ST. PAUL, Minn. – Boston University coach Jack Parker looked like a proud father on Saturday morning after two of his players — Adam Clendening and Matt Nieto — were chosen early in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Clendening was picked by Chicago with the sixth pick on Saturday (36th overall). About 15 minutes later, Nieto watched as San Jose traded up the ladder and picked him with the 47th overall selection.
After Parker and his two top NHL prospects waited through a long day during a fruitless first round on Friday, it took just 30 minutes for all of the excitement to be over on Saturday.
“It’s two early picks, which is great, and two teams that they’re excited to go to,” said Parker, who flew to the Twin Cities on Friday morning to be with his players when they were drafted. “Chicago needs defensemen and [Clendening] was the first defenseman they picked. Matty’s going to his home state and that’s big for him. Those two clubs got good players. They’ll both be NHLers, I believe.”
Now Parker’s job with both Clendening and Nieto — along with players like Charlie Coyle, who was a first-round pick of San Jose a year ago but was traded to Minnesota during Friday’s first round — will be to prepare these players for the NHL. It’s something that isn’t new to Parker, but also something that can be difficult to relish knowing that at any minute, the NHL clubs can come a calling and swipe the talented young stars from their college programs.
“We better make hay with them while we’ve got them here because they won’t stay very long,” Parker said.
And he’s not joking. Coyle could be one of the biggest concerns heading from a San Jose team that was deep at forward to a Minnesota club that might ask him to step in as early as this season. Parker said that he hopes players will stay in college as long as they can and believes that four-year players still wind up being great NHL players.
“It’s a proven fact that most kids who stay [in college] for the four years are the guys who get the longest NHL careers. That weighs in to keeping players around,” Parker said. “But it all depends on what the NHL team’s needs are. If they want to get them out earlier, they usually can.”
Parker said that he continually talks to his players who are NHL draftees. He believes that college is extremely beneficial in building a player physically, something that many know and understand that the biggest college alternative — major junior — can’t offer because of the grueling 80-plus game schedule the players face.
“You have to talk to them about when to stay and when to go,” Parker said. “Our philosophy is, ‘We know exactly when you should leave BU: when you can step directly into the NHL.’ You don’t want to go to the minor leagues. Most of our guys have done that. They’ve gone right from BU into the NHL.
“A lot of that has to do with how good of a job [strength and conditioning coach] Mike Boyle does with these guys. I see a lot of these guys who are getting drafted here. They look like they could use a Mike Boyle. Instead, they’re all off playing major junior and it’s not good for their physical development.
“Our guys know the off-ice training is as important as the on-ice training. It gives them a better chance to step into the NHL and play a long time.”
Video: Adam Clendening:
Video: Matt Nieto: