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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    J.T. Miller might be breaking through for the Rangers

    New York Rangers center J.T. Miller celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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    Don’t look now, but J.T. Miller might just be “getting it.”

    By “it” you can mean a number of things: New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault’s confidence, his own confidence and that scoring touch at the NHL level.

    He’s been on particularly hot streak for the last three weeks or so. While he failed to score in Saturday’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Miller reeled off a run in which he scored five points in three games and eight goals during a nine-game span.

    His teammates and coach have taken notice, too, as Denis Gorman of Metro New York reports.

    “The first practice I saw him, his strength, the way he shoots the puck. He has good hands, vision, he has everything to become a great hockey player,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “He’s getting there. He’s improving so much, but the biggest thing is probably just confidence, realizing that he is that good and he can use all these tools to be a great player.”

    The Rangers aim to be a regular contender, and sometimes staying in the picture is all about developing prospects like Miller.

    At the moment, it looks like he’s trending in an impressive direction.

    Isles clobber Oilers, Okposo nabs second career hat trick

    New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) reacts as he sits beside right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) on the bench after scoring his third goal for a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. The Islanders defeated the Oilers 8-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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    NEW YORK (AP) After two disappointing road losses, the New York Islanders needed to face a last-place opponent like the Edmonton Oilers.

    Kyle Okposo had his second career hat trick after the Islanders opened a commanding lead with three first-period goals and New York routed the Oilers 8-1 on Sunday.

    Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for the Islanders (27-18-6), who moved within three points of the New York Rangers for second-place in the Metropolitan Division.

    “It was good. Good to put up eight. It was a pretty good team effort,” Okposo said. “I thought we were going on all cylinders. It’s definitely nice to get rewarded.”

    Johnny Boychuck, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin scored in the opening period, chasing former Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson, who was replaced after Kulemin’s goal by former Ranger Cam Talbot.

    Boychuk, in his first home game after missing 11 games overall with an upper body injury suffered on Dec. 31 at Buffalo, ripped a slap shot past Nilsson at 2:57 for his fourth goal of the season.

    “It’s always good when you strike early,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We did a lot of good things and got two points.”

    Tavares made it 2-0 at 9:12 with his 19th goal before Kulemin added his sixth at 11:24. Oilers coach Todd McLellan then pulled Nilsson, who stopped only seven of the 10 shots he faced.

    Okposo made it 4-0 at 2:32 of the second, then scored again at 6:09 of the middle period.

    After Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid finally put Edmonton on the board with his seventh goal at 6:50, Josh Bailey made it 6-1 at 9:36.

    Cal Clutterbuck increased the margin to 7-1 at 16:04 of the middle period with his 11th goal. Talbot raised his arms in frustration after Clutterbuck’s goal, seemingly exasperated with the defensive effort in front of him.

    Okposo completed his hat trick at 7:27 of the third, when he whipped a shot on the power play past Talbot for his 15th goal of the season. The goal made it 8-1 and led to a cascade of hats tossed onto the Barclays Center ice. It was a season high in goals for the Islanders.

    “Kyle has been playing awesome,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who had three assists. “His contributions have been felt all year. He has been one of the best players on the ice game in and game out.”

    The defeat following Saturday night’s 5-1 loss at Montreal left McLellan fuming.

    “I don’t think we were prepared to play for those first few goals against,” McLellan said. “I’m very disappointed in the preparation and the approach to the game. We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and came here and responded in a very inappropriate way. ”

    The 19-year-old McDavid – the first overall pick in last June’s draft – returned after missing 37 games with a broken collarbone for the opening game of the Edmonton’s four-game trip. McDavid scored once and added two assists in a 5-1 win at Columbus, then had two assists in a 7-2 victory at Ottawa.

    Playing his first game since Jan. 12, Greiss was his usual stellar self. He didn’t have an especially tough game despite the litany of offensive skill on the Oilers roster in addition to McDavid.

    “It always helps when we score a bunch of quick goals. It seemed like it was going our way tonight,” Greiss said. “That would be awesome if we could score eight goals every game. We have to be realistic. It’s not going to happen too often.”

    Greiss improved to 14-6-2 this season, his first with the Islanders.

    The Islanders improved to 17-8-3 at Barclays Center in their first season in Brooklyn after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

    The Oilers haven’t won in New York against the Islanders since Dec. 14, 1999, when they beat the Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum.

    NOTES: Former Islander Griffin Reinhart played against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2012 for the first time. … The teams meet again in Edmonton on Feb. 28.

    Habs grab rare back-to-back wins this weekend

    Montreal Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens falls after making a save while facing the Carolina Hurricanes during first-period NHL hockey game action, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    The Montreal Canadiens were a bit like Ben Scrivens (in his near-ideal state) this weekend: not always pretty, but they got the job done.

    A day after Scrivens thwarted his former team in the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-1 win, the journeyed goalie was integral in Montreal scraping out a 2-1 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Now, it’s easy to scoff at two wins against two teams who are – let’s be honest – pretty unremarkable.

    The Canadiens aren’t really in a position to laugh off any victory, however. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that this is their first set of consecutive wins since late November.

    Even through all this frustration, certain top Canadiens stand out as keeping the team afloat. Andrei Markov hit an impressive milestone:

    … While Max Pacioretty scored his 20th goal in emphatic fashion:

    As P.K. Subban‘s numbers argue, Montreal’s biggest problem has been getting results from more under-the-radar players. In Sunday’s case, Scrivens delivered.

    Montreal still faces an uphill battle, but perhaps a weekend like this might serve as a catalyst for a nice climb?

    Malcolm Subban in stable condition, suffered fractured larynx

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    The Boston Bruins updated Malcolm Subban‘s condition a day after the goaltending prospect was hospitalized after being struck in the throat with a puck.

    “Malcolm Subban was struck in the throat with a puck Saturday night during pregame warmups. He was transported to Maine Medical Center and was diagnosed with a fractured larynx. He stayed overnight at Maine Medical Center and was transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team will provide additional details when they become available.”

    Awful news, although at least he’s in stable condition.

    PHT will stay tuned for further updates regarding the 22-year-old.

    Subban did tweet a thanks for support:

    A little context makes that a little sad, too.

    P.K. Subban seems confident his brother will bounce back.