Blue Jackets in the NCAA
Last week I took a look at the Columbus prospects who will likely play in the Canadian Hockey League this upcoming season. Today I'll check out the players who will be attending classes this fall at various universities and colleges throughout the country, as they continue their quest for a degree and/or a spot on a pro roster.
Three current Blue Jackets are college alumni- Mark Dekanich spent four years at Colgate, Grant Clitsome went to Clarkson for a four-year run, and R.J. Umberger spent three years at Ohio State.
The Jackets will have ten prospects playing college hockey this upcoming season, let's take a look at those players after the jump.
Jake Hansen- Minnesota Golden Gophers, WCHA (Senior)Hansen is going into his final year of college with Minnesota, a team that's looking to recapture its former glory. They were eliminated in the first round of the WCHA playoffs last season. The Gophers are one of the most well-known college hockey teams, with a rabid fanbase. Those fans have seen Hansen develop into a natural goal-scorer, who is great on the powerplay. He finished second on the Gophers last season in powerplay goals. He is a former third-round pick of the Jackets.
Sean Collins- Cornell Big Red, ECAC (Senior)
Collins was drafted by the Jackets in the 7th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft out of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, a Jr.A circuit. He spent the next three seasons as a forward with the Big Red, steadily increasing his offensive totals, putting up 7G-8A-15PTS in 34 games last season. Two seasons ago, Cornell won the ECAC tournament, but slipped to fifth in the conference last season. They'll likely finish in and around that spot this upcoming season as well. Collins is a hard-working forward with good size. He doesn't really use it however (this is college hockey we're talking about though) and hasn't shown the offensive flair that led to him finishing second in league scoring in the MJHL. He was a constant on the Cornell PK however, potting two shorthanded goals.
Trent Vogelhuber- Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, CCHA (Senior)
Vogelhuber is probably best known for being Mr.Irrelevant, the last player taken in the entry draft, and for being the first Central-Ohio player drafted by an NHL team. He was drafted by the Jackets in 2007, when Columbus hosted the event. He has a history of severe knee injuries, and his college career at Miami was at various points in jeopardy. In the past two seasons he has been relatively healthy however, and Miami is one of the best teams in the nation. He put up a respectable 21 points in 39 games last year, but is in-tough to earn a pro contract. He's going into his senior season, so a strong finish to his college career is necessary to earn a contract, or invite to camp.
Kevin Lynch- Michigan Wolverines, CCHA (Junior)
Lynch was drafted by the Jackets in the second round of the 2009 Draft, and is going into his junior season at Michigan. Lynch is a graduate of the US U-18 National Team Development Program. In his freshman year, he helped Michigan win the CCHA tournament. Last season, he and the Wolverines made it to the Frozen Four tournament, where they lost in the final to Minnesota-Duluth. Lynch is known as a very dependable defensive forward, playing the role of checking center. He has also shown the ability to score goals, putting up 11 last season. Michigan likely won't be as successful this upcoming season, but Lynch will become more of a go-to player for the Wolverines. He has a pro future, and is a player to keep an eye on.
Seth Ambroz- Minnesota Golden Gophers, WCHA (Freshman)
Ambroz could prove to be a draft steal for the Jackets. He was ranked by some as a late-first or second round pick this past June, but he slipped to the fifth round. He's a power forward who has spent the past three seasons in the USHL, but will start his college career with the Gophers this fall. He has great size and a hard shot. He has had academic issues in the past, but he's in a great program at Minnesota and should be just fine. He's an intriguing player based on talent alone and by going the college route he has four years to develop before Columbus needs to sign him. Hopefully he forces their hand earlier than that.
T.J. Tynan- Notre Dame Fighting Irish, CCHA (Sophomore)
Tynan is going into his second year at Notre Dame, playing for an Irish squad that made it to the final four last season and is primed for a return this upcoming season. He wasn't even supposed to start at ND until this fall, but he was asked to join early when Anaheim signed Kyle Palmieri. As a rookie he went on to lead the Irish in scoring, and finished second in goals. He was named the MVP of the Irish, and was one of their rookies of the year. To cap it all off, he was named CCHA Rookie of the Year, and Hockey Commissioner's Association Rookie of the Year. Like fellow CBJ prospect Cam Atkinson, Tynan is an undersized sniper lighting up Division 1 Hockey. Atkinson has become one of the Jackets' top young prospects, and Columbus brass can only hope that Tynan can follow a similar path.
Will Weber- Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, CCHA (Senior)
Weber was drafted by the Jackets in the second round of the 2007 draft. He's a defense-first blueliner who was recently named co-captain of the Redhawks. The Redhawks are one of the better teams in Division 1, and are in line for a big year. Last season, he missed four games after suffering a scary laceration to his neck, caused by a skate blade. He made a full recovery, and went on to be named to the CCHA All-Tournament Team. Two seasons ago, he was named Top Defensive Defenseman in the CCHA. He's going into his senior year at Miami, and will undoubtedly sign a pro contract next summer. He may remind fans of Rusty Klesla, with his size, style of play and willingness to block shots.
Thomas Larkin- Colgate Red Raiders, ECAC (Junior)
Larkin has a very interesting background- he was born in London, England, but grew up in Italy. He is the first Italian-trained NHLer, playing youth hockey there until he moved to the US at 14. Though he is now a full-time resident of the US, he represents Italy internationally, winning a gold medal at the Division 1A World Championship. He went to prep school before debuting with the Raiders two seasons ago. He has been an offensive threat from the back end the past two seasons, and if you combine his offensive ability with his size- 6'5", 220 you have an intriguing prospect.
Drew Olson- Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, WCHA (Junior)
Olson, a former fourth round pick of the Jackets, is a two-way defenseman going into his junior year with the Bulldogs. Last season the team won the National Championship, beating Kevin Lynch and the Wolverines. He's a stocky rearguard, who has yet to find his offensive game in college. The Bulldogs will be a top-10 team again this year, and for Olson to earn a pro contract he'll have to be a big part of that.
Martin Ouellette- Maine Black Bears, Hockey East (Sophomore)
Ouellette took the unconventional route for Quebec-born goaltenders and went to college in the US. Maine is a middle-of-the-pack team in the HE conference, but he will be given plenty of opportunities going forward with the Bears to show that he is a pro-level goaltender. He was the backup in Maine last season, starting eight games, going 3-3-2 with one shutout. He has three more seasons before the Jackets need to think about a contract, hopefully between now and then he'll give the team a reason to start the paperwork.
As with the prospects playing Canadian junior, there is some real talent in the pipeline for Columbus. This group of student-athletes features a mix of offensive and defensive players, and a couple of wild cards in Ambroz and Larkin. I look forward to tracking these players over the coming season.