It is very refreshing to see more and more future NHLer’s and hockey prospects playing for College and University programs. NHL franchises and their scouts are looking towards the NCAA as a source of fresh, new, young potential talent. In due time, the NCAA will be to American skaters as what the CHL is to Canadian prospects. And, who else to pave the way for this eventual event is none other than the one and only Lou Lamoriello. He, himself, basically made the jump to the NHL through the collegiate ranks, first as a coach, then Athletic Director at Providence College. Also, during his tenure with the Friars, he was one of the founders and first elected commissioner of what is now considered the best conference in college, Hockey East.
Here are seven prospects in the Devils organizations currently enrolled in a collegiate program. And who else better to start with then the teams that meet in the Frozen Four Championship, Boston College and University of North Dakota.
Coach Jerry York has a lot on his plate for the upcoming year. Or maybe had. The defending champs lost speedy sniper Brian Gionta and improving starting netminder Scott Clemmensen to graduation and the Devils. But it also looks like he lost Underclassmen standouts Chuck Kobasew, Brooks Orpik and Krys Kolanos so that they could make a jump to the CHL and the NHL. So that leaves us with 1999 late round selection Justin Dziama. He is entering his sophomore year after only posting one goal, one assist and 36 penalty minutes in 28 games. The 6’3” 220 pound forward hopes he will get more ice time and more opportunities to improve his game. Things might be a little difficult this year for the Eagles as a returning champs and hopefully Dziama can display his potential on the ice and rack up some points.
Defensemen and 2000 first round selection David Hale will be returning to the Fighting Sioux for his second year. North Dakota looks very strong and is considered as a pre-season favorite in the Frozen Four. A lot of this has to do with the play, tenacity and grit of Hale. The youngster saw a lot of action as a freshman last year, but expect him to earn even more ice time this year. His offensive numbers last year weren’t the greatest (4+5=9), but he’s a Scott Stevens type of player and offense is not his number one priority. David will get more ice time on special teams this year and I would not be surprised if he is selected as captain in his senior year. Hale was also recognized for his style of hockey when he was selected to participate in the World Junior Championships for the United States. David will also be joined at UND camp with 2001 sixth round pick James Massen. The 6’1”, 215-pound winger played in the USHL last year for Sioux Falls and tallied 36 goals and 75 points. Massen knows how to score and play a physical game, however, his chances will be limited in his first year. Lou and company knows that he his in a quality hockey program that has seen Devils prospects before (Mike Commodore). He will get the time when ready and develop nicely for there is no reason to rush him.
Fellow North Dakota WCHA rival, the Golden Gophers of Minnesota is also home to two more young promising Devils prospects in Paul Martin and Matt DeMarchi. Martin, who will be entering his sophomore season in Minnesota, also joined Hale in the WJC on the U.S. squad where he tallied four points in seven games. Paul, from Elk River Minnesota, played in 38 games last year and scored 3 goals and helped on 17 others. Martin’s ice time should increase this coming season as he proved to be an excellent offensive-minded blueliner and a speedy skater when carrying the puck. He is currently the only offensive minded defensive prospect in the Devils organization. Hopefully, he will add some weight and be ready to join Brian Rafalski and Scott Neidermayer in Jersey. At the opposite end of the spectrum is defensemen Matt DeMarchi. The Gophers do not rely on him to tally the points, but rather clear the net and establish a physical game. From his first to his second year, Matt’s ice time has increased, and so has his production. He has five career goals and 20 career points as well as amassing 82 and 149 minutes in penalties in his first two seasons. This trend will continue into his junior and senior years and look for him to join Albany after graduation.
Chris Hartsburg is another fine NCAA talent in the Devils organization, playing for Colorado College. Acquired in a late round pick in 1999, Chris has Brian Rolston written all over him. He is developing in a NCAA program, skates very well, has a strong work ethic and is primarily used in a defensive/checking forward role. His offensive numbers aren’t very impressive, but when he is not in the game for Colorado College, his team cannot contain the other team’s top line and usually end up losing. He is not afraid to give it his all and sacrifice his body for the good of the team. He has proven this; he has been injured several times on the ice while checking players or going for the puck. Chris is entering his senior year on an improving Tiger squad. Chris is expected to continue his very effective play and possibly improve his offensive stats. His father will be cheering him on, Chris is son of former NHL and Mighty Duck coach Craig Hartsburg.
The Devils have two other fine young prospects that were selected late in their respective drafts playing in the collegiate ranks. The 2001-02 season will be the second for winger Kenny McGowan on a very young and vastly improving Terrier squad at Boston University. He was selected 198th overall in the 2000 and played for the Verona Vipers before arriving at BU. The highlight of Kenny’s season last year was when he scored on Clemmensen during the Bean Pot Final in the annual Boston Tournament. Although the goal was in a losing effort, it was late in the game, gave hope to BU for a come from behind victory and made the game very exciting. He only tallied 6 points last season in 34 games, but he got good ice time as a third line winger on a strong team. McGowan will continue to improve and make positive contributions for the Terriers. Another young talent drafted late in the 2001 draft is 6’4” center Aaron Varos. The power forward will play for University of Alaska at Fairbanks this upcoming season in his freshman year. Voros played in the BCJHL for Victoria and scored 65 points for them last year. The big center plays with a lot of determination and perseverance and knows how to use his size effectively.
The NCAA has a lot of quality hockey programs and a lot of quality hockey players who will eventually become class acts in the professional ranks. The Devils and other NHL franchises would continue to tap this source of talent as far as player development and future NHL skaters.