Draft’s Second Day Has College Feel, Too

College hockey’s celebrated opening day of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was followed by a solid performance in the Draft’s conclusion on Saturday. Eight players with college ties were selected in the second round, giving college hockey a grand total of 17 collegians selected in the top two rounds.

After closing Friday’s opening round with a flurry of collegians making their way to the stage, Saturday’s opening round also opened with a college player, though one that needs an asterisk. Tyler Pitlick, who played last season for Minnesota State, was selected by Edmonton with the 31st overall pick. Pitlick though, has decided to leave the Mavericks next year to play for Medicine Hat in the WHL.

Thus, the first player picked that will be skating on college ice in the fall was Justin Faulk, who played last year for the U.S. National Team Development Program. He was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the 37th overall pick. Faulk, who will play for Minnesota-Duluth in the fall, was selected one slot higher than his former NTDP teammate and future Michigan Wolverine, Jon Merrill.

“I for sure thought [Merrill] was going to go earlier than me,” said Faulk. “He was one of my good friends on the team so it was fun [to be selected together].”

Faulk says heading to Duluth is a dream come true, even if it’s not for a full four-year career.

“I’ve pretty much dreamed of going to Duluth my whole life,” Faulk said. “When I got the chance to go there I was really excited. I think it will be a fun year.”

Many besides just Faulk thought that Merrill would be a player with high value, possibly even an opening round pick. In fact, seven collegians ranked below Merrill in the Central Scouting rankings were selected ahead of him during Friday’s opening round. That didn’t bother the defenseman though, who is now headed to New Jersey after being selected 38th overall.

“Obviously, you hope to go as high as you can and be the best you can be,” said Merrill. “But I’m just happy to be here at the Draft and get drafted at all. It’s unbelievable.”

Possibly the most difficult thing for a top prospect that does not get picked in the opening round is the wait. For the last four years, the opening round of the Draft has been conducted as a standalone event, making for an overnight wait for those who don’t walk to the podium during the opening round.

Merrill wasn’t bothered at all, saying that he went to the beach house he and his family are staying at and grilled some burgers.

“It wasn’t tough,” said Merrill. “I was just so happy to be here and overwhelmed with the fact that I was even here. It’s amazing just to be here.”

The fourth player with college ties selected on Saturday was Connor Brickley, who is committed to attend Vermont in the fall of 2011. He was picked by Florida as the 50th selection overall.

“Whatever team wanted to select me, whatever team wanted me, is where I was going to go,” said Brickley, second cousin of former Boston Bruin Andy Brickley. “I’m a little excited about where I was right now, what round, but either way, either round, I’m still excited.”

Four more collegians heard their names called in Saturday’s second round, including a pair of future Minnesota Gophers in Mark Alt (53rd overall to Carolina) and Justin Holl (54th overall to Chicago), who were picked back-to-back.

Similar to Friday’s opening round, Saturday’s second round closed with collegians being selected. Denver freshman-to-be Jason Zucker was chosen with the second to last pick (59th overall) by the Minnesota Wild and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks tabbed Stephen Johns, who will play for Notre Dame in the fall, with the 60th and final pick of the second round.