The NCAA has established a growing presence in the development of future pro talent, and the 2019 NHL Entry Draft once again shows that connection. Nine incoming freshmen currently committed to play NCAA ice hockey were selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
This year's nine NCAA selections are tied for third all-time most selections with the 2003 NHL Draft. The only other time that many NCAA players have been selected is when 11 NCAA recruits were selected in 2007 and 2016. A total of 173 NCAA players have been selected in the first round all-time.*
Wisconsin nabbed a top-5 draft pick for its 2019-2020 roster, and NCAA recruits swept draft picks 12 through 16. Boston College led all schools with three selections while Wisconsin and Michigan each had a pair. The Big Ten (Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota) and Hockey East (Boston U, Boston College) were the only conferences represented in the first round. Michigan has had at least one player selected in each NHL draft for the past 23 years, tied for an NCAA high.
Here is a full look at the NCAA recruits selected in the first round:
|Round||No.||Name||NHL Team||Pos.||NCAA team||2018-19 team|
|1||5||Alex Turcotte||Los Angeles||F||Wisconsin||U.S. NTDP|
|1||9||Trevor Zegras||Anaheim||F||Boston U.||U.S. NTDP|
|1||12||Matthew Boldy||Minnesota||F||Boston C.||U.S. NTDP|
|1||13||Spencer Knight||Florida||G||Boston C.||U.S. NTDP|
|1||14||Cam York||Philadelphia||D||Michigan||U.S. NTDP|
|1||15||Cole Caufield||Montreal||F||Wisconsin||U.S. NTDP|
|1||16||Alex Newhook||Colorado||F||Boston C.||Victoria (BCHL)|
|1||30||John Beecher||Boston||F||Michigan||U.S. NTDP|
|1||31||Ryan Johnson||Buffalo||D||Minnesota||Sioux Falls (USHL)|
This is the first time ever that seven NCAA recruits were within the first 16 selections of the draft. The draft also marked a strong showing for American hockey players, as eight of the nine selections formerly played for either the USHL or U.S. NTDP.
Here’s a look at how the nine schools with multiple first-round picks stack up:
|T2||Boston U.||Hockey East||10|
|T2||Boston College||Hockey East||10|
And here's a full list of the 12 teams with one first-round pick: Colorado College, UConn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Denver, Miami (OH), New Hampshire, Northeastern, Notre Dame, St. Cloud State, U-Mass Lowell, and Yale.
Michigan isn’t currently the championship-winning powerhouse it was during the last century, but the program’s dominance on this list shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: from 1991 to 2012, the Wolverines played in 22 consecutive NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey Tournaments. They reached those postseasons behind a bevy of suds, including four Top 10 picks.
Boston University and Boston College, two of college hockey's oldest powerhouses, follow suit tied for second, another pair of obvious results.
One surprising school with a pair of first-rounders is Maine. The no-brainer selection, Paul Kariya, came in 1993, when the Ducks took the Canadian wunderkind fourth overall. But the Sabres also selected a Black Bear when they took Barrett Heisten 20th overall in 1999. They took different paths: Kariya played in 989 games and scored 402 goals as one of the league’s premiere snipers for over a decade. Heisten played 10 NHL games before an eight-year minor league career.
Kariya is one of 14 NCAA players to be selected in the Draft’s Top 5. Wisconsin's Alex Turcotte adds to that list this year as the No. 5 overall pick for the LA Kings. Here’s how many Top 5 picks each school’s produced:
|1||Boston U.||Hockey East||5|
|T-4||Boston College||Hockey East||1|
Not too many surprises here, although the Terriers' absolute dominance is impressive.
Here’s one very interesting bit of trivia, however: both Boston and Michigan State have produced a No. 1 overall selection (Rick DiPietro for BU, Joe Murphy for MSU) and a No. 2 overall selection (Jack Eichel for BU, Craig Simpson for MSU). If it weren’t for Wisconsin product Dany Heatley being selected second overall in 2000, those would be the only NCAA players ever selected with the first two picks of the NHL Draft, and they’d be from the same two schools.
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Alas, Heatley’s excellent NHL career breaks up the symmetry.
A couple other notes:
1. When the Sabres selected Thomas Vanek fifth overall in 2003 out of Minnesota, he became the highest-drafted player of Austrian nationality in league history.
2. The 14 Top 5 picks combined for 11 Stanley Cup wins, led by three apiece from U. of North Dakota’s Jonathan Toews and Michigan’s Aaron Ward. Not too bad!
*Information sourced via CollegeHockeyInc.com