College Well Represented In NHL Entry Draft

Collegians making impact in NHL

June 20, 2007

By Dave Starman

Special to



Dave is a CSTV game and studio analyst, and contributes regular insight to E-mail here!

College players have figured prominently in the NHL Entry Draft. Three of the top five had college hockey ties in last summer's draft as Erik Johnson went first, Jonathan Toews went third, and Phil Kessel went fifth.  Kessel and Toews were drafted right out of college (Minnesota and North Dakota, respectively) while Johnson came from the USNTDP en route to the Gophers.


Quick trivia question here. Know which college player was the first one ever drafted by an NHL team?  Answer later.




Looking at the draft statistically, college players have made up as much as 27.5 percent of players selected (1975) or as low as 2.1percent as they did in 1994 and 1995. Last season, 18 of 213 players drafted were US college players for just over 8 percent. Overall since 1969, 1,047 college players have been selected out of 8,704 players total for a 12 percent.


Over the last three drafts, NHL scouts have focused their eyes on Ann Arbor. Six of Red Berenson's Wolverines have been tabbed by NHL teams in that span, including first rounders Mark Mitera (19th overall in 2006 by Anaheim ) and Al Montoya (fifth overall in 2004 by the New York Rangers). Keeping good company with Michigan in that time span are Michigan State, Boston College, Cornell, Notre Dame, Denver and Yale with three each. Miami has had four players picked in the last three drafts.


The teams that have produced the most draft choices wouldn't surprise many fans of college hockey. The top four are your usual suspects with Minnesota (67), Michigan (66), Boston University (51) and Michigan State (48). Sitting fifth on that list is Michigan Tech.


Here's your trivia answer: Back in 1968, as the NHL was beginning to phase out NHL-sponsored junior teams to incorporate a complete amateur draft; two collegians were selected back-to-back. They were Brown's Curt Bennett, who went 16th to St. Louis, and Herb Boxer from Michigan Tech, who went 17th to the Detroit Red Wings.


There have been some great collegians who have great careers in the NHL. The Craig Simpsons, Rod Brind'Amours, Tony Amontes, John LeClairs and Mark Johnsons were all high picks. However, there have been some low round picks off NCAA rosters who went on to great careers. 


How about Stanley Cup winner Chris Nilan?  "Knuckles" played his varsity hockey at Northeastern and was the 231st pick of the 1978 draft.  An effective and hard nosed player, he played close to 15 seasons with Montreal, Boston and the Rangers after his time at Northeastern.


Next would be a guy who should get some Hall of Fame consideration, and that is Dave Taylor. Now a well respected NHL scout and former GM of the LA Kings (with whom he is still employed), Taylor played under Jerry York at Clarkson and helped launch that program to great heights. He was picked by LA with the 210th pick of the 1975 dtaft.


Gary Suter, brother of gold medal-winning defenseman Bob Suter, was a standout defenseman under Badger Bob Johnson at Wisconsin. Taken by Calgary with the 180th pick of the 1984 draft, Suter won a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 and had a standout career.  


A recent winner of the Stanley Cup and another Clarkson alum is Todd Marchant.  Blazing around the North Country in his NCAA career, he caught the attention of the Rangers, who had a knack for finding diminutive skilled forwards back in that era.  The Rangers took Marchant with the 164th pick in 1993.


Next up is John-Michael Liles. A standout defenseman for the Green and White of Michigan State, Liles sat around on draft day until Colorado snagged him at #159. 


There have also been the aforementioned high draft choices and there have been many recently. 


Recapping the past few years, these players have all been selected out of college in the top two rounds:  Simon Danis-Pepin, Paul Stastny, Tom Fritsche, Dan Bertram, Nate Hagemo, Al Montoya, Drew Stafford, Grant Lewis, Adam Pineault, David Booth, Hugh Jessiman, Zach Parise, Mark Stuart, Ryan Kessler, Jeff Tambellini, Patrick Eaves, Danny Richmond and Jimmy Howard.


It has always been asked why more college players do not get drafted. 


Many college players will play an extra year or two of junior after graduating from high school. Some will "PG" a year at a Prep School and then play a year or two of junior. That puts many college players into their freshman year after their draft year so they are no longer draft eligible. 


The other reason is where many college hockey fans have an argument with the overall lack of representation of college players in the draft. A large majority of players enter college hockey already drafted. That happened when they were playing junior, prep school, or with the USNDTP.