NCAA has to fight perceptions

July hasn’t been a great month for college hockey. UND recruit J.T. Miller, Northeastern sophomore-to-be Jamie Oleksiak, BU recruit Anthony DeAngelo and Boston College recruit Brandon Shea all have reportedly pulled their college plans to join OHL teams.

In reading the coverage and the comments about Miller’s decision to go to the Plymouth Whalers instead of UND, you will see two overriding themes.

First, you’ll see a lot of people saying that it’s the right move, because major juniors is the route to go if you want to play in the NHL (and it’s the fast route to the NHL). Second, you’ll see speculation that the New York Rangers pushed Miller to go to the OHL.

This is a battle that UND and other colleges continue to fight — the perception that they won’t develop a player as well as major juniors.

The numbers don’t necessarily tell that story.

In fact, UND’s Zach Parise has scored more NHL goals than every player that the Plymouth Whalers have produced in the last eight years combined (and Parise missed almost all of last season).

Among players produced in the last eight years, UND more than doubles Plymouth in every category.

NHL games: UND 2,648. Plymouth 1,245
NHL goals: UND 551. Plymouth 154.
NHL assists: UND 794. Plymouth 259.
NHL points: UND 1,345. Plymouth 413
NHL players with 100+ games: UND 10. Plymouth 4.
NHL captains/alternates: UND 3. Plymouth 0.

If you want to look at things from a New York Rangers point of view, the Rangers have produced two 30-goal scorers in the last five years (UND has produced eight). Jagr did it once, Gaborik did it once — neither of which played major juniors. You have to go back a decade to find the last time a major junior player has had a 30-goal season for the Rangers (Eric Lindros).

So, if the rumor that the Rangers pushed Miller to go major juniors is true, that is at least a little bit mysterious, because it’s not like they’ve been hitting home run after home run with guys coming from the CHL.

Despite these comparisons with the Rangers and the Whalers, it couldn’t save the Sioux from losing Miller.

It’s not like the NCAA is losing every battle. Jonathan Toews, Danny Kristo, Mike Cichy, Brad Malone and Dillon Simpson are a few examples of guys who had heavy pressure to go to CHL but stuck with their college commitments. But certainly a month like the last one has to be frustrating for coaches.

Will the new conference alignment — and possible new TV deals for the NCHC and Big Ten — help hook younger players on college hockey… and players from non-traditional college hockey markets? Will College Hockey Inc., be able to make waves in the future (it is in its infancy right now)?

We will see. All that’s known right now is that the battle for top players is as hot as ever and college hockey ended up on the wrong side of a bunch of those battles in July.

43 thoughts on “NCAA has to fight perceptions

  1. I wonder how Garrett Clarke would have progressed had he played here, but I understand not every hockey player is up for school and the CHL offers I think 60 or 70 games similar to an NHL grind.

  2. maybe he’s not a studious person,when you go to college you have to be committed to scholl also,with junior A not so much.
    Also did have former team mates who who are in the OHL and enjoyed it,did he friends who did the NCAA route and didn’t like it.
    Did the Rangers up front some money to him,that would make him ineligible for NCAA.
    Its a big decision and it depends on the player and his family making the decision.

  3. Couldn’t another argument be that playing in college requires you to attend classes and do school work, and a lot of these guys just aren’t cut out to do that, or don’t have the focus/intelligence/maturity to play hockey and college classes at the same time?

    • Yes I think you hit it on the head of the nail! It’s all about playing hockey for some of these guys. Some don’t have the capability or want to perform in the class rom at the college level. North Dakota has an academic as well as great hockey tradition. We may think it is short sighted but there are huge demands on these student athlets which makes it that much amazing what they accomplish. You would think these athletes would want to have a backstop when hockey is over. Some don’t think the opportunity being offered is that important. That’s just how it is and I don’t think there is much that can be done if they don’t want to go through the bother of going to college.

      • It’s not like North Dakota is Yale. A hockey player going to North Dakota barely needs to have a pulse to fulfill his “academic” obligations. It’s laughable that some are arguing that the “great academic tradition” of North Dakota is the factor changing a prospect’s mind.

        I understand that some guys don’t want to go to school and consider getting better at hockey to be their only job, but the type of person who doesn’t have the drive and focus to attend classes like a professional is unlikely to have the maturity and focus to be professional in other areas of his life, such as nutrition, exercise, training and making strong social decisions.

    • If that’s the case, you’d think they’d want a free college degree to fall back on then. Most of these guys won’t make the NHL (not talking about JT Miller) and the salaries they make for maybe 10 years of playing in the minors or in Europe won’t get them close to retirement, which means they’ll have to be doing something after they are done playing professionally. But then again I’m in my mid-30′s and understand that. Hard thing for an 18 year old with big dreams to understand.

      • For those guys that don’t make it to the NHL (ie get offered a contract) they are given College money by the CHL based on how many years they are there.

        The CIS is a decent option for the kids at 20/21 if the NHL dream is over and a lot finish major junior go the college route and can then pick up pro hockey after getting a degree.

        Many people think going the CHL route is ignoring education but that is not the case at all and many teams have very good education programs – especially the big markets where most of the NCAA guys will go.

        • A CHL player forfiets educational money for CIS schools as soon as he signs ANY professional contract (i.e. ECHL, SPHL, etc.). An average 25-man CHL roster will produce one NHL player and four college graduates.

  4. Sorry, I don’t buy any of these arguments.

    1. The major junior route is the faster route. It’s lifestyle mirrors the NHL much more than the NCAA. More games, more practises, more development. It’s not rocket science. You forgot to mention the ultimate perk – signing an entry level contract at age 18. Major juniors often come in contact with pro players, coaches, and trainers, things they can’t risk with strict NCAA sanctions.

    2. The Rangers aren’t the only team to push their players to the CHL. Most teams do. The Canucks did so unsuccessfully with Jordan Schroeder (0 NHL games) and successfully with Kevin Connauton (improved by leaps and bounds since leaving W. Michigan). There are both hits and misses with both NCAA and CHL routes.

    The comparisons:

    3. Comparing Parise’s production to the production of a merely decent Plymouth franchise is a misnomer. Why not compare Parise to Rimouski, which has produced Crosby, Lecavalier, and Brad Richards? Is JT Miller better than Tyler Seguin? Let’s face it, Miller has the possibility of getting more ice-time at Plymouth than at the NCAA level, whose coaches do cater much more to seniors and juniors.

    4. Bringing up Gaborik and Jagr is quite unfair – both broke into the league when there were very few (almost none) Europeans in major junior. The practise was very uncommon then. Suffice it to say, if they did play junior hockey, I imagine their production would far exceed 30 goals.

    It’s no much that the CHL is the “better” route – but it certainly is faster and easier for team to keep tabs on their players. For some, like Toews, Parise, Zajac, NCAA was the right choice and due to the more mature competition they’ve matured faster into adults. Some guys are better off in junior hockey, like Patrick Kane. Some players would’ve benefit from playing junior hockey (Schroeder) while others would’ve been better off staying in the NCAA (Louis Leblanc).

    Keep in mind these are pro teams. They have their own interests, and their interests are to improve their hockey club, and the best way to speed up the development of prospects is pressuring them to move to major junior.

    • A couple things…

      – How does major juniors have more practices than the NCAA? They play more games, which means fewer practices.
      –NHL brass can talk to both coaches and players. I see it with my own eyes all the time during the season.
      –NCAA level doesn’t pander to juniors and seniors. They play the best players. Look at what Jaden Schwartz did for CC last year, Jason Zucker for DU. Both freshmen. Miller would have been a top 6 forward, seen PP time, etc.
      –All I’m saying with Gaborik and Jagr is that the Rangers, who are rumored to favoring CHL route, haven’t had a 30-goal scorer from the CHL in a decade. UND has had 8 in the last 5 years.
      –Again, you say that major juniors is the best way to speed up the development or prospects, but look at the numbers. In the last decade, UND has been crushing major junior teams in terms of churning out NHLers.

      • A more detailed answer here: http://armchairhockey.net/2011/07/25/jt-miller-at-und-vs-jt-miller-at-plymouth/

        But in response…

        1. Whether its practises or games, major junior players get more ice-time. More ice-time means faster development. Most major junior players are away for a large chunk of the school year. In NCAA regulations, these student atheletes are still students first, athletes second (in theory). In major juniors, it’s quite the opposite.

        2. NCAA players, for the most part, are allowed to come in contact with pro staff. I should’ve been more specific: players in NCAA programs usually are only given 48 hours for camps, visits, etc. and (from what I understand) prospects are not allowed to play in exhibition games. That’s not mentioning that the recruitment strategies are much different, with kids as young as 14 being approached by major junior teams. From what I understand, NCAA coaches cannot contact players until they’re 16. In general, there are more restrictions on NCAA players than CHL.

        3. Schwartz and Zucker (great pick by MIN) are the exceptions. Schwartz, in particular, is a great talent, but if you look at NCAA scoring leaders, most are seniors and juniors (the counter-argument is that players who are good enough to play in the NHL have already left by their sophomore season.)

        4. UND is a GREAT program, but over 50% of NHLers come from major junior hockey. Parise and Toews are great players, as are a lot of other UND alum, but major juniors have also produced Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux, Crosby, Stamkos, and more. Compared to other D1 programs, UND may have produced the most high quality NHLers, but it still pales in comparison to major junior.

        Regardless, good read and interesting to hear another point of view.

        • Disagree again on your first point. More games does not equal more ice time. A game may mean 16 minutes of ice time for a guy like JT Miller, with the puck on his stick for maybe 60 seconds — a practice would be 60-90 minutes.

          You are right that “more ice time means faster development.” Players get that development at the college level.

          • What’s more: 5 games at 15 minutes or 2 games at 20 minutes?

            I don’t have exact numbers, but I’m confident that the TOTAL time spent on ice for a major junior player exceeds those of NCAA players, otherwise there’s no impetus for a guy like Miller to move north.

            1 season in the CHL (rougly 60 games) is roughly equal to 2 seasons in the NCAA (roughy 35-80 games). That’s not mentioning the Super Series, the All-Star game, the Top Prospects game, and the Memorial Cup.

    • Gaborik had an agreement to go to Halifax in the CHL but he was selected by Baie-Comeau in the import draft.

      Baie-Comeau wanted a ransom including Pascal Leclaire (who was an elite level QMJHL goalie) and Halifax wouldn’t pay it and Gaborik wouldnt go to Baie-Comeau so it didn’t happen.

      There are circumstances and again it goes back to the bigger markets.

    • I think you argued against yourself in point #3. You admitted that Plymouth is only a “decent” franchise. There are alot of merely decent Major Junior franchises out there and the argument is, does it speed up development to go to a “decent” Major Junior team or to a national power house college team that has tremendous success turning out pro’s?

      • The CHL vs. NCAA argument depends entirely on the player. I have little doubt that Miller will find more ice-time in Plymouth (in fact, I’m sure that’s one of the pitches the Rangers made) even though UND is the better team.

        If Miller is as good as everyone says, being on Plymouth (which has made moves to beef up its lineup this coming season) gives him the opportunity to really shine.

        My point about Plymouth is that it’s unfair to compare UND to Plymouth (different league, different system, different standards). Like NCAA programs, A LOT of junior players (I’d say over 80%) don’t get a sniff of NHL play. A better comparison would be UND-Rimouski, or even NCAA-CHL as a whole.

  5. This is an interesting argument. I have always felt that CHL systems more closely resemble NHL systems. Jason is absolutely right about one thing, and that is that we need to compare apples to apples here. UND is a national powerhouse, top 10 team every year at the NCAA level. Plymouth not been to a Memorial Cup in recent memory, if ever. If you are going to compare UND to a CHL team, you need to pick one of the upper echelon teams from the past few years–Rimouski is a good analogy, but if you need more, the Windsor Spitfires are another. There have been great players in NCAA programs, but the ones that Brad keeps mentioning are exceptional players, who would have made the NHL and thrived wherever they went to develop. The debate will rage on, but the bottom line is this: 18-22 year old kids will go anywhere if they believe it will get them a chance at accomplishing thier dreams.

    I am also very interested to hear what kind of exposure Brad has had to the CHL. The games are rarely televised in US markets (with the exception of the Memorial Cup on NHL network). So unless he has lived in a market with a team or covered a CHL team, he is comparing a brand of hockey he sees more than most people (NCAA) to a brand of hockey that he has not watched much of at all. Perhaps that is clouding the picture here. Before you all go an ask me, I grew up near Brandon, Manitoba, attended school at UND, and have watched many games at both levels.

    My personal opinion is this- If you are an elite prospect (Crosby, Toews, etc), it doesn’t matter where you play. If you are a 1st tier prospect who is highly rated, CHL is probably your best bet. If you are a second tier prospect or lower(Brian Rafalski, Chris Porter, Tim Thomas), who may be developing a little slower, it may be wise to consider Junior A and then NCAA hockey, as these players can develop until they are in their mid 20s, whereas CHL players careers end at 20.

    Also, it should be noted that I have never seen Miller play and have no idea where he falls in the above paragraph.

    Let the debate rage on!!

    • The reason I compared UND and Plymouth is because that was Miller’s decision. If you wish to see the numbers between UND and Rimouski in players developed in the last eight years:

      Games played: UND 2,648. Rimouski 883.
      NHL goals: UND 551. Rimouski 294.
      NHL assists: UND 794. Rimouski 467.
      NHL points: UND 1,345. Rimouski 761.
      Players with 100+ NHL games: UND 10. Rimouski 3.

      I haven’t seen many CHL games. Even if I had, the numbers don’t change. Your personal opinion that the CHL is the route to go for highly rated prospects reflects the view of most. However, Toews was a top-notch prospect who went the other way and ended up being the 2nd youngest captain ever to win Stanley Cup. I’m not sure why this is the common thought.

      • If you divide that to PER GAME production, which is far more accurate

        UND goals per NHL game: .208
        Rimouski: .332
        UND assists: .299
        Rimouski: .529

        There’s no comparison. Rimouski’s players, on average, produce more per game than the average UND player. But then again, this comparison isn’t good either.

        In my blog post about this, I noted Jeff Carter, Eric Staal, and Nathan Horton, draft peers of Parise in ’03, have more career goals and all came from OHL programs. Parise has missed a year but the comparison still stands. Mike is right, and I absolutely agree with him on the last paragraph. If you feel like you need longer time, a slower pace, a more structured program, then the NCAA is the way to go.

        • The reason points-per-game reflect that is because Rimouski has produced so few NHLers recently that it pretty much boils down to Crosby’s production and that’s it.

          As for the 2003 draft class comparison, you are comparing a No. 17 overall pick with guys drafted No. 2 and No. 3. Even so, you won’t find a single NHL team that will take Horton over Parise and many teams would take Parise over Staal and Carter as well. If you want another comparison, check out how Parise compares to other No. 17 picks from years before and years after. No one even close to his caliber.

          • Where you get drafted has little bearing on how well you do. Just ask Datsyuk or Zetterberg, or even Pavel Bure. His draft class was brought up because those are Parise’s peers, a comparison that has a very good baseline to begin with.

            The fact that Rimouski hasn’t produced any NHLers is expected. Unlike NCAA programs it is very difficult for junior teams to stay at the top. Even the WHL powerhouse Vancouver Giants have been woeful recently.

            And only Crosby’s production? No Brad Richards, Lecavalier, or Ryane Clowe?

            Same could be said for UND. Most of their production comes from two players, Parise and Toews (maybe Stafford and Zajac).

            Quality over quantity, I say.

          • These arguments are completely sidetracking the point of my column, but..

            A) Parise is as good as any of his 292 “peers” in the 2003 draft class. Very weird player to try to attack. And don’t fool yourself, draft position does matter to an extent. If I compared Parise’s production with a 7th rounder from CHL and said, look, NCAA > CHL, that would be a ridiculous comparison.
            B) I was comparing guys produced in the last eight years.
            C) Quality over quantity has to be qualified somehow. If Rimouski produced 1 NHL player in a 20 year span, and it was Crosby, would they be the greatest NHL producing factory in the CHL because their NHL alumni average 100 points a year? No. Basically, if UND sent ONLY Toews, Parise, Zajac, Oshie and Stafford to the NHL, their point per game total would be extremely high. But is UND worse at producing NHLers because they’ve also sent guys like Matt Greene, Matt Smaby, Taylor Chorney, etc., who bring that ppg average down? No. Ridiculous.

  6. The thing that bothers me about Miller isn’t so much the fact that he chose OHL over UND, it’s moreso that he seemingly strung the UND coaches along and then pulled the rug out from underneath them.

    At the NHL Draft he was STILL talking up UND. He chatted with the coaches, praised the program, and talked about wanting to play “as hard as the Sioux do.” And then two weeks later, he was off to Plymouth.

    • You are exactly right here. Miller dumps on the Sioux late summer and now they have to find some “7th round” forward to replace him. The pick-up is usually not ready and ends up flaming out and heads back to the USHL or the CHL. Its not good for the player or the team.

      The only thing worse would have been for Miller to pull a “Okposo” and leave mid season. That’s classless.

      • If there’s ANY criticisms about Miller, it is that he backed out of the program so late in the year. It has only been a month since the draft but he is obligated to keep his word. It’s unfortunate that intangibles like these MAY get overlooked once they turn pro.

        From what I remember correctly, the Islanders were extremely unhappy with Okposo’s development at Minnesota (Michigan? Think it’s Minnesota) and pushed him to turn pro. There’s been quite the quiet feud between Minnesota prospects and NHL teams about player development.

  7. How come you are only going back eight years? Is it because after that the stats do not go in your favor? I think a more fair assessment would be to compare the all time stats of the teams in question. Hockey has been around for more than eight years.

  8. Would it be possible to do an interview with the person in the NY Ranger organization who does prospect development and ask them how they work with their prospects and the choice between Major Juniors versus NCAA hockey?

  9. In the last 8 to 10 years the Sioux have garnished a greater reputation for developing talent for the NHL starting with Parise, Zajac, Toews, Oshie and so forth. No disrespect to Plymouth but is there a list of players from the last ten years that’s with those group of players? If we’re talking about a track record then the sioux have it.

  10. I’m not 100% sold on the Rangers should be blamed for pushing Miller to play in the OHL. In fact it would have been in the Rangers favor if he would have played for the Fighting Sioux. They have several top prospects that have/are played in the NCAA. Stepan and McDonagh played for Wisconsin, Hagelin played four years in Michigan, and Krieder (1st on ’09) is playing at BC. All top prospects that have benifited playing in college.

    So I put this on decision on Miller – 100%. He is only 18, so I’ll cut him some slack for not making the right decision at such a young age. With this decision he can do two things that he wouldn’t be able to do if he stayed in school. The first is to attend the New York Rangers training camp. This is huge, this is a dream come true for any prospect, to have everything the Rangers have to offer you right there. Second is the opportunity to play in the Traverse City prospect tournament, along with other prospects trying to make the next step.

    Miller should have made the right decision and play for the Sioux. Do what Belfour did, play a year – win an NCAA Championship, then turn pro and and win a Stanley Cup, and bring it back to UND for part of “your day with the Cup”. Belfour brought it back, and I think Commadore and Toews did as well.

    Miller should have been a man of integrity, kept his word, stayed in school. Put your name up on the wall next to Toews, Parisie, Hrkac, Oshie, and all the other players that line the walls at the Ralph. Play in one of the Nicest Hockey arena’s in the world, in front of 12,000 loyal fans.

    Nope. Go to plymouth. Maybe you’ll sign that big two way contract and play for the Whale someday. Personally not one Sioux fan will care about your career. When they say “break a leg” they will probably mean it. Beside there was no way you could have filled the shoes of Brad Miller!!!

    Now there’s a kid coming to school named Grimaldi, on his right shoe is 1 Samuel 16:7, something tells me he has what it takes to play for the Fighting Sioux – Interigrity, Commitment, Pride, Work Ethic – some things JT Miller falls short of.

    • Well said, I would just add a couple of thing. We will never know if he made the right or wrong decision and there is a third reason, he can start his EL contract this year, which means he COULD sign a bigger contract sooner.

      If he signs a big time contract after he’s done with his EL contract then people will say he made the right decision, but if he signs a two way contract then he choose wrong. Truth is we will never know because no one can take both paths.

  11. I would like to suggest you travel to see a few more CHL games before making comparisons. There is a book in that has been required reading for every stats class ever given, and it is called “How to Lie with Statistics”. Numbers can be easily manipulated based on sample size, etc. Take out Toews, Oshie, Jason Blake, and Commodore, and suddenly you are close to even as far as games played. You could do the same with some of the Rimouski players and skew the results as well. You could extend the time period to a time when Rimouski put someone who has played 1000 NHL games and UND didn’t have anyone really going to the NHL. Bottom line, comparing a league/team/level that you follow professionally to a league you admit you have not seen much of simply on the basis of statistics and numbers is a little like comparing the good lookin gal at the bar to some gal you met on the internet who says she is hot–without firsthand knowledge, you simply cannot make a valid comparison.

    • I would agree that numbers can be manipulated. However, I don’t agree that the subjectivity of judging these players based simply on watching their games would result in any better comparison. At least the numbers have some scientific relevance.

  12. If you have zero desire to go to school, would you choose to play in the OHL or WCHA?
    And if any of these kids make it big— which they certainly have the chance to, it is doubtful they will ever go to school. They simply want to play hockey— try and make it big, and not go to school. It is a bad decision for many, but it is easy to see why its made.
    If you asked any 18 year old do you want to go to school today or just play hockey, they would all skip school.

  13. Sioux Fan in St. Cloud says:

    July 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I would agree that numbers can be manipulated. However, I don’t agree that the subjectivity of judging these players based simply on watching their games would result in any better comparison. At least the numbers have some scientific relevance.

    Seriously, you think that numbers tell a better story than evaluating talent with your own eyes??? 36-24-36 looks a lot different on a 5’2″ gal than a 5’7″ gal–just sayin, if you are gonna evaluate talent, do it with your own eyes, not with b.s. numbers.

  14. Why is everyone assuming that Miller is going to become an NHL regular. He is a mid-round draft pick in a bad draft class. Only 66% of all 1st round picks play more than 82 NHL games. People should also consider that maybe Mr. Miller just isn’t that smart. College is a lot of work and not everyone is cut out for it. In a lot of ways, the CHL is much more honest about this than NCAA basketball and football coaches.

  15. Couldn’t you just as easily on the other side compare stats between UND and the London Knights and sway them the other way. As of 5PM est time January 10 2012

    Over the past eight seasons
    UND GP – 2964 London GP – 4355
    UND G – 617 London G – 714
    UND A – 882 London G – 1387
    UND PTS – 1499 London PTS – 2101
    UND 100+ NHL Games – 10 LONDON 100+NHL Games – 15
    UND NHL Capts or Asst Capts – 4 LONDON Capts or Asst Capts – 1 Got the OHL there don’t ya……
    The average UND player is 25.5 and London Player is 24.6.

    At the end of the day you can find stats to support anything you want but both are equally good for development.

    The biggest advantage the CHL has right now is that it can offer 5 years of committed hockey for individuals who want to play a lot and take their shot. At the end of that 5 years they can go to school and play another 4 years in a CIS school. Sure not the calibre of NCAA but if he isn’t going to play pro, he got 9 years of high level hockey out of it. The NCAA offers 4 years and done, it also means a lot of balancing. The problem is the NCAA isn’t smart enough to change its rules and allow CHL players to go there after the CHL. Lots of kids would get to 18,19 and 20 years old and probably considering leaving the CHL if the NCAA was still an option. The NCAA kills itself and the only way the player can try both is to go to a school and then leave.

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