Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Porter and Kolarik

Frequent commenter and NCAA enthusiast J. Michael Neal is a big-time Michigan guy, and he had a great post today about two Coyotes prospects, Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter and teammate Chad Kolarik, who helped lead that team to the Frozen Four semi-finals last week:
I suppose that that means that a lot of people will think of the team as a failure, since they lost in the semi-finals to Notre Dame, a team they went 2-0 against in the regular season. Where others will remember underachievers, though, I see a team with 12 freshmen that gelled instead of struggling...

After backup goalie Bryan Hogan let in the overtime goal that ended Michigan's season, I watched these two. It was a sad scene. Most of the team went to console Hogan ... who has unfairly blamed himself for the loss. Kolarik and Porter hugged each other about ten feet to the right of the goal. I haven't ever seen anything quite like it.
One a fourth-round pick, the other a seventh. And I wouldn't bet against seeing them with Phoenix at some point.

The NCAA's something I don't get to talk about nearly enough, as it's covered only sporadically in this country despite the major impact the U.S. college game is having on the NHL every year. It's great hockey, however, and more and more, teams are unearthing gems like Kevin Bieksa, Tom Gilbert and Mike Mottau from the NCAA system, signing top undrafted talent or finding late-bloomers late on draft day.

From mighty mite Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo) to giant Brian Boyle (Los Angeles), terrific talent is quietly coming out of the U.S. development system, and NHL clubs like the Devils that heavily scout the NCAA are seeing the benefits.

I think we're just starting to see the impact of the league on pro hockey.



At 12:56 a.m., April 16, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

The Habs are big NCAA boosters, loving the fact that you can have a prospect develop outside the organization for 4 years before deciding if they're good for development. Obviously, for Phoenix, having Porter in the league for 4 years allowed him to have a breakout year, and now they'll give him a long look. If Porter had to be signed after 2 years, they may have let him go and he would never have gotten a NHL contract, having to toil in obscurity to find his way.

With the big ice and all the extra time that players can spend in the weight room with the light game schedule, there are definite advantages to the development in the NCAA. And the American talent just gets better and better.

Phoenix also had Turris there and Wheeler is still kicking around. They're obviously banking a lot of their future success in the NCAA's development system.

At 1:06 a.m., April 16, 2008, Anonymous Kevin Forbes said...

Anaheim, or more specifically, David McNab has also done great with the NCAA, with guys like Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner, Ryan Shannon and Ryan Carter all regular NHLers at the end of this season and signed as undrafted free agents by the Ducks.

The CBA rules allow for teams to be a bit more risky with late round NCAA picks as the players don't have to be signed for (potentially) another four or five years. A huge difference for prospects considering the two years seen for the CHL and Europe presently.

To speak of Michigan specifically, I talked with their coach, Red Berenson earlier this year and even he admitted to me (this would have been prior to the NCAA championship tournament) that no one (and from the way he talked, I think he might have included himself in this list) expected Michigan to do as well as they did this season after losing so much and having such a young club. What a great story.

At 9:45 a.m., April 16, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

With the big ice and all the extra time that players can spend in the weight room with the light game schedule,

There are a couple of misconceptions here. First, only about a quarter of NCAA teams play on the international ice surface (plus Wisconsin, which comes very close). Unless Alaska has one, I don't think that any of the CCHA teams do. Thinking back, I don't think that Michigan played on one all year.

Second, the NCAA has a pretty strict limit on the number of hours that can be spent in practice and training to 20 per week. There are fewer restrictions on something an individual player chooses to do, but I'm not sure how many more hours they can spend in the weight room.

I also question whether Kevin Porter had a breakout year. He had almost as many points as a junior. The biggest difference in his game was that, previously, he was mostly setting up T.J. Hensick. Hensick was a horrible puck hog and I think that it's safe to say that Porter was very, very good in 2006-07, but you had to put it into context. I think that Hensick probably benefited more from his presence than the other way around.

At 11:29 a.m., April 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Alaska-Fairbanks has a NHL regulation-size ice surface.

More than the light game schedule, I think the biggest plus for college might be (judging from the comments of players who have gone that route) the ability for a kid to mature in an environment that allows for it. If a young man is a late bloomer, spending time in college enables him to grow up a little bit (both physically and emotionally) and not be labeled a bust when he doesn't look ready to play at 19 years old.

If he stays a few years instead of leaving after his freshman year he has a good start on a degree that will help him out if hockey doesn't work or after his career is over if it does. The first couple years of any degree are getting the boring stuff out of the way (a year of history, one class in performing or fine arts, etc.) and after that you can concentrate on the fun stuff that is actually all in your major.


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