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Up To The Minute: NHL Draft Coverage

Just wanted to pass along some news and links in the wake of yesterday’s NHL Draft and future Minutemen Jake Massie and Ivan Chukarov being taken by the Hurricanes and Sabres respectively.

Coach Micheletto was obviously happy to see two of his recruits taken in Sunrise.

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UMass Recruits Jake Massie and Ivan Chukarov Selected In 2015 NHL Draft

As expected the Massachusetts hockey program came out of this year’s draft with two of their incoming recruits picked up by NHL teams, though not necessarily the two expected when I wrote my preview earlier this week.  Defenseman Jake Massie was almost a lock to get drafted.  So it wasn’t a huge shock to see him picked by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 6th round, 156th overall.  It was a little surprising later on though when incoming freshman defenseman Ivan Chukarov was picked by the Buffalo Sabres to kick off the 7th round, 182nd overall, because he hadn’t been ranked by any of the scouting services.

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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.

Red Leaving For Ivy Green?

Back from vacation means back to writing about UMass hockey.  I had a great trip down to the  mid-Atlantic area.  I got to visit three breweries (Dogfish Head, Ram’s Head/Fordham, Victory), see countless national treasures like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and hung out with a few of the original Section U inhabitants dating back to the triangle days.

So did anything happen hockey-wise in this area while I was gone?  Oh yeah, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup!!  What a run.  I’m definitely a college hockey fan first, as that’s how I first got into the game, but seeing the black and gold as the owners of Lord Stanley’s chalice is beyond thrilling.  New England is now the center of the hockey world, let’s hope that continues next fall when UMass and the rest of Hockey East return to the ice.

Of course there was some UMass news during last week as well.  USHR reported that Red Gendron will be leaving Amherst to take an assistant coaching position at Yale under Keith Allain.  Gendron does have a relationship already with Allain from when they previously coached for the US program.  From everything I’ve heard, this report appears to be true even though it’s not official yet.  I’ll be sorry to see Red go.  He’s done a lot for the program from recruiting many of the talented players on the ice to all the hard work he does for things like the annual golf outing.  He’s also been very friendly to fans and supporters of the program.  Whatever the future holds for him, I’ll be rooting for him (except of course when Yale comes to town this fall).

Also in the USHR report was the statement that they’re “hearing” that Red will be replaced by former Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.  Besides being colleagues in the Hockey East coaching ranks, MacDonald and Toot Cahoon were also assistants together at BU.  First off, I have not been able to confirm that the report that MacDonald is about to be hired is true, but makes sense that he’d be in the mix.  Secondly, I’m not sure I like this news.  I have a lot of respect for the job that Blaise did at Lowell.  Against all of the challenges that surrounded that program, even when it was on the verge of getting mothballed by the Board of Trustees, he was able to consistently recruit some top talent in the league.  However, he was just fired from that job because he was never able to get that talent to its full potential.  At Lowell he had a history of his very best teams underperforming regularly and sometimes dramatically.  Problem is, in recent years UMass has also suffered from that same charge of underperforming compared to its potential.  If Toot is going to bring in someone new to the staff, I would rather the person have a record of addressing some of the team’s recent deficiencies.

My ideal replacement for Red?  Hire alum and current ECHL coach Dean Stork and groom him to replace Toot in a couple years when he likely retires.

In other Hockey East coaching news, remember how friend of FTT Ryan S. Clark reported a couple months ago that Greg Cronin was leaving Northeastern for the NHL and Cronin vehemently denied the report?  Well Cronin was hired today as an assistant coach for Toronto.  Maple Leafs or Northeastern?  Hmm…lateral move at best.  It should be interesting to see if any recruits or current Husky players look to leave with their coach on the move.

UMass has lost out to Providence for the services of South Kent defenseman Anthony Florentino.  Florentino is a talented defenseman who has participated in past US national development camps previously.  This one hurts a little because he has some close ties to the Minuteman program and from what I’ve read is highly regarded.

Congratulations to Conor Allen, Mike Lecomte, Kevin Moore, Colin Shea, and Jeff Teglia who were named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team for this past season.  Lecomte was named to the team for all four of his years at UMass.

Stuff the ballot box!  Vote for Paul Dainton for UMass Play of the Year!

Speaking of voting, don’t forget to take the survey for which UMass license plate you like best.

With the Cup awarded, that means the NHL Draft is just around the corner.  Hockey’s Future has Mike Pereira as one of the top 10 draft eligible players in the NCAA.  Pereira will also be featured in a pre-draft article in the New England Hockey Journal that I’ll be sure to pass along when it’s published.

Dick Baker of the Republican caught up with Greg Mauldin and Justin Braun at last week’s Golf Outing.

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