Ryan Jones of Chatham, Ont., and Kevin Porter of Detroit weren’t among the first 100 players selected in their NHL draft year but they topped all U.S. college hockey players in goals scored with 22 apiece going into weekend games.
Jones was taken by the Minnesota Wild in the fourth round, 111th overall, in the 2004 draft when he was coming off an MVP season in the Western Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Chatham Jr. Maroons, and the six-foot-two, 215-pound forward has made them look like geniuses ever since starting to play for the Miami Redhawks of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Jones, who is captain of the Redhawks, had 22 goals and 13 assists for 35 points going into weekend games. The 23-year-old college senior is the nephew of former NHL player John Tonelli.
Porter was a fourth-round pick, 119th overall, by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 draft. The five-foot-11, 194-pound left-winger came out of the U.S. under-18 development squad and now plays for the Michigan Wolverines of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He had 22 goals and 17 assists going into weekend games.
Some good players went under the draft radar while in their teens.
The top playmaker in U.S. college hockey has been Bryan Marshall of Livonia, Mich., who captains Nebraska-Omaha. With 11 goals and 27 assists for 38 points, he was second to Porter in overall points. The six-foot, 190-pound senior will be a free agent when the college season ends.
Another undrafted forward among the points leaders with 36 (18-18) was Ryan Lasch, a five-foot-seven and 175-pound sophomore from California playing at St. Cloud State in the WCHA.
One of the smallest players ever drafted by an NHL team is faring well at Boston College. Nathan Gerbe of Oxford, Michigan, drafted 142nd overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2005, had 19 goals and 18 assists for the Hockey East team. He’s only five-foot-five and 165 pounds – but his numbers are big.
Chad Kolarik of Abington, Pa., another Wolverine whose rights are owned by the Coyotes, had 33 points (18-15).
It appears as if the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting lucky with Chad Rau.
The Eden Prairie, Minn., product has shown game-breaking ability and had 30 points (19-11) in his third season at Colorado College of the WCHA as of Thursday. Toronto took the 5-11, 175-pound centre 228th overall in ’05 after he was rookie of the year in the USHL at Des Moines, Iowa. Rau helped the U.S. win a world under-18 title.
Kyle Turris of Burnaby, B.C., taken third overall by Phoenix at last summer’s draft and a freshman at Wisconsin who helped Canada win another world junior title this winter, had 10 goals and 16 assists in his first 22 games with the Badgers.
Teams in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Athletic Conference have played fewer games and leading point-getters were undrafted senior Colgate forward Jesse Winchester and undrafted Quinnipiac sophomore Brandon Wong. Both had 26 points.
Steve Zalewski of Utica, N.Y., a Clarkson senior whose NHL rights are owned by the San Jose Sharks, had an ECAC-best 15 goals.
The Ottawa Senators are keeping an eye on Erik Condra. The native of Trenton, Mich., plays at Notre Dame and had 30 points (11-19) before lacing up the skates for weekend play. The five-foot-11, 180-pound right-winger was the Sens’ seventh pick, 211th overall, in 2006.
The Montreal Canadiens have been interested in seeing the improvements in J. T. Wyman, who they took with their third pick, 100th overall, in 2004. The six-foot-two, 208-pound right-winger has 24 points (13-11) at Dartmouth.
The Edmonton Oilers are encouraged by the play of Chris Vande Velde, a six-foot-two, 190-pound centre from Moorhead, Minn., playing for North Dakota. He’s got 22 points (10-12). He was playing high school hockey when the Oilers took him with their fifth pick, 97th overall, in ’05.
Fighting Sioux teammate Taylor Chorney of Thunder Bay, Ont., who was Edmonton’s second pick and 35th overall in the same draft, is having a good season, too. The five-foot-11, 185-pound defenceman has 19 points including two goals.