The NCAA continues to be well-represented in the NHL Draft.
This year’s NHL Draft featured 56 college players or recruits and accounted for over one quarter of the 223 total selections. In addition to producing draft talent, the NCAA has become an appealing route for high-level players outside of North America. UVM men’s hockey head coach Todd Woodcroft thinks the academic and social aspects of the college game has drawn more players to this path.
“Back in the 80s, so many of the best players were Canadians coming down to play, then it tilted so there were so many Americans. Now you’re seeing Europeans,” Woodcroft said. “Families of these young players are recognizing there are only 770 jobs in the NHL, or whatever the number is. That’s really hard to get to, so if you’re not going to be an NHL player, you need something to fall back on.”
On the other end, the NHL has seen so many player excel after they have spent time in the NCAA. The 2021 Norris Trophy winner, given to the league’s top defenseman, was given to Adam Fox of the New York Rangers. Fox played three seasons with Harvard University before making his professional debut. Colorado defenseman and former Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar was a Norris finalist this season, and he played two years for UMass. Woodcroft believes the NCAA schedule allows players to develop more than other leagues.
“If you can practice four times a week, Monday through Friday, and you’re still getting two games a week Friday and Saturday night against very competitive opponents, you’re going to develop much better,” Woodcroft said. “In the professional leagues, NHL especially, you don’t practice very much. The schedule is so arduous. Back to back games, four games a week, you’re playing sometimes 19 games in a month, so where’s the development time for young players?”
UVM men’s hockey is set to have five NHL Draft picks on its roster for the upcoming 2021-22 season.