[Flyers prospect James van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson] stand together as products of Team USA's national development program. As proof the college game is indeed a breeding ground for tomorrow's elite professionals. As potential NHL superstars. And, in many ways, as features on the new face of American hockey. -- Dave D'onofrio, Concord (NH) Monitor
The Concord, New Hampshire Monitor ran an article today on James van Riemsdyk and Boston University's Colin Wilson. It focuses on how the college game has become a more common breeding ground for future NHL stars.
Honestly, as a student at a Division 1 NCAA hockey school, I'm a big fan of college hockey and I would love to see it grow into a strong developmental league for the NHL. But I have to wonder if the recent influx of NHL prospects into the ranks of the NCAA instead of the Canadian junior ranks is a really a mandate on the quality of hockey in college, or just an increase in the amount of top-notch American players.
Since I go there and watch every game, I'm going to use the Quinnipiac Bobcats as an example. The Bobcats are a decent team, sitting in a third place with Dartmouth in ECAC Hockey, which is considered one of the "Big Four" college hockey conferences along with Hockey East, the WCHA, and the CCHA. The Bobcats' best player, Brian Leitch, leads the nation in scoring with 37 points and is a Hobey Baker Award candidate, yet he is not an NHL prospect. He hasn't been drafted by an NHL club, and if he continues his career after graduation he'll probably be an AHL player at best.
Quinnipiac has been the sixth most winningest team in collegiate hockey over the last decade, yet they've had no players reach NHL prominence. Could you see the same happening with the sixth best team the Canadian junior ranks?
It would never happen. The best players to come out of QU -- Leitch, 2007 grad Reid Cashman, '08 grad Jamie Bates -- are in fact Canadians who, for one reason or another, didn't play in the Canadian junior ranks. If you take a look at their career paths following college -- Cashman and Bates have both bounced between the AHL and ECHL -- compared to many of their junior counterparts, you can infer that they probably just weren't good enough to play there.
I'm not saying that JVR and Colin Wilson aren't good enough to play in the CHL, because clearly that isn't true. These are going to be NHL players. But it seems they have other motivations for playing college hockey as opposed to going north of the border. Education, perhaps? Canadian junior players, typically, don't go to college.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren is deeply tied in with USA Hockey, and he doesn't feel that JVR is being challenged enough in the college ranks, as I posted earlier this month.
"The environment he’s in now, it’s different. He’s a good player in college hockey and it might be time for him to move on. I think James is talented. He’s going to be a good player. Is it going to take him a little longer now that he spent another year in college? I don’t know." -- Paul Holmgren
I just don't believe that the NCAA has become a strong breeding ground for quality NHL talent, and it looks as though Homer agrees with me. I think that quality American NHL prospects have increasing chosen the NCAA because of it's other perks -- a college education, a life outside of hockey before becoming a pro, closer to home and no acclimation to a new country, etc. It has grown a ton over the last decade or so, but the NCAA will, much to my dismay,honestly, never replace the Canadian junior leagues as the top developmental league for the NHL.
Americans are just getting better at hockey and they want to stay home to hone their craft.