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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    The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

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    Players of the Night:

    Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

    Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

    Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Filthy pass:

    First-goal celebrations are always the best:

    Voracek with a slick move in front:

    Save of the year candidate:

    Factoids of the Night:

    Home is where the wins are:

    A legend passes a legend:

    Believe in McJesus:

    Scary Scenes of the Night:


    Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

    Oilers 4, Panthers 2

    Devils 3, Kings 0

    Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

    Bruins 3, Lightning 0

    Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

    Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

    Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

    Wild 3, Coyotes 1

    Sharks 5, Canucks 3

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

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    We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

    Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

    Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

    Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

    Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

    He did not return to the game.

    If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


    A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

    David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

    Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

    Backes did not return to the game.

    The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


    The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

    Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

    “Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

    Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

    The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

    Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

    “I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

    You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

    There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

    No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

    TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

    Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

    UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck