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Something To Root For

Between April and October there’s certainly still a lot of college hockey activity to follow.  You have coaching news, early departures, pro signings, recruiting of course goes on year round, and this offseason you even had some conference drama as plans were announced for the Big Ten.  But there are very few times during those months when you can actually root for something.  To root for your team before the fall.

This weekend is one of those moments however as the 2011 NHL Draft will take place in Minnesota, with the first round tomorrow night and rounds two through seven on Saturday.  Lots of college fans will be rooting for their school’s players or future players to hear their name called by an NHL team.  Of course it’s great to have a player or recruit drafted as it creates prestige and awareness of your college’s hockey program.  This weekend though I think beyond hoping  another name is added to the list of Minutemen that have been drafted, I’m truly rooting for Mike Pereira to get his name called.

Last year at this time it seemed like a virtual lock that Pereira would be selected on draft day.  He had just helped lead Avon Old Farms to a prep title.  He was ranked 63rd overall for North American skaters and was one of only 100 players invited to the NHL combine.  There were numerous publications that projected him as being worthy of using a draft choice on.  But the NHL draft came and went and he wasn’t picked.  The story later was that the concerns about his size and strength did him in.

I was worried at the time if getting bypassed would affect his play.  If it did, it did only to motivate him because he came out and had a monster of a freshman year.  He tied Danny Hobbs for the team lead in goals, finished 3rd on the team in points, and was one of only four players to finish with a positive plus minus rating.  He led all Hockey East freshmen in goals and came in second in total points to Charlie Coyle who went in the first round of the draft last year.  He was runner-up to Coyle for the Newcomer of the Year award though the argument could easily be made that Pereira was much more important to UMass than Coyle to BU or even Jamie Oleksiak was to Northeastern.  The towering Husky is projected to be selected in the first round tomorrow night.  If he wanted to make the case that the NHL teams who passed on him made a mistake he certainly did a good job, not just showing he could play in an elite college conference but he could excel there while playing against future NHLers.

Still, it’s tough to see if all his effort caught the attention of the scouts.  He wasn’t picked last year when ranked 63rd among North American skaters and going into this weekend he’s now ranked 115th.  Still ranked high enough where a selection is possible, but gone is the hype and stories surrounding his NHL potential.  And that is why I’ll be rooting hard for Pereira this weekend to hear his name called, perhaps even by the New York Rangers, his favorite team growing up.  He’s kept up his side of the bargain and gone out and shown himself to be one of the better young players in all of college hockey.  I’ll be rooting for the NHL to wake up and take notice.

New England Hockey Journal lists Pereira as the 6th best New England product in the draft.

Recruit Joseph Manno is also ranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting going into this weekend.  His 145th ranking among North American skaters could translate into a 6th or 7th round selection.

Pereira and Manno aren’t the only Minutemen pursuing NHL dreams.  So too is former captain Mike Kostka, who despite leading his AHL team in scoring last year as a defenseman still finds himself without a team and seeking his first game in the NHL.  Interesting anecdote in the story is that Kostka caught the attention of the UMass coaching staff as they were scouting former Wisconsin Badger and current Colorado Avalanche goaltender Bryan Elliot.

And former Minutemen Tim Turner is the subject of one of Matt Vautour’s “Where Are They Now?” features.

No major rule changes this coming year.

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2 Comments

  1. Anon

     /  June 26, 2011

    Poor kid didn’t get drafted again. What does he have to do in order to get the attention of NHL scouts, send UMass to the Frozen Four? I feel his pain at this point now. It’s better for him to be a free agent now though because then he could sign for the big bucks, which he’ll probably make at one point in his life

    Like

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