College hockey's recruiting battle with the CHL

collegehockey.jpgFans of the NHL alone may not be aware, but in the youth ranks there’s a bit of a border war going on between NCAA college hockey and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) where major-junior hockey is played. The two sides compete for the same players of around the same age. For the longest time, Canadian juniors seemed like the one and only way for young players to make their mark to get noticed by the NHL and live their dreams of playing professional hockey. As always, times are changing and more and more talented kids from both the United States and Canada are finding their way into college hockey.

This, of course, does not sit well with the CHL to have to compete for players, especially some Canadian players. With a renewed sense of success and a better ability to gain support and media recognition in the United States, college hockey is taking things more serious, even hiring former head of the NHLPA Paul Kelly to be the top man in College Hockey Inc., a group meant to drum up support and the growing popularity of college hockey.

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy had a must-read piece today discussing how the efforts of Paul Kelly and College Hockey Inc. might be going all for naught thanks to legislation the NCAA is trying to pass to rein in recruiting in other sports.

The NCAA is currently considering a rule to ban scholarship offers to student-athletes until the summer after their junior year of high school (a.k.a. Grade 11). The rule is aimed at the powerhouse college sports such as basketball and football, but would apply uniformly to all disciplines, hockey included.

And while there is no rival for NCAA football or basketball, college hockey must compete against Canadian major junior. The new rule would make an already uphill battle almost insurmountable in some cases.

“The truly elite player, these guys are being identified when they are 14 or 15 years old,” said Paul Kelly of College Hockey Inc., a pro-NCAA group. “The rule would mean schools couldn’t talk to kids until after July 1 of their junior year. Most kids at that point are probably 16, maybe 17 or even 18.

“There would be a period of time of two years where they would be drafted by CHL teams and would be listening to them, with NCAA schools having no chance to talk to them.”

With those kinds of restrictions, college hockey would be facing an even tougher uphill battle to try and convince elite-level hockey players from either side of the border and Paul Kelly knows it. There’s just nothing he can do about it should the NCAA decide to make a ruling like that. Also coming into play here is that once a player plays in the CHL, they aren’t allowed to play college hockey. The same cannot be said going the other way as players can leave college or break college commitments to play in juniors.

As for the CHL, they’d be more than happy to have that ace-in-the-hole to have against the NCAA. With the number of great players that have been coming across from Canada to play in the US to give them a less-rigorous schedule and chance to get a serious education from a top American university, the lure of playing hockey as a career might be far too tempting for many players, especially when players can start out in lower level juniors and decide from there. It’s much easier to sell a player on their league if it’s right there in front of them, something that college hockey’s lack of media presence in America hinders.

While the NCAAs rules and restrictions on just about everything hurts them in this battle, other sports don’t have such issues and this potential new rule doesn’t pose a problem for football and basketball problems in any way. After all, NCAA football and basketball teams are only competing with one another for players and not leagues from Canada.

With the NCAA being such a overriding, rule-happy organization, harming one sport that doesn’t generate a ton of money while protecting two sports that do should be a big deal for them, but hockey presents such a unique situation for them that it may not even come up on their radar. Paul Kelly is going to have a bit of work ahead of him to help straighten things out if the NCAA wants to stay viable with the CHL.

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    Five team stats you may find interesting

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    Plus-10: The New York Rangers’ goal-differential in the first period. That’s the highest in the league. Just throwing it out there, but surely part of the reason the Rangers have been outshot in so many games is that they’ve been so good at taking early leads. Everyone knows it’s human nature to play more conservatively with a lead. At five-on-five when the score is tied, the Rangers have a plus-23 shot differential, per When they’re leading by any score — and they’ve been in that situation a lot this season — it’s an NHL-worst minus-70.

    Minus-22: The Anaheim Ducks’ goal differential in the second period. No team has a worse goal differential in any period. What’s more, the Ducks actually have a positive differential in the first (+5) and third (+3) frames. It’s hard to say why the second has been such a problem for this team. That’s Bruce Boudreau’s problem to figure out. (For now, at least.)

    Plus-18: The Montreal Canadiens’ goal differential in the third. No team has a better goal differential in any period. Now, the Habs have also been pretty good in the first (+5) and second (+10). Which is to say, they’ve led a lot of games after 40 minutes. That they’ve kept scoring in the third supports their reputation as one of the best counter-attacking teams in the NHL. When you’re forced to take chances against Montreal, it can turn ugly real quick.

    Plus-5: Calgary’s goal differential in three-on-three overtime. Five wins, no losses. That’s our way of saying the Flames have only won three games in regulation.

    20: The most games any team has led at some point in the contest, per Can you guess the two teams that have done it? ………… OK, time’s up. The first is Dallas. The Stars have won 17 games, so yeah, it makes sense they’ve led in quite a few of their games. The second team, though, is Boston. The Bruins have only won 12 games, which means they’ve blown a whole lot of leads. This must drive Claude Julien nuts.

    ‘Great story’ Holloway, 27, to make NHL debut tonight

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    It took a while, but Bud Holloway has finally made the big leagues.

    Holloway — who’s real name is “George,” by the way — will make his long-awaited NHL debut tonight when his Habs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

    The 27-year-old, taken by L.A. in the third round of the 2006 draft, has traveled a long and winding road to get where he is today.

    The WHL Seattle product spent all of his time in the Kings organization at the minor league level, with both ECHL Ontario and AHL Manchester (he appeared in nearly 200 games with the Monarchs over a three-year span.)

    Always a capable scorer, Holloway jumped the pond in 2011 and signed in Sweden.

    There, he emerged as a star — in his first year, he set a record for most points in a SHL postseason (23 in 19 games) and, in his second, became just the second player in league history to score eclipse the 70-point plateau.

    In ’14-15, Holloway signed in Switzerland and continued to be a productive scorer, with 37 points in 42 games for SC Bern.

    This year he’s been on fire for the AHL IceCaps, scoring 20 points in 18 games.

    “This is a great story,” Habs head coach Michel Therrien told “The guy has showed a lot of resilience through his career to come back after playing a few years in Europe, and he did really well for [St. John’s].

    “For him to get an opportunity to play his first game in the NHL, those are great stories and he certainly deserves to finally get a shot in the NHL because he’s had success wherever he goes.”

    Based on yesterday’s line rushes, it looks like Holloway will play on Montreal’s fourth line with Paul Byron and Brian Flynn.

    Related: Habs recall former Swedish league scoring ace Holloway

    WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Bruins in the ’15 Thanksgiving Showdown

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    The Boston Bruins are hosting the New York Rangers in this year’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC — but if you’re unable to watch on TV, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

    You can watch the game online via NBC Sports’ Live Extra. Coverage begins just prior to puck drop at 1 p.m. ET.

    For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal, looking for redemption after he got the hook in his last outing, a 5-1 drubbing against Montreal.

    Boston will counter with Tuukka Rask, who stopped 39 of 42 shots in his last start — a win over Toronto on Monday.

    While their starting goalie remains the same from the Habs loss, the Blueshirts will make chances elsewhere. On defense, Dylan McIlrath draws in for Dan Boyle while at forward, Emerson Etem with take Viktor Stalberg‘s spot.

    For the Bruins, Kevan Miller — the defenseman that’s missed the last four games with an upper-body injury — could draw back into the lineup. Miller practiced this week and appears primed to skate in a pairing with Dennis Seidenberg.

    Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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    Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

    It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

    Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

    In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

    “He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

    Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

    Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

    “He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

    And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

    Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

    Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

    “Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

    One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

    The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.