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Keeping Your NCAA Eligibility during CHL Tryouts – Do’s and Don’ts!


portraitSuitcoat100With Major Junior (CHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL) Tryouts beginning within the next week, I have been bombarded with questions from readers, and so I present some of the important information regarding the common areas that players and families most often find themselves in conflict with.

A quick rule of thumb with regards to the NCAA eligibility rules and the ability to retain one’s NCAA playing eligibility:

1)    Do NOT let the CHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL  pay for ANYTHING…. (including for family and/or friends)….

2)    Do NOT accept anything for FREE – Equipment, sticks, hats, tickets etc… (including for family and/or friends)….

3)    Do NOT play an official Game, exhibition OR Regular Season (Inter-squad is fine)

4)    Do NOT sign any CONTRACT or Paperwork EVER

5)    Do NOT use the services of an AGENT or an UNPAID FAMILY ADVISOR

If you carefully  follow these ‘protocols’ you will likely not have to worry about the status of your NCAA eligibility.  That being said, a number of these prohibitions are and can be GREY areas.

If you break any of these rules, don’t be surprised if someone ensures that the information finds its way into the hands of the officials of the NCAA.

Can you go to a prospect or tryout camp for free? Of course, as long as there isn’t a paper trail that can be sent to someone that shows that you have received any benefit not allowed under the rules.

In hockey terms, as long as you don’t play during an official game in which official stats and rosters are recorded, you will be OK!

DO NOT let the major junior hockey club pay for the hotel or give out any form of per diem.

Receiving a Team Hat isn’t 100% forbidden, but its a grey area, so why put yourself at risk?

If the players get food as a group, that’s more or less ok… but only during the first 48 hours….

The point is to NOT put yourself in a vulnerable situation. Following those 5 rules (above) can provide you with a certain peace of mind.

None of this may seem fair or reasonable, but the NCAA sets the rules.

If you want to keep the NCAA path as an option, you have to play by their rules. You need to realize that the WHL/OHL/QMJHL teams will do their best to get your rights secured in any way possible, and I have seen some very crafty methods that some teams have used to ensure that young players will never play NCAA hockey, including “having their physio-therapy clinic look at an injury” or “having our team dentist fit him for a mouthguard”, etc. Dr. Elan Kaufman is board certified pediatric dentist with two office in Brooklyn near nyc.

Here are the official NCAA guidelines:


What is amateurism?
In order to compete in the NCAA student-athletes must be classified as “amateurs” by the NCAA. To remain an “amateur” you cannot compete or sign a contract with a professional team, accept money or gifts for athletic ability, retain the services of an agent, or receive money for educational expenses based on athletic ability.In order to compete in the NCAA student-athletes must be classified as “amateurs” by the NCAA. To remain an “amateur” you cannot compete or sign a contract with a professional team, accept money or gifts for athletic ability, retain the services of an agent, or receive money for educational expenses based on athletic ability.

How many years of athletic eligibility do I have to compete in NCAA athletics?
You have 4 years of athletic eligibility in the NCAA.

B. Major Junior (WHL, OHL, QMJHL)

Can I play games in major junior and still be eligible to compete in the NCAA?
The NCAA considers major junior hockey to be professional hockey. Therefore student-athletes who compete in Major Junior jeopardize some or all of their NCAA athletic eligibility.

Student-athletes will lose all athletic eligibility to compete in NCAA Division I hockey if they:
– compete in any major junior game after their expected date of high school graduation, or
– sign a contract (“WHL/OHL/QMJHL Player Agreement”) with a major junior team

Student athletes will lose some athletic eligibility to compete in NCAA Division I hockey if they:
– compete in any major junior game before their expected date of high school graduation, without signing a contract, or
– attend a major junior training camp for more than 48 hours while having their expenses covered by the major junior team

The only opportunity that a player has to compete in major junior and still retain NCAA athletic eligibility is to play an exhibition game before graduation without signing a player agreement. Any other competition in major junior. or using teh services of an agent or unpaid family advisor,  will lead to the loss of all NCAA athletic eligibility.

Can I tryout for teams in major junior and still be eligible to compete in the NCAA?
Before enrollment in a NCAA university an athlete can:
– Tryout for any length of time, but not compete against outside opponents, with a major junior or other professional hockey team at your own expense
– Receive one expense paid tryout with a major junior team as long as it does not exceed 48 hours
Note that during a tryout, an individual may not take part in any outside competition (games or scrimmages) as a representative of that major junior team.

Does the major junior rule apply to Division II and III?
Although the rule varies slightly between divisions, competition at the major junior level jeopardizes eligibility to compete in all NCAA divisions. For more specific information concerning how the rule is applied to Division I and II visit www.ncaa.org.

Anyways, I hope that this information helps clarify some of the rules.

As I have mentioned many times, there is no right or wrong answer when it  comes to deciding on certain paths….. just having the knowledge of what may lie ahead if one decides to undertake certain decisions along the way is important. You will notice in this issue of our newsletter that we have placed several NCAA articles within it, just to ensure that  players have those options at the top of their mind as they make important  decisions.

I always recommend that players should keep all options open for as long as possible.

And if (and when) it comes time to consider negotiating the terms of an agreement with a major junior team, what are the important things to ask for?

If you believe we can help with upcoming decisions, or provide any second sober thought, or help level the negotiation table at a crucial moment, please do not hesitate to write or call me at 1-866-577-1234.


David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor

Posted in Newsletter

Learn How To Sharpen Your Axe

By Dr. Alan Goldberg




Once upon a time… a very strong woodcutter interviewed for a job with a wealthy timber merchant. The pay was good, the merchant was said to be fair and the woodcutter desperately wanted the job to support his family! The merchant agreed to a trial period of one week and explained that if the woodcutter performed satisfactorily during this time, then the job would be his! The merchant then explained exactly what he wanted done, how he wanted the trees cut, split and then stacked.

Determined to do a good job, the woodcutter worked harder than he ever had in his life. By the end of the first day he had successfully cut down 18 trees and stacked them per his new boss’ instructions. The merchant was quite impressed with the man’s work and congratulated his future employee on a job well done. He then urged him to continue on in that same productive way and the job would be his!

Even more motivated by the merchant’s positive words, the woodcutter went out the next day determined to work even harder and chop down more trees. However, by the end of this second day, the woodcutter, who had pushed himself mercilessly and was now totally exhausted, had only chopped down and stacked 15 trees! How could this be? He left work totally confused by his lower production. What could have gone wrong? He vowed to himself that he would more than make up for it the next day. However, by the end of the third day, trying as hard as he might, he had only chopped down 10 trees!!! His output had dropped even more!

He wondered if he was sick or somehow losing his strength, which is what he said to his boss when he apologized to him for his poor production! His boss was equally puzzled and then asked the woodcutter, “Good sir, tell me, can I please see your axe?” The woodcutter went back outside and returned carrying the axe that he had been using. The timber merchant took the axe from the cutter and then ran his finger across the blade edge. As he did so, a look of complete bewilderment crossed his face, causing him to ask the woodcutter, “My good man, your axe blade is as dull as a block of wood! When sir, was the last time that you sharpened it?” 

The woodcutter looked genuinely surprised by the merchant’s question, “Sharpen my axe? Good sir, I have been far too busy chopping down all these trees to take time to sharpen my axe!”



To get as good and go as far as possible in this sport, you have to take care of your equipment, and, as a hockey player, your most important piece of equipment is YOU: Your MIND and BODY.  Are you getting enough rest? Are you taking enough breaks? Hockey is the kind of sport that serious athletes play almost all year round. However, to train all year with no more than a week or two off here and there is to not give you ample enough time to really rest. It doesn’t give your body enough of a break and it doesn’t give your mind the time it needs to let down and focus on non-hockey related things.

To stay motivated and enthusiastic about your hockey you need to regularly build in these breaks. Even if you don’t feel your love and passion for the sport waning, even if you still feel motivated to train 24/7, then you still need to take enough time off. This is critical for you and you will find that you will get a whole lot more mileage out of resting than you would if you continued to push yourself non-stop to train.


This is the very same concept of working with weights and building body strength. Why are we always taught that if you do weights, you only do them three times a week with a day off in between? That’s because less is always more! But, if you can get really strong doing weights three times a week, why not double the output to six times a week and get twice as strong? Well, you know the answer to this silly question. In order to really build body strength, your muscles need time in between to rest and recover. Without this rest and recovery, your muscles would fatigue, break down and then you would be vulnerable to injuries.


There’s a myth that in order to be successful on the ice, you have to play the game year-round, and those players who take time off ice to play other sports, will end up hurting their game and falling behind. Oftentimes, coaches who directly pressure young athletes and their families to give up all other sports so the athlete can fully concentrate on their hockey perpetrate this myth.

Mentally, playing just one sport year round can lead to you burning out. Doing too much of the same thing can slowly erode your interest and stifle the fun of the game and, once the fun leaves, so too does your motivation and passion. Playing multiple sports will always keep you fresh and keep the excitement in the game. After a seasonal break to play another sport, you’ll look forward to getting back on the ice again!

Physically playing just one sport year round can lead to overuse injuries because your body gets into the pattern of over-using the same muscles and straining the same joints and ligaments. Year round play is one of the main reasons that there is an explosion of over-use injuries that then turn chronic across a number of youth sports in North America. To prevent this, it’s important that athletes regularly participate in other sports. In the end, because of the cross training, playing these other sports can actually make you a better hockey player and protect you from over-use injuries.           


Another key part of “sharpening your axe” and taking care of yourself is for you to get in the habit of really listening very closely to your body. There are some coaches out there who pressure kids to keep training and playing hard even though the athlete is complaining about an injury! These coaches respond as if they know far better than the player about what is going on in his or her body! If your coach is pushing you to train through pain, and you believe it is more serious, make sure you see a doctor because playing while injured could set you up for more serious, long standing injuries that may hurt your overall hockey career.

As you know, there is only one kind of pain that you want to consistently push yourself through and ignore. This is the pain and fatigue of oxygen debt from hard training! When you push yourself to keep going through this kind of pain, you build up strength and endurance.

However, you never, EVER want to push yourself through the pain of an impending injury. This kind of pain is usually a sharper, more intense pain than the one you experience when you’re dealing with fatigue! This more intense kind of pain is an important signal from your body to your brain that something is very wrong and that you need to go check it out. Listen to your body, trust yourself and go get yourself checked out medically.


Listening to your body and making a decision to not push yourself to train when you’re in pain does NOT make you weak!!! It is NOT a sign that you lack mental toughness or courage! On the contrary! It is a sign of strength to notice that you’re injured and to take care of yourself by not playing! It is an “old school” model of coaching that encourages players to stay on the ice when they’re injured as a sign of their “toughness” and strength!” Don’t you buy into this!

Be smart about your training. Regularly take time to “sharpen your axe.” Play other sports, so you get a good break from hockey! Listen to your body and learn to distinguish between the pain of hard training and the pain of impending injury. Be sure that you play hockey because you love it and it’s FUN!


The college hockey debate: players discuss CHL vs. NCAA


By Matt Nestor | Collegian Staff Writer

Juha carries the puck A still frame taken from the bedlam ensuing Sidney Crosby’s 2010 gold medal-winning goal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver will show at least a few fan-held signs declaring “Hockey is Canada’s Game.”

Ice hockey was born in the frozen veins of The Great White North, the game’s breakneck pace and brutish misdemeanor as fundamental to the Canadian identity as any political leader or military conquest.

But while hockey’s past belongs to the Canadians, its future may have more of a Yankee influence.

The choice

For a North American hockey player, there are two primary paths to the National Hockey League: major junior in the Canadian Hockey League or collegiate hockey in the NCAA.

The Canadian Hockey League consists of three major junior hockey leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the Western Hockey League (WHL). These leagues are comprised of the best 16 to 20-year-old hockey players in the world and have produced the first overall pick in the last seven NHL drafts.

Supported by a long list of esteemed NHL players like Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane and Shea Weber, the CHL is considered the Canadian way and is often the more glamorized of the two routes.

“I’ve watched enough games to know the OHL’s got some of the best players in the world,” Penn State defenseman and Mississauga, Ontario native Luke Juha said. “They have so much skill.”

But due to the elite level of play, CHL players are stripped of their NCAA eligibility, strengthening the divide between major junior and collegiate hockey.

For Juha, there was great pressure to enter the OHL draft at 16 after playing seven years of minor hockey in the Toronto area.

“At that point, the OHL draft is pretty prevalent [in Ontario],” Juha said.

But Juha decided to ditch the hallowed OHL and the Canadian “norm” for a more gradual journey to the NHL through Junior A leagues in Ontario and British Columbia, and eventually the NCAA.

The NCAA’s reputation as an outlet for American players made the decision more challenging, Juha said.

“It was definitely tough, because I [was] going away from the beaten path,” the sophomore defender said. “It’s just not something that most people in Toronto do.”

Juha’s choice to play college hockey in American instead of major junior in Canada is one that has grown considerably more popular since the turn of the century.

Room to grow

Guy Gadowsky, an Edmonton, Alberta native who’s spent 14 seasons coaching NCAA Division I programs from Alaska-Fairbanks to Princeton, and now Penn State, said collegiate hockey’s greatest asset is the education that accompanies the athletics.

“The NCAA allows you to play top-quality hockey and, at the same time, get an education,” Gadowsky said. “Being educated at a great university is an extremely valuable thing for you as a person; for your life.”

Of the 301 former NCAA players who skated for an NHL team during the 2011-2012 season, 151 players completed all four years of college, according to the College Hockey, Inc. website.

To the contrary, the CHL’s collegiate eligibility restriction, paired with the great number of its players entering the NHL at 18, make getting an education “very difficult,” Gadowsky said.

Furthermore, while NCAA hockey players intellectually develop as student-athletes, they develop physically too, the coach said.

Juha said his size was a key factor in the decision to play collegiate hockey.

“At the time, I was 5’10”, 170 [pounds],” the Nittany Lion blueliner said. “I figured, I’m a smaller guy, I think I could use a couple more years of development.”

Four years later, after three seasons playing Junior A and one injury-shortened season at Penn State, Juha has bulked up to 5 feet 11 inches, 194 pounds and at 20 years old, still has three seasons of NCAA eligibility left.

“In the OHL, your career is over if you don’t go anywhere at 20 years old,” Juha said. “Now I’m going to be 22 or 23 looking to play in the NHL. I’m going to be two or three years further in development. Way stronger. Way faster.”

Although promising university-bound players — like Penn State freshmen Eamon McAdam and Mike Williamson — may be drafted into the NHL before they play one minute at the school that recruited them, approximately 28 percent of college-made NHLers went undrafted, according to the College Hockey, Inc. website.

These undrafted, late-bloomers benefit greatly from the college hockey system, Gadowsky said.

“To be able to work out with [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Rob McLean in the facilities that we have at Penn State for four years, you have no choice but to become a much stronger, more explosive athlete,” Gadowsky said.

While physical and mental maturity have been talking points in CHL vs. NCAA debates for years, the dispute ultimately boils down to each league’s respective skill level.

Closing the gap

Boasting names like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux and Drew Doughty, it would seem the CHL’s level of play is superior to that of the NCAA.

However, a true comparison must take into account the average schedule and roster of a CHL team versus a NCAA team.

The OHL and QMJHL play 68-game seasons and the WHL plays 72 games per season, while a NCAA team plays less than 50 games..

The CHL’s longer seasons give prospects a more authentic preview of a grueling, 82-game NHL season, but Juha said a CHL schedule isn’t necessarily more beneficial.

“A lot of times they consider [games played] a downfall, but being able to focus on every game speaks a lot about your development,” Juha said. “The NCAA has such a competitive league now. Every game is like a playoff game.”

These games with more “tight-checking” and defensive play make scoring harder, Gadowsky said.

“The game is more intense,” Gadowsky said. “I think that makes it more difficult to put up a lot of points. The rosters in college dictate that every player that’s on the ice, is going to be at a very high level.”

The disparity in size and ability between a 16 and 20-year-old is much different than that of a 21 and 25-year-old, he said.

Though there is no fighting in college hockey as there is in major junior hockey, older college-aged players will be more equally developed in strength and stature than their younger counterparts in the CHL.

“The thing I’ve found in the NCAA is every line is really good,” Juha said.

The parity and level play between NCAA programs has boded well for its players in the NHL in recent years.

In fact, according to College Hockey, Inc., the number of former college players playing in the NHL increased by 43 percent from the 1999-2000 season until the 2011-2012 season.

Today, almost one third — or 31 percent — of NHLplayers got to the professional ranks through college hockey.

Arguably the best two-way forward in the world, Jonathan Toews spent two seasons with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux from 2005-2007 before hoisting two Stanley Cups as captain of the Chicago Blackhawks.

A Canadian who went the college route, Toews is an inspiration, Juha said.

Juha said diminutive Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug was an inspiration, too. Krug, who electrified the league with four playoff goals in 2013 was a 5-foot 9-inch, undrafted defenseman after two seasons with Michigan State.

“Seeing a guy that’s 5’9” or 5’10” going to the NHL and almost dominating, controlling the game, I just love it,” Juha said.

“The ultimate goal is still to play in the NHL,” he said. “I look up to those guys. I want to be in their shoes one day.”


Tryout Shape

By Mike Pickles



Hopefully most hockey players have been participating in an off-ice training program over the summer, especially at the bantam and midget level. There’s no question that staying in shape during the summer will make tryouts a lot easier when it’s time to put the skates back on. All the hard work done will pay off when kids get a chance to see the results on the ice, feeling faster and stronger. Here are my top five tips for getting back into shape and understanding the right kind of conditioning specific to hockey.

1. Make sure you are training at least 3 days per week with a program that incorporates strength and conditioning specific to hockey. Stay away from random, generic cookie-cutter circuit training programs. Functional strength training that involves lower body and core stability is the most practical way to train for the specific demands required on the ice.

2. Full body workouts or splitting between upper and lower body is best. Always do your speed training and power development first before performing a strength workout. Make sure to allow ample rest periods between workouts and do not over train. Refuel with proper nutrition and stay hydrated.

3. Don’t confuse cardiovascular endurance with muscular endurance. Hockey players need high-intensity interval speed training that is specific to the demands of on-ice shift work. As well, the legs need a high number of repetitions during workouts that involve various exercises.

4.  Going for long jogs at a low to moderate intensity will do nothing to properly condition a hockey player when it comes time for tryouts. Short intense bursts of linear, and transitional speed drills is specific to the conditioning required for hockey players.

5. Don’t forget to get the skates back on by the middle or end of August and sign up for some power skating camps to get the feet going again. The best advice I can give is to not stop training. Just because summer is over and tryouts are starting doesn’t mean training is over. You need to stay in shape throughout the entire hockey season in order to perform at your best.

About the Author:   Mike Pickles is the owner of My Athletic Performance, an athletic training facility dedicated to developing young athletes and preparing them for long-term success in sports and life. Known for his passion and strong background in hockey, Mike is a go-to expert for dryland training. His facility has hosted the likes of professional NHL hockey player Colton Gillies of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mike is a co-author of the bestselling book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance. He is also the private strength coach for Canadian Professional Golf Tour player, Ryan Williams. Mike is a proud member of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) and gives much credit to the IYCA for his success in business and athlete development education. His training facility is located in the South Surrey/White Rock area of British Columbia, Canada.





Liquid Nutrition: 3 Must-Know Smoothie Recipes


By Catherine Faas


In preparation for this year’s Allstate All-Canadians NHLPA mentorship camp, Holistic Nutritionist Natasha Szauter, CNP, demonstrates three easy recipes for pre game, recovery and meal replacement smoothies.


Living the Dream

By Demi Deyoung

Nick Bjugstad moves on graduating to the NHL

Nick Bjugstad’s perfect path leads him to the NHL

Nick Bjugstad is living the dream. So much so it’s as if the term was made for the former Minnesota high school and college star who now plays his hockey a mere 15 miles from Florida’s Atlantic coast.

While growing up idolizing high school hockey players in his hometown of Blaine, Minn., Bjugstad dreamed of one day donning the Bengal’s jersey and playing in the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament. But before he would wear that uniform he had to make a very tough decision between playing for the U.S. National Development Program in Michigan or staying at home to play.

“I decided to play at Blaine instead of with the U.S. team because I grew up watching high school hockey and the state tournaments,” Bjugstad said. “It was a great tradition so I felt that it was a better fit for me and that I could develop there, produce more of a scoring touch and would build more confidence playing in high school.”

Bjugstad indeed played three seasons for the Bengals, leading them to the state tournament each time (2008-2010) but never won the state title he sought. In his last year at Blaine, Bjugstad racked up 69 points (35-34) in 35 games and was awarded the prestigious Mr. Hockey award given to the most outstanding high school senior hockey player in Minnesota.

Not only was Bjugstad a step ahead in hockey, he took on the challenge of rising above the crowd in school as well. By taking summer courses and extra classes his junior year he was able to graduate a year early in 2010 which accelerated his dream of playing hockey for the Gophers.

Former Gopher Aaron Ness of Roseau, who performed the same feat two years prior, served as Bjugstad’s inspiration.

“I had never really thought about doing that until I saw Aaron Ness do it and I thought that was pretty cool to see him do,” Bjugstad said. “I talked to [Minnesota coach Don] Lucia the summer between my sophomore and junior year and he thought that I would be ready a little early so I accelerated.”

Bjugstad always knew that he wanted to skate with the maroon and gold jersey flapping in the air so when it became a reality it was a dream come true.

“When I first met with Lucia my freshman year it was awesome because I never thought I could make it there especially at that young age,” Bjugstad said. “It was very surreal sitting in Don’s office. I didn’t really think about going anywhere else; I knew right away that I wanted to go there.”

In his first season with the Gophers in 2010-2011, Bjugstad received the Frank Pond Rookie of the Year award while registering 20 points (8g-12a). He began turning heads when, as a sophomore, he was named to the All-WCHA First Team, won national Player of the Month for November and led the team in goal scoring with 25. Additionally, he led Minnesota to the MacNaughton Cup title, as WCHA regular season champions, and to the Frozen Four.

After an outstanding sophomore season there were many who speculated that Bjugstad, a first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers, would leave the Gophers and embark on his NHL career. Bjugstad chose to stay, however, because he felt Minnesota had the talent to make another run at the National Championship.

“I had a good year my sophomore year, but we didn’t win it all like we wanted to,” Bjugstad lamented. “We came close, but it was the fact that we had another chance the next season. I was with a great group of guys and we had another shot at it.”

The Gophers indeed had another shot at it thanks to an exceptional season in which they captured a second straight MacNaughton Cup (shared with St. Cloud State). But a heartbreaking overtime loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to eventual champion, Yale, dashed the Gophers’, and Bjugstad’s, championship hopes.

As a junior, Bjugstad was named to the All-WCHA Third Team after leading Minnesota in goal scoring with 21 and finishing third on the team with 36 points. Shortly after Minnesota’s season came to a stunning end, Bjugstad made the difficult decision to forgo his senior season with the Golden Gophers and sign with the Panthers.

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do,” Bjugstad said. “The offer was on the table and I took it because I felt that it was time to move on with my career.”

On April 3rd, 2013, Bjugstad officially became a professional hockey player and his NHL dream was realized three days later when he made his NHL debut as the Panthers hosted Washington. Stepping into his first NHL locker room was imposing and awe-inspiring for the rookie.

“I was pretty wide-eyed to begin with getting in that locker room and seeing my jersey there,” Bjugstad recalled. “Everyone was very welcoming and the coaches were really helpful with getting me to learn their systems.”

Bjugstad admitted his first taste of NHL action was, “pretty nerve-wracking.”

“My first game was against the Capitals and [Alex] Ovechkin actually had a hat-trick which was pretty intimidating,” he said with a laugh. “Getting on the ice for those first couple shifts, I wasn’t thinking too much, I was just trying to play defensively.”

Finishing the season with Florida was a great experience for Bjugstad and his development. In all, Bjugstad played 11 games, scoring 1 goal and firing 17 shots.

When Florida’s season came to a halt, Bjugstad’s whirlwind spring continued when he was proudly selected to play in the World Championships held in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. In the span of just one month, he went from college hockey, to the NHL, then to become one of two college players asked to represent his country in the World Championships.

“I didn’t expect that one coming,” Bjugstad said. “I got the call about a week after the season with Florida. It was very fun going out there and seeing what it is like in Europe.”

One of Bjugstad’s teammates at the World Championships was arch-rival Danny Kristo. When asked what it was like playing with his antagonist from Eden Prairie and hated North Dakota, he responded with a laugh.

“Danny was actually my roommate in Europe,” Bjugstad said. “We always went at it when we played each other, but that’s how it is when you play against someone in hockey then you end up playing on a team with them; you become friends.”

The two longtime combatants managed to collaborate together to form a strong line helping the U.S. reach the podium for the first time since 2004.

“It was funny that we were on the same line,” Bjugstad said. We always brought up some of the events that happened in college and some of the fights that we got in to. It was a good time.”

Bjugstad’s biggest idols growing up were his dad and his uncle, fellow former Gopher Scott Bjugstad who played 317 gamed for three NHL teams, including the Minnesota North Stars, between 1984 and 1992. Although he never got to see them play, they served as important role models for him.

Another of Bjugstad’s heroes growing up was NHLer Matt Hendricks, a fellow Blaine native, who signed a free-agent deal with the Nashville Predators last week after three seasons with the Capitals. Bjugstad was inspired by watching Hendricks lead the Bengals to the 2000 state title before going on to star at St. Cloud State and, ultimately, reach the NHL.

“Hendricks [played] for Washington so it was cool playing against him for my first game,” Bjugstad said. “He chirped me a little, but it was fun playing against him. He is a really good guy.”

Bjugstad offered some advice to young hockey players who may aspire to achieve what he has: Enjoy it.

“Don’t have your parents push you too much,” Bjugstad said. “You have to make sure that you are having fun as well as working hard.”

Nick Bjugstad is proof that with hard work dreams do come true.


Guerin Reflects on Boston College

U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer spoke of his memories and his view of college hockey today.



Bill Guerin spent two years at Boston College prior to his 18-year NHL career (Photo by Larry Radloff).


In April during the Frozen Four, Bill Guerin spent 20 minutes speaking to a group of prospective college hockey players assembled by College Hockey Inc.

The former Boston College star who is now in a leadership role with the Pittsburgh Penguins reflected on his favorite college memories and how it prepared him for a long, successful career in the NHL.

He also spoke from his current perspective as an NHL executive, discussing what the Penguins see as the positive impact of college hockey in their prospects.

Watch excerpts of Guerin’s address here:


College Hockey Recruiting: Quinnipiac hockey program won’t be a one-hit wonder

By Jeff Cox

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold behind the bench for the Bobcats during the 2013 Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Penn. – Quinnipiac Athletics

Quinnipiac made it to the 2013 Frozen Four for the first time in school history.

Quinnipiac Hockey Coach Rand Pecknold has seen the school and his hockey program make a remarkable transition since his arrival at the Hamden, Conn. campus two decades ago.

Pecknold, a graduate of Connecticut College, took over at Quinnipiac when the school was still a college and before the athletic program embarked on its Division I voyage.

Now, 20 years later, Pecknold has seen both the school and his hockey program make major strides. “The progression over my 19 years here has been amazing,” said Pecknold in April at the Frozen Four media day. “My first year we had roughly 2,000 applications. This year we should break 20,000. We went from a college to a university, and we’re about to add a medical school,” added Pecknold.

At the same time the school was growing, the hockey program and the athletic department as a whole was becoming more of a household name. “It’s a credit to our president, John Lahey. He’s done a tremendous job growing our university. He’s a visionary. The driving force behind going Division I in athletics and bringing [Athletic Director] Jack McDonald to make the transition for us was to become a better academic school,” explained Pecknold in Pittsburgh.

That vision came to a head this past academic year with the incredible success of Coach Pecknold’s hockey team. The Bobcats were ranked as the top team in Division I for much of the year. QU ran away with the ECAC Regular Season Championship and earned the number one national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Pecknold’s team advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history before bowing out to league and in-state rival Yale in the national championship game. One of the team’s star players, goaltender Eric Hartzell, was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins following the season.

How did this all happen? Pecknold and his staff, including Bill Riga and Reid Cashman, have scoured the continent for some of the hidden gems who might have escaped from the view of other programs and sometimes they have gotten in on certain players early.

“I want to recognize our assistant coaches, Bill Riga, Reid Cashman and Dan Meyers. Without them we wouldn’t be here,” said Pecknold prior to the Frozen Four.

In addition to a good recruiting philosophy, other things had to fall in place. One was the addition of a beautiful on-campus arena. Quinnipiac’s High Point Solutions Arena opened six and a half years ago. It is a venue that impresses recruits and allows for the Bobcats to be showcased more on regional and national television with games on NESN and NBC Sports Network this season.

“We’ve been in our rink now for six and a half years. We were in a town rink before then. You just aren’t going to do it from a recruiting standpoint [without the new rink].”

The coaching staff has hit homeruns on some older junior players who were overlooked by the more traditional college hockey powers. Hartzell, the ECAC Player of the Year along with a close call for the Hobey Baker, was overlooked by many of the western schools, but came out to Quinnipiac and improved each season. Leading scorer Jeremy Langlois was a player that toiled around in the Eastern Junior Hockey League before landing in Hamden. One of the team’s top defensemen, senior-to-be Zach Tolkinen, was an older player from Minnesota who has progressed significantly at Quinnipiac. All three find themselves in an NHL Development Camp this summer.

With the new rink and the move to the ECAC from the Atlantic Hockey Association came the opportunity to recruit more blue chip prospects. Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Matthew Peca is one of those players. The Petawawa, Ont. native notched a natural hat trick in the regional final victory over Union en route to the Pittsburgh NCAA tournament. Edmonton Oilers pick Kellen Jones and his brother Connor are two more big recruits pulled in from the BCHL.

This year the team will have five NHL draft picks on the squad, including two very promising freshmen. Connor Clifton, a New Jersey product from the US National Development Program, was selected by Phoenix, and fellow incoming freshman Peter Quenneville was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Undrafted forward Sam Anas had a terrific year for the Youngstown Phantoms, scoring nearly a point per game in the competitive USHL. His scoring prowess earned him a spot on the Washington Capitals Development Camp roster.

The cupboard for the future isn’t bare either. The staff has lined up another pair of brothers for its 2014 recruiting class in Nathan and Jonah Renouf. The two will play for the Surrey Eagles (BCHL) this upcoming season before enrolling at Quinnipiac.

The program has come along way, as has the school it represents. “One of my goals was to achieve this goal [of being in the Frozen Four], but I never thought it would happen 15 years ago. We’re proud of our accomplishments,” said Coach Pecknold.

He spoke of the boost Boston College received from Doug Flutie’s miracle pass to Gerard Phelan. Maybe last year was Quinnipiac’s Flutie moment or maybe it has yet to happen.


Despite coaching change, Maine hockey program welcomes eight freshmen to campus

By Jeff Cox


Maine’s eight hockey freshmen will be on campus for the next three weeks getting acclimated to college life and beginning their careers as Black Bears hockey players.

With coaching changes in college sports come the inevitable recruiting de-commitments. For the Maine Black Bears, it appears the old staff and the new staff kept much of the 2013 recruiting class intact.

The importance of the job that former assistants Dan Kerluke and Bob Corkum did for a month-and-a-half to keep eight recruits on board for this fall cannot be overstated.

Ultimately the new staff, including head coach Red Gendron and assistant coaches Ben Guite and Jay Leach, had to win the recruits over. Gendron decided he would continue the practice of bringing in freshmen for a summer session to get them acclimated to college life.

The eight University of Maine hockey freshmen are on campus for the three-week summer session that started today (Monday). The summer session allows players to get some on and off ice workouts in before the full team arrives back in Orono in September.

A new batch of Maine freshmen hockey players will be on campus starting this week, including forwards Cam Brown, Blaine Byron, Brady Campbell, Zack Glienke, Josh Henke and Brian Morgan, and defensemen Daniel Renouf and Eric Schurhamer.

Byron, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth round of this summer’s NHL Draft, attended the Penguins development camp. Former recruit Tyler Gjurich has decided not to attend Maine, according to Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News. He had been invited to Buffalo Sabres Development Camp as a non-roster invitee.

Maine has lost two recruits who were expected to arrive for the 2014 season when Nick Roberto decommitted and ultimately committed to BU while more recently Ryan Cloonan parted ways with the Black Bears.


NCAA vs. CHL: Decommitment Season is Officially Underway

by Chris Peters

It’s that time of year, when the last buzzer has sounded, the Stanley Cup awarded, the Draft completed and rookie camps just starting off. As the temperature rises this time of year, so does the number of players signing with Canadian Hockey League teams.

Though nothing has been made official yet, it appears the biggest NCAA-CHL recruitment battle of the offseason may be over.

Michael McCarron, 25th overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens, according to the London Free Press appears likely to sign with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. A decision was expected to be made Wednesday, but as of this writing, nothing has been made public.

UPDATE (7/11, 9:23 a.m.): Montreal announced Thursday that it has signed McCarron to a three-year entry-level contract, meaning he forfeits his college eligibility. He will almost assuredly play for the London Knights next season, so consider the hypotheticals below not hypothetical.

If McCarron does sign, he’ll leave a commitment to play at Western Michigan University next season on the table. McCarron had also previously given and rescinded verbal commitments to Michigan State and Cornell over the last three years.

A move to the Knights always seemed possible after London acquired McCarron’s rights from Belleville last June in exchange for a fifth-round pick and other conditional picks. London has a habit of getting their man.

McCarron, whose older brother plays for Cornell, still seemed on the college track before the draft, but had mentioned he’d be open to alternatives if the NHL team that drafted him had other plans.

The second McCarron was picked by Montreal, the likelihood of him making it to Kalamazoo became much slimmer. The Habs organizationally have had a recent habit of drafting college-bound players in the first round. The last two such players ended up in the CHL.

The first was 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc, who spent his draft year in the USHL before attending Harvard. He played one year for the Crimson before Montreal signed him to an entry-level deal and assigned him to the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL, where he played in 2010-11. He ended up splitting the following season between the AHL and NHL, but was in the AHL for the entirety of this most recent season.

Jarred Tinordi ended up committing to the London Knights after being selected 22nd overall by the Habs in 2010. Tinordi left a commitment to the University of Notre Dame on the table and spent two years with the Knights before moving onto the AHL this year. He did see some NHL action towards the end of this season, including five games in the playoffs.

The Habs also took a pair of college-bound players in 2007′s first round, who remained on the college track: Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty.

McDonagh, who spent three years at the University of Wisconsin, ended up getting traded to the Rangers in the Scott Gomez deal, but has blossomed into one of the finest young defensemen in the league.

Pacioretty, who spent one year at Michigan before signing with Montreal, had a 30-goal season in 2011-12.

Those guys seemed to turn out OK.

Conversely, in 2006, the Canadiens selected David Fischer out of the Minnesota high school ranks. He played four years at Minnesota and after just two AHL games and a pair of ECHL seasons, he spent last year in the German second division league. So there’s at least one cautionary tale, I suppose.

The Habs have really gone after the U.S. college-bound kids over the years and have had mixed results, but the two most successful to date went straight from college to the pros. Time will tell on Tinordi, who really did blossom over the last few years and could be a solid NHL defender. Leblanc as well still has good upside, but is no longer the top prospect he was once thought to be.

All of these players pre-date Marc Bergevin’s tenure as general manager, so how the development of McCarron is handled is an important test. The big guy was a risky pick at 25 as he’s still so raw, but that’s what makes the next two or three years so incredibly important for his long-term success.

I think he would’ve been fine going to Western Michigan, but I don’t believe going to London will hurt him developmentally either.

For McCarron, he has a lot of development ahead of him, but if you’ve seen him over the last three years, you’ll know how much he’s improved over that span. He still has room to grow and smooth out his game. If he continues on this development arc, the Habs’ risk may payoff in a huge way.

His skating, while still not fluid or necessarily pretty, has smoothed out a lot and he gets to where he needs to go quickly enough. His enormous frame isn’t just meant for punishment anymore either. The 6-5, 225-pound forward still plays with snarl and fights, but he also figured out how to use his frame in puck protection and he uses it more effectively along the walls with or without the puck.

On top of that, McCarron’s puck skills have progressed in ways I did not expect them to. He’s got touch with the puck, a good nose for the net with a solid release and his distribution ability has really surprised me. He finds teammates well and passes crisply and accurately.

McCarron still needs work on some of his decision-making and his penchant for ill advised penalties, but all of the physical tools seem to be there. The rest should be able to catch up.

So assuming McCarron is headed to London, the hope for the Canadiens should be that he doesn’t turn into just an enforcer. While his physical game is remarkable, there’s so much more to what he can be if everything goes right.

Playing in the OHL, he’s going to be challenged a lot by other teams’ tough guys. The OHL’s new fighting rules should prevent him from becoming a 300 PIM guy, but there’s a good chance he’s going to have to go a lot. Teams don’t draft tough guys in the first round (at least they shouldn’t).

As long as his skills are able to progress, he should be fine long term. McCarron has potential to be a high-end power forward at the next level, who will hit, fight and score. The London Knights have produced a lot of good skill players over the last few years, so hopefully McCarron gets ample opportunity to work on skills.

One of the big benefits is the number of games. McCarron definitely needs a lot more reps to continue working out his game. If there’s one thing the OHL offers beyond allowing fighting, the games will probably factor in prominently.

He’ll also have to focus on continuing to bulk up. His frame isn’t completely filled out, if you can believe it. McCarron is already incredibly strong, but he has room to grow and if he adds a little more strength, he has potential to be a dominant force at the next level. That’s one of the reasons I thought WMU might be a really good fit, as there’s more time for weight training. There’s also more time for practice, which can help skill development as well.

There are some clear pros and cons to both paths in this instance.

For Western, this is going to be a tough pill to swallow. At this point McCarron, would be the highest draft pick in program history. He also would be a high-profile recruit for a program on the rise, one of those guys that makes other players take notice of what’s happening.

On the ice, McCarron probably would’ve played a big role right away seeing as WMU’s forwards had an awfully hard time generating enough offense last year on a consistent basis. He probably could have stepped into the top six and perhaps had a scoring role. So it’s unfortunate for the Broncos from that perspective as well.

McCarron is a really intriguing prospect. The Canadiens have made a huge investment in him by making the big winger a first-round selection. Because of that investment, I can’t fault the Habs for steering their prospects one way or another. If they’re more comfortable with him in London, then that’s what they have to advise, I suppose.

In the end, I think players also have to know what’s best for them. What they need to improve on most should be a huge factor of consideration. Really solid arguments could be made for both paths at this point for McCarron. He should go wherever he feels will best serve his game. If all goes well, he’s going to be a really solid NHL player.

MacInnis to Leave NTDP & Other CHL Signings

A source with direct knowledge of the process has indicated Ryan MacInnis, a top American 1996-born player who spent last season with the NTDP’s Under-17 Team, is expected to sign with the Kitchener Rangers, forgoing his second year in Ann Arbor.

MacInnis has not yet been released from his player agreement at the NTDP, but all indications suggest he will be in order to sign with Kitchener in the coming weeks. This process can take a while sometimes.

The son of Al MacInnis has never committed to a college and it was always expected he would eventually report to Kitchener, however not this soon. His Hall of Fame father played parts of three seasons for Kitchener in his junior hockey days.

MacInnis is a big kid who played at 6-3, 170 last year. He had 25 points for the U17 team, but will need to do some rounding out.

I think he would’ve been fine had he stayed the extra year and then gone to Kitchener a bit more prepared. We’ll see how this impacts him.

MacInnis will be the second player from last year’s NTDP U17 Team to sign with an OHL team. Defenseman Joshua Wesley committed to the Plymouth Whalers earlier this summer. He is the son of former NHLer Glen Wesley.

The track record of players leaving the NTDP before the U18 season has not been great, with Anaheim Ducks forward Emerson Etem the only real success story in recent years. Time will tell which direction MacInnis and Wesley go.

The Whalers also picked up another big commit Wednesday as it was announced Connor Chatham had signed with the club. The now former University of Denver commit played one year at the NTDP before leaving for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.

Chatham had 35 points in 63 games for the Lancers last year. A late 1995-born, he’s draft eligible for the first time in 2014 and should be selected.

In other de-commitment news, 1996-born Willy Smith signed with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. The Lenox, Mass., native had been committed to the University of Massachusetts previously.


Posted in Academics, CHL, NCAA, Options