If you follow John Buccigross on Twitter, you probably know about his undying devotion to #cawlidgehawkey. But if you live in Canada, as I do, your experiences with NCAA hockey are probably minimal at best. There are just too many hockey leagues competing for your time and money. But with the NHL lockout, hockey fans are getting introduced or re-introduced to good ole #cawlidgehawkey.
In Canada, The Score Television Network has been airing NCAA games almost every weekend. I was able to catch a game a couple weeks ago between Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha, and I have to say, I’m definitely sitting beside Bucci on the #cawlidgehawkey bandwagon.
For those who aren’t familiar, NCAA hockey is a fast, entertaining brand of hockey that rivals the Canadian Hockey League in skill level. You may not see as many high-end prospects in the NCAA as you would in the CHL, but overall the speed and skill level is basically the same. Throw in some great rivalries and fantastic fan bases, and it’s no secret why #cawlidgehawkey appeals to puck fans everywhere.
Such things are not lost on Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. Burke is one of the most active recruiters of the college ranks in the NHL, and his track record in cultivating NCAA talent is pretty impressive. Jake Gardiner, Tyler Bozak, Matt Frattin and Ben Scrivens all took the college route, and all of them are expected to be important pieces to the Leafs puzzle for years to come.
Leafs prospects in the AHL and CHL have garnered the most attention during this lockout, but there are also some promising young players in the system cutting their teeth in the NCAA. Here are a few you should keep an eye on, especially you Leaf fans in the US of A:
The Leafs fifth-round draft pick in 2011 has been turning heads as a freshman for the Bulldogs, putting up 15 points in 16 games as the team’s third-leading scorer. The centreman is listed at only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but his speed is his greatest asset. The Maple Grove, Minnesota native compiled a respectable 42 points in 55 games with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL as an 18-year-old last season.
The 21-year-old from Fort St. John, BC has shown some offensive upside in his third year playing for the Bears. The defenceman has eight points in 12 games so far this season, and finished fifth on his team with 16 points in 32 games last season. Drafted in the sixth round in 2011 by the Leafs, Robertson earned ECAC All-Academic honours last year and was named team captain prior to this season.
Unlike fellow-Ivy Leaguer Robertson, Everson hasn’t shown much of an offensive touch so far in his career with Burke’s alma mater. The seventh-round pick by the Leafs in 2011 had only four points but played 34 games as a freshman for the Crimson, leading the team in blocked shots. He led Minnesota high school powerhouse Edina to a state championship in 2009-10 and was named a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award (given to Minnesota’s top high school player) in 2010-11. The defenceman has one point in seven games so far this season.
If there are other Leafs prospects in the NCAA who you feel deserve more attention, let me know in the comments.