BOSTON — Boston University freshman goalie Ricky DiPietro has decided to forego his three remaining years of eligibility and opt in to the NHL Entry Draft, according to his agent.
The decision was made Monday afternoon, said agent Paul Krepelka. This came after a meeting Krepelka had with BU coach Jack Parker, DiPietro and DiPietro’s family last week.
“It was very, very, very tough on him and his family,” said Krepelka. “It was the hardest decision he’s ever made. Parker had some concerns, and we had concerns as well, whether he was ready to go.
“In the end, Ricky steadfastly believed he was ready for the pros. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t jumping into this blind. Sometimes you get disillusioned by pro hockey.”
On Monday, the NHL released the final Central Scouting Bureau draft rankings, listing the top draft-eligible players. DiPietro was No. 2 among North American goaltenders in the midseason rankings, but was not on the final rankings because, as an 18-year-old, he had yet to “opt in” to the draft. However, according to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, players can still opt in by submitting the form in writing, postmarked no later than May 1.
“We could get the letter 10-15 days from now,” said an NHL spokesperson. “So, as of [Monday], the list was final. No one will know [about DiPietro] until we get the letter. In all reality, a letter could arrive two days before the draft.”
The NHL has yet to receive DiPietro’s opt-in application, but, according to Krepelka, the letter was sent. His decision wasn’t made public on Monday because Parker wasn’t informed until late in the day.
“Ricky came in [Monday] afternoon,” said Krepelka. “We didn’t say a word until today [Tuesday]. We wanted to wait and make sure he talked to coach Parker and went through the proper channels. We didn’t want the coaching staff to find out through the media.”
Players who have reached their 19th birthday are automatically eligible for the NHL Entry Draft, under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association. Eighteen-year olds must “opt in,” but by doing so, they lose their NCAA eligibility.
DiPietro is a rare case, a player who, even after his freshman year in college, was still ineligible for the draft, missing the cutoff by four days. Most college players are older because they play juniors or prep school before hand. DiPietro was a true freshman, and a young one at that. Had he been four days older, he could have been drafted as a 19-year-old without needing to opt in, and thus retained his NCAA eligibility.
Almost all major junior players decide to opt in at 18, because they can do so without penalty. The NCAA says, if you opt in, you lose your remaining NCAA eligibility.
“The NCAA should revisit the opt-in rule,” said Krepelka. “If it didn’t exist, [DiPietro] could be drafted and stay in school. Whatever the reasoning is, it hurts more than it helps. In an ideal situation, he probably would’ve stayed in [school] and dealt with it accordingly. But given the uniqueness of the situation, he decided to go.”
Krepelka said, despite the high regard NHL teams seem to have for DiPietro, there was no urgency to leave this year.
“We realized he was going to be a pro whether it was this year’s draft or next year’s draft,” Krepelka said. “He couldn’t make a wrong decision. He’s giving up a lot. He loves BU and loves his teammates, but he felt he’s definitely ready for the challenge.”
DiPietro first raised eyebrows after a good performance for Team USA at this past year’s World Junior Championships. He solidified his position among scouts with a solid stretch run, including a 4-OT loss to St. Lawrence in the NCAA East Regional.
Had his stock not been so high, Krepelka said he would have likely stayed at BU.
“The feeling [from scouts] is that he’s definitely a top 10 pick,” said Krepelka. “He could be even higher. By him opting in, it’s a major impact on the draft. That’s the impression we’ve gotten, listening to scouts.
“If he wasn’t going to be an elite pick — a very high first-round pick — there would’ve been no question that he stayed in school.”
The 2000 NHL Entry Draft is June 24-25 in Calgary. Wisconsin’s Dany Heatley is the first college player ever ranked No. 1 by the CSB.