Miscellaneous Friday News & An Overdue Wellman Rant

Just wanted to pass along a few random UMass things I came across in the past few days before the holiday weekend begins in earnest.

First is this article mentioning incoming recruit Eric Filiou and his summer goals before arriving in Amherst this fall.  It’s a few months old, but it’s the first I’d seen it and thought I’d pass it along.

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Second up is the news that Mike McKee, a defenseman playing prep hockey at Kent, has committed to Northeastern.  UMass was also going after the 6’4″, 230lb Canadian as was Cornell.  McKee will arrive on St Botolph Street for 2012.

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Lastly is this USHL.com Q&A with Casey Wellman.  A couple questions and responses jumped out at me:

When did signing with a NHL club start becoming a reality for you?

There were a lot of teams talking to me and it got kind of overwhelming.  I ended up saying that I would not talk to anyone until the end of the season so that I could focus on college. Towards the end of the season, my dad asked if I would want to make the jump straight to the NHL and I said “absolutely.”

Although it was your dream, how tough was it to leave school at that point to pursue your hockey career?

It was a big decision. I was giving up two free years of education and I have a lot of great friends at UMass.  It was a decision that wasn’t made in a few days as I had been thinking about it for a long time. With all the opportunities that came up and the chance I had, it was something I just couldn’t turn down.

First off, it is utterly ridiculous that NHL teams are allowed to have discussions with college players, especially undrafted ones, during the season.  With the load of classes, practices, games, and just being a college student the last thing a player needs is an NHL club whispering in their ear making all kinds of promises of what awaits them after the season.  And yes, I realize usually those discussions are made with the infamous “family advisor” but it’s still information being relayed to the player and potentially would be a huge distraction to his responsibilities on and off the ice.  I’m sure there are some players out there that are able to deflect that type of distraction but in my opinion Casey Wellman is the poster child for someone who could not juggle both his college and NHL goals when they were layed out in front of him.

After his spectacular start to the season it’s a good guess that the NHL teams came sniffing around at winter break and began the process of luring Wellman out of school.  And what happened?  His performance on the ice went into the toilet, as demonstrated by going scoreless in 12 of 13 games in January and February, and the team circled the bowl right along with Wellman’s game.  That’s not to say that this past season’s collapse is entirely on his shoulders, but his uninspired play was probably the most glaring during that time period.  And who got hurt the most from all this?  Not Wellman, he still got a 2 year $1.8M contract with the Wild.  Who got hurt the most was his teammates, who depended on Wellman, and gave their focus solely to the success of the UMass hockey program.  For a lot of those guys on the ice a potential NCAA tournament berth would’ve been the pinnacle of their hockey careers.  Not everyone is NHL bound.

Wellman’s competing interests aside, the problem ultimately rests with the college hockey’s relationship with the NHL.  While these two bodies should be working together to develop not only players to move into the professional ranks, but promote the sport of hockey in general.  Too often though they treat each other as adversaries, competing for players instead of nurturing them.  One would hope that the NHL would realize the foolishness of this and would begin to put restrictions in place in terms of communication and transactions.  Unfortunately I’ve never thought the NHL to be full of visionaries however, starting with the clown at the top.  Hopefully Paul Kelley and College Hockey Inc. will be able to bring some sense to the current setup.