oshie, Palushaj has time to develop and the Blues, with all their youth, can afford to let him grow in college.
Richard Bachman, G, Colorado College – Bachman was caught between a rock and a hard place this year; it would be impossible to replicate the staggering numbers he put up in ’07-08, but with Dallas lacking an AHL team, he really had no stable place to grow in the pros. Ironically, the Stars probably could have used him, considering the lack of faith coach Dave Tippett has shown in Marty Turco’s backup, Tobias Stephan, but the plan all along was to have Bachman play four years in C.C. Whether present circumstances change that for next season remains on the table.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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