Friday, April 1, 2011

Has The WCHA Changed Its Recruiting?

In reviewing Wisconsin's current committed recruits recently it's been noteworthy that the Badgers do not have a player currently committed past 2012. Defenseman Tim Davison from Notre Dame Academy and Brad Navin from Waupaca are 2012 or 2013 depending on development and departures but they are juniors (Davison) and seniors (Navin) in high school.

Since Eaves has taken over the Wisconsin program it's become the norm for him to stockpile some early commits. Guys like Jack Skille, Kyle Turris, Nick Pryor, Brock Montpetit, Jordan Schmaltz, Corbin McGuire, Nicolas Kerdiles, and Morgan Zulinick all committed as high school Sophomores or earlier in some cases.

But as you can see from that list, the early commit isn't all it's cracked up to be. Skille probably turned out the best with two solid years. Turris was good but was only here for a season. Pryor never could get into school. Montpetit refused to sign his LOI when it was sent to him. And Schmaltz de-committed after Badger assistant coach Mark Osiecki left for the Ohio State head coaching job. McGuire, Zulinick, and Kerdiles are all 2012 recruits who still have time to write their own chapter.

In the past the idea of not recruiting players until they are a senior in high school has been discussed but quickly dismissed with the consistent threat of the best players spurning NCAA hockey for Major Juniors. But it almost seems like the WCHA coaches are taking a new approach to recruiting young talent.

A quick view of Chris Heisenberg's recruiting website shows among all WCHA programs, only 6 high school sophomores or younger committed to WCHA schools. Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, who are traditionally among the heavyweights when it comes to recruiting in the league have only two combined, with North Dakota receiving a commitment from North Carolina defenseman Charlie Pelnik and Denver a verbal from Lincoln Stars forward Brad Hawkinson. UMD (2), Colorado College, and Bemidji State are the other WCHA schools to have an early commit.

But the trend doesn't continue when you look around the country. Let's take a peek at Hockey East. Boston College has 5 by themselves! Boston University has 2, Maine has 3, Merrimack has 1, UNH has 2, Northeastern has 3, and Vermont has 1. That's 17 players committed as sophomores or freshmen compared to the WCHA's 6.

In the CCHA Bowling Green has 1, Miami has 3, Michigan, like BC has 5! Michigan State has 1, and Northern Michigan has 1. So in the three major conferences, Hockey East has 17, CCHA 11, and the WCHA 6.

Does this mean anything? Hard to say, but I think this might be a conscious effort on the part of WCHA coaches who have been burned in the past on early commitments. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

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