PITTSBURGH — On Friday, many college hockey fans were pleasantly surprised to hear six players with college ties called to the stage in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at the Consol Energy Center. There was plenty of speculation coming in that this could be a very lean year for college prospects.
The validation of these college athletes from the NHL on Friday carried over into Saturday’s second round as nine more players became NHL property.
Leading the way was Wisconsin commit Nicolas Kerdiles, who was selected 36th overall by the Anaheim Ducks. Kerdiles, who last year scored 20 goals and 42 points in 50 games for the U.S. Under-18 Team, is a decent-sized winger standing at 6-foot-2.
A native of Irvine, Calif., Kerdiles said he is thrilled at the thought of playing his professional hockey so close to home.
“It’s going to be a really fun time for my family because we live in Irvine, right down the street,” Kerdiles said. “It’s a pretty surreal moment right now for me and my family.”
Like many prospects selected early on Saturday, Kerdiles had hopes of being a first-round pick. Thus, last night was a bit of a restless night for the slender winger.
“I was just trying to enjoy the moment with my family,” Kerdiles said. “It was stressful. I was sweating a little bit. But I got selected by the Ducks, so I’m very excited right now.”
Two picks later, the first current college player was selected when Michigan sophomore-to-be Phil Di Giuseppe was picked 38th overall by Carolina.
Di Giuseppe said he believes that he will be headed back to Michigan next season, feeling he needs to work on his game before he’s NHL ready.
“I want to work on my game this summer [before returning to Michigan],” Di Giuseppe said. “We lost a couple of guys so I’m going to be relied upon to score more next year.”
He said he’s very enthusiastic, though, to one day be playing in Carolina.
“They have great young talent, they just picked up both Staals [Jordan and Jared joining brother Eric], so they’re going to have a great team,” said Di Giuseppe. “I’m just so proud to be part of this organization.”
Wisconsin’s Jake McCabe was then tabbed 44th overall by Buffalo.
“I wasn’t aware of how fast this whole process goes in the second round,” said McCabe. “The picks start flowing one after another and your adrenaline starts flowing until you hear your name eventually. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait around too long.”
The first goaltender with college hockey ties, Nebraska-Omaha commit Anthony Stolarz, was selected 45th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers. Ranked fourth among North American goaltenders entering the draft, Stolarz became the highest goaltender with college ties selected since Minnesota’s Jeff Frazee was picked up by the New Jersey Devils with the 38th selection in the 2005 draft. John Gibson, who was committed to Michigan at the time, was selected 39th last year but never matriculated in Ann Arbor, choosing to play major junior instead.
The biggest jumper for college players in the second round was Minnesota State recruit Theodor Blueger. Ranked 116th by Central Scouting, he was selected 52nd overall by the host Pittsburgh Penguins.
Other players hearing their names called in Saturday’s second round include Harvard recruit Brian Hart (53rd overall by Tampa Bay), incoming Boston University freshman Samuel Kurker (56th overall by St. Louis) and Michigan commit Cristoval Nieves (59th overall by the New York Rangers).
An additional nine college-linked players were selected in Saturday’s third round, including Union’s rookie standout Shayne Gostisbehere, who was picked up 78th overall by the Phialdelphia Flyers. Gostisbehere was a standout in Union’s run to its first-ever Frozen Four appearance last season. That exposure on the national stage certainly helped Gostisbehere, who rose from 146th in the final Central Scouting rankings to a third-round selection.
In total, 62 players with college ties were selected on Saturday, bring the two-day total to 68, the most selected since 2007. Twenty-seven of the 30 NHL clubs selected at least one college player.