The first round of this year's NHL draft was busier for players with college ties than it was in 2008, when a scant four players were among the first 30 selections, but nowhere near as busy as the 2007 first round, when 11 players with college ties were chosen.
Below is a rundown of the collegiate prospects who were first-rounders in this year's draft. For the complete list of picks, check out ESPN.com's complete draft coverage.
2009 NHL DRAFT FIRST-ROUND PICKS
The first college-bound player picked in the first round was a bit of a surprise. It wasn't out of the realm of possibility that a Minnesota high school product and Golden Gopher star recruit would join the Twin Cities' professional team, but it was much more likely and expected that the pick would be Jordan Schroeder. Instead, Leddy, Minnesota's Mr. Hockey, a swift-skating defenseman who will join the Gophers in the fall, was the selection by the Wild. He's already started taking classes at Minnesota and is thrilled to become a part of an integral part of the state's hockey lifeline. "I definitely wanted to go to college ever since I was a little kid and especially growing up in Minnesota," Leddy said. "You really want to come home and watch them on TV every Friday and Saturday night. It's just kind of the culture here."
NHL Central Scouting says: "He's such an explosive skater. It's pretty obvious he's a target of every opposing team because he's the engine that drives the train. Really, though, he's a world-class skater. I'd say he's in the same class as John Moore [Central Scouting's No. 8-ranked skater] and Josh Birkholz [No. 33] of this year's class."
When the Montreal Canadiens made this pick, director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins excitedly announced the selection and the audience's approval was palpable. Leblanc is a Montreal-area native (Pointe-Claire, Quebec) and said in an interview with TSN that he hoped the Canadiens would select him. It's good news for Harvard, too, as Montreal has recently taken college players with first- and second-round picks and are absolutely OK with the college game as a development area. In fact, Timmins was spotted at the ECAC Hockey championship weekend in March. Leblanc is described as a competitive player, a determined scorer and is compared to Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers. Leblanc said on the TSN broadcast that he hopes to make the jump to stay at Harvard "a year or two, maximum" and then make it to the NHL.
NHL Central Scouting says: "The most impressive things about Louis Leblanc are his hands and his evasiveness with the puck; that separates him from other players on the ice right away. He needs to fill out a little bit yet, but he has the frame to be a big center. The other part of LeBlanc's game that I noticed was his vision; his ability to see and dissect a play and to make the right play. He's also very competitive and he gets involved in the play."
Here's a bit of a change for Boston College -- a talented forward with some size. It's not like the Eagles have been eternally saddled with waterbugs up front but it seems that way. And it's not like Kreider is a lummox, either, as scouts praise his skating ability. This guy is a lot more Jimmy Hayes and a lot less Nathan Gerbe. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward scored 33 goals and 56 points in just 26 games for Phillips Andover Academy last season but, as is the case with just about every prep or high school prospect, detractors will question the level of competition Kreider has faced. Those questions will be answered soon enough at BC.
NHL Central Scouting says: "Kreider is an excellent skater with explosive speed and acceleration. His short-distance speed is exceptional. He sees the play ahead of time and knows what he's going to do with the puck as soon as he gets it. He is an excellent passer and playmaker. His foot speed, combined with his anticipation and quick stick, gives him the ability to create turnovers and gain puck possession. He is a constant threat to develop breakaways on the penalty-killing unit. He has both an excellent wrist and slap shot, which he disguises well and releases quickly. He can score goals in a number of ways."
John Moore's favorite NHL player is Mike Green, the offensive-minded Washington blueliner. Scouts haven't compared Moore, a Chicagoland native who has committed to Colorado College, to Green, but he has been compared favorably to two names that should be quite familiar to college hockey fans -- former Minnesota defenseman and 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold and ex-Wisconsin star Ryan Suter. Moore's strength is his skating -- Jack Barzee of NHL Central Scouting compared Moore's first two strides to those of Hall of Famer Paul Coffey -- which should be a huge asset on the mammoth ice sheets common in the WCHA. That's if he decides to go to Colorado College; Moore is frequently mentioned as a possible defector to the Ontario Hockey League.
NHL Central Scouting says: "I watched John Moore as an underage player and I knew he was a must-see player for this year; he hasn't disappointed me one bit. His first two strides are like Paul Coffey and he has been labeled as a world-class skater. He is poised with the puck, he gets his shots through to the net and he has gotten a lot stronger this season. He resembles [Calgary Flames] defenseman Jordan Leopold, and similar to Leopold at the same age, he needs to get a little bit better at playing more aggressive and more physical; but John is going to be a one-two defenseman in the NHL."
Minnesota's Jordan Schroeder slid a bit according to some pre-draft projections, but the Vancouver Canucks were thrilled when Schroeder was available with the 22nd pick. The playmaking centerman's stock probably fell a bit due to his smallish size at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. Red lights behind nets in rinks across the world don't discriminate against the small, and Schroeder turns on lots of them as the first-line center for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and also on the United States team at the IIHF World Junior Championship, where he played on a line with fellow first-rounders Colin Wilson (Boston University/Nashville Predators) and James van Riemsdyk (University of New Hampshire/Philadelphia Flyers). Schroeder said that being drafted is just a step in the process toward his eventual goal of playing in the NHL. That might not be great news for the Gophers, as the Canucks haven't traditionally preferred players to develop in college -- take former BC goalie Cory Schneider and ex-Ohio State forward Ryan Kesler as recent examples.
NHL Central Scouting says: "He's a dynamic player, a leader and a type of player that has developed into a complete offensive and defensive threat every time he is on the ice. He has a rocket of a wrist shot and he can beat you by putting the puck in the net, going around a defender or freezing the goaltender and passing it off to one of his wingers. The concern is going to be his overall size, like there was with Scott Gomez, with Brian Gionta and with Patrick Kane, but at the same age he is probably a little thicker and a little bit more compact than they were. He's a great hockey player."
Enough with the speculation about why Palmieri, who'll suit up for Notre Dame this fall, was bounced from the U.S. National Team Development Program this past winter. If a no-nonsense coach such as Jeff Jackson is bringing him in and an organization such as Anaheim, with no-nonsense coach Randy Carlyle, is willing to burn a first-round pick on him, Palmieri checks out. Based on the scouts' assessment of his game -- good skater with the potential to be a game-breaker offensively, decent size, tenacious and with a strong work ethic -- he should fit right in with the cadre of Irish forwards.
NHL Central Scouting says: "Kyle's got a little bit of Chris Drury in him. I look at his passion, his natural skills and his tenaciousness, and that's what I saw in Chris. He's a lot of fun to watch because he has that vision along with a wicked shot. He very seldom passes up the opportunity to make the right play -- he's in position to shoot the puck and has that insight into whether to freeze and dish or just let it go."
Olsen comes from college hockey stock, as his father played at Northern Michigan from 1985 to 1989 before going on to a professional career with the minor leagues and Europe, with one game played for the Calgary Flames. Dylan showed offensive flair with the Camrose Kodiaks with 10 goals and 29 points in 53 games. He also has experience at the national and international levels with Canada, and had four points in six games at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships. The bigger issue is whether or not Olsen will make it to college hockey, and if so, for how long. His academic credentials weren't the strongest, and he and Chicago might think that junior hockey is a better option for his development.
For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.