Minnesota State rewards Hastings with eight-year contract extension

Mike Hastings recently completed his third season behind the Minnesota State bench (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Minnesota State announced Monday that head coach Mike Hastings has agreed to a new eight-year contract with the school.

Hastings recently completed his third year with the Mavericks in 2014-15.

“We are pleased to offer Coach Hastings this contract,” said Minnesota State director of athletics Kevin Buisman in a news release. “During his time here, Mike has been one of the most successful coaches in all of college hockey and a real game changer for our program. The performance on and off the ice has been exemplary and he has been a great ambassador not only for Minnesota State athletics and Maverick hockey, but for the entire university. We are indeed very fortunate to have someone of Coach Hastings caliber leading our program and we are happy to reward those efforts with this type of long-term contract.”

With a 79-36-7 mark since the 2012-13 season, including three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, no team in the nation has more wins in the past three years.

“I would like to thank President Richard Davenport as well as the entire administration for the opportunity to continue to guide the men’s hockey program here at Minnesota State University,” added Hastings. “From my first day in Mankato to present day the support from the university, community, my staff and players has been outstanding. Our family has become part of Mankato and are fortunate to call it home. I look forward to leading our student-athletes in continued development on the ice, in the classroom and overall pursuit of excellence.”

The Mavericks won the Broadmoor Trophy as WCHA playoff champions for the second consecutive year, while a 21-4-3 league mark gave the school its first MacNaughton Cup as conference regular-season champs. Hastings was named WCHA Coach of the Year for the second time (he also won the award in his first year with the program in 2012-13) and was the recipient of the Spencer Penrose Award as the AHCA National Coach of the Year.

“I believe Coach Hastings is very worthy of the investment we are making, as we have enjoyed an unparalleled level of success in men’s hockey during his first three years with the program,” said Davenport in a statement. “Mike’s efforts have resulted in positive notoriety for the University not only competitively, but in the classroom, and the community, as well. As such, I was personally vested in the negotiation process, as I wanted to signal not only my appreciation, but to further indicate the importance of hockey as one of the flagships of a very successful athletic program. By way of this contract and other improvements we have made to the hockey program, I believe we have demonstrated our institution’s commitment and hope that others will follow that lead as we strive to sustain this type of excellence over the long haul.”

Prior to his arrival at Minnesota State in the summer of 2012, Hastings had a three-year stint as the associate head coach at Nebraska-Omaha. He also served as an assistant coach at Minnesota for one season and before that, had a 14-year run as head coach of the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers, where left as the league’s all-time winningest coach.

Minnesota State adds Giesen as associate head coach

Jeff Giesen coached St. Cloud State for eight seasons (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Former St. Cloud State women’s coach Jeff Giesen has been named the associate head coach for the Minnesota State women’s team.

Giesen had a 79-178-35 record at St. Cloud State from 2006 to 2014.

“We’re excited we are able to have someone with Jeff’s experience and background join our staff,” John Harrington, the first-year Mavericks head coach, said in a statement. “Jeff and I have worked together in the past and had success and we are looking forward to having that continue on here at Minnesota State.”

In 2008-09, Giesen was an assistant coach for the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in Germany.

He also was an assistant at St. Cloud State and with the men’s team at St. John’s, where he worked with Harrington from 1992 to 2003.

Goaltender Opilka leaves Wisconsin before starting freshman season

Wisconsin’s goaltending situation for next season has taken a serious blow with news that incoming freshman Luke Opilka has decided not to join the team.

Opilka, a fifth-round selection of his hometown St. Louis Blues in last week’s NHL draft, is expected to join the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers instead of playing for the Badgers.

He had been in summer classes at Wisconsin since June 15.

“Luke had an opportunity to turn pro and pursue his dream and decided that the window of opportunity was now,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said in a statement. “We want to wish him luck in pursuit of his dreams.”

Opilka, a product of the U.S. Under-18 Team, was expected to be the favorite to take over the No. 1 goaltending spot at Wisconsin, which graduated goaltenders Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson after last season.

Badgers redshirt senior Adam Miller has played in two collegiate games and redshirt sophomore Gabe Grunwald has yet to appear in an NCAA game.

In 2014-15, Wisconsin posted its worst record (4-26-5) since the school restarted the program in 1963. Badgers coach Mike Eaves fired both of the team’s assistant coaches, Gary Shuchuk and Matt Walsh, in April.

Colorado College’s Slavin signs with Hurricanes after two college seasons

Colorado College’s Jaccob Slavin was a first-team all-NCHC selection last season (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Colorado College defenseman Jaccob Slavin will forgo his final two collegiate seasons after agreeing to a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

Slavin was the NCHC’s rookie of the year in 2014 after leading the team with 25 points. Last season, he was a first-team all-league selection.

A fourth-round pick of the Hurricanes in the 2012 draft, Slavin signed a three-year, entry-level contract.

“We will miss having Jaccob lead our defense in the future,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said in a statement. “However, this is a wonderful opportunity for him and we wish him well as he moves on to another phase of his career.”

Slavin is the second Tigers defenseman in as many years to forgo eligibility and sign a pro contract. Gustav Oloffson signed with the Minnesota Wild after his freshman season in 2014.

Five days after draft, Boston University’s Eichel signs with Sabres

Jack Eichel signed with the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

When he was chosen with the second overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft last Friday, Jack Eichel said it’d be a few days before everyone knew his future at Boston University.

The news came five days later. The Buffalo Sabres announced Wednesday that they had signed Eichel to a three-year, entry-level contract.

The 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner in his only season with the Terriers, Eichel said last Friday that he was looking forward to being part of the new-look Sabres.

“Buffalo as a city and the Sabres as a team are heading in a great direction,” Eichel said after being drafted. “You look at some of the moves they’ve made, the guys they’ve acquired and the guys they have in the system, there’s a lot of positives. I just want to become a piece of the puzzle.”

Eichel led Division I men’s players with 71 points last season, becoming only the second freshman to win the Hobey — Maine’s Paul Kariya was the other, in 1993.

Boston University made it to the national championship game last season before falling to Providence.

“My staff and I would like to congratulate Jack on taking another step toward his ultimate goal of playing in the National Hockey League,” Boston University coach David Quinn said in a statement. “Despite playing here for just one year, his contributions both on and off the ice were immeasurable. We wish him and his family the best of luck.”

Eichel played in the World Junior Championship and helped the Americans to a bronze medal at the World Championship.

“I’d like to thank the Boston University family for everything that they have done for me,” Eichel said in a statement released by the school. “This past season has been one of the best years of my life. I’d like to especially thank Coach Quinn and his staff, all of the equipment and medical personnel, my teammates, my academic advisors and the entire athletic department. I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter in my life with the Buffalo Sabres but I will always be indebted to BU.”

Michigan Tech loses assistant coach Muckalt to USHL job

Michigan Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt has been named the head coach of the USHL’s Tri-City Storm.

Muckalt joined the Huskies shortly after Mel Pearson was named head coach in 2011 and was the team’s lead recruiter.

In Muckalt’s four seasons at Michigan Tech, the team was 72-68-17 and, in 2015, made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 34 years.

“I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity that Mel gave me to work at Michigan Tech,” said Muckalt, who was a player at Michigan while Pearson was an assistant coach there. “He’s been a great mentor for eight years — four as a player and four as an assistant coach.”

A Surrey, British Columbia, native, Muckalt was a first-team All-American and a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 1998 when he helped Michigan win the national championship.

He had a five-year NHL career before turning to coaching.

“I would like to congratulate Billy,” Pearson said in a statement. “I’m thankful for the hard work and dedication he put forth into rebuilding the Michigan Tech hockey program. On a personal note, I’m not only losing a great coach, but a great friend. I wish Billy continued success.”

Northland tabs Rider as school’s first women’s coach

Northland has named former Neumann coach Kelly Rider the school’s first women’s hockey head coach.

The school announced in May that it was adding a women’s hockey program for the 2016-17 season.

Rider, a former Quinnipiac player, coached Neumann to a 6-17-2 record in the 2013-14 season. Last season, she worked as a coach and skating instructor at the Albany (N.Y.) Academies.

“I am proud of Northland’s dedication to their students and investment in athletics, specifically the hockey programs,” Rider said in a statement. “I know future women’s hockey players will feel the same way. I’m excited to get started and to lead a competitive and passionate women’s hockey team that will experience success on and off the ice.”

Said Northland athletic director Kim Falkenhagen: “Kelly is an enthusiastic and focused coach who has grown up around all levels of hockey. She is knowledgeable and focused and will bring success and awareness of our women’s hockey program.”

Skidmore turns to alum Hutchison to take over coaching duties

Rob Hutchison is returning to his alma mater.

Hutchison has been named the head coach at Skidmore, where he was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame in 2014.

He replaces Neil Sinclair, who left Skidmore to take over at Middlebury.

Hutchison, a standout in hockey and baseball who graduated in 2007, has been the varsity boys hockey head coach at Trinity-Pawling School for the last six seasons.

“I can’t be more excited for the opportunity to return to Skidmore College,” Hutchison said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Gail Cummings-Danson and the Skidmore athletic department and look forward to joining the family. The potential and positive energy around the hockey program is evident and I am eager to work with a motivated group of young men.”

Hutchison was a two-year captain and two-year MVP for the Thoroughbreds. He ranks 12th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 97 points.

Former college players Ruggiero, Hay elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Former college hockey players Bill Hay and Angela Ruggiero were elected Monday to join the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Hay, a Colorado College product who became the first former NCAA player to play in the NHL, will join in the builder category.

Ruggiero, who was an All-American defenseman in all four years at Harvard and enjoyed a successful U.S. national team career, was one of five players named to the class of 2015.

They will be inducted on Nov. 9 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Hay played for Colorado College from 1956 to 1958, earning All-American honors in both seasons and leading the Tigers to the 1957 national championship.

He played eight seasons for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and later led Hockey Canada, the Calgary Flames and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Being recognized by my hockey peers is truly a great honor,” Hay said in a news release. “Seeing the game — and the Hockey Hall of Fame — become truly international has been a tremendously rewarding experience.”

At 18, Ruggiero was the youngest member of the 1998 U.S. Olympic team that won the first women’s hockey gold medal. She added two Olympic silver medals and one bronze and also served as a member of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission.

In college, she was the 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award winner after leading the country in scoring by a defenseman with 61 points.

Ruggiero also played alongside her brother, Bill, with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.

“I’ve visited the Hockey Hall of Fame many times and never get tired of learning about the rich tradition of the inductees,” said Ruggiero, the fourth female to be elected for induction. “The fact that I’m now joining them is very special, and the greatest accomplishment I can think of as a hockey player.”

Hay and Ruggiero join Peter Karmanos Jr., Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger in the class of 2015.

Notebook: 27 college teams represented over 56 picks in 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Providence recruit Erik Foley was a third-round pick, 78th overall, by the Winnipeg Jets (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

SUNRISE, Fla. — NCAA hockey made an impact at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, with players that either skated in college last season or are committed to a college team making up more than a quarter of the picks.

After a record three current NCAA players — Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski — were taken in the top eight of the draft on Friday, 53 current college players or committed recruits representing 27 different college programs followed in the remaining 203 picks at BB&T Center.

Twenty-six of the NHL’s 30 teams chose at least one NCAA prospect in the draft, which concluded Saturday with the final six rounds.

Michigan led all schools with six players drafted, including first-round picks Werenski and Kyle Connor and third-rounder Brendan Warren. Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin each saw four players selected.

“I’m happy for Noah and Jack,” Werenski said after being selected by Columbus on Friday. “They’re really players and they bring lots to college hockey. I think it says a lot about college hockey and just how good it is.”

Minnesota’s Novak has to wait

Thomas Novak had to wait a lot longer than he wanted to on Saturday.

Ranked No. 28 among North American skaters in the final rankings from NHL Central Scouting, Novak, a center committed to Minnesota for next season, said the experience was nerve-racking. He eventually was taken in the third round at No. 85 by the Nashville Predators.

More stressful, perhaps, was that Novak was missing summer classes at Minnesota to attend the draft with his friends and family.

“On Thursday, I left a little early,” Novak said. “I’m taking classes there through the summer.”

Luckily for his grades, Novak will be back in time for his “Nature in the City” class on Monday.

“I just emailed them before I left,” he said with a smile. “I think I’m all right.”

A connection with the home team for Bachman

Karch Bachman was selected in the fifth round at No. 132 by the Florida Panthers, much to the delight of the hometown fans at BB&T Center. But as Bachman learned on his way to the interview room, he may have another, more meaningful connection with the Panthers organization.

“I just learned on the way here that the owner went to West Point,” Bachman said. “Coming out of Culver [Academy], I have that military background which teaches a lot of discipline and teamwork. I think coming from Culver helps me out a lot.”

Bachman is committed to Miami next season, and he said playing college hockey gives him a chance to grow his game.

“Going to Miami will provide an educational background for me,” he said. “Plus, it’ll give me the time to develop. I’m 5-foot-11, 175 pounds. I’m not going to make it to the NHL with that frame. I have to work off the ice and get stronger in the weight room as well.”

Bracco’s pick a first for his hockey-playing family

Jeremy Bracco, committed to Boston College for next season, comes from a family deeply rooted in college hockey.

“Hockey has always been in the Bracco blood,” he said, donning a Maple Leafs uniform after Toronto chose him 61st overall. “My dad played at Dartmouth, my uncle played at St. Lawrence, my other uncle played at Plattsburgh. … For them, they never got to this point so they’re really proud of me.”

Bracco’s mother, he said, has become passionate about the sport. Being chosen by Toronto will only add fuel to that fire.

“She’s a huge fan of Tim Hortons,” he said. “She’s come a long way for sure, not knowing what offsides was and all that in college. Now, she’s sitting up there with her knees trembling.”

Bracco also took the time to give some press to his brother, Donato, a 7-year-old defenseman who plays with a physical edge.

“He likes to hit a little bit more than I do. He’s kind of physical,” Bracco said. “He wants to be a goalie for whatever reason. We have to get that idea out of his head.

“I’m always there any time I can support him or be there for him.”

A ’48-hour celebration’ for four Boston University players picked in NHL draft’s first 50 picks

Boston University’s A.J. Greer jumped to No. 39 overall (photo: Margaret Hickling).

SUNRISE, Fla. — As if the 2015 NHL Entry Draft hadn’t been good enough for Boston University, it got even better on Saturday morning.

One day after freshman phenom and reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel was drafted second overall by Buffalo, three more current or future Terriers players had their names called in Saturday’s second round, giving BU four players taken among the first 50 picks.

“It speaks an awful lot to the job [current assistants] Steve Greeley and Albie O’Connell and [former assistants] Buddy Powers and Mike Bavis have done,” said BU coach David Quinn. “BU has always been a place where we get top-end guys. I’m happy for the players as individuals.

“But at the end of the day, it’s a 48-hour celebration and you move on. At the end of the day, you have to be a player.”

Possibly the biggest story for BU on Saturday was the selection of A.J. Greer, who posted just seven points as a role player for BU last season but played arguably his best hockey during the Frozen Four when the spotlight shined brightest.

Greer was ranked 71st among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting but became the 39th selection overall when Colorado picked him Saturday morning.

“A lot of teams mentioned that at the beginning of the year, I was on their draft list, midway I wasn’t and I think [my play] at the end really helped me,” said Greer. “A lot of people doubted me throughout the year and sometimes I doubted myself.

“But I kept working hard and showed what I can do in pressure situations at the end.”

Quinn was quick to note that Greer did well working through the toughest points of his freshman season.

“I give him a lot of credit the way he handled things,” said Quinn. “There were some tough stretches, and that’s not a knock on him. I’m just really happy for him for how he stuck with it, getting better and better.”

Greer’s selection by Colorado was soon followed by two BU recruits: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (45th overall by Boston) and Jordan Greenway (50th overall to Minnesota).

“I’m just fortunate being at the draft. Being drafted is just a great accomplishment,” said Greenway, an imposing 6-foot-5 winger who was ranked 22nd in the midterm rankings before dropping to 47th in the final rankings.

“Everyone dreams about being in the NHL draft one day, and now that it’s here and I’ve been picked it’s just unbelievable.”

With four high selections, the obvious question facing Quinn is how many of them will be playing his team next season.

That doesn’t bother Quinn, though.

“At the end of the day, I don’t worry about it,” Quinn said of players leaving for the NHL. “Our job is to do the best job for the players. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

“When you’re at a place like BU and some of the other schools that can get the high-end talent, you owe it to the player to try to make him the best player they can be and help them achieve their ultimate goal.”

In Saturday’s second round, five players with college hockey ties — all either attending or committed to attend Hockey East schools — were chosen. Notre Dame recruit Christian Fischer was the second selection of the day, going 32nd overall to Phoenix.

And the round closed with a compensatory draft pick by Toronto, which tabbed BC recruit Jeremy Bracco. That, however, might not be good news for the Eagles.

Bracco also is a draft pick of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, a team that plays just minutes away in a suburb of Toronto. It is feasible that Bracco could forgo his commitment to Boston College to develop right down the road from the team that owns his NHL rights.

“My focus is on BC right now,” said Bracco. “But if [Toronto] thinks a different route is better for me to further my development and help the Toronto Maple Leafs win, it’s a conversation I’ll be having with them in the future.”

Record three current college players picked in top eight of 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Boston University’s Jack Eichel went No. 2 in the draft to Buffalo (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

SUNRISE, Fla. — College hockey witnessed one of its most prolific days in NHL Entry Draft history Friday as three current players were selected among the first eight picks, highlighted by Boston University’s Jack Eichel being selected second by Buffalo and Boston College’s Noah Hanifin going fifth to Carolina.

Michigan’s Zach Werenski capped off the college hockey hat trick, being selected eighth by Columbus. It marked the first time three current college players have been selected in the top 10 picks.

In total, seven current and future college hockey players were tabbed in Friday’s opening round.

There was little suspense in Eichel’s selection by Buffalo. Since the Sabres lost the draft lottery to Edmonton in April, there has been little doubt that Eichel would be their selection, one pick after Connor McDavid. That didn’t mean the moment wasn’t incredibly special for Eichel.

“It’s tough to put into words,” said Eichel, who capped off a season the featured the Hockey East regular and postseason titles, a trip to the national title game and the Hobey Baker Award. “Looking back at the entire year, it’s been the best year of my life. This really caps it off.

“You hear a lot about the draft and everything that goes on here, but until you hear your name and you go on stage and put a jersey on — there’s nothing like it.”

For BC’s Hanifin, there might have been a few tense moments. Ranked third overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, he was destined for Arizona with the third pick in a number of mock drafts.

But the Coyotes are looking for talent at the forward position and selected McDavid’s junior teammate Dylan Strome. When Toronto grabbed Mitchell Marner with the fourth pick, you’d think there was concern for the BC blueliner.

That was hardly the case.

“For me, coming into this draft, I had a mindset that anything could happen,” Hanifin said. “I wasn’t going to prepare for anything, and like I said, I just wanted to go to a team that wanted me.

“I got a really good vibe with the staff there and [GM] Ron Francis.”

Boston College’s Noah Hanifin was the fifth overall pick (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

One player who didn’t have to wait as long as expected was Michigan’s Werenski. Ranked eighth among North American skaters by Central Scouting, that’s exactly where the young Wolverines defenseman went, eighth to Columbus.

Many had Werenski dropping to as low as 20 in mock drafts heading into the weekend, so the ability to head to the stage during the first hour was a welcome relief for the blueliner.

“I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen tonight,” Werenski said. “It worked out well, going to Columbus. But going into the draft I had no idea what was going to happen.”

The next major question for the trio will be whether they’ll return to college next year. Not surprisingly, Eichel is believed to have the most potential to leave BU for the NHL. And after saying on Thursday he’d talk more about his options after he was drafted, he was tight lipped on Friday.

“I guess we’ll see in a few days,” said Eichel. “You can’t let the cat out of the bag.”

And while Eichel’s destiny to go to the Sabres was pretty well known heading into Friday, hardly could anyone have guessed how big of a day it would be for Buffalo, which used some draft capital and trading power to strengthen its team in a number of areas.

The team acquired center Ryan O’Reilly, thought of as one of the top players available on the trade market, and left wing Jamie McGinn from Colorado, sending defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward Mikhail Grigorenko and the rights to current Michigan center JT Compher. That followed a morning move in which Buffalo sent the 21st pick on Friday to Ottawa in exchange for goaltender Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand.

“Buffalo as a city and the Sabres as a team are heading in a great direction,” said Eichel. “You look at some of the moves they’ve made, the guys they’ve acquired and the guys they have in the system, there’s a lot of positives. I just want to become a piece of the puzzle.”

Michigan’s Zach Werenski went to Columbus with the eighth overall pick (photo: Dan and Margaret Hickling).

After the troika of current collegians in the top 10, there were four future college players selected to round out the opening day of the draft.

Incoming Michigan freshman Kyle Connor was selected 17th by Winnipeg and admitted he doesn’t know much about his future NHL home.

“I know it’s cold up there,” said Connor. “They’re a great team. They showed really well in the playoffs last year. I think they’re on the rise.”

Four picks later, Ottawa used the pick it acquired Friday morning in the trade with Buffalo to take future Boston College center Colin White. Brock Boeser, who will head to North Dakota in the fall, heard his name called 23rd by Vancouver.

Possibly the biggest surprise came when Winnipeg went for another collegian, Jack Roslovic, who will attend Miami in September. Roslovic was ranked 52nd in the midterm ranking and jumped up to 39th by season’s end.

Being chosen 25th was certainly a major uptick for the 6-foot center from Columbus, Ohio.

“I met with the Jets three or four times throughout the year,” said Roslovic. “I thought that was the range I might be picked in. So it wasn’t [too much of a surprise].”

While Friday ended a lot of suspense for the seven college-connected players, a few may have a restless night, still waiting to hear their name called.

Leading that pack is future Minnesota center Thomas Novak. He was the top-ranked college player not selected on Friday and will have to wait until the draft resumes at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday.

Ahead of his draft day, Eichel distances himself from ‘generational’ talk

Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel of Boston University is due to be picked early Friday night (photo: Dan Hickling).

SUNRISE, Fla. — To call a future NHL player generational is monumental.

There is an automatic connotation that the player will be special from day one. He’s more than a player who is the focal point on the ice. A generational player is usually a focal point for the league.

The NHL seems poised to welcome two such players on Friday. Connor McDavid is already a household name in Canada, where it is expected he will play beginning in September for the Edmonton Oilers, the team that holds the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.

For most in college hockey circles, the second player is equally as recognizable — Boston University center and reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. It is anticipated that Buffalo, with the second overall pick, will tab Eichel to help rebuild its franchise.

For months now, many have thrown around the moniker “generational” when referring to the two players. The question now is, are they?

What defines a generational player? There are a few we can easily identify: Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Jean Beliveau, Mario Lemieux. But the word itself suggests that such a player needs to come along with the impact of an entire generation of hockey players.

Whether McDavid or Eichel will live up to expectations as “generational” is still too early to be seen. It’s not really even clear if Eichel will move from BU to Buffalo this summer, with plenty of rumors — maybe some coming from inside –that Eichel may want another year with the Terriers.

But it also begs the question whether college hockey has ever seen the “generational” player in the past.

Sure, there have been successes. Tony Amonte comes to mind immediately, as does Paul Kariya. In more recent years, there was Jonathan Toews, who continues to prove just how much impact he will have (and three Stanley Cup rings doesn’t hurt that argument).

But is Eichel the best player to ever move from college to the NHL?

That is yet to be determined. Just don’t ask Eichel.

“I don’t really even understand the term ‘generational player,’” said Eichel. “There are so many great players that play in the NHL over the years. I really don’t understand what it means, to be honest with you. It’s a really great compliment but I really haven’t accomplished anything yet. I still have a lot of work to do.”

Jack Eichel and Boston University played for the national championship in 2015 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

College hockey has produced some exceptional NHL players to compare to Eichel at this point in his career. Let’s start with that aforementioned list of former players: Of Amonte, Kariya and Toews, only Kariya won the Hobey Baker Award, the only freshman besides Eichel to earn the honor.

You might want to add to that a comprehensive list of goaltenders including Hobey winner Ryan Miller, Chris Terreri, Ken Dryden, Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito. It may be the goaltenders, in fact, where you find college players who have sufficiently dominated the game to be considered “generational.”

Possibly the best player to come from the college ranks is former Minnesota-Duluth star Brett Hull. Hull tallied 1,391 points and 741 goals in his 1,269-game career in the NHL. Arguably, Hull is college hockey’s gold standard.

So where is Eichel in this mix? If you ask Eichel himself, he wants little to do with the question.

But once Eichel’s name is called on Friday, the question will be where he’ll be come September. BU has done a marvelous job of portraying Eichel as a college kid come next season. What that happen? That seems far-fetched.

And the ever-honest Eichel seems to be pointing that way, too.

“I haven’t been drafted,” Eichel quipped when asked about his future. “I’m kind of waiting to be locked in with a team. That’s the next step. …

“I haven’t finalized that decision because I haven’t been drafted. That’s the thing. We’ll see what they want.”

Frozen Four finalist Boston University, Quinn agree to five-year contract

David Quinn led Boston University to the Frozen Four title game in 2015 (photo: Melissa Wade).

Boston University head coach David Quinn, after leading the Terriers to the Frozen Four title game in April, has been rewarded with a five-year contract.

This past season in his second year at the helm of the program, Quinn guided the Terriers to the Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles, in addition to the program’s 30th Beanpot crown. BU reached the national championship game and finished the year with a record of 28-8-5.

The win total represented the best turnaround in program history and it was the fifth-best in the history of college hockey, as the Terriers rebounded from a 10-win campaign in Quinn’s first season as head coach.

“To be honest, David has done exactly what we thought he would with our men’s ice hockey team,” said BU director of athletics Drew Marrochello in a statement. “We had lofty expectations when we hired him and he has exceeded those with outstanding leadership both on and off the ice. There’s nobody else we’d rather have leading this program.”

“Coming back to BU to serve as head coach of one the premier college hockey programs has been everything I hoped it would be,” added Quinn. “I am looking forward to leading our student-athletes over the next five years and I would like to thank Drew, [senior vice president] Todd Klipp and President Brown for their confidence in our staff. We will continue to strive to be the best program in the country – athletically, academically and socially.”

Boston College’s Hanifin, a top draft prospect, serious about hockey on and off the ice

Boston College’s Noah Hanifin is third among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s rankings for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (photo: Melissa Wade).

Not too many people who live in Norwood, Mass., can tell you where Froggies Pond is.

It’s possible that they don’t recognize it as a pond, seeing as it is not; rather, it’s just a small park that the Norwood Fire Department floods when the weather gets cold to give the locals a place to ice skate.

Maybe it’s because in Norwood, a small city just a few miles outside of downtown Boston, if the temperature is cold enough to freeze the pond it’s likely covered in feet of snow — at least in the most recent winter.

But about 14 winters ago, Froggies Pond created an addiction to ice for one young boy who this weekend will begin his journey toward the NHL.

Norwood’s own Noah Hanifin, an 18-year-old defenseman from Boston College, undoubtedly will be among the first players to hear his name called at the NHL Entry Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

At 3 years old, Hanifin went with his father, Robert, to the pond to learn to ice skate.

Hanifin didn’t have hockey in his blood. While his dad dabbled in the game “to have fun” as a kid, as the younger Hanifin put it, it isn’t a family whose name is associated with the game.

But for Noah, the game quickly became an addiction. By 7, he played for a well-known South Shore Kings hockey program under Neil Shea, himself a former Boston College player from the mid-1980s. He stuck with the Kings until about 12, when he moved on to St. Sebastian’s School, the private prep school that produced players like Mike Grier, Noah Welch and Rick DiPietro.

And while this weekend stands to be a major step forward in Hanifin’s hockey future, it was his past at St. Sebastian’s when he had the realization that hockey might be more than just something fun.

“I always loved hockey and wanted to play in the NHL,” Hanifin said. “But I think that year at St. Sebastian’s I was a 13-year-old guy playing against 17-year-olds and I kind of held my own.

“That’s where I realized I might have the chance to play the game at a high level and, after that year, I began taking it seriously and working real hard.”

That work ethic also benefited from good genes. Hanifin arrived at The Heights last September sporting a 6-foot-3 frame. The media guide listed him at 203 pounds, possibly the weight when he walked out the door in April due to Hanifin being a self-described player who takes his “training and nutrition … pretty seriously.”

NHL scouts have noticed. When the first rankings of the year were released, Hanifin was the top-ranked North American defenseman and was listed behind generational phenom Connor McDavid and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. By the time Central Scouting released its final rankings, there was no drop for Hanifin. If anything, remaining third solidified Hanifin’s draft position.

Noah Hanifin had five goals and 23 points in his freshman season at Boston College (photo: Melissa Wade).

If you speak with Hanifin, you’ll realize that, for an 18-year-old, he is wise beyond his years. Thus the elite ranking hasn’t gone to the blueliner’s head. If anything, it’s motivated him.

That means improving on weaknesses. And that work began almost immediately this offseason.

“Obviously, I want to work on my whole game, but my shot I want to improve a lot,” said Hanifin. “I want to work on it a lot this summer.

“As you get to the next level in hockey, it gets a lot harder as a defenseman to get shots through because guys block shots so well. It’s something I want to work on a lot this summer.”

Sure, a summer of skating, shooting and conditioning has admittedly left “not too much time for anything social” for Hanifin. But it has also brought him closer to this Friday and the first step toward the NHL.

Right now, that’s something Hanifin said hasn’t even hit him.

“I think it will hit me a little bit more when I get to Florida,” Hanifin said. “But I’m definitely starting to get a little nervous and concerned and starting to feel the excitement.

“It’s obviously just the beginning. We have a long way to go after the draft but this has been a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life so now that it’s about to happen, it’s going to be surreal.”

And to think, it all began on a little known pond called Froggies.

Air Force lands longtime assistant Miller as director of hockey

Steve Miller, former associate head coach at Providence and Denver, has been named the director of hockey at Air Force.

Miller comes to the Academy after one season as the associate head coach at Providence where he helped lead the Friars to the 2015 NCAA championship.

Prior to his stint in Providence, he spent 20 seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at Denver, helping lead the Pioneers to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2004 and 2005. In 2009, Miller earned the Terry Flanagan Award, which recognizes an assistant coaches’ career body of work.

“Steve’s resume speaks for itself,” Air Force head coach Frank Serratore said in a statement. “He has worked for two of the best coaches in the business, George Gwozdecky and Nate Leaman, while helping build three NCAA championship teams. Steve is a devoted family man and a highly respected member of the college hockey coaching fraternity [and] he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Air Force hockey program. His primary duty as director of hockey will be to help make our coaching staff better [and] I believe our program just got significantly better with the hiring of Steve Miller.”

Miller played college hockey at St. Mary’s and began his coaching career at his alma mater, helping St. Mary’s capture the 1989 MIAC playoff championship and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. He also served as a graduate assistant coach at Miami for two seasons under Gwozdecky before moving with Gwozdecky to Denver.

Swallow leaves Nichols for head coaching gig at University of New England

Kevin Swallow, seen during his playing days at Maine, is the new head coach at the University of New England (photo: Melissa Wade).

The University of New England announced the appointment Wednesday of Kevin Swallow as its new men’s head coach.

Swallow comes to UNE from Nichols, where he was head coach for three seasons. During his tenure at Nichols, he led the Bison to a 55-20-7 record and consecutive ECAC Northeast championships.

Prior to his tenure at Nichols, Swallow served as assistant coach at Neumann for the 2011-12 season.

“The entire University of New England community welcomes Kevin Swallow to our men’s ice hockey program and the Department of Athletics,” associate vice president and director of athletics Jack McDonald said in a statement. “Kevin has demonstrated excellent success in building a Division III program, as well as earning bids to the NCAA tournament. I am very confident that our student-athletes will flourish under Kevin’s coaching, leadership and mentoring.”

Swallow graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business management from Maine in 2010. He was the team’s Unsung Hero in 2010 and was also a Hockey East Academic First Team All-Star. He began his collegiate career at Dartmouth and finished his career with 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) over 121 games.

“I am extremely excited to be taking over the University of New England men’s hockey program,” Swallow added. “The team is on the verge of greatness and with everything UNE has to offer, I feel like the sky is the limit for the program. I plan to instill the same culture and philosophies we had at Nichols and our student-athletes will be expected to strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives.”

Shaw completes North Dakota staff as new assistant coach

North Dakota rounded out its coaching staff Wednesday by announcing the hiring of assistant coach Matt Shaw.

Shaw, who will work primarily with UND’s defensemen and the power play, boasts more than 20 years of coaching experience at a variety of levels, including stints with three different NHL franchises.

“We are extremely pleased to have Matt join our staff at North Dakota,” said UND head coach Brad Berry in a statement. “His vast coaching experience throughout professional, college and junior hockey will greatly benefit our players and our program. His coaching success throughout his career is due to his attention to detail, work ethic, and great knowledge of the game. Matt’s communication skills and ability to develop young players make him a perfect fit for our family here at UND.”

Shaw comes to Grand Forks after having spent the past two seasons as head coach and general manager of the United States Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Prior to his time in Dubuque, Shaw was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2012-13), San Jose Sharks (2009-12) and Minnesota Wild (2007-09).

“I am excited and grateful to be involved with an elite hockey program and institution like North Dakota,” added Shaw. “The synergies of this opportunity made it very compelling for me to pursue. I would like to thank [athletics director] Brian Faison, Brad Berry, [assistant coach] Dane Jackson and the entire athletics department for making myself and my family feel welcome during this process.”

Shaw, whose coaching background also includes stops in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League, United Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and Colonial Hockey League, played three seasons at United States International University (1985-88) and one season at Colorado College (1988-89).

Shaw’s son, Hayden, who will join North Dakota as a freshman defenseman in 2015-16.

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