Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Big Ten Hockey at the 2015 NHL Draft

By Miles McQuinn 

The 2015 NHL Draft is in the books, and the Big Ten Conference had a solid showing.

Of the 56 college hockey players drafted, 16 are from the Big Ten, second most among all of college hockey's conferences.

Of the 210 draftees, 7.6% are heading to/are in the Big Ten.

Let's break things down by the numbers and I'll add in some thoughts as well.

NHL Draft By Conference

Hockey East
Big Ten

NHL Draft By Big Ten Schools

Penn State
Michigan State

Let's start at the top with Michigan...

Their picks:

Zach Werenski - 1st round, 8th overall to Columbus
Kyle Connor - 1st round, 17th overall to Winnipeg
Brendan Warren - 3rd round, 81st overall to Arizona
Joseph Cecconi - 5th round, 133rd overall to Dallas
Cooper Marody - 6th round, 158th overall to Philadeplhia
Nicholas Boka - 6th round, 171st overall to Minnesota

The Wolverines cashed in without a doubt in 2015. Their six draft picks were the program's most since 2007 where they had seven draft picks. Werenski hinted at staying in Ann Arbor to the media shortly after Columbus drafted him with the eighth pick. This will be huge if he stays. Michigan lost six players to graduation and Andrew Copp and Dylan Larkin took off early to go pro. The five other draftees are incoming freshman and will help and already deep Michigan roster.

A little tidbit Kyle Connor from NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen: “He's a solid two-way player and plays hard in both zones. Nice stride and quickness and good in tight with the puck.” He led the USHL in points with 32 goals and 42 assists in 53 games with Youngstown last season. If Michigan is able to keep up their offensive pace of last season while getting better defensively, they'll be scary good.


Their picks:

Brent Gates - 3rd round, 80th overall to Anaheim
Tommy Novak - 3rd round, 85th overall to Nashville
Ryan Zuhlsdorf - 5th round, 150th overall to Tampa Bay
Jack Sadek - 7th round, 204th overall to Minnesota

Some solid talent in a year where there a lot of questions facing the 2015-16 Golden Gopher team. They graduated a ton of talent and are losing another portion of skill in Mike Reilly, Brady Skjei and Adam Wilcox to the pro ranks. 

Gates and Novak might not have a major impact right off the bat, but will look to round out the depth of the Gophers up front. Novak has proven to be a huge playmaker, as he led Waterloo (USHL) in assists with 34 last season.

Sadek played a big role for Lakeville North High School for a team that went undefeated on their way to a state title. Big Ten hockey will make him or break him in his development towards a pro career.


Their picks:

Luke Opilka – 5th round, 146th overall to St. Louis
Cameron Hughes - 6th round, 165th overall to Boston
Adam Parsells - 6th round, 160th overall to San Jose
Jack Becker - 7th round, 195th overall to Boston

Boy do they ever need a talent influx.

Coming off of the worst year in program history performance-wise, Wisconsin will still be rebuilding things this season. Of their four draft picks, Cameron Hughes is currently on the team and Opilka is the only incoming freshman. The other two are set to join for the 2016-17 campaign.

Hughes had three goals and nine assists last year as a freshman.

Opilka is an interesting case, as the Badgers will now get set for life after Joel Rumpel between the pipes.

The St. Louis native had a record of 11-1-2 with a goals against average of 2.48 and a save percentage of .901 with the U.S. National Under-18 team.

In a nutshell, the draft was good to Wisconsin, but don't look too much into it in terms of how much the program will change winning-wise.

Michigan State

Their pick:

Mason Appleton - 6th round, 168th overall to Winnipeg

A solid pick, one that could thrive in Tom Anastos' system in East Lansing. Appleton isn't a high profile scorer, as the Green Bay, Wis., native scored 12 goals and added 28 assists for Tri-City in the USHL last season.

He also spent 84 minutes in the sin bin last year.

Michigan State lost goaltender Jake Hildebrand to graduation, who was pretty much their make or break last year because Sparty loved playing 2-1, 3-2 hockey games.

Their system involves playing tight defensively and any offensive opportunity that they can cash in on, they pretty much have to.

Matt Berry is gone, so Michigan State will need as much as they can get from Michael Ferrantino, Mackenzie MacEachern and Joe Cox.

If Appleton can get himself into that mix, they'll take it.

Penn State

Their pick:

Nikita Pavlychev - 7th round, 197th overall to Pittsburgh

With all the issues surrounding Penn State and their forwards this offseason, I guess it's nice to have a bright spot.

Pavlychev is huge, standing at 6-foot-7 and 206 pounds. He scored six goals and had 10 assists during the 2014-15 season with Des Moines (USHL).

Eric Scheid, Curtis Loik and David Goodwin are coming off of solid years offensively and will look to carry the load up front this year.

Tommy Olczyk is a player that I see having a more impactful role as well.

I think we'll see early in the fall how Pavlychev is used in Guy Gadowsky's system, most likely as a grinder in the corners.

My Final Point

I'm going to emphasize that NHL draft picks don't necessarily equate to success.

Case in point, Minnesota's roster featured an incredible 16 draft picks and they were good, but not overly spectacular.

They were fortunate that they played in a Big Ten Conference that was weak last season, and won the tournament crown to advance into the NCAA Tournament.

The scary part was that they needed to win the championship game against Michigan to get into the big dance.

Big Ten hockey will undoubtedly continue to grow and produce NHL quality players as the years go on.

This was a successful year in the draft for the conference, but I know for a fact that the best years are still to come.

1 comment:

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