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Record-tying 11 college players or recruits taken in first round of 2016 NHL Draft

Boston University recruit Clayton Keller was taken by Arizona at No. 7 (photo: Dan Hickling).

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Just weeks after college hockey left its mark on the Stanley Cup playoffs, the college game put another feather in its cap at the NHL Draft.

Eleven current or incoming college players were selected among the first 30 picks Friday at the First Niagara Center.

That tied the mark for the most first-round selections, set in 2007. Of the 30 first-round picks, 12 were Americans, including the first overall selection Auston Matthews, who skipped both college and major junior to play professionally last season in Switzerland.

Selections: College players and recruits picked in the 2016 NHL Draft

Boston University led all colleges with four current or future first-round selections, including the top overall college player picked, forward Clayton Keller.

Keller was tabbed seventh overall by Arizona despite finishing the season ranked ninth among North American forwards and defensemen.

Now the question becomes whether Keller will choose to head to Boston University in the fall or head to Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, the major junior club that holds his draft rights.

The consensus among insiders on Friday is that Keller will head to Boston University to develop — he stands just 5-foot-10 and is underweight for the prototypical NHL player. That’s something Keller himself can’t deny.

“Right now BU is my top choice,” said Keller. “I don’t see that changing.

“[Adding weight is] the biggest thing for me. Getting stronger and putting on a couple of pounds. I think that’s what can make me a dominant player in the NHL some day.”

Three selections after Keller was Tyson Jost, a Canadian-born player headed to defending national champion North Dakota in the fall. Jost was selected by Colorado and joined BU freshman-to-be Dante Fabbro (17th, Nashville) and St. Cloud State incoming freshman Dennis Cholowski (20th, Detroit) as the three Canadian-born players with college ties selected on Friday.

The trio tied the mark for most Canadian-born college players selected in the first round (2007).

Jost and Fabbro, in fact, were teammates last season in Penticton of the BCHL, and sat together during Friday’s draft.

“It’s special because we’ve created a brothership,” Jost said of Fabbro. “It was great to be able to hug him [when my name was called].”

Three players who have already played one year of college were also selected on Friday. BU defenseman Charlie McAvoy was tabbed 14th overall by the Boston Bruins, and a pick later Minnesota selected current Wisconsin forward Luke Kunin with the 15th pick. Connecticut’s Tage Thompson became his school’s first-ever first-round selection when St. Louis picked him at No. 26.

Boston University’s Kieffer Bellows, son of 18-year NHL veteran Brian Bellows, was picked 19th by the New York Islanders, giving BU four current or incoming players picked in the top 19.

Finnish-born Henrik Borgstrom, who will head to Denver in the fall, was the 23rd overall selection by Florida.

Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Riley Tufte (25th, Dallas), who will head to Minnesota-Duluth in the fall, and Wisconsin freshman-to-be Trent Frederic (29th, Boston) rounded out the picks with college connections.

“It’s not a surprise,” Boston University coach David Quinn said of the 11 college players selected in Friday’s first round. “To be successful in the NHL, you have to work hard consistently, you need to be a good teammate, you need to be a good person, you need to learn how to train, you have to learn how to eat right. All those things factor into it.

“There are a lot of guys who have never made it in the NHL who have NHL ability but come up short in those characteristics. I think [teaching those characteristics], that’s one thing college hockey has done for a long time.”

Early ‘life lesson’ from father puts Wisconsin’s Kunin on path to being first-round NHL Draft pick

Wisconsin’s Luke Kunin was the 15th overall pick in Friday’s first round of the 2016 NHL Draft (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Being cut from his first team — by his own father — is Luke Kunin’s earliest hockey memory. On Friday, however, his newest memory was formed — and one of his dreams came true with his family by his side.

The Wisconsin center was selected 15th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2016 NHL Draft.

“It’s a pretty funny story that my dad cut me at a pretty young age,” said Kunin, remembering the fact that his mother made his father sleep on the couch that night. “For him to be there with me, to get a good hug from him was pretty special.”

Kunin — the second-ranked college skater coming into the draft (and 11th overall by NHL Central Scouting) — has built his whole life on the foundation of what he learned from that early “life lesson,” as he calls it.

“Nothing is ever going to be given to you in life,” he said. “You have to work for everything you want to get.”

He credited his father, mother and brother as being a vital support system in helping him get to where he is now — on a path to the NHL and having just wrapped up a standout year as a freshman college hockey player.

“They have been there for me through the whole ride and they’ve sacrificed a lot,” Kunin said. “It will be great for them to be with me through it all.”

Working hard and striving for success are the fundamental traits forming the backbone of Kunin’s character. He’s determined and confident, yet not presumptuous in the least — a lethal combination for any athlete.

Although the draft can be nerve-racking for some, the Chesterfield, Mo., native didn’t feel pressure going into it.

“I think the way I played this year [19 goals, 13 assists with the Badgers], I did everything I could to show the NHL teams what I’m about and what kind of player I am,” he said. “Once the draft is over, it’s exciting to know what team you’re with, but it’s back to work.”

As the second-youngest player in the NCAA in 2015-16, Kunin tied for third in goals among all rookie skaters to make the Big Ten all-freshman team. His 32 points were one shy of tying linemate Grant Besse (selected 147th overall by Anaheim in 2013) for the team lead.

The 18-year-old didn’t take anything for granted, especially his first year playing, growing and learning while on the Badgers.

“Wisconsin was a place I wanted to play since I was a little kid, so just playing against older guys, especially me coming in here as a young guy, made me mature a little quicker,” Kunin said. “I like a challenge, so college hockey is something I wanted to do and I thought I had a pretty good year individually. Strength and conditioning coach Jim Snider really puts in a lot of effort with guys and that’s big for me to get to the next level — to keep getting stronger off the ice. It’s just an all-around great atmosphere.”

The 6-foot, 193-pound forward — with highlight-reel playmaking ability — said there’s always room for improvement.

“I pick something I want to focus on each year and just try to get better at certain things,” he said. “I’m never satisfied with where I’m at; I’m always trying to get better and be the best player I can be.”

Kunin captained the U.S. 2015 Under-18 World Championship team to a gold medal, scoring six goals in seven games. Boston University’s Charlie McAvoy, drafted a pick before Kunin at No. 14, and childhood friend Matthew Tkachuk, the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk who was selected sixth overall, also were part of that team.

As much as collegiate and pro careers in hockey have been personal dreams of Kunin’s, the friendships he’s made along the way have made it that much more worthwhile.

“I have a bond and a relationship with those guys that will last a lifetime,” he said in regard to his fellow skaters on Team USA and the Badgers. With Tkachuk, they played together as kids and “being around Matt’s dad Keith, watching him play, and learning the ropes from him was something pretty special.”

The relationship with Kunin’s dad seems to be one of the strongest of them all.

“When I was little, my dad would always share motivational quotes with me that he thought I would like. Whether it was a Michael Jordan one or Wayne Gretzky one, we have always had a pretty special thing going.”

To this day, if Kunin’s father finds an inspirational quote, he’ll send it to Kunin before a game. One of Kunin’s favorites?

“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it,” he said without hesitation.

The rising sophomore added, “I could sit here all day and rattle off all the ones dad sends to me, but I just think anything for me that’s about being successful is great. I strive to be successful and I will be successful, so whatever it takes for me to get there, that’s what I’m going to do — I truly believe that.”

Contributing from Buffalo, N.Y.: Jim Connelly

For Boston University, expected NHL Draft success presents benefits, challenges

Boston University’s Charlie McAvoy is the highest ranked college player or recruit for the 2016 NHL Draft according to NHL Central Scouting (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If Buffalo Sabres forward and former Boston University standout Jack Eichel happens to attend Friday’s NHL Draft in his new hometown, he might feel very much at home.

One year after being drafted second overall, Eichel has the opportunity to watch as many as four current and future Boston University players become first-round NHL Draft choices.

Rankings: College players and recruits in final Central Scouting rankings

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches for BU coach David Quinn. A year after four Terriers players were selected in the top 50, BU stands to have current defenseman Charlie McAvoy along with incoming freshmen Kieffer Bellows, Clayton Keller and Dante Fabbro all selected in the top 20 of Friday’s opening round.

The quartet highlights what should be one of the best drafts for U.S. college players in recent years.

Although it is unlikely to have any college players taken near Eichel’s mark of second last year — or in the top five for that matter — final rankings from NHL Central Scouting and the independent group at the International Scouting Service indicate as many as nine current or incoming college players could be first-round picks.

For Quinn, the draft provides some solid marketing and branding for his BU program as he enters his fourth year behind the Terriers bench. But it also places some challenges on his staff.

Any of this year’s quartet or high-end picks from last season like Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, who had a stellar year for BU, could be signing professional contracts within a year or sooner if the NHL club wants to secure their draft capital.

“When you do get the high-end draft picks, [you worry about] how long are they staying,” said Quinn. “It’s a juggling act from a recruiting aspect. It does make it difficult. But I’d much rather have that problem than not.”

College hockey is hamstrung by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, which allows college players who are drafted to become free agents the summer after graduation, a route currently being sought by reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey.

“The CBA really hurts us,” Quinn said. “These [NHL] teams do not want their players to get to their senior year because they run the risk of allowing them to get to free agency.

“Teams probably err on the side of taking a guy a little earlier than they should. I can’t blame them. When you have an investment in a kid with a high draft pick, you don’t want to lose them. Unfortunately, we suffer for that.”

More: A decade later, a generational NHL Draft class for college hockey still shines

What the Terriers won’t suffer from, however, is benefiting from the time this year’s draft class spends in a BU uniform. It is led by McAvoy, who was the highest rated of the four by Central Scouting but some feel may have the least upside.

The youngest player in college hockey a year ago, McAvoy proved himself worthy of being called a physical defenseman, something Quinn said will benefit him in the draft.

“One of the things that really impressed me about him was, being as young as he is, how physical he was,” said Quinn. “The physical aspect of college hockey didn’t overwhelm him.

“When you’re 17 years old and playing against guys who are 22, 23 years old, that can be pretty overwhelming. To me, that gives you an idea what type of a player he is.”

Of the incoming BU players, Bellows has the most impressive pedigree. The son of 18-year NHL veteran Brian Bellows, Kieffer Bellows is thought of as one of the better snipers available in this draft.

“I think he’s going to be the finisher and the sniper,” said David Gregory from NHL Central Scouting. “He can play on the wing and he’s very adept at getting open for shooting lanes. He can distribute, but there are not many people that can shoot it like him and finish like him.”

Boston University is hardly the only team whose players have high draft potential. In the final Central Scouting rankings of North American forwards, Wisconsin center Luke Kunin ranked 11th, jumping five spots from the midterm ranking released in January.

Some believe that Tyson Jost, who played last year in Penticton of the BCHL and is scheduled to attend North Dakota in the fall, could have the most professional potential. A teammate of BU freshman-to-be Fabbro, Jost finished the year ranked 16th by Central Scouting.

Minnesota high schooler Riley Tufte, who will be a true freshman for Scott Sandelin at Minnesota-Duluth, was on Central Scouting’s radar all year, ranking 17th in both the midterm and final charts.

Connecticut’s Tage Thompson, who a season ago potted 13 power-play goals for the Huskies, is ranked 20th, no doubt because of his blistering one-time shot that was so effective in his rookie season.

And Dennis Cholowski, the biggest mover among the top college talent, jumped from 48th in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to 23rd at season’s end. He will head to St. Cloud State in the fall.

Auston Matthews is expected to be just the sixth American selected first overall in the NHL Draft. Matthews went to neither college nor major junior last season, instead opting to play professionally in Switzerland.

The NHL Draft will kick off Friday at 7 p.m. EDT (NBC Sports), with the entire first round completed that evening. It resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. EDT (NHL Network), when rounds two through seven will be selected.

St. Lawrence hires former Maine standout Deschamps as new assistant coach

St. Lawrence announced Thursday that Matt Deschamps will join the men’s staff as an assistant coach for the 2016-17 season.

Deschamps spent the last two years in Austria with EC Red Bull Salzburg Hockey Club as the head coach of the RBS U18 team while also serving the club in director and development coordinator roles.

“Matt Deschamps brings a great deal to St. Lawrence University and our hockey program,” said SLU head coach Mark Morris in a statement. “His playing experience, both in college and as a professional, coupled with his passion for teaching and recruiting, will be a great addition to our staff. He is an excellent communicator with a tireless work ethic. He has proven he has the ability to develop players and his energy is infectious. With Matt on board, we look to continue to land quality student-athletes as we build on St. Lawrence’s rich hockey tradition.”

During his time in Austria, Deschamps led Salzburg to two of its most successful seasons at the U18 level. The Red Bulls won an Ernst Bank Junior League championship in 2015 and in 2016, led all EC Red Bull teams with a .741 winning percentage, playing against a U20 team from Switzerland and U18 teams from Finland, Czech Republic, United States and Canada.

Deschamps played his college hockey at Maine, appearing in 111 games for the Black Bears over four seasons from 2001 to 2005. He helped lead Maine to four NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the championship game. Deschamps served as an assistant captain as a senior, received the first annual Shawn Walsh Memorial Scholarship and was presented with the Richard Britt Award for Perseverance.

He graduated from Maine in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in public policy, management.

After college, Deschamps attended training camp with the San Jose Sharks in 2005. During a five-year professional career, Deschamps had stops in the American Hockey League and ECHL.

“I feel very fortunate to be joining the St. Lawrence men’s hockey coaching staff,” added Deschamps. “It’s an amazing feeling to be returning to the United States and starting a new chapter with such a great university and community. I’m excited to work with student athletes in such a storied program. I’d like to thank head coach Mark Morris and director of athletics and recreation Bob Durocher for the opportunity.

“I look forward to joining the Skating Saints family.”

Former Massachusetts standout Marcou back with Minutemen as volunteer assistant

Former Massachusetts All-American and career assists leader James Marcou has joined his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the 2016-17 season.

Marcou played for UMass from 2007 to 2010.

“James was a skilled player and an important part of the history of our program,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said in a news release. “He’s also shown talent as an aspiring young coach. He brings a unique prospective to our program and we’re excited for James to join us in Amherst.”

Marcou was UMass’ sixth All-American in program history with his AHCA Second-Team nod following his sophomore season (2008-09). His 35 points during the conference campaign tied him for the Hockey East scoring title, the first Minuteman to ever lead the league in points. He finished the year with 47 points on 15 goals and 32 assists. His 32 assists set a then-UMass single-season record, while his 47 points ranked fourth all-time.

“I’m honored to be working under Coach Greg Carvel at my alma mater,” Marcou added. “This is a fantastic opportunity to be part of building a program in Amherst with Ben Barr, Jared DeMichiel and Brennen McHugh. My pride and passion for UMass hockey run deep.”

A two-time All-Hockey East performer and New England Hockey Writers All-Star, Marcou broke his own school record for single-season assists (40) as a junior in 2009-10. Marcou currently ranks No. 4 among UMass’ all-time scorers with 130 points in 111 games played.

Forgoing his senior year, Marcou signed a free agent contract with the San Jose Sharks and played for two and a half seasons before medically retiring.

Longtime Bemidji State assistant Belisle steps down to scout for Kings

After nearly 20 years at Bemidji State, Ted Belisle has resigned from his position as assistant coach to join the scouting staff of the Los Angeles Kings.

“This is a great opportunity for Teddy to advance his career at the professional level,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore in a statement. “He has a great eye for talent and is going to do an outstanding job for the L.A. Kings.

“Teddy has been a big part of this program for 13 years as a recruiting coordinator and assistant coach and four years before that as a player and captain. His fingerprints are all over this program. He has given his heart and soul to Beaver Hockey and he will be missed.”

Belisle’s duties with the Kings began June 22.

“I have to thank a lot of people for my time at Bemidji State and that starts with Bob Peters and Tom Serratore,” added Belisle. “Bemidji State hockey has been part of my life for the better part of 17 years and I am lucky to have had those two men as my mentors along the way. The thing I will miss most about BSU is the players, but in saying that, eventually we will all be part of the same club as alumni of Beaver hockey.”

Since joining the BSU coaching staff for the 2003-04 season, Belisle has been a part of five CHA regular-season championships, four NCAA tournament appearances, which includes the Beavers’ magical run to the Frozen Four in 2009, four 20-win seasons, three CHA tournament titles, and a North Star College Cup championship.

Belisle played 90 games as a forward for the Beavers from 1997 to 2001, which included serving as the team’s captain in 2000-01, the team’s second season at the NCAA Division I level.

“I’ve always said Bemidji and Bemidji State is a special place for special people,” Belisle stated. “I am thankful for the friends and colleagues I’ve had and earned along the way and I am glad to call this home.”

A decade later, a generational NHL Draft class for college hockey still shines

Minnesota’s Erik Johnson, North Dakota’s Jonathan Toews and Minnesota’s Phil Kessel and Kyle Okposo all were selected in the first seven picks of the 2006 NHL Draft (photos: Minnesota Athletics and North Dakota Athletics).

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When you use the word “generational” in hockey, you’re often using it when you’re talking about talent at the NHL Draft.

A year ago, many called former Boston University forward Jack Eichel “generational,” noting that, especially in the college game, you don’t see too many players who can emerge from college as an 18-year-old and become an NHL superstar.

Rankings: College players and recruits in final Central Scouting rankings

Eichel’s story is special. But equally as special was a weekend 10 years ago when the draft ventured to Canada’s west coast.

It was in Vancouver where one of college hockey’s greatest days took place. The 2006 NHL Draft featured four college players selected in the top seven, including one player who has gone above and beyond the definition of the word “generational.”

The weekend also highlighted one of college hockey’s best rivalries, Minnesota-North Dakota, at its peak.

In the end, the first round of the 2006 NHL Draft produced the best crop of college players to date and also changed the perception of college hockey for many.

Kessel watch

Minnesota’s Phil Kessel slipped to No. 5 in the 2006 draft (photo: Minnesota Athletics).

As early a year before the 2006 NHL Draft, there was a lot of buzz about Phil Kessel. The game’s top scouts had touted Kessel as a lock as the top pick in 2006.

But when NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings came out for the 2006 draft, defenseman Erik Johnson, who had committed to play for Minnesota in the following September, was ranked first among North American skaters.

Kessel was a spot below Johnson. The Minnesota freshman was already making a name for himself in the Twin Cities. He potted 18 goals and 51 points in his freshman campaign, earning him WCHA rookie of the year honors. At the World Junior Championship, Kessel led Team USA in scoring with 11 points.

So despite Johnson’s top ranking, Kessel was still drawing a lot of the attention for his high-profile success in a Gophers jersey.

“Kessel, you just knew this kid was a scorer,” said Wally Shaver, the long-time radio voice of the Gophers. “It was kind of interesting because he had kind of shunned [the University of] Wisconsin, having grown up there his whole life and he decided to come to the ‘U.’

“Everybody knew about this kid. He was one of the top recruits in the nation that year.”

But as his draft year was upon Kessel, there was concern about many things. His maturity was questioned, as was his ability to be a leader. Reports surfaced that teammates on just about every team he played disliked the superstar.

By the time draft day came, Kessel had almost become an undesirable to the St. Louis Blues, the team that held the top selection. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals all took a pass on Kessel as well before Boston grabbed him with the fifth selection.

“It was tough sitting through those picks,” Kessel told USCHO at the time.

Blues tab Johnson for reliability

Erik Johnson played one season at Minnesota after being picked first in the 2006 draft (photo: Minnesota Athletics).

After earning the top spot in the midterm rankings, Johnson ended up being the top overall selection in 2006. The St. Louis Blues said they wanted Johnson for his reliability on the blue line, something that has played out in his career.

He lasted only three years in St. Louis before being traded to Colorado, where he is the team’s highest-paid player after signing a seven-year, $42 million contract extension in 2015.

Being the top overall selection, Johnson was in rare air for a collegian. He joined Rick DiPietro as the only college players to be selected with the top pick of the draft.

But on draft day, there was a question whether Johnson would ever arrive in Minnesota.

It wasn’t until the following month when St. Louis general manager John Davidson released a statement saying, “We feel this is a win-win situation for Erik to be going to an excellent hockey program to continue his development. This is beneficial for his career, short term and long term, to play for the Gophers. He will have an opportunity to compete for an NCAA national championship, play in the World Junior Championships and enjoy university life.”

But less than a month after it was revealed Johnson was on his way to the Twin Cities, Kessel announced he was on his way out. Two months after the 2006 draft, Kessel signed with Boston.

Still, Johnson played the following season alongside another top-10 selection, Kyle Okposo, picked seventh by the New York Islanders.

“There was no question with Johnson and Okposo and you could just tell from the first day of practice that these two guys stick out like a sore thumb,” said Shaver. “They were just that much better.

“After the first of the year, things really started to click.”

Overshadowed, Toews ends up on top, solidifies rivalry

Jonathan Toews scored 40 goals in two seasons at North Dakota (photo: North Dakota Athletics).

With Minnesota garnering the bulk of the attention at the 2006 draft, the third overall selection by Chicago was North Dakota’s Jonathan Toews.

Having played a season at North Dakota already, Toews was overshadowed a bit as a rookie because of Kessel. In fact, when it came to freshmen, Toews wasn’t even the top rookie scorer on his team, taking a back seat to T.J. Oshie, who was drafted in 2005, the summer before his arrival in Grand Forks.

But come draft day, Toews had garnered some buzz and as Kessel’s stock had fallen, Toews’ continued to rise. When he was picked third, Toews had gotten the upper hand on Kessel for the first time.

“Phil Kessel had so much hype coming in and Toews almost got overlooked,” said Brad Elliott Schlossman, North Dakota’s beat writer for the Grand Forks Herald. “I remember Michael Farber from Sports Illustrated coming to Grand Forks for the Sioux-Gophers series. And his story was going to be all about Phil Kessel.

“I remember telling him that some scouts are saying that this Toews kid could be just as good as Kessel.”

On the NHL ice, that has proven to be true. Toews has been a stalwart with Chicago and at age 20 was named captain, one of the youngest in NHL history.

As captain, Toews has led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles, and internationally he has won six gold medals for Team Canada, two at the Olympics, one at the World Championship and three at the junior level (two Under-20 and one Under-17).

Back in Grand Forks, the 2006-07 rivalry between North Dakota and Minnesota — even without Kessel — was one for the ages. For the Gophers, you had Johnson and Okposo on the ice, as well as David Fischer, who was also selected in the first round, 20th by Montreal. And on the other side, you had Toews in his sophomore campaign with Oshie and Ryan Duncan, that season’s Hobey Baker Award winner and WCHA player of the year.

“[North Dakota] had a whole slew of good guys on that [2006-07] team,” said Minnesota broadcaster Shaver. “The guys always got up for it, there was no question.”

After an exciting regular season matchup of the foes, swept in the Twin Cities by the then-Fighting Sioux, Minnesota exacted revenge on the bigger stage, getting a 3-2 overtime win in front of 19,463 screaming fans in the WCHA title game.

North Dakota had the last laugh, however, a week later. After Minnesota eked past Air Force 4-3 in the opener of the NCAA tournament (one year after the famous OT loss for Minnesota to Holy Cross) and North Dakota took care of Michigan 8-5, the rivals — and some of the best talent to play in this rivalry — met for one last time in the West Regional final.

More than 11,000 packed the Pepsi Center in Denver for the game and both Minnesota and North Dakota delivered, with the then-Fighting Sioux emerging on a Chris Porter overtime goal to advance to the Frozen Four.

North Dakota lost to Boston College in the national semifinals, and Michigan State was the eventual national champion. But that afternoon in Denver provided the last time that the top-end talent from the 2006 draft was on display.

New CBA means quicker exits

Early departures had been a factor in the early part of the 2000s in college hockey. Some of the best talent who were ready for the NHL left college before their four years of eligibility were up.

But after the NHL lockout in 2005, a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NHL Players Association accelerated the matriculation of top-end college talent into the pro ranks.

The 2005 CBA included language that allowed drafted college (or incoming college) players to become free agents in the summer after their senior season, similar to what is happening right now with Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey. NHL teams poached most of their top-end draft picks long before graduation.

Kessel, of course, never returned for that 2006-07 season. Johnson and Toews signed NHL contracts after their 2007 campaigns ended. Okposo stuck around for two months of the 2007-08 season before signing with the Islanders.

Only Fischer lasted all four years at Minnesota; he never did end up signing with the Canadiens. He was invited to Vancouver’s training camp in 2010 but was cut and never played an NHL game before retiring in 2015.

You can point to the new CBA, the success of players like Toews, Johnson and Kessel, or many other factors. But since that 2006 draft, early departures from college have been at a record pace, topped this season by a record 38 players forgoing college eligibility for the pros.

“[North Dakota] lost five guys early this summer,” said Schlossman. “Ten years ago, they also lost five guys. The next year they lost Toews and Brian Lee early.

“There was a lot of panic about that, but at the same time, coaches now are realizing when you have a guy like Jonathan Toews come through your program, you have to plan that he’s going to leave early.

“When he does go to the NHL after two years, it’s not necessarily a hindrance for your team.

“The MVP of the Frozen Four this year was Drake Caggiula. The reason he knew what UND was, was because he watched Jonathan Toews in the World Juniors. The MVP of the Frozen Four was in college in part because of Jonathan Toews. His legacy has attracted more good players to come to the college level.”

North Dakota reveals new Fighting Hawks logo

The new North Dakota logo was unveiled on June 22.

North Dakota has unveiled a logo and wordmark for the Fighting Hawks nickname.

“This is an outstanding day for the University of North Dakota and UND athletics,” said UND president Ed Schafer in a statement. “We are thrilled to introduce a champion logo and wordmark for North Dakota’s teams, our champion Fighting Hawks athletics program.”

Created by SME Branding after a significant amount of up-front input and a number of waves of concept testing that included members from stakeholder groups, the logo features a hawk embedded in a Kelly green ND and a distinctive wordmark that proclaims “North Dakota Fighting Hawks.”

“SME spent time on campus and on the phone at the beginning of the semester, listening to what a lot of people — students, student athletes, coaches and others in Athletics, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, representatives of UND’s American Indian programs — had to say about our university, our athletics programs, our region and our state,” added Schafer. “They did an excellent job of translating what they heard — that we have a long and proud championship tradition, that we are determined and persevere on the playing field, that we are proud of our state and our heritage, that we are progressive and moving forward — and using that input to shape the newest logo and wordmark for the future of UND athletics.”

“We are excited to start using this logo and wordmark,” UND athletic director Brian Faison noted in a statement. “We will begin using it immediately, but it will take a while to transition everything to the new logo. Many of the uniforms are already ordered, so it will take some time to change it out. But you’ll begin seeing it this fall on the football helmets, for example, as we usher in this new era in UND athletics.”

UND is planning an Aug. 13 merchandise launch event.

Boston College blueliner McCoshen leaves year early, signs with Panthers

Ian McCoshen was a Boston College-best plus-30 in 2015-16 (photo: Melissa Wade).

While not confirmed or made official by Boston College or the Florida Panthers, Ian McCoshen has apparently signed with the NHL club, giving up his senior season with the Eagles.

In an Instagram post Monday, McCoshen himself confirmed as much.

 

The Sun Sentinel reports the deal is for three years.

McCoshen, who was Florida’s second-round pick (31st overall) in 2013, helped BC to a 28-8-5 record, a Beanpot championship and a berth in the Frozen Four, while also scoring six goals and 15 assists in 40 regular-season games to go with a team-best plus-30 rating.

He also led the Eagles with 86 penalty minutes and 63 blocked shots.

North Dakota’s Schmaltz gives up final two seasons to sign with Chicago

Nick Schmaltz had 72 points in 75 games over two seasons at North Dakota (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

North Dakota forward Nick Schmaltz signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, giving up his final two seasons of eligibility.

Schmaltz was the Blackhawks’ first-round pick, 20th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft.

He had 11 goals and 46 points in 37 games last season for the Fighting Hawks, scoring in the Frozen Four semifinal victory over Denver and adding an assist in the championship game victory over Quinnipiac.

Schmaltz is the fifth player from North Dakota’s championship team to sign a pro contract with eligibility remaining. The others: junior defensemen Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson and Paul LaDue and junior forward Luke Johnson.

Schmaltz’s brother Jordan, a defenseman, played three seasons at North Dakota before signing with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues last offseason.

Princeton’s Koelzer selected first in 2016 NWHL Draft

Princeton defenseman Kelsey Koelzer was the first overall pick in the 2016 NWHL Draft (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Princeton defenseman Kelsey Koelzer was the first overall pick Saturday in the NWHL Draft, with the New York Riveters selecting the senior-to-be.

Koelzer, a first-team All-American for the Tigers last season and one of 10 finalists for the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Award, led Princeton at plus-25 in 2015-16. She was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer with 33 points, including 17 goals.

Minnesota defenseman Lee Stecklein went at No. 2 to the Buffalo Beauts, followed by Gophers teammate Dani Cameranesi, a forward, to the Connecticut Whale.

The Boston Pride wrapped up the first of five rounds by taking Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens.

The Badgers led the way with five players selected. Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Northeastern and Quinnipiac each had two players chosen.

Saturday’s draft was for players who have one year of collegiate eligibility remaining. Teams may sign them after their eligibility expires.

Here are the selections:

Pick
Player
Team
Pos
College
1Kelsey KoelzerNew YorkDPrinceton
2Lee SteckleinBuffaloDMinnesota
3Dani CameranesiConnecticutFMinnesota
4Ann Renee DesbiensBostonGWisconsin
5Sydney DanielsNew YorkFHarvard
6Cayley MercerBuffaloFClarkson
7Andie AnastosConnecticutFBoston College
8Sarah NurseBostonFWisconsin
9Jenny RyanNew YorkDWisconsin
10Hayley ScamurraBuffaloFNortheastern
11Mellissa ChannellConnecticutDWisconsin
12Ashleigh BrykaliukBostonFMinnesota-Duluth
13Sydney McKibbonNew YorkFWisconsin
14Emma WoodsBuffaloFQuinnipiac
15Paige SavageConnecticutFNortheastern
16Halli KrzyzaniakBostonDNorth Dakota
17Amy MenkeNew YorkFNorth Dakota
18Maddie EliaBuffaloFBoston University
19Sydney RossmanConnecticutGQuinnipiac
20Lara StalderBostonFMinnesota-Duluth

Commentary: Remembering Ron Mason with the ‘circle of friends he helped along the way’

Hundreds attended a funeral service for Ron Mason at Munn Ice Arena on Thursday (photo: Nate Ewell/College Hockey Inc.).

How do you eulogize a legend? The answer is that you don’t. You gather with those who knew him, tell the stories you knew about him, laugh with people who loved him and cry the tears he deserves.

That is exactly how those of us who knew Ron Mason, even a little, remembered him as we gathered in Munn Ice Arena on Thursday during a public memorial service for a man who did more to shape college hockey in his lifetime than arguably another other individual coach and a man who made anyone he talked to feel like a friend.

There was a formal ceremony on the ice in Munn, with a service that began with the American and Canadian national anthems and “Victory for MSU,” the Spartans’ fight song, and ended with closing remarks by Rev. Mark Inglot and there were many fitting tributes in between. The most moving, appropriate tribute to Ron Mason was the gathering of people near center ice before the ceremony — family and friends and too many hockey people to mention, so many people whose lives Ron touched.

And they were all telling stories. Stories about Ron and his family. Stories about Ron and fishing — lots of stories about fishing. Stories about Ron’s competitive nature, especially off the ice. Stories about Michigan State, MSU hockey and the CCHA.

I knew Ron Mason for 21 years, so I have a few stories of my own — all larger than life, many of which are funny, some of which are off the record. This story, my favorite Ron Mason story, goes to the very heart of who he was.

Like many good narratives about Ron, the story involves two key elements that will surprise no one who knew him — The Mayfair, a little bar about six miles from Munn Ice Arena, and Grand Marnier, Ron’s aperitif of choice. It also involves The Cold War, the game played between Michigan and Michigan State in Spartan Stadium on Oct. 6, 2001, a game that set attendance records for ice hockey at the time with 74,544 spectators, plus a cold press box full of reporters. It was a game for which the ceremonial first puck was dropped by another legend we recently lost, Gordie Howe.

Like Ron, the night was larger than life.

After the game, my friend Neil Koepke — then the Michigan State hockey beat writer for the Lansing State Journal — suggested that we go to The Mayfair. “Ron will be there,” he said. I had driven to East Lansing from Columbus, Ohio, that afternoon to cover the game and had planned on driving back that night, and I was leery about what I thought might be perceived as an invasion of privacy, but Neil persisted. “Ron won’t care,” he said. “In fact, he’ll be happy to see us.”

So we went to The Mayfair and when we walked in, Neil and I made our way to the area near a pool table where Ron was consuming what clearly wasn’t his first Grand Marnier of the night, accompanied by his friend Jeff Sauer, who was the head coach at Wisconsin at the time. Ron lit up when he saw Neil and talked about how relieved he was to have the event over. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment the pressure Ron had been under because of The Cold War game. Not only had he and Michigan coach Red Berenson worried about the logistics of the game — how the ice would be, whether the game would be a good one, all the challenges of an outdoor game in an era when such events were novelties — but the nation was still in shock from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and there was palpable tension at the event.

Of course, the game concluded without a proverbial hitch. The competition was excellent, a 3-3 overtime tie between fierce rivals, with the Spartans scoring two third-period goals to even things up. The event was uneventful in all of the right ways. And Michigan State glowed as the center of attention in the eyes of the sporting world.

When Ron turned to talk to me, he greeted me warmly and kissed my cheek. It was USCHO’s sixth season and I was our CCHA columnist, and Ron Mason was Ron Mason, and he greeted me like an old friend.

Then he did something that blew me away. “Thank you for being here,” he said. Then he paused and added, “It means a lot that you’re here.”

I must have looked confused because he clarified. “You kids do so much for college hockey,” he said, “and make no mistake about it — a lot of this is because of you kids.”

By “this,” Ron meant The Cold War Game and the “kids” was the USCHO staff. I was flabbergasted. Here was this amazing coach hours after helping to create yet another amazing piece of college hockey history, and he was thanking me and the USCHO staff because he thought we were drawing attention to the sport that he loved.

It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by this memory, 15 years later. It’s impossible not to shed a tear. Ron Mason was a generous man, and there were countless stories told Thursday to honor his generosity. Ted Sator, who played for Ron in Bowling Green in the early 1970s and went on to a long coaching career of his own, said Thursday that a better measure of Ron Mason’s life “is the circle of friends he helped along the way.”

That is the perfect summation of the life of a man whose legendary presence influenced so many people and a perfect way to describe the hundreds gathered to celebrate Ron Mason’s life, a phrase that Ron himself would have loved — a circle of friends.

Public visitation, funeral for Ron Mason set for June 16 at Munn Ice Arena

A public funeral service for former college hockey coach and Michigan State athletics director Ron Mason will be held on Thursday, June 16 at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Mich.

Mason, who played at St. Lawrence and later coached at MSU, Bowling Green and Lake Superior State, retiring as the winningest NCAA coach of all time, passed away June 13 at the age of 76.

The funeral service will begin at 2 p.m. EDT and will be preceded by a public viewing beginning at 11 a.m. on the ice at Munn.

Parking for the visitation and funeral service will be at Parking Ramp 5, located behind the Communication Arts Building, with shuttle service to Munn. Shuttles to Munn will begin at 10:30 a.m. and run until 4 p.m.

Per the wishes of the Mason family, photos of the open casket during the visitation are strictly prohibited.

New Trine D-III men’s, women’s teams to join NCHA conferences for 2017-18 season

Trine University’s hockey teams have been accepted as members of the NCHA.

The Thunder men’s and women’s NCAA Division III hockey programs will compete in the conference starting with the 2017-18 season — the inaugural campaign for both teams.

The addition of the Thunder women’s program will give the NCHA a membership of 10 teams, with Aurora and Northland also set to add women’s teams to the conference. Trine’s men’s team will give the conference 12 members.

“Joining the NCHA provides the perfect opportunity for our student-athletes to have a positive experience in a growing conference,” said Matt Land, assistant vice president of athletics at Trine University, in a statement. “We are excited about the opportunities that joining the NCHA will provide for the student-athletes in our hockey programs both on and off the ice.”

“As we launch and build our new men’s and women’s programs, we look forward to playing in a conference with competition that will test us, knowing it will help our Thunder teams develop and grow as we seek to make the name Trine University synonymous with quality collegiate hockey,” added Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., Trine president.

Trine previously named Tom Hofman and Alex Todd as head coaches for its NCAA Division III hockey teams. Hofman will head the women’s team, while Todd will lead the men’s program.

Construction will begin this summer on the $7.2 million, 1,000-seat Thunder Ice Arena, which will house both programs.

NCHC director of officiating Adam inducted into CIHRA Hall of Fame

NCHC director of officiating Don Adam was inducted into to the Colorado Ice Hockey Referee Association Hall of Fame on June 12.

Adam, who has served as the NCHC’s only director of officiating since he started in Sept. 2012, is a native of Westminster, Colo., and has lived in Denver for much of his life. He was one of the top NCAA Division I officials in the nation for 24 seasons, including 22 years as a referee in the WCHA (and two as a linesman). Adam was chosen to work two NCAA Frozen Fours, five IIHF World Championships and two Olympic Games (1992 in Albertville, France and 1998 in Nagano, Japan).

“The induction on Sunday night was special because it was not representative of just one individual tournament or achievement, but the culmination of my entire career,” Adam said in a news release. “There is no greater honor than being recognized by friends and peers. It was truly special.”

Adam was an NHL referee trainee for three seasons, as well as an NHL-contracted official for one season (1993-94). Along with working AHL and IHL games, Adam became the first official from Colorado to sign a contract with the NHL and the first to officiate in the Olympics when he took part in the Albertville games when he was only 27 years old.

“Don Adam is one of the most respected people in all levels of hockey officiating,” noted NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton. “This well-deserved honor represents Don’s overall body of work and dedication to officiating. The membership of the NCHC is grateful to have him serve as our director of officials.”

Adam also previously oversaw officiating for the West Coast Hockey League and Central Hockey League, and served as a replay official for the Colorado Avalanche. Overall, he boasts more than 37 years of officiating experience, including extensive work with USA Hockey’s Officiating Development Program.

With the NCHC, Adam has assumed responsibility for comprising, training, developing and sustaining the conference’s officiating staff.

In addition to his work as an on- and off-ice official, Adam has served as a police officer in Louisville, Colo., for the past 13 years.

Remembering Ron Mason: College hockey mourns the loss of the coaching icon

Ron Mason, second on the all-time college hockey coaching wins list, passed away at age 76. We’re collecting memories of and tributes to the former Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State coach.


A video tribute from Michigan State:


Rick Comley, who played for Mason at Lake Superior State and succeeded Mason as coach at Michigan State, spoke with WVFN-AM 730 in Lansing, Mich., on Monday morning:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


From a Michigan State release:

“Coach Mason defined what it means to be a Spartan. His relentless quest for excellence on and off the rink made everyone around him better. He truly created a Spartan hockey family in which the focus was on collective success rather than worrying about who received credit. That drive translated into great accomplishments on the ice and in life for all those fortunate enough to work with or play for him.” — Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon

“I first met Ron when I was a student here in the early 80s. I admired him as a coach and leader at that time and developed great respect for his commitment to success and student-athletes. Having the opportunity to work for Ron in my transition to the athletics director’s chair was invaluable. He was a great person and a great friend.” — ,” Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis

“It’s truly a sad day for the hockey world. Not only was Ron a legendary figure at Michigan State, but his contributions to college hockey were remarkable. I loved learning from his competitive spirit and his relentless commitment to excellence. Being a part of the championship teams he created here at MSU was truly special and something I’ll have forever. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Marion, his daughters, Cindy and Tracey, and all of his family.” — Spartans coach Tom Anastos


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In 2012, USCHO’s Matt Mackinder talked with Mason for our Checking In series. Read that interview here.


Mason was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. Here’s the introduction that played at the ceremony.

Legendary college hockey coach Mason passes away at 76

Ron Mason presents the Mason Cup to Notre Dame captain Anders Lee after Notre Dame won the final CCHA championship at Joe Louis Arena in 2013 (photo: Rachel Lewis).

Former Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State coach Ron Mason passed away overnight at the age of 76.

Mason also played at St. Lawrence in the early 1960s.

He won 924 games over 36 seasons at LSSU (1966-73), BGSU (1973-79) and MSU (1979-2002), retiring as the all-time winningest college hockey coach. Mason led two of those teams to national championships — an NAIA title with LSSU in 1972 and a NCAA title with the Spartans in 1986. He also coached three Hobey Baker Award winners — George McPhee at Bowling Green and Kip Miller and Ryan Miller at Michigan State.

More: Remembering Ron Mason: College hockey mourns the loss of the coaching icon

On Dec. 2, 2013, Mason was inducted into the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame.

Mason was one of the co-creators of the CCHA in 1972 and won 10 conference regular season titles as a coach — three with Bowling Green and seven with Michigan State — and 13 postseason titles. The CCHA’s playoff trophy was named the Mason Cup in his honor.

In 1978-79, Mason coached BGSU to a then-NCAA record 37 wins, a record that was broken in 1984-85 by Mason’s own Michigan State team.

Named the AHCA national coach of the year in 1992, Mason was also tabbed CCHA coach of the year on seven different occasions.

Mason was athletic director at MSU from 2002 to 2008 and had served as a senior adviser for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks.

NCAA committee recommends new overtime rules for 2016-17 season

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee has recommended four-on-four overtime for the 2016-17 season.

During its annual meeting on June 7-9 in Indianapolis, Ind., the committee recommended that all NCAA regular season games that are tied after regulation go to four-on-four action for five minutes. If the game is still tied, the committee has also approved an experimental rule where teams would play three-on-three for five minutes, and then use a sudden-death shootout to determine a winner.

Conferences can decide on whether they wish to implement the three-on-three overtime and shootout.

The proposal, which must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on July 20, will not affect postseason tournament games — conference or the national tournament.

“In our review of the game, it is clear that goal scoring is continuing to trend down,” said committee chair and Michigan State coach Tom Anastos in a statement. “After a thorough discussion of the overtime process, and seeing the success experienced by the National Hockey League and others using four-on-four, we believe this change will be a positive step for NCAA hockey. Our committee is charged with finding a balance in making changes that we believe will have a positive impact on the game, yet respect the traditions of the sport. We feel the changes we have adopted meet those objectives and will enhance our brand of hockey.”

Other notable recommendations:

• The committee proposed moving the hash marks on the faceoff circles in the offensive and defensive zones from the current four feet to five feet, seven inches, so there is more separation between players. That would be a preferred distance, which allows for flexibility in compliance by teams. NCAA championship competition will have the wider hash marks, however.

• For officials and players, it is now mandatory to wear helmets any time they are on the ice, with the exception of the playing of the national anthem.

• A coach’s challenge will be required for video replay to be used to review goals relating to off sides, except for the last two minutes of the game and overtime. Officials will review off sides during the last two minutes and the extra time. In postseason tournaments, all aspecdts of video replay will be utilized by referees, including off sides, without the need of a coach’s challenge.

Boston University graduate transfer Baillargeon to play at Arizona State

Robbie Baillargeon played for Boston University for three seasons and has transferred to Arizona State (photo: Melissa Wade).

Arizona State has added graduate transfer forward Robbie Baillargeon from Boston University for the 2016-17 season.

As a graduate transfer, Baillargeon will be eligible to play right away and won’t be required to sit out a season.

A 2012 fifth round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, Baillargeon played three years for the Terriers (2013-16) and led the program in scoring during his freshman season in 2013-14 with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).

“I’m getting to know Robbie and I really believe he is a special kid and special talent,” said Sun Devils coach Greg Powers in a statement. “He did some really good things for a great program in BU and needed a fresh change of scenery and we ended up being a perfect fit both ways. Robbie will give our young team great experience that we need and we couldn’t be happier that Robbie Baillargeon is a Sun Devil.”

Former Vermont women’s associate coach Kimball selected to lead new Aurora program

Aurora announced Wednesday the addition of Grant Kimball as head coach of the new women’s hockey program that will begin play in the 2017-18 season.

Kimball comes to AU after spending the previous seven seasons as the associate coach and recruiting coordinator at Vermont.

“Having a coach with Grant’s resume lead the women’s hockey program at AU is exciting,” said Aurora director of athletics Jim Hamad in a statement. “We are confident that he will be able to build a competitive program.”

“The ability to give our student-athletes a first-class NCAA Division III experience and build a program from the ground up is extremely exciting,” added Kimball. “I can’t wait to get started and build a tradition of academic and athletic success here at AU.”

In his 15 seasons of coaching collegiate women’s hockey, Kimball has made stops at Vermont, North Dakota State, Wayne State and Lake Forest, finding success at all of his endeavors.

Kimball has additional experience serving with several other girls teams at various levels. He was the director of the Michigan Regional Girls Development Camp in 2005 and 2006, co-coach of the USA Hockey Girls National Select U14 Camp in 2005, head coach of Team Michigan in the Chicago Showcase Tournament in 2004 and 2005 and head coach of Team Illinois Girls U15 and U19 teams from 1996-2000.

He played his collegiate hockey at Lake Forest as a defenseman for the Foresters from 1992 to 1995. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1996.

AU women’s hockey will become an official NCAA Division III program in 2017-18 and will play as an official member of the NCHA in 2017-18 and be eligible for the Slaats Cup playoffs and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

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