Aug. 11, 2006
By Elliot Olshansky
As the nation's top young hockey players gather in
One might ask, "How does that make them different from the 56 other Division I college hockey teams in the country?" The answer is that for these three teams, "PK" doesn't stand for "penalty kill."
At Minnesota, fans continue to wait and watch as forward Phil Kessel, the No. 5 overall pick in June's 2006 NHL Entry Draft, weighs his choice between returning to the Golden Gophers for his sophomore year or signing with the Boston Bruins. Meanwhile, another dynamic forward out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Patrick Kane, is trying to decide where he'll be playing next year, with Michigan,
Of course, if either Kane or Kessel wants advice on his plans for 2006-07, neither has to look very far. Kessel is joined at the camp by Golden Gopher teammates Jeff Frazee and Ryan Stoa, along with incoming freshmen Kyle Okposo and Mike Carman. Meanwhile, current and future Terriers and Wolverines, including
On the other side, Mitera is making an effort of his own on behalf of the Wolverines. "I've been giving him a hard time a little bit to figure it out," Mitera said. "He's a great kid, so I'm sure he'll make a good decision either way, but we'd like to have him come to
Having played with him on the White Team at the camp, Mitera has seen up close just what Kane would bring to Yost Ice Arena. "He's one of those unbelievable playmakers," Mitera said. "He sees the ice so well, I think he's got eyes in the back of his head. He can hear you breathing, almost."
Kane has put those skills to good use at the camp, playing a key role in three victories for his team, and he's had fun doing so. "The competition's unbelievable here," Kane said. "You're competing with 40 of the best players in the
Of course, it hasn't been quiet for him. "The
As for which team will get what it wants, Kane says that it's "about 50/50" between major junior and college. "I'm probably going to have to make the decision in a couple of weeks," Kane said, "so hopefully I'll narrow it down."
Strait believes that it may already be "narrowed down." "He obviously knows where he's leaning towards," Strait said. "He probably knows where he wants to go, anyway, so he's just waiting for the right time to let it out."
If that is the case, though, Kane isn't tipping his hand at all, as he has plenty of good things to say about each of his possible destinations. "
If Kane does go the college route, he wouldn't be able to join the Wolverines or Terriers until the second semester, which would present the additional challenge of adjusting to college hockey in mid-season. "I know a lot of the guys on both teams," Kane said, "so I'm sure they would help me through it."
For his part, Kessel has been as quiet off the ice as he is dynamic on it. "Phil keeps to himself on that stuff a lot," incoming
He hasn't had much input from his hopeful teammates either. "They're happy for me whatever I choose," Kessel said.
Indeed, "hanging out" has been the order of the day off the ice, not pressure. "We know we're not going to push him a whole lot," Carman said. "Obviously, we want him to stay, because he'd be a great help to the team. We'd love for him to stay, but he's going to make the best decision for him."
As for what that decision is, Kessel isn't entirely sure when it will come. "In the next couple of weeks, I'll figure it out," Kessel said, "and it'll be over."
As the weeks of summer vacation dwindle away, both Kessel's and Kane's decision-making processes will be over soon enough. In the meantime, fans of the Gophers, Terriers and Wolverines can simply continue to do what they've done all along: watch and wait.