For this month’s Isn’t It Obvious column, a round-up of some of College Hockey Recruiting’s biggest stories in 2013.
1. Minnesota’s Positional Trio of 1998s Make College Decisions
In a rare swing for the Midwest, this summer saw Minnesota’s top three 1998s at each position give their commitment to a Division 1 program. Shattuck-St. Mary’s star goaltender Ryan Edquist and defenseman Ryan Lindgren, both Lakeville (MN) products, committed to the Gophers, while Hill-Murray star forward Joey Anderson committed to Minnesota-Duluth. For the rest of the country, that seems surprisingly par for the course (especially when you see the next story), but for Minnesota, where players, generally, tend to commit later than anywhere else, it’s looking like more of a trend and less of an anomaly. Less surprisingly, but still noteworthy, 1997s Tom Novak and Rem Pitlick – who both seem only to get better – committed to Minnesota this year as well.
2. OSU Decimated by Recruiting Losses after Osiecki Departure
While the Buckeyes have re-loaded their stable of prospects in a big way, most recently Edina’s Tyler Nanne, but more specifically with 1997s Jason Dhooghe, Sam McCormick and Tanner Laczynski, alongside some nice prospects from the Alberta circuit – that still can’t be too much solace to any fan tracking the former OSU recruits that decommitted after Mark Osiecki left the program. Cliff Watson (Michigan Tech, San Jose, 6th Round) and Zach Stepan (MSU-Mankato, Nashville, 4th Round) are regrettable losses. But it doesn’t stop there – the astronomical rise in college hockey stock that Jack Dougherty (Wisconsin) and Tyler Sheehy (Uncommitted) have both seen in the time since they committed have the potential to sting in a major way over the next few years, especially since at least one will become a familiar face at a rival Big Ten program.
3. Sonny Milano Switches Commitment to Boston College
Likely the most controversial and unexpected decommitment, Milano’s move to bring his talents to
South Beach Boston College, is one that will likely sting the Fighting Irish for a while – unless he burns the Eagles and heads to Plymouth, who own his OHL rights.
4. Comm Ave. Recruiting Fierce As Ever
Boston College has been playing the recruiting game on easy for the past few years, that’s been about as constant as anything, but Boston University’s starting to match the fervor in Chestnut Hill as they’ve now got one of the most talented group of prospects in college hockey heading to campus over the next few years. Even more impressive is that in this era of early college hockey recruiting, with elite sophomores (and even freshmen) being picked up ahead of the curve, BU’s new staff has built on a strong nucleus including Jack Eichel and John MacLeod by adding high-profile, close to college-ready prospects like AJ Greer, Jordan Greenway and Chase Phelps.
Up the road, Boston College just pulled in Sonny Milano for next year, have one of America’s top defense prospects in Noah Hanifin on track for 2015, while they already can look forward to a potentially very potent class of 2016 buoyed by Colin White, Graham McPhee and new recruit Connor Moore.
5. Yale Capitalizes on National Presence
While BU and BC are going to see immediate dividends, Yale already had a national championship group on campus, and three years from now, should see a second wave of talent that’s been in the making for the past year. A class of 2016 that now includes top 98s Dante Palecco and Cam Dineen, the Bulldogs have plenty of premier commits headed to campus, such as Salisbury’s talented twins Mitchell and Evan Smith, the NTDP’s Ryan Hitchcock, and a number of others. It also means they’re winning some battles faster than they might not otherwise, like winning the commitment of Exeter’s Henry Hart on the same day that a number of ECAC rivals entered the fray.
6. Brown Quietly Assembling Top-End Recruits
Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and others have been edging the Ivy league for some of the better classes of late, but with the emergence of Miles Wood (Nobles, NJ Devils) and Tyler Bird (KUA), alongside the eight new recruits picked up since September 20th including Max Willman (Williston-Northampton), Sam Lafferty (Deerfield) and offensive dynamo August von Ungern-Sternberg (Omaha U16 AAA), the Bears have a group of high-end recruits that are looking to make an impact early, and often.
7. St. Lawrence Freshmen Group Contributing Early
In the early going, it seemed Boston College or Minnesota would see the biggest contribution from the class of 2017 – and they are – but St. Lawrence’s new group is bolstered by two of the top early efforts in all of College Hockey, emanating from red-shirt freshman forward Matt Carey (brother of Greg), and fellow first-year defenseman Gavin Bayreuther. Both are contributing offensively in a big way for the Saints.
8. Detroit Honeybaked’s Pipeline
Honeybaked knows when good young players come along. With names like Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan, Justin Abdelkader and Cam Fowler listed among their alumni, it’s a fairly regular occurence. This year, they’ve got a whole team of them at the U16 level, boasting six division one recruits – four of which are headed to Michigan State. To boot – not that stats are everything – but four of their top five scorers within the HPHL are uncommitted, including Pat Khodorenko, Luke Cowan, Cole Gallant and Nick Pastujov. Even more impressive is that the program itself boasts top under-age prospects in U18 forward Max Jones, defenseman Ben Gleason as well as goaltenders Ryan Larkin (Miami) and Mike Latorella.
Honeybaked U16 D1 Recruits:
98 D Ryan Bederka – Michigan State, 98 D Mitch Eliot – Michigan State, 98 F Noah Lalonde – Michigan State, 98 F Mitch Lewandowski – Michigan State, 98 F Shaun Bily – Northeastern, 98 D Nick McKeeby – Western Michigan
9. WHL Players Thriving
This isn’t so much of a trend as it is just a story of 2013: brief Minnesota defenseman/student Tommy Vannelli is fourth on his Medicine Hat Tigers in scoring (ahead of former UND recruit Miles Koules) and is making a notably smooth transition to a tough league, while 1997-born Alec Baer, of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, is making strides as well for Vancouver. Another former UND recruit, Ryan Gropp, hasn’t had his offensive fireworks just yet, but the late 1996 is producing and will look to come on strong in his draft year. Potentially the most compelling argument that the WHL will have moving forward is the success of their smaller forwards, something college hockey has always had in their back pocket when appealing to recruits. Mitch Holmberg, 5’10, has 41 goals in 40 games and 81 total points – Portland’s Nic Petan, just 5’9, has 66 points in 32 games. Petan’s teammate, Californian center Chase De Leo, is in his draft year, 5’10, and owns 44 points in 41 games – good for third on one of America’s top major junior programs.
10. Edina to Notre Dame Pipeline Solidified Further with Ostlie, Malmquist commits
While it wasn’t a huge surprise that junior co-captain Dylan Malmquist committed to the Fighting Irish this fall, as South Bend has former linemate Connor Hurley on board and a myriad of other former Hornets already had come through campus, including Islanders prospect Anders Lee, it does spell some potentially big things for the Hornets down the line as Edina produces some of the best young scholastic hockey talent in the country. With sophomores Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Kieffer Bellows looking to be the next up in the long line of Edina talent, if they keep ending up at Notre Dame, it’s going to translate to a real leg-up on the recruiting side of things. It’s also hard to ignore that Notre Dame has a foot in the door with New England’s closest equivalent, Massachusetts high school hockey powerhouse Nobles and Greenough, in recruit Cal Burke.
11. Northeastern’s Large Group Making Waves
The Huskies class of 2017, our #10 recruiting class, have already gotten 92 points out of their large group of newcomers and as the likelihood of pro departures aren’t going to decimate the whole group, this is a class that could turn out to be one of college hockey’s strongest over the next few years. They’re led by Mike Szmatula, Dalen Hedges, Matt Benning, John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese.
12. USHL Players Stay In Minnesota
Muskegon’s Local Sports Journal had a pretty revealing quote from Lumberjacks coach Todd Krygier about the amount of bona fide USHL skaters that have opted to head back to the Minnesota High School Ranks to, essentially, dominate: “We tried to keep them [in Muskegon] again this weekend, but for some reason kids from Minnesota want to go back and play a lower level of hockey…To me, playing at a lower level, if you’re a serious hockey player, does not make sense. You don’t get better playing at lower levels. But for some reason, the culture in Minnesota, they think it’s more important to play in front of a big crowd and their girlfriends.”
With Nebraska-Omaha hanging onto four of Minnesota’s top 1995s, all of whom came back to Minnesota (Avery Peterson – Grand Rapids, Luc Snuggerud/Steven Spinner – Eden Prairie, and now Phil Beaulieu – Duluth East) for a senior year after proving their value in the USHL, only time will tell how much sense it really makes. Beaulieu hasn’t played for the team since November 9th, and not only is he still seventh in Fargo’s scoring, he’s leading the team in blue line scoring.
13. First 1999 Goes
It’s telling that the first 1999 to go this year was a goaltender, as the vibe seems to be with these extremely young players that they have to be pretty terrific prospects to land on an offer so early. With how rocky (and late) goaltender development can be, by the time Keith Petruzzelli gets to Quinnipiac, he’ll either be a college hockey household name or a cautionary tale in the early recruitment process. Some other top 1999s who will likely garner quite a bit of attention? Shattuck’s Grant Mismash, Austin Pratt and Scott Reedy all seem like likely candidates, alongside TPH Thunder’s Kyle Kawamura – but Chicago Mission has a deep cast of 1999s, led by small-only-in-stature Sean Dhooghe, who is as enjoyable to watch as anyone in the country.