It's become cliche at this point, but the mantra of "a ring on one hand and a degree in the other" typified what BC hockey aims to do, and has generally done successfully in the Jerry York era. In the stretch from 2008-2014, BC produced three national champions, six Beanpot champions, a Hobey Baker award winner, and a bucketful of NHLers, while suffering just one high profile defection to junior hockey (Kenny Ryan) and just two players (Nick Petrecki and Phil Samuelsson) departing before completing three seasons.
That trend has been rocked over the past two seasons as BC has dealt with the loss of its first one and done since 2001 in Noah Hanifin, and two straight years of being spurned for the OHL by arguably their top recruit. Last year it was Sonny Milano bouncing in August; this year it was Jeremy Bracco leaving after playing 5 games with the Eagles.
One thing Milano, Bracco and Hanifin (and Kenny Ryan) all have in common is that they are graduates of the US National Team Development program in Ann Arbor, Michigan - a hockey academy set up by USA Hockey to train the nation's most elite young hockey prospects. For those unfamiliar with the USNTDP, they operate a number of youth national teams that compete in international competitions; they also have a U-18 national team that plays a full season in the USHL, the US's top junior hockey league, largely competing against players 18 and 19 years old.
Many of the nation's top talents have been produced by the USNTDP - Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel among them, along with emerging stars like Jack Eichel and of course Hanifin. The USNTDP's goal is to make USA Hockey a global power in the sport and at that goal, it's succeeding; the USA has had its most successful run ever at the World Juniors over the past 6 or 7 years, and the Americans have racked up gold after gold at the U-18 and U-17 levels. Eventually, this success should translate into Olympic success; it's already putting more elite Americans in to the NHL.
One impact of the USNTDP that's less well known, however, is its impact on college hockey. Unarguably, it's produced some of the best college hockey players ever to lace up the skates, creating entertainment value and memories for fans of watching some truly elite players the likes of which we've never seen before (Eichel being the standout example).
But does it produce players college hockey programs rely up on to win championships? There's a case to be made that the focus on professional development by the USNTDP, while beneficial to high end careers, has created a "one and done" culture in college hockey. BU and Michigan stand out as programs that, over the past 10 years or so, have recruited at a similarly high level as BC, but with less success, and with far more flight risks. Many of those players at BU and Michigan have been USNTDP alums. Using BC as a case study, USNTDP alums have been a mixed bag.
Here's a look at USNTDP alums recruited to BC over the past 15 seasons or so, with a * for each year completed on the Heights to indicate who was a 3/4 year player and who bounced early.
Jeremy Bracco: left after 5 games with BC
Sonny Milano: left before playing a game at BC
Noah Hanifin*: left after one season
Kenny Ryan: left without playing a game at BC
Ryan Hayes: left for juniors after playing six games at BC
Adam Pineault: left for juniors after one 8-point season with BC