Much has been said about the recent trend of college hockey teams intentionally bringing in players who will be 19-22 as a freshman. For a lot of programs, recruiting players who might not be high-end talent, but are bigger, stronger and savvier after a few years of junior hockey allows them the level the playing field with programs that are routinely hauling in NHL draft picks.
This becomes especially helpful/problematic (depending on your perspective) when you consider how many of these elite prospects leave college early for the NHL, or for major juniors - leading to a continuous crop of 18-and 19-year-olds facing older, more experienced opponents who often stay for the full four years.
MGoBlog's mailbag yesterday discussed a developing trend that may be the power programs' rebuttal to this change: bringing in the highest-level recruits a year early by having them accelerate their studies.
With both Zach Werenski (Michigan) and Noah Hanifin (BC) graduating high school a year early to play for their respective schools, do you think this might be an emerging trend among schools looking to secure top end talent? Or at least secure them for more than a season?
...Don't forget BU's Jack Eichel, who is joining Werenski and Hanifin in college this fall after accelerating. That's three, and that's a trend.
As Brian from MGoBlog points out, a lot of these top recruits are coming in from the US National Team Development Program, where, in addition to playing a full season against the USHL - the proving ground for many college hockey recruits - they also play a series of exhibitions against NCAA teams, so they have experience playing against older players.
The idea here is that Noah Hanifin, for instance, will be a lot less likely to be a one-and-done coming this year than he would be arriving next year. Next summer, he'll be a fresh, new draft pick. Barring a combination of putting up monster numbers in college and being drafted by a team so full of holes on the blue line that they'd push someone who's 18 to come to the NHL - which isn't necessarily likely, since rushing a defenseman usually isn't the best idea - odds are pretty good that he and his NHL team would want him to get stronger and more experienced before making the leap. Even if he stayed three seasons at BC, he'd be 20 years old when entering the pro ranks - or, as old as players are when they wrap up their junior careers.
The MGoBlog piece also discusses this strategy's application to basketball, which also faces the one-and-done question. As Brian mentions, this seems to be more common in hockey as many hockey recruits come from families with a lot of money that are paying to send their kids to top-notch prep schools, where it is possible to accelerate studies and get the academic supports necessary to become eligible, so it's less likely to football or basketball where fewer of the players are in that financial situation.
It will be interesting to see how Hanifin and Eichel do against Hockey East competition this season as they gear up for their draft year. Most 17-year-olds preparing to be a top pick at the NHL draft are facing similarly-aged kids in major juniors. Eichel and Hanifin will be facing 20-24 year old players pretty regularly. If these moves work for the respective schools, expect to see more prospects accelerated.
There was quite a different feel around the ACC Kickoff this season. More swagger, more puffed out chests, more bravado.
The ACC Media predicted a 6th place finish for BC. Considering how Carolina-centric the crowd is at the Media Days, our lowely standing is not a surprise. But is BC really that bad? Is the Divison that good?
The Blackhawks' vice-president and general manger Stan Bowman has expressed his thoughts on the six-foot, three-inch forward via The Daily Herald with words from Pro Hockey Talk; "Status quo from our end. We've been hopeful that they want to sign with us, and at this point (agent) Bob Murray might be in a better position on what they're thinking, but we're hopeful that he wants to be part of our organization."
Andrew Stranick '15 (Charlotte, North Carolina) topped off another year of great swimming as a member of the Boston College Eagle's Swim Team by being named as a College Swim Coaches Association of America Academic All-American Honorable Mention.