The Sports Center

The Offseason News You May Have Missed, Ranked By Awkwardness

AKA The Urkels

Greetings from the offseason!

No matter what idea ice sheets being made in August gives, there are still two months left before the puck gets dropped on the 2016-17 college hockey season. Now is a time to relax, unplug from the grid and enjoy the horribly warm weather that all except Arizona State and Huntsville will be wishing for in January.

With all the news that comes out over over the summer, catching up to the days, the weeks, the months gone by once plugged back in doesn’t take too much time. Little enough changes between the NHL Draft and school starting – an announcement here, a commitment there, a player leaving early for the CHL (or in Bemidji State’s case, the KHL!) elsewhere – where even the smallest news still comes in drips.

Down at our virtual SB Nation College Hockey cabin/cottage/resort/dilapidated MTV beach house, we’ve been keeping track yet taking it slow outside of the occasional trek to summer camps and beauty leagues. Otherwise it’s been snacks and reruns of TV shows like “Family Matters.”

At this point in the summer, however, there has been enough news to take the stories and comment on the ones missed.

Here are some of the things you may have missed as you prepare to re-enter the world of college hockey. The top 25 pieces of offseason news. In the spirit of “Family Matters” – as awkward as a show as there might be (for those unaware, Urkel builds a robot and has an evil twin alter ego and fights pirates and shrinks Carl and himself and somehow none of that seems out of the ordinary for a TGIF show) – the news is ranked from least awkward, your average run of the mill news to Steve Urkel “did I do that?” levels of awkwardness.

(#1-7) Not Awkward:

-Bentley getting a new arena: Few teams need a new rink like Bentley, whose current building holds 1000 and by all accounts is both more fit for high school and testing gear for Antarctic expeditions. Congrats Falcons!

-AIC moving out of a HS arena too: Great job Atlantic Hockey! It’s truly a new era for the Yellow Jackets between the retirement of 32 year head coach Gary Wright and sharing a home with Springfield’s AHL team.

-Coaching changes: There have been plenty of changes among the coaching ranks nationally. Several assistants have left to take new jobs, which have then been filled. There will be four new head coaches – AIC, UMass, St. Lawrence and Wisconsin – when October rolls around. Their work has already started on the recruiting trail with several players (or, if you’re Tony Granato with the Badgers, seemingly every teenager under the sun) committing.

Related: Your team getting a new captain and/or impact freshmen.

-North Dakota and Minnesota celebrating men’s and women’s national championships: Nothing weird has happened yet. Okay maybe this.

Believe it. Earn it. Rollerblade it. pic.twitter.com/auXcEJcyDT

— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) June 16, 2016

And this.

Natty is ready to hit the links, and it’s a perfect day for the @GopherMGolf/#GWH golf outing! #NattyTour2K16 ☀️ ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/YUMbQDMCHE

— Minnesota W Hockey (@GopherWHockey) July 25, 2016

-No one specifically leaving for CHL (yet): I probably jinxed this one, but by this point in the summer the CHL-NCAA battle has heated up normally. That hasn’t been the case this year. There’s nothing. Other than Miami’s Jack Roslovic signing with Winnipeg and potentially being sent to play with London (OHL), the “battles” have so far been all quiet on the college front. Clayton Keller reiterated his commitment last week to BU over Windsor.

However, there was a first with Bemidji State’s Ruslan Pedan leaving for the KHL, leaving the Beavers with one upperclassmen on the blue line.

-Setting an NHL Draft record: 11 players with NCAA ties went in the first round this past June ranging from the aforementioned Keller at #7 to Wisconsin incoming freshman Trent Frederic at #29. It was only three years ago where one player with NCAA ties (who then subsequently chose the CHL route, leaving college with a goose egg) was chosen in the first round. The Badgers and Terriers – the first school since Minnesota in 2006 to have four players go in the first round – each had multiple first round picks. And that says nothing about a school like St. Cloud State getting its first 1st round draft pick.

Going beyond the first round, 61 players with college ties were drafted by 29 NHL teams.

-St. Louis representing: One of America’s most underrated hockey markets, 5 of the 12 Americans drafted (Logan Brown, Frederic, Keller, Luke Kunin and Matthew Tkachuk) in the first round came originally from the St. Louis area. That’s a good year for any market, let alone St. Louis.

(#8-11) “Judy Winslow getting the Chuck Cunningham treatment and disappearing” Level of Awkward:

-Five first rounders from an American market and state without a college team: The Billikens used to play in the CCHA. Just saying…

-BC losing 7 underclassmen to NHL deals, topping North Dakota and Michigan: 2016 was a new high or low, depending on how you want to see it, for players leaving early. Teams losing five players early in a single offseason to pro contracts had been rare over the past decade before three different teams eclipsed it this year. Whether it’s a one-year aberration or a sign of things to come with NHL teams wanting to gain more and more control, that remains to be seen.

Michigan and North Dakota among others, however, were eclipsed by Boston College, which finished with seven underclassmen turning pro after Zach Sanford signed with Washington following the Capitals’ development camp. (It also makes our friends at BC Interruption’s departure odds post look sad in retrospect.) Throw in Jeremy Bracco bailing a month into last season and it looks like the next few Senior Nights at Chestnut Hill will be quick affairs.

-Frozen Fenway returning: At this point I’m just numb to the outdoor concept in college hockey. Frozen Fenway has not helped with all 12 current Hockey East teams having played at Boston by the end of the next set of games.

-Players being cut in some sense: Several schools, including UMass, Maine, CC and Wisconsin, have multiple players from last year’s team that will not return in the fall. Others, such as former BU defenseman Brandon Fortunato, went searching for a new location after the number games didn’t work out on in their favor. In Fortunato’s case he ended up transferring to Quinnipiac.

(#12-13) “Recasting Harriet Winslow for half a season” Kind of Awkward:

-UMD freshman/Dallas Stars 2016 first rounder Riley Tufte breaking his wrist at the United States NJEC: It’s unfortunate to have an injury at any time. If Tufte needs six-to-eight weeks to recover, however, then breaking his wrist two months before the season might be the best time. The Bulldogs will take Tufte starting the preseason late – and still being able to skate, mind you – over being without its top freshman for half the season.

-North Dakota’s new logo: The Fighting Hawks have a logo!

(#14-17) Urkelbot Awkward:

-Rem Pitlick changing his mind and going to college this year after being 99% sure the USHL Player of the Year would stay in the USHL: Roster changes this late in the offseason usually go the other way with players leaving school.

-Union’s alternate jersey for this season: Yeah….

-UConn’s Max Letunov NHL draft rights traded for a second time: At least you can say teams are very interested in the Russian sophomore forward, who has gone from St. Louis to Arizona to now San Jose as part of trades.

-Two of the top 3 2015 NWHL picks deciding to play outside the NWHL: Growing pains for a young American women’s hockey league with a pair of elite Americans – Minnesota’s Hannah Brandt and Northeastern’s Kendall Coyne – playing on a team that doesn’t belong to a league. (And the third, BC’s Alex Carpenter, signed only after being traded from the team that originally drafted her #1 overall.)

(#18-21) Stefan Urquelle good twin/evil twin dynamic:

-Jimmy Vesey: Decision Day for the Hobey Baker Award winner looms near. The Harvard graduate/technically Buffalo Sabres prospect can sign with any NHL team after August 15th. One team will be ecstatic it got the top collegiate free agent with 29 sad to miss out on Vesey’s services.

We already know what side Nashville is on. The Predators share it with Michigan.

-Cities clamoring for a Frozen Four: Expect a bid if you live in a major city inside the college hockey beltway of America. Or are just Tampa.

-Iowa not being interested in adding hockey: Your loss, Hawkeyes. Your loss, Big Ten conference needing an eighth member.

-North Dakota and Minnesota heading out to Las Vegas in 2018: It’s either a good idea or a horrible one. Regardless, UND-Minnesota is something people care.

(#22-23) Myrtle Urkel Awkward – that extremely weird awkwardness which shows once or twice a season:

-Failed Arizona State conference announcement: In an otherwise good summer for Desert Hockey in the Southwestern United States, the Sun Devils have yet to announce the conference where it will be playing after a second season playing as an independent. Moving the goalposts for such a big decision is okay. It happens. What makes it awkward is news coming out in late April that Arizona State is close to joining in the NCHC with both school and conference having to back away. Since then, there has been nothing.

-WCHA men’s hockey in general: Credit to the WCHA for thinking outside the box and making a splash. That’s the nicest thing about this offseason. Little has gone right with the conference this summer. Public overtures towards ASU not being returned (if the above news is to believed), its three conference tournament idea going nowhere, low scoring and defensive play costing recruits and players transferring, and one of its regular season champions wanting to join a different conference. Saddest of all is after decades of use the WCHA shut down a neutral site conference tournament and its famous Final Five moniker – which then became worldwide famous, getting used as a nickname by the US Gymnastics team!

While Murphy’s Law hangs over the WCHA, some moves were made for the right purposes(i.e. still waiting for the Big Ten to officially go to an on-campus conference tournament). When compared to others, such as the NCHC, home of the defending national champs and where half the teams with first round draft picks this year, and Big Ten, which picked up Notre Dame and owns national TV coverage, things could be better.

At least Ferris State can claim superiority after upsetting St. Cloud State in the NCAA Tournament. And the women’s side remains a powerhouse in the sport. So the WCHA has that going for it.

(#24) Carl going along with Steve’s schemes for some strange reason:

-4×4 overtime being approved by the rules committee before being tabled: Getting rid of 5×5 overtime for something more pro-like is paused for at least one more season, if ever. The new format/potential competitive advantage was the latest victim, following the Big Ten’s age proposal, to be shot down by the familiar small school-big school 50-10 coaches vote.  Like the age proposal, this one went down in flames.

One more of these and it will be safe to say either coaches really don’t like change or it has nothing to do with the actual proposal in general.

(#25) “Did I Do That?”

-Minnesota State’s letter to the NCHC being made public: There is so much awkward here that a paragraph won’t do justice.

Every bit leaves the Mavericks in an odd limbo. I understand why Minnesota State would yet that still doesn’t change the situation. Having its overtures made public and later finding out Bowling Green did nothing of the sort puts the Mavericks in an even more awkward position. And like everyone in the 1990s who couldn’t turn away from Steve Urkel’s antics, I can’t either.

——————-

Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter — Follow @gopherstate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *