Unless they lived in a bubble for the last year, any college hockey fan knows Boston College’s 2000-2001 season was one of monumental success. A Beanpot title, a Hockey East Regular and Post-Season Championship, a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four, culminated by winning the NCAA Championship — all that left plenty of room for accolades and acknowledgement across the country.
Players like Brian Gionta, Mike Lephart and Scott Clemmensen highlighted a senior class that enjoyed more success in four years than any in BC history. But for the average observer who didn’t watch the Eagles night in and night out, it might have been easy to overlook the accomplishments of the youngest group of players on this team — the freshmen class.
Responsible for 35 percent of the team’s scoring last season, the freshmen class was filled with bright lights. The brightest of all the freshmen stars, though, could be days away from becoming one of college hockey’s top highlights.
Chuck Kobasew, who was third on the Eagles’ scoring list last season, and led rookie scorers in Hockey East, is expected to be among the first few college players taken in this weekend’s NHL Draft. And even though he ranks behind the likes of R.J. Umberger and Mike Komisarek, many observers think he will eventually be the best of the bunch.
A first-round draft selection will certainly complete a magical year for Kobasew, who, in addition to winning all of the aforementioned championships, also took home Hockey East Rookie of the Year honors and the Hockey East playoff MVP award.
Kobasew admits that he’s excited about the prospect of being an NHL draft choice, but now that the time has come, the butterflies are settling in.
“As the week has gotten closer, I’m starting to get nervous,” said Kobasew, “but that’s part of the process. You go out and play your game every day and work hard. But now, there’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your hands.”
It may be out of his hands right now which NHL team will choose him, but rest assured, Kobasew won’t have to sit too long on Saturday before his name is called.
— Chuck Kobasew
Ranked 20th in the NHL Central Scouting Service’s end-of-year report among North American-born forwards and defensemen, many have predicted Kobasew to be an early-to-mid first-round selection. The scouting report on the six-foot right wing shows he’s one of the most underrated players in the draft. He’s regarded as one of the top penalty killers and defensive forwards in college hockey, as well as a good pressure player. Most importantly, though, Kobasew is thought of as a winner.
“I thought [Chuck’s] freshman year here at BC was as good as any I’ve seen in the recent years,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “And we’ve had some pretty impressive freshman come here in recent years.”
Indeed the program has, and if Kobasew is a first-round selection, it will be the third first-round pick for the Eagles in two years. Last year, Brooks Orpik was the 18th selection overall, going to Pittsburgh, and Krys Kolanos followed one pick later when Phoenix selected him 19th.
Which leads what is clearly the biggest success the Eagles have had in the last few years — retention. Marty Reasoner, who departed Boston College after his junior year in 1998, was the last Eagle to leave school early for the NHL.
And if Kobasew’s pre-draft thoughts are any indication, BC could continue their retention streak. Kobasew noted that leaving Boston College “hasn’t even really crossed [his] mind,” and that he’s planning on going back to BC in the fall.
“The draft is a day you look forward to your whole life, but it doesn’t mean you’re playing in the NHL by any means,” Kobasew said. “There are a lot of first rounders who don’t make it and a lot of late rounders who use it as motivation to get better.”
Remaining at BC would give Kobasew a chance to further develop his talents before reaching the pro level. As York notes, Kobasew just turned 19, so as a young freshman, there’s still plenty of time to learn the game and improve for the next level. And development is something that has already been seen by people like York.
“As the year went on, we just saw his improvement week by week,” York said. “He became a key contributor as October began to stretch into December and then as December stretched into April. He has outstanding skills especially in the offensive zone with the puck.”
Kobasew has completed almost 30 interviews with prospective teams and will certainly have more scheduled, as his parents, Vadim and Laurie, and his 18-year-old sister Bobbie travel to Sunrise, Fla., for the big day. And as the butterflies and nerves settle on Saturday morning, don’t be surprised to see Kobasew remain calm and collected, ready to rise above the level of expectation.
Because after one year at Boston College, that’s certainly something he is known for doing.