Down Year? College Ties Few Among Top Players In NHL Scouting Rankings

It’s likely that this will be a thin year for U.S. college players in the NHL Entry Draft, at least if you believe the National Hockey League Central Scouting Service (CSS).

Just one college or college-bound player ranks in the top 10 among North American-born skaters in the final CSS rankings released on Thursday. Boston University’s Colin Wilson ranked 10th on the list that was led by Canadian Steven Stamkos of Sarnia (OHL).

Joe Cannata, a goaltender with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) who will attend Merrimack in the fall, ranked 13th among North American netminders and was the top-rated goaltender with college ties.

In addition to Wilson, other first-round prospects with college ties include a forward and a trio of defensemen. Center/right wing Zac Dalpe, heading to Ohio State in the fall, was ranked 16th. Blueliner John Carlson, who will attend Massachusetts, was ranked 17th, along with fellow defensemen Jake Gardiner (23rd), a freshman-to-be next season at Wisconsin, and future Minnesota Golden Gopher Aaron Ness (27th), this year’s winner of the “Mr. Hockey” award as the best male high school player in the state of Minnesota.

Though Wilson is the highest rated U.S. college player, he’s not the highest-rated American. That honor goes to Zach Bogosian, rated second among North American skaters. Bogosian, who attended Cushing High School in Massachusetts, turned down both the USHL and the USNTDP in favor of playing major junior hockey for Peterborough of the OHL.

This thin field of collegians follows a string of solid draft classes for U.S. college hockey. Last year, a record 11 players with college ties were selected in the first round of the Draft. In 2006, that tally was eight and in 2004, a year considered to be as weak as this year for collegians, seven were taken in the opening round.

The NHL Central Scouting Service is now in its 32nd year of operation. Under the helm of Director of Central Scouting E.J. Maguire, the CSS employs eight full-time scouts and 10 part-time scouts in North America.

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2008 NHL Draft Lottery and retained the top overall pick in this year’s Draft. The final order of selections will be based on where teams finish in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the 30th and final pick of each round belonging to the Stanley Cup Champions.

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft will be hosted by the Ottawa Senators and take place at the Sens’ home, Scotiabank Place in Kanata, Ont. The opening round of the draft will take place in prime time beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, June 21. Rounds two through seven will take place the following day beginning at 10 a.m. ET.