Gregg Drinnan made note that the Portland Winterhawks made a trip to check out UMD recruit Mac Carruth who is having a great season with the Wenatchee Wild and is a list player for the Winterhawks. It's probably just a standard visit, but if Carruth continues playing as well as he has been, they may make a pretty serious push for him.
As a sidenote, the article also talks about the WHL considering expanding into Wenatchee, which I don't like for a couple of reasons. First, you can debate if the city can support a WHL franchise, but it's practically guaranteed that it can't support two junior hockey teams and the Wild have been a great addition to the NAHL. They've drawn really well, especially for an NAHL franchise, but the Wild have also been a very good team in both years. It's unlikely an expansion franchise in an American city would have the same kind of success in the WHL, and if the team wasn't winning consistently, I don't see the crowds being as big.
Meanwhile, Michigan commit Lucas Lessio was interviewed recently about why he chose Michigan over the OHL. I'm still a bit skeptical of Lessio ever making it to Michigan. He already seems to have outgrown his Tier II league in Canada, and would still have to play another year after this one in junior hockey before making it to Michigan. He's can't make the move this year because of Canada's rules against younger players moving out of province, but next year the USHL may be the best option for him. He'll face better competition and get scouted a lot in his draft year. That said, I think the pressure from Oshawa to sign will be very heavy next year, and I have a feeling it might be tough to say no to.
Speaking of Lessio, I had to chuckle at this article on some Ontario prospects that haven't signed with the OHL yet. The article leads off with this Rosenberg-ian intro:
Wes O’Neil, a second overall draft pick to the Kingston Frontenac’s in the 2002 OHL Priority Selection, is an example of someone who damaged his hockey career by making the wrong decision. The former midget star decided against the OHL, and committed to Notre Dame. This proved costly as O’Neil’s stock continuously slipped until he was a fourth round selection to the New York Islanders in 2004. Since his graduation to professional hockey, O’Neil has played in three NHL games notching zero points, and 105 AHL games totaling twelve points in two campaigns. For a player who had so much potential, his career has been diminished to nothing more than a career AHL player.
I know we're probably thinking the same thing. "Surely the other 19 first round picks in that year's OHL Priority Selection must be tearing up the NHL!" Let's let's take a look.
This gets kind of long, so I'm going to throw the look at how those players are doing after the jump...
1. Rob Schremp: A first round NHL draft pick, but has only played 7 NHL games and was recently waived by the Oilers(though subsequently picked up by the Islanders, presumably because they're the only team too lazy to send scouts to actually watch him play). There could be a whole seperate post about what went wrong here.
2. Wes O'Neill: 4th round NHL draft pick, 3 NHL games played
3. Wojtek Wolski: I think everyone knows him. Solid NHL player.
4. Dan LaCosta: 3rd round NHL pick. He's got what amounts to not quite three full games at the NHL level.
5. Jean-Michel Rizk: 7th round NHL pick. Never played pro hockey. Instead went to Wilfrid Laurier, and scored the game-winning goal against Ferris State last weekend.
6. Adam Berti: 3rd round NHL pick. Played two games for the Chicago Blackhawks and is currently in the ECHL.
7. Brett Connolly: Brett Connolly will be a star in the NHL some day; just not this Brett Connolly. He ended up playing his last couple of years of juniors in the OPJHL, played one year of CIS hockey, and played a couple games in the low, low minor leagues.
8. Dave Bolland: Another solid NHL player.
9. Todd Perry: Never drafted. Played a little in the AHL.
10. Mitch Maunu: 4th round NHL draft pick. Played a couple pro games, but got out in time to play CIS hockey.
11. Jordan Morrison: 7th round NHL draft pick. Played two years of CIS hockey and then was mostly an ECHLer.
12. Evan McGrath: 4th round NHL draft pick. A decent prospect, but still over 200 AHL games and zero NHL games.
13. Ryan Garlock: 2nd round NHL draft pick. Bounced between the ECHL and AHL a couple times.
14. Kyle Wharton: 2nd round NHL draft pick. He's played in the ECHL, AHL, and Europe, but never the NHL.
15. Mike Duncan: Duncan was described as an "off the board" pick at the time and never played an OHL game.
16. Tyler Kennedy: 4th round pick. Starting to establish himself as an NHL regular.
17. Hunter Tremblay: Never drafted, never played in the minors. Went to CIS once his junior eligibility ended.
18. Mike Blunden: 2nd round pick. Has played 10 games in the NHL.
19. Scott Lehman: 3rd round pick. Has played 1 NHL game.
20. Taylor Razska: Never drafted. A US kid that ended up back in the USHL at one point. Kicked around the ECHL and CHL for his minor league career.
So out of the 19 other players drafted in the first round, there's really only three doing significantly better than O'Neill as NHL regulars. As for the rest, there are some that are having minor league hockey careers of varying success, and some that have chosen to go get an education. O'Neill is the only one out of the group that got both by choosing to go to Notre Dame.
Even among the very best prospects, the odds of making it to the NHL and staying there aren't all that great. Wes O'Neill is a very good player, but his skating ability would have kept him out of the NHL regularly regardless of where he played. As it was, O'Neill maximized his hockey career by getting both a free education and a pretty solid minor league career that even included a cup of coffee in the NHL. To say he made a mistake when you compare him to those other guys have done looks absolutely foolish.