In Canada we tend to forget about US College hockey and the deep strides it has made into NHL player development. There are more and more budding talents that the Canadian poolie isn’t exposed to, so here is a brief update on who to keep an eye on south of the border.
James vanRiemsdyk is an odd guy off the ice. Discretion (and libel laws) prevents elaboration, however, poolies should be made aware of as many variables as possible. A player's idiosyncrasies may have little effect on his play (Jeremy Roenick), or it might be cause for a complete draft re-assessment (Sean Avery). In this case, consider yourselves warned!
Why vanRiemsdyk, a budding Philadelphia power forward, chose to play at New Hampshire with its international ice pad, is something only James knows. That decision alone provides some non-libelous evidence that this player marches to the beat of his own drum. In this case it is definitely not a good thing. The Flyers certainly didn't think so.
JVR has developed reasonably well but he's a power forward so expect Bobby Ryan-like progress. If you've got the time, JVR will pay off nicely but he'll stagnate on the farm for a year or two.
Joe Colborne, Boston’s first round pick in 2008 is yet another NCAA oddity. Colborne’s father has more oil-money than J.R. Ewing. Given that Colborne seems relatively unaffected so far, it likely won’t become an issue. But hey, if it does….
Unlike the smaller JVR, Colborne is not power forward material. Despite being 6’5, 190 he’s more of a puck distributor and has little interest in the physical game. Currently a winger, some think he’ll develop into a better center, which bodes well for his overall point totals if not his PIMs. Colborne has been fantastic in his freshman year at Denver but the best thing about Colborne might be the guy that runs his power play.
Patrick Wiercioch is not a name that you may know but you might want to pay attention. This kid doesn’t turn 19 until September but he’s averaging over a point per game -- as a defenseman. He’s 6’3, an Ottawa second round pick in 2008, and he’s making Colborne, seven months his senior, look like a chump by comparison.
Colin Wilson is the son of former NHL’er Carey Wilson. Colin, Nashville’s first pick, seventh overall, in 2008 plays at Boston University. Wilson has great hockey sense, distributes the puck well, and is a solid 215 pounds already. While not as likely to put up as big numbers as Colborne and JVR, Wilson definitely has the chance to be a 70-75 point producer someday. He’s currently the No. 1 contender for the Hobey Baker Trophy which goes to the MVP of US College hockey.
Pat White went to Minnesota with a huge amount of hype. A local boy, White was expected to lead the Golden Gophers, but perhaps the pressure of hometown expectations got the better of him. White has played two less than spectacular seasons with very moderate production. He’s a strong candidate to rebound next year but until he’s produced something at the college level don’t risk a pick on this guy.
If you want someone who is totally out there – way off the radar - look no further than Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg was always a speed demon but has now filled out without losing a step. The end result is a 6’3, 210-pound Swedish speedster with a nose for the net. It’s no wonder that he’s fourth in the NCAA with 20 goals. Not bad for a sixth round Leafs draft pick. Don’t draft him, but watch his progress at Vermont .