Friday, July 06, 2007

WCHA Recruiting Class Ranking

The exercise about to be undertaken here is fraught with all sorts of opportunities for criticism. Most WCHA fans are probably pretty optimistic about their incoming recruits. I'm going to attempt to "rank" each teams incoming class. To do so I'll look at the recruits numbers last season in whatever league they played in. Some junior leagues are better than others and that will be a factor I'll consider. I'll use my judgement based on what I've read or been told. It'll be far from a scientific endeavor though. The biggest factor for me will be the likelihood (and number of) specific rookies making an impact.

#1 Wisconsin
Phenom Kyle Turris is just about enough of a presence on Bucky's incoming class to give them this spot outright. It's a small possibility that Turris won't be impactful very soon after donning the W ... note I said "small". Expect him to flourish. But the talent headed to Madison this coming season doesn't stop with the NHL's #3 overall pick. While Turris is probably the first WCHA freshman to expect impactful play the second may very well be Minnesota-native Ryan McDonagh. Add in perhaps the most talented goaltender to be recruited to "Goalie U" in Scott Gudmandson and it isn't really necessary to mention USHL All-Rookie Team forward Josh Turnbull who put up 54 points (25g-29a) in 60 games in a distinctly unoffensive league.

#2 Minnesota
Just about every elite Minnesota hockey player wants to play for the Gophers. Unfortunately for Don Lucia he doesn't have the roster spots for all of them. Fortunately though, he has enough spots this year to bag at least 5 of those elites for 2007. Pat White, Mike Hoeffel, and Cade Fairchild lead the list. Goaltender Alex Kangas was probably the most heavily recruited netminder for 2007. There may not be a "superstar" among these guys but don't bet against one or more of these future Gophers making an impact in their first season.

#3 Michigan Tech
On first glance, with 116 points (51g-56a) in 55 games Casey Pierro-Zabotel looks to be THE impact freshman in Houghton this coming season. His 6'2" 205 frame will suit him well but he likely won't be the Huskies only quality rookie in 07-08. Bennett Royer's 76 points (32g-44a) with the Calgary Canucks in the AJHL and a 1st team south all star make him someone to watch this season. Add in Eric Kattelus who had 112 points (53g-59a) in 100 USHL games over the past two seasons and you've got three solid rookies who could all easily get that "impact" label. I'd classify this as one of the best classes at MTU in some time.

#4 University of Denver
Four players earn DU this spot. Tyler Bozak put up 128 points last year in the BCHL. Jesse Martin scored 19 goals and added 37 assists in his first year in the USHL after moving there from Spruce Grove in the AJHL. Martin is well liked by the scouts. Kyle Ostrow put up 202 points in 148 games over the last three BCHL seasons with Nanaimo. Almost 1.4 points per game over three seasons. His production all three seasons was very even. He did however only play 45 games in both of the last two seasons. Interpret as you will. Finally, I think goaltender Marc Cheverie will probably challenge Mannino for playing time as the season progresses.

#5 North Dakota
There are 3 serious contenders as impactful players coming to Grand Forks this season and two guys that will probably be "noisy". Anchorage native center Evan Trupp, defenseman Derrick LaPointe and winger Brad Malone all had impressive numbers in their last junior season. Trupp put up 50 points (20g-30a) in just 35 BCHL games with Penticton. LaPointe was a USHL first team all-star with 49 points (13g-36a) in 59 games. At 6'3" and listed as only 180 his strength is probably a bit suspect. Brad Malone had 33 points in 57 USHL games and I've read a few nice things about him. The two less likely to be impactful players who I indicated might be "noisy" are Brett Hextall and Shea Hamilton. Expect both of these guys (if they get into the lineup regularly) to pile up the penalties. Hextall racked up 156 minutes in Penticton last season (8th overall) but also managed to put up 45 points in those 59 games.

#6 University of Alaska Anchorage
Brad McCabe, Jeff Carlson and Kane Lafranchise have probably the best scouting reports but I find it difficult not to mention 4 BCHL forwards. McCabe's NAHL numbers were decent during a season split into two parts by injury and I'm calling him an impact player based on Keith Morris telling me he has a "big time shot". Carlson was a 1st team NAHL All Star and on the Robertson Cup All Tournament 1st team. Lafranchise has been an AJHL all star both of the last two seasons. It's perhaps most difficult to become an impactful blueliner in the WCHA as a rookie. Rookie forwards have an easier time in general getting noticed. Now the 4 other pretty good former BCHL'ers coming as well are; Chirs Rengert's 84 points (26g-58a) put his at #12 overall in that league last year. Craig Parkinson's 79 points (42g-37a) put him at #14 overall. Tommy Grant's 75 points (36g-39a) put his at #18 and Winston Daychief's 74 points (31g-43a) put him at #20. Individually, none of those numbers makes puts any of these guys in the "impact" category but collectively they're certainly not unimpressive numbers. Think one or two of them won't be impactful by season's end? If so, you should think again.

#7 St. Cloud State
Two almost certainly impactful freshman will probably impress in Stearns County this season. Aaron Marvin and Garret Roe should both secure spots on the Huskies first two lines. Defenseman Brett Barta should see plenty of playing time but I'm guessing won't have any impactful numbers from the blueline. Minnesota native Tony Mosey put up 81 points (30g-51a) in 59 BCHL games with Salmon Arm with incoming BCHL teammate Brian Volpei who put up 63 points (25g-38a) but both may take a little time to adjust to the WCHA game and I'd calculate any impact they may have would be in the second half of the season. Gopher transfer Brent Borgen is a wildcard in my book so I won't paste the "impact" label on him either.

#8 Colorado College
I see three players (2 rookies and 1 transfer) at CC as can't miss insofar as earning the "impact" label. First is goaltender Richard Bachman who will likely immediately challenge veteran backup (and Anchorage native) Drew O'Connell for playing time. Drew never managed to regain Scott Owen's confidence after a couple of rough early outings in the "Black Bears" (get used to it ... I ain't calling them Tigers anymore) sweater. And whether that is fair or not it is a big opening for Bachman to come in and play right away. Eric Walsky's skills will earn him a spot on one of the top two lines at CC and his experience should pay benefits right away. Incoming rookie Tyler Johnson is very well regarded and from everything I've read may be one of the most talented new players to hit the ice in the WCHA this coming season. At least that's what a lot of Minnesotans are saying.

#9 Minnesota Duluth
The recruiters at UMD have recently begun plucking choice prospects more often from the AJHL and this season Justin Fontaine looks to be a good get to add to that. High scoring Kyle Schmidt from Fairbanks in the NAHL looks to be a quality addition as well. After these two it looks to be up to Cody Danberg to round out the list of potential impact players but his 19 points in only 17 BCHL games is a pretty small sampling to judge. Brother of former UAA goalie Kevin Reiter (Kenny) will be wearing a Bulldog sweater but don't expect him to challenge for regular playing time with Alex Stalock.

#10 Minnesota St. Mankato
Mike Louwerse, Andy Sackrison and Austin Lee are the names of note coming to Mankato. Sackrison was the 124 player taken in the 06 NHL draft. He had 27 points (12g-15a) with Tri-City in the USHL last season. Louwerse comes directly from High School to the Mavs and Chris from WCH is somewhat enamored with him. Chris is high on goaltender Austin Lee as well. He boldly placed MSU above CC and DU in his recruit class rankings last December. I guess we'll disagree. Big surprise.

So that is that. Placing 5 thru 8 was difficult and my biggest fear is that I placed CC too low amongst that middle group. I found UMD and Mankato to be uninspiring and hence their 9th and 10th placement. Of course, arguments could be made for putting UofM ahead of UW but to me Turris, McDonagh, Gudmandson > White, Fairchild, Hoeffel, Kangas. I guess I'm hyping Turris as being something more than just "one" player. Of all my placements I'm most confident in DU #4. I wanted to put UAA ahead of UND (after all Chris Rengert and Craig Parkinson both had point-per-game averages in the BCHL identical to Trupp) but placing them 2 spots behind Minnesota was probably enough to generate some hatred from the GF crowd! God only knows what sort of shitstorm would happen if I said UAA had a better incoming class than the Sioux.

10 comments:

dggoddard said...

Nice recap as always. I guess I'd go with:

1). WI
2). MN
3). UND
4). DU
5). MTU
6). CC
7). SCSU
8). UAA
9). UMD
10). MSU

I have a hard time seeing the MTU Freshmen having that much success based to the system they employed last season.

Donald said...

No doubt that you'll actually be the only commenter to make a list of your own.

I think you're giving UND, SCSU and CC far too much credit. But ... your picks are probably closer to being "conventional".

And oh yeah ... don't be surprised if MTU finishes ahead of DU in the standings this year. I'm thinking DU goes back to the old "good one year crappy the next" pattern of a few years ago.

Runninwiththedogs said...

Donald,

tUMD freshman class for this year is probably not complete. I'm pretty sure we'll see at least one more person whose arrival in Duluth is accelerated, due to the departures of Niskanen and Raymond. Not sure yet who those guys might be. But yeah, this year's class is really small.

-D-love

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that Gudmanson is "the best goalie" to Wisconsin in a long time. A .850 SV% and a 3.92 GAA in 14 USHL games seems to show he cannot step up at a higher level, though he finished the much better in Salmon Arm. Should be interesting to see if he can do a better job of adjusting this season, though I would expect him to ride the pine behind Connelly who looked fairly ready last season.

Anonymous said...

Couple things...

*How do you forget first round pick Brendan Smith for Wisconsin?

*It's LaPoint, not LaPointe

*Shea Hamilton is no longer at North Dakota from the posters at Sioux Sports

*Brett Hextall isn't coming to North Dakota until 2008 as far as I know.

Donald said...

It wouldn't take much for a goaltender to come into Wisconsin as "most talented". Bruckler and Elliot were never touted as being talented. But over their careers at UW got consistently good coaching as well as playing in front of a system designed to keep pucks out of the net. They were both very decent goalies. Gudmandson should be better.

As for missing Brendan Smith all I can say is that first year defensemen in the WCHA typically don't become "impactful" players. They can contribute. They can look good. They can be an important part of the big picture. Was EJ "impactful" last year at Minnesota? I'd say he wasn't. Okposo and Barriball were "impactful". With or without him UW has the incoming class most likely to be "impactful".

The incoming UND lineup is pretty well rumorfied so I just went with Heisenberg's list (which had Hextall as an 07). Whose rumors are right? Which ones am I supposed to believe? In any case UND's incoming class is average.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, overall I think it looks good. I think you missed at least one impact player, however. Stephen Schultz for CC had 63 points in 57 games to outscore plenty of guys you labeled as impact players. For instance, Josh Turnbull (54 pts. in 60), Eric Kattelus (39 pts. in 50), Jesse Martin (56 pts. in 59), etc.

This was not a case of an overage kid running up points on younger, immature competition either. It's tough to score in the USHL, and Stephen was only 18-19 years old and in his first year in the USHL.
Last, you listed Walsky as a likely top 2 line player for CC. Most Tiger fans expect him to start on the 3rd or (more likely) 4th line for the Tigers. CC has a ton of forwards coming in, and little to no room on the top 2 lines. In particular, most expect Walsky to play center, well behind Vlassopolous (13 points in 19 games) and Rau (24 points in 28 games). I hope he can break into the top 2 lines, but the Tigers have tons of talent coming back there. Defense and goaltending are where the problems will be. Speaking of goaltending, Drew O'Connell didn't lose the coaching staff's confidence after just a few bad outings. He kept getting put into games, and was horrible in the majority of them. He played in 4 games his freshman year, with a .838 save % - awful. Despite that, he had more playing time his sophomore year - with an .886 save %. If you throw out his good games against Merrimack and Alabama-Huntsville, when the team kept all the shots well to the outside, his sophomore year had an .857 save %. That's just not enough to earn more playing time when you have another goaltender whose worst year was a .909.
Goaltending is a huge question mark for CC, because Drew has not shown that he can play over his first 2 years - despite plenty of opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, overall I think it looks good. I think you missed at least one impact player, however. Stephen Schultz for CC had 63 points in 57 games to outscore plenty of guys you labeled as impact players. For instance, Josh Turnbull (54 pts. in 60), Eric Kattelus (39 pts. in 50), Jesse Martin (56 pts. in 59), etc.

This was not a case of an overage kid running up points on younger, immature competition either. It's tough to score in the USHL, and Stephen was only 18-19 years old and in his first year in the USHL.
Last, you listed Walsky as a likely top 2 line player for CC. Most Tiger fans expect him to start on the 3rd or (more likely) 4th line for the Tigers. CC has a ton of forwards coming in, and little to no room on the top 2 lines. In particular, most expect Walsky to play center, well behind Vlassopolous (13 points in 19 games) and Rau (24 points in 28 games). I hope he can break into the top 2 lines, but the Tigers have tons of talent coming back there. Defense and goaltending are where the problems will be. Speaking of goaltending, Drew O'Connell didn't lose the coaching staff's confidence after just a few bad outings. He kept getting put into games, and was horrible in the majority of them. He played in 4 games his freshman year, with a .838 save % - awful. Despite that, he had more playing time his sophomore year - with an .886 save %. If you throw out his good games against Merrimack and Alabama-Huntsville, when the team kept all the shots well to the outside, his sophomore year had an .857 save %. That's just not enough to earn more playing time when you have another goaltender whose worst year was a .909.
Goaltending is a huge question mark for CC, because Drew has not shown that he can play over his first 2 years - despite plenty of opportunities.

Donald said...

I'm sure since Walsky comes from UAA that everyone down there thinks he's just a 4th liner. Walsky is a better player than Vlassapolous and/or Rau. He has more experience. He can stick handle in a phone booth. If Scott Owens gives him an opportunity (i.e... matched with good wingers) and he'll produce. There's no reason that Walsky couldn't produce up to 40 points in one or both of his last two years. I'll be surprised if he doesn't. If he left UAA to play on the 3rd or 4th line at CC then he made a big mistake.

But yeah ... I did miss Schultz.

So I'd probably place CC higher if I had it to do again.

weight loss said...

dggoddard, I like your picks

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.