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Is Colin White Ready to Play Professional Hockey?

There’s been some debate about this, so here’s my perspective.

United States v Russia: Semifinal - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Now that Boston College hockey’s season is over, one of the big storylines is Colin White: When does he sign? Does he sign? Does he got to the AHL or the NHL? As the rumors have been flying, lots of people have been saying that White isn’t ready to go pro. And look, as a huge Boston College hockey fan I WANT White to stay another year because that would be terrific for the team. But the fact of the matter is, he’s ready. Here’s why:

1.World Junior Championship Performance

White has been an alternate captain for Team USA at the U20 WJC both years that he’s been at BC, and he had terrific tournaments both years. At the 2017 tournament he and Team USA earned gold, and he led the team in goals with 7. It makes sense that White was a more prolific scorer at the WJC than he was at BC this season, because he was playing on a line with the top college players in the country as opposed to on a line with some really good college players that aren’t WJC-level talents. Put him in the NHL with pro-caliber players and it’s likely you’ll find that he improves similarly.

2. Regular Season Performance

Last season White recorded 43 points in 37 games, and was second on the team in both goals and assists. This season his number dropped a bit, which is one of the reasons people seem to think that he’s not ready to go pro. But he still averaged .94 points per game and was second on the team in points (33) and goals (19). And he has averaged 1.06 points per game over 2 seasons. Also, White wasn’t the only top scorer to see his numbers drop this season - Austin Cangelosi and Ryan Fitzgerald had lower point totals as well.

It’s also important to take into account that hockey isn’t a one man show. Lines change from year to year, and White played with with bigger scorers last season than this season. He spent a lot of last season playing with Ryan Fitzgerald. This season the lines changed a lot, but his most consistent linemate was David Cotton. Cotton is good, but he doesn’t yet put up the number that Fitzgerald has the past two years. If you look at White’s stats, it’s his assists number that has dropped more significantly - he had 7 fewer assists this season and only 3 fewer goals. (Although, to be fair, he did only have 1 assists at the WJC when he was playing with top scorers.)

White had moments this season where he looked sloppier than he did as a freshman - particularly in terms of weak passing. That’s a problem and I don’t think any of us can say where it is coming from. It could be something where he was concerned about getting injured before signing a contract or was not trying as hard because he knew his WJC performance sealed the deal contract-wise. But considering it wasn’t a problem last season (or even early this season), I don’t think it is a skill issue. He’s not a perfect player (nobody is) and he will have things to work on, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready.

(It’s also important to take into account that his rights are owned by the Senators, who are good but don’t have the depth of say, Chicago. )

3. Injuries

White has struggled with injuries at BC, missing a handful of games both last year and this year. It is understandable that he would want to go pro before suffering another injury that could affect his contract numbers or result in him spending more time in the minors.

4. It’s His Choice

Ultimately we can have our opinions as fans, but the Ottawa coaches/management, the BC hockey staff, White’s “advisor”, and White & his family are the only ones that can really know all the factors going into this decision and can therefore determine if he’s really ready. Occasionally players leave before they’re ready, but more often than not they make the right choice, even if we as BC hockey fans don’t like it. So if they decide he’s ready, he’s probably actually ready.

I don’t think staying another year would be bad for White (unless he were to get injured), but I also think he’s ready enough to play at a professional level. And I can understand his reasoning for why he’d want to sign instead of spending another year in school. I’m sure plenty of you have different opinions, so feel free to debate with each other in the comments! (And check back tomorrow for a counterpoint post on why White should consider staying!)