Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?: Players Leaving Early


It happens each and every year; the calling of the NHL gets too great for the 19-22 year olds. It becomes even easier to jump ship after a rough and/or disappointing season. Here's a look at which players have opted out of their remaining collegiate days in hopes of an NHL future.

Michigan

Andrew Copp - Junior Forward, Winnipeg Jets
Copp is another Michigan native took off from Ann Arbor for the bigs. He was a fourth round pick by the Winnipeg Jets in 2013. Going so late in the round, I'd be willing to bet the Jets gave him a pretty good offer to make the leap from Michigan. An up and coming team it'd be no surprise if Copp has the opportunity to break into the lineup at some point next season.

Impact: Copp had a breakout season his junior year. He put up a career-best 31 points and was the team's third leading scorer all while wearing the 'C'. He made a noticeable difference on and off the ice. While his loss will be tough, it's not the end all be all for a Michigan squad on the rise.


Dylan Larkin - Freshman Forward, Detroit Red Wings
It's no huge surprise that Larkin decided to forgo his final three years of eligibility to head down the interstate to the Detroit Red Wings camp, first stopping with the team's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. A 15th overall pick in 2014, after the season Larkin had, you know the Red Wing were chomping at the bit to the get the 18-year-old in as quickly as possible. He led all Big Ten freshman with 47 points, earning him Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He also became the first Michigan student-athlete to win a medal in international competition when he suited up with Team USA for the World Championships in May.

Impact: No doubt he's going to be missed by Michigan. If he continued to put up the points he did his freshman season, it was only going to get better for the Wolverines. His ability to set up the play and work the puck around to the open man for the shot was a prized possession on a strong Michigan squad. Look to newly-named captain J.T. Compher to be the squad's biggest threat this year after the loss of Copp, Larkin and Zach Hyman.

Michigan State

Josh Jacobs, New Jersey Devils

Impact: This one hurts, not just Michigan State but college hockey as a whole. The reason being, is because Jacobs didn't just leave to go turn pro early like the rest. Instead, he left for college hockey's arch nemisis, the Ontario Hockey League. Jacobs was a fourth round selection by the OHL's Sarnia Sting in 2012, the same team he will be suiting up with next season. On the Spartans front, Jacobs leaves behind a gapping hole in the defense, where he saw plenty of ice time as a freshman.

Minnesota

Mike Reilly -- Junior Defenseman, Undecided
One of the most skilled players the Gophers had in their lineup this year, Reilly decided he wanted to test the market in the pros. He is a highly sought after player, with interest from a number of teams, including his hometown Minnesota Wild

Impact: As mentioned above, he was one of the biggest pieces of talent on an up and down Minnesota team this year. His play was consistent and he added 42 points on top of that. Reilly added back-to-back Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards -- yeah he'll be missed. Minnesota will see if this young crop can pull it together and fill that hole.

Adam Wilcox -- Junior Goaltender, Tampa Bay Lightning
After an outstanding sophomore season, Wilcox didn't seem quite the same his junior year. Not that his play between the pipes was awful, it just wasn't what the Gopher alliance had been accustomed to seeing from the Hobey Baker finalist. In his three years however, Wilcox set records as the school's all-time leader in career save percentage (.922) and career goals against average (2.09). After last season he also tied for career shutout record with 13.

Impact: It's the same problem for Minnesota every time they lose a goalie -- is the backup ready? Freshman Nick Lehr saw action in two games last year, taking both a win and loss against Michigan. He will likely step into the crease in 2015-16 with some pretty big pads to fill.

Brady Skjei -- Junior Defenseman, New York Rangers

Impact: Skjei had an extremely productive year last season and with the help of surrounding talent really grew as a player in his three years in the maroon and gold. His departure won't be the end of the world for Minnesota, who was already heavy on upperclassman to begin with.

Penn State

Casey Bailey -- Junior Forward, Toronto Maple Leafs
Bailey is the first Nittany Lion to go pro. Once you get beyond the "history making" of it, it's another loss to the program. Bailey led the Big Ten with 22 points this season and was a big reason that Penn State saw as much success as they did last year -- leaps and bounds from the inaugural Big Ten year.

Impact: Big loss for the Nittany Lions, especially considering an additional loss of seven seniors and freshman leading scorer Scott Conway, who was dismissed from the team after violating team rules.

Wisconsin

Morgan Zulinick -- Sophomore Forward, (No NHL)
This one is different from the others. Zulinick didn't decide to leave the team based on future endeavors on the ice. Instead he was more worried about what his future was off. Zulinick, a native of Kamloops, British Columbia, has a 3-year-old son who lives back in Canada. A huge amount of respect has to be given to a young kid figuring out where his priorities lie. In his statement he said:

"I've decided after three years here at Wisconsin, my heart is back home with my family and my son, Noah. I've found my desire to be back home with Noah outweighs my desire to continue on playing hockey. I think I really need this."

Stick tap to that.

Impact: Zulinick was Wisconsin's third-leading scorer with 15 points this season. On a team that performed at its poorest in history, that's going to leave a mark, but not likely a detrimental one. Ultimately it's a rebuilding year entirely for the Badgers. Someone will fill that spot.

Other offseason news includes:
Wisconsin fires both assistant coaches
Scott Conway dismissed from Penn State
Penn State's Max Gardiner arrested

Check out this great interactive timeline for all offseason happenings.

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