Analyzing the NHL draft, college edition
It's sort of odd to see current or future college players at the National Hockey League draft each year. Maybe it's because everything is centered on the professional careers, whereas we college puckheads are more interested in what these kids do in future seasons. A total of 63 current NCAA players and committed recruits were selected in the 2009 NHL draft, June 26-27.
Adding to the fish-out-of-water nature of the event, this draft took place in Montreal, a host city unlike any other in North America.
With that in mind, allow INCH to recap the happenings from the weekend.
Budish excited to be back on ice
A torn ACL -- suffered while playing high school football -- left Minnesota native and future Golden Gopher Zach Budish sidelined for his senior year and dropped him into the second round, where the Nashville Predators picked him up 41st overall.
"You definitely realize how much you miss the game when you sit out for a full year and have to watch from the bench," explained Budish.
Though his injury kept him off the ice until March 1, Budish feels ready to lace up for the Gophers this fall, where he and longtime friend Nick Leddy will be roommates. Budish was able to participate in every test at the NHL scouting combine, surprising teams by feeling strong enough to do biking and jumping tests. He admits that he's not yet 100 percent, but is excited about the amount of progress he's made during his knee rehab.
"I feel like I've been working hard," he said, "and I can do pretty much everything on it right now."
Shore's overnight wait tempered by happy homecoming
Another casualty of this year's trend of college-bound boys falling later in the draft than predicted, Drew Shore admitted he was disappointed not to be picked up Friday night. As the future Denver Pioneer and Florida Panthers pick insightfully explained Saturday once he was selected, "It pretty much doesn't matter where you get picked -- it's what you do after that. So it [has] motivated me to work harder and I think it's going to make me a better player."
A Colorado native, Shore moved to Vancouver to develop for two years before going to Michigan to spend two seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. He played a big part on this year's gold medal-winning Under-18 U.S. team at the IIHF World Championships. After being away from home for so long, Shore is thrilled to return to Denver, where his family can root him on next year. Having grown up a Pioneers fan and watched them win back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005, Shore felt George Gwozdecky's program was the perfect place to hone his skills.
"Their coaches I'm really fond of and they've put a lot of players in the NHL recently," Shore said of Denver. "I think it's a good place to develop and should be a fun place to go to school."
BC recruit Ryan keeping OHL options open
As the Toronto Maple Leafs' second pick and 50th overall pick of the draft, Kenny Ryan might not be an Eagle for long. Though he says his current plans point to Boston College in the fall, he admits that he has "never really closed the door on Windsor," the OHL team that holds his rights.
The Detroit native is ecstatic to be chosen by the nearby and illustrious Leafs franchise and seemed to hint that he could be persuaded to jump into juniors. It's something that the Leafs prior to Providence graduate Brian Burke taking the helm as general manager probably would have encouraged -- time will tell where they stand now.
Ryan decided on BC after looking at Michigan (where his two brothers went) and Notre Dame (where his father played football). He describes his play as gritty, identifying Sean Avery as the NHL player he'd most like to have lunch with and calling Darren McCarty his childhood hero.
"I think we're two different players, obviously," Ryan said in regards to McCarty, "but I don't mind irritating guys a little bit and trying to get into their head and take them off their game."
Bennett excited about Michigan and Montreal futures
Michigan is still another year away for defenseman Mac Bennett, and after being picked up by the Habs, he could prove to be yet another player to disappoint Red Berenson.
"It's amazing, I didn't expect to actually get picked by the Canadiens, but I'm very happy and it's nice to have the reception here; it's a great hockey town," Bennett said. "Hopefully I'll be playing for the Canadiens sometime soon."
Though thrilled to be picked by Montreal and embracing the added media attention that comes with the franchise, Bennett did admit to favoring the Washington Capitals in hopes of playing with his idol, Mike Green.
"I'd like to compare myself to a Mike Green-type guy," he said. "He's very fast, very calm and very poised with the puck, he creates a lot of offense, he's got a hell of a shot -- so if I could emulate his style and play that kind of game, I'd be very happy."
Draft picks D'Amigo and Pirri could boost RPI offense
Jerry D'Amigo flew under the radar of most scouts before playing an integral part of this year's U.S. Under-18 team, where he led the team in scoring and led the Americans to a gold medal. Some thought that might bump his draft stock, but he was still on the board when the Maple Leafs picked him in the sixth round with the 158th selection. At only 5-foot-10, D'Amigo describes himself as a "grinder." D'Amigo will be heading to RPI this fall to develop as a hockey player under coach Seth Appert and study business or history -- he's not sure yet.
D'Amigo will be joined at RPI by Brandon Pirri, a product of the Georgetown Raiders of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League. Pirri was a second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, 59th overall. Pirri scored 46 goals and 94 points in 44 regular-season games for Georgetown and Streetsville, and then had 9 goals and 21 points in 14 playoff games.
RPI looks to that tandem to make an immediate impact up front, as the Engineers have ranked among the lowest-scoring teams in NCAA hockey over each of the past three seasons.
Current CCHA players nabbed
Most players selected aren't yet officially on college rosters. Just seven current college players were taken, including three from the CCHA. The highest pick among them was Western Michigan defenseman Kevin Connauton, a sophomore-to-be in the fall and a CCHA All-Rookie Honorable Mention last season. He was picked in the third round, 83rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
Connauton had an impressive freshman year at Western Michigan, helping to bring playoff hockey to Lawson Arena with a reliable game in his own zone and his fair share of offensive flair. He steadily improved throughout the year and became a blueliner of note around the conference. Connauton has a reputation for being extremely diligent in his preparation on and off the ice and for having excellent hockey sense on the blue line. All of the pieces are there for Connauton, and a few more years at Western Michigan -- with progressing leadership responsibility -- will help him fill out physically and combine all the strong parts of his game on a consistent basis, especially given the strides he made throughout this past season.
Other picks from the CCHA included a duo from Miami that helped the RedHawks to the Frozen Four and national championship game -- defensemen Chris Wideman (fourth round, 100th overall to Ottawa) and goalie Connor Knapp (sixth round, 164th overall to Buffalo).
St. Cloud State six pack
A half-dozen current and future St. Cloud State Huskies were selected on the second day of the draft, highlighted by third-round picks Ben Hanowski (Pittsburgh), a forward from Little Falls (Minn.) High School, and goalie Michael Lee (Phoenix), from Fargo of the USHL. Both players will arrive on campus in the fall, along with fifth-rounder Nick Jensen (Detroit). A pair of 2010 recruits was also drafted -- Nick Oliver (Nashville, fourth round) and Nic Dowd (Los Angeles, seventh round). Current SCSU defenseman Oliver Lauridsen was selected by Philadelphia in the seventh round.
It was the most picks in a single draft in St. Cloud State history, and tied for the most by a college in the 2009 draft, as Minnesota also had six players taken. Boston College had five; Miami had four; and Michigan, Boston University, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota and Notre Dame had three each.
Three more potentials
Of all the college players selected this year -- 63 in total including seven first-rounders and 56 in Saturday's rounds -- three more uncommitted players might still choose the college route.
Eric Knodel played the 2008-09 season with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers and will play next season with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Knodel was a fifth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, 128th overall.
Anthony Hamburg was a seventh-round pick, 193rd overall by the Minnesota Wild. He played for the Dallas Stars midget AAA side last year and was drafted by the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.
Current BCHL player Curtis Gedig, a defenseman for Cowichan Valley, was also a seventh-round pick, 204th overall to the New Jersey Devils.
Fries at the bottom of the bag
• INCH approves of positive numerology for future Merrimack Warrior Kyle Bigos, taken with pick No. 99 by the Edmonton Oilers.
• Hobey I: Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee, 1982 Hobey Baker Award winner at Bowling Green for coach Jerry York, will trust in his former coach to lead the development of Boston College-bound Patrick Wey, taken by the Caps in the fourth round, 115th overall.
• Hobey II: 2009 Hobey Baker finalist Chad Johnson, senior goalie from Alaska and CCHA Player of the Year, had his NHL rights traded from Pittsburgh to the New York Rangers. Since Johnson's college eligibility has expired, the Rangers have until Aug. 15 to sign Johnson or he will become a free agent.
• Unanswered questions: Why didn't Tyler Shattock (St. Louis fourth-rounder) go to Shattuck St Mary's? Did Joe Sacco have any say when Colorado picked BU goalie Kieran Millan?
• Hobey III: Former Hobey winner Jordan Leopold was part of the big news, as Calgary traded his rights with the Panthers for Jay Bouwmeester's rights. Of course, like the bigger name in the deal, Leopold is a free agent in less than a week.
• Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson was in attendance Friday to support recruit Kyle Palmieri.
• Kudos to Vancouver scouts, who might have been the ones you spotted in college rinks this season. They took two of the seven current collegians drafted -- Minnesota's Jordan Schroeder in the first round and Merrimack's Joe Cannata in the sixth round.
• Mac Bennett noted that he was looking forward to the energy at Michigan games -- particularly in contrast to what he's used to from Rhode Island and after playing with Hotchkiss Prep in Connecticut. He is looking forward to Yost Ice Arena and the prospect of playing an outdoor game with the Wolverines.
Kellie Cowan, Joe Gladziszewski, Nate Ewell, Mike Eidelbes and James V. Dowd contributed to this report. For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.
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