A Golden Day in Columbus

Gophers and Domers among the biggest winners at NHL Draft

June 23, 2007

By Elliot Olshansky




Elliot is CSTV.com's hockey editor and runs his Rink Rat hockey blog on CSTV.com.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Of all the current or incoming college players selected in this weekend's 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena, it's not particularly surprising that Minnesota will have the most on its roster when the puck drops on the 2007-08 season.


Considerably more surprising, however, is that one of the two schools immediately behind the Golden Gophers and head coach Don Lucia in that department is Lucia's alma mater, Notre Dame.




The Fighting Irish had a player selected in each of the first four rounds this weekend, and the addition of goaltending recruit Brad Phillips with the first pick in the seventh round (182nd overall) gives Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson five 2007 draft picks among his incoming freshman class for the fall, tying him with Michigan for the most 2007 draft picks in this fall's incoming freshman class.


Moreover, Notre Dame's haul for the weekend includes the only first-round selection in program history, Ian Cole.


Cole, ranked 81st among North American skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting Service, was taken with the 18th overall pick by the St. Louis Blues, and now heads to South Bend with a unique (and unlikely) distinction in program history.


"It's exciting," Cole said. "Hopefully, I'll just bring some more enthusiasm into the program, which is good. We're trying to get the program up and going, so hopefully I'll help the program out a little bit."


Once the draft resumed on Saturday morning, it didn't take long for one of Cole's teammates to follow suit. Teddy Ruth, who played with Cole in the U.S. National Team Development Program, became a second round selection, as the Washington Capitals selected him with the 46th pick in the draft.


"I'm looking forward to getting down there," Ruth said of heading to South Bend. "Obviously, the pressure's on, but Ian and I can handle it. We'll show what we can do."


With Hobey Baker finalist David Brown graduating and leaving an experience void in net, the pressure will be high on two highly-drafted blueliners to help protect the new netminder, but given his experience with the potential replacement, Ruth isn't too concerned.


"Definitely, David Brown did an amazing job for them this year," Ruth said, "but I think with the goalie we've got coming in, Brad Phillips, we should be alright. I don't feel too much pressure about that."


Of course, while Notre Dame had a banner year at the draft - which also included rising sophomore forward Ryan Thang (third round, 81st overall, Nashville) and incoming freshman Ben Ryan (fourth round, 114th overall, Nashville) - Minnesota scored bigger earlier, with two players each taken in the first and second rounds, including rising sophomore Jimmy O'Brien (first round, 29th overall, Ottawa) and incoming freshman Patrick White (first round, 25th overall, Vancouver).


O'Brien joins several other members of his highly touted class at Minnesota as first-round picks, including Kyle Okposo (7th overall, 2006, New York Islanders), David Fischer (20th overall, 2006, Montreal) and the now-professional Erik Johnson, the first overall pick last year by St. Louis.


"At Minnesota, we're a really deep team," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of great players there, and we've got some more good players coming in next year. Always at Minnesota, there's high expectations, and every year, we're expected to get to the Frozen Four."


The six Gophers drafted may have been the most of any college team, and two more than archrival Wisconsin, but the Badgers have a strong case for having made the biggest waves at the Draft. The Badgers had only one incoming freshman selected on the second day (forward Josh Turnbull, 5th round, 137th, Tampa Bay) but were very busy on Friday night with three first-round selections: third overall pick Kyle Turris (Phoenix), 12th overall selection Ryan McDonagh (Montreal) and 27th pick Brendan Smith (Detroit).


Suffice it to say that after Friday, the expectations for the Badger freshmen this fall will be very, very high, particularly after a disappointing 2006-07 season in which the then-reigning national champions failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament.


"It's going to be really exciting," McDonagh said of the challenge awaiting him at Wisconsin. "They have a great bunch of guys coming back next year. I know they didn't have the results they wanted last year. There's no question that we want to be a team that's gunning to win and get Wisconsin back to where they were in '06 with the national championship."


Of course, whether it's Notre Dame, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or any of the other top college programs that did well in Columbus, the true tests will come in the fall. 


In the meantime, though, there's certainly plenty to talk about, and a long summer for talking.