NHL teams sent a clear message to college hockey at Saturday’s entry draft: we’re watching.
With two rounds and 66 picks complete in the draft, ten current college players and one who will enter college next season had already been selected.
Tops among these picks was the first overall collegian, Michigan defenseman Jeff Jillson. He joins the likes of Viktor Kozlov, Patrick Marleau and Pat Falloon as a first-round draft choice of the San Jose Sharks.
Just two picks later, the Carolina Hurricanes selected Wisconsin’s David Tanabe with the 16th overall pick in the draft. The 6-foot-2 defenseman was taken well ahead of his NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) rating of 27th overall.
Maine Black Bears center Barrett Heisten was the 20th selection by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Rated 14th by the CSB, Heisten was the final college player drafted in the first round.
The three first-rounders were well under the CSB’s ranking projection of eight college players likely to be selected in the first round, most likely due to the high number of European players drafted early on — the CSB does not rate European-born players unless they play junior hockey in North America.
In the second round, Mike Ryan from Boston College High School, a player already committed to attend Northeastern in the fall, was selected fourth in the round and 32nd overall by the Dallas Stars. The Stars traded their first-round pick, making Ryan the first player chosen by the Stanley Cup Champions.
Also taken in round two were Boston University’s Dan Cavanuagh (10th pick of the second round, 38th overall); Mike Commodore (14th pick of the second round, 42nd overall) of North Dakota; Jordan Leopold (16th pick of the second round, 44th overall) of Minnesota; RPI’s Matt Murley (23rd pick of the second round, 51st overall); Adam Hall (24th pick of the second round, 52nd overall) and Andrew Hutchinson (26th pick the of second round, 54th overall), both of Michigan State; Maine’s Doug Janik (27th pick of the second round, 55th overall); and David Inman (31st pick of the second round, 59th overall) from the University of Notre Dame.
Jillson Meets Expectations As First Collegian Taken
He waited one hour and 35 minutes at the FleetCenter on Saturday afternoon to hear his name called. And when it was, Jeff Jillson, sophomore defenseman from the University of Michigan, was the San Jose Sharks’ first pick in the 1999 NHL entry draft.
“I’m very proud to be a part of the San Jose organization,” Jillson said. “As far as the organization goes, I know they have nice weather.”
Jillson is quick to admit that he really didn’t think that he had much of a chance to end up in San Jose, describing his selection as “a little unexpected.” He reported that he had never really interviewed with the team.
Jillson, a native of N. Smithfield, R.I., just completed his rookie campaign for the University of Michigan. He finished the year with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 38 games and was selected to the CCHA All-Rookie team. He was rated 11th by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, the top-rated college player eligible for the draft.
“I was just trying to stay as calm as possible,” said Jillson of his feelings as the first round moved on. “But it’s a tremendous honor to be the first American college player selected. College hockey is on a pretty good swing in the U.S. It’s up-and-coming.”
As soon as Jillson was selected, he was immediately asked how long he will stay at Michigan. Entering his sophomore year, Jillson is yet to choose a major, though he said he is leaning towards business. If he were to leave before next season, he would join a long line of players — Maine’s Alfie Michaud and New Hampshire’s Jayme Filipowicz being recent examples — who choose pro hockey over completing their collegiate experiences.
“I get asked that questions ten times a day,” Jillson said when asked if he plans to stay in college. “Right now I’ll probably have to sit down with the San Jose Sharks and the coaching staff of Michigan and my family. When that time comes to make that decision, and when I feel I’m ready to make the jump, I will decide.”
Whatever and whenever Jillson chooses, it’s a good bet that he has a long, successful career ahead of him.
Future RiverHawk Concannon A Shocker In Third Round
Picture yourself: 19 years old, ready to enter college, knowing that you’re a good hockey player, and hoping that someone thinks you’re a great hockey player.
Now picture yourself sitting at the NHL entry draft, hoping someone will select you, knowing that maybe no one will.
So was the routine for UMass-Lowell recruit Mark Concannon on Saturday afternoon as he sat with father Mark Sr. and mother Kathy at the FleetCenter in Boston.
Concannon was ranked 115th by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, which would have placed him as a sixth-round pick. So when the San Jose Sharks called Concannon’s name midway through the third round, it was quite a shock.
“My mouth hit the floor,” Concannon said. “It was a great feeling, kind of shocking, but a great feeling. Probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Both of Mark’s parents agreed.
“Words can’t even describe how we feel,” said Mark Sr. “We never thought in a million years that he’d be drafted in the third round.”
Most players who end up selected in the early rounds of the draft go through a very long interview process with sometimes 15 or more different NHL clubs. Not in Concannon’s case.
“San Jose never interviewed me. No NHL team ever interviewed me,” Concannon said.
His parents had heard nothing either.
“When he was picked in the third round I almost fell off the chair,” said the senior Concannon. “We had no idea that San Jose had any interest whatsoever.”
His mother Kathy even admitted that she almost dozed off.
Concannon scored 23 goals and added 28 assists for 51 points in only 26 games last season at Winchendon prep school. The fact that he is already committed to college might tell the Sharks that he will have the chance to develop in a solid league so that when he finally arrives in the NHL, he’ll be a mature and prepared player.
Concannon characterizes himself as a tough, gritty player who likes to work in the corner. He is quick to admit he needs some work on lateral movement, as well as moving without the puck. But he will have plenty of time to work on that.
Indeed, in heading off to college, Concannon has caught the trend of many U.S. prep school students.
“We’re really happy with UMass-Lowell and his decision to get to college,” said mother Kathy. “They’ve been very good to us and Mark and we’re looking forward to him attending.”
Concannon sees it as a chance to prepare for the potential professional career that lies ahead. And even though that career may have seemed just a dream, this year’s draft means that it now is a reality.