Monday, May 09, 2005

OHL Bantam Draft Aftermath

Yesterday was the OHL's entry draft. While the CHL isn't my particular area of expertise, a couple of the picks in the draft could have huge ramifications on some college hockey programs.

First and foremost, there was current college hockey player drafted yesterday and that was Ohio State's Tom Fritsche. Fritsche was drafted by Kitchener with the 18th pick of the 8th round. Granted, most early round picks are guys that are guaranteed to play in the OHL while the late round picks are gambles on guys that may or may not want to play in the OHL. Still, it's hard to believe they randomly chose Fritsche's name out of a hat. His brother, Danny, went the OHL route before being signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and after an outstanding freshmen year at Ohio State, perhaps Tom views the OHL as the fastest route to the pros. The fact that Kitchener drafted him is also bad news for Buckeye fans because they have a reputation of being able to talk guys out of college committments. Fritsche led the Buckeyes in scoring last year as a freshmen and looked to be one of the cornerstone pieces to the Buckeyes CCHA title run next year. Whether or not he makes it back to Columbus next year will be a story to keep an eye on over the summer.

The first two western players to commit to the class of 2007 were also drafted yesterday. But the stories of Michigan recruit Tristan Llewellyn and Nebraska-Omaha recruit Anthony Peluso were almost exact opposites.

Michigan fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when the first round came and went without Ann Arbor native, and the only 15 year old to play regularly in the USHL last year, Tristan Llewellyn wasn't drafted. In fact, the talented defenseman wasn't drafted until the middle of the 5th round by Saginaw. If Llewellyn had expressed interest in playing in the OHL next year, he would have definitely been a first round pick. Yesterday's low draft position indicated that Llewellyn has remained firm in his committment to play college hockey. That doesn't mean that Saginaw GM Bob Mancini won't come calling in the future, but for now, it looks like Llewellyn will be playing college hockey.

(BTW, for all we here about the importance of the "student" in student-athlete, how happy do you think Michigan fans would have been if Llewellyn was drafted and signed by Plymouth and got his educational package for the University of Michigan, thus giving Michigan fans the student, and not the athlete?)

Yesterday looked a little grimmer for Nebraska-Omaha fans. Last March, it looked as though UNO had landed their first ever major recruit in 6'4" 210 lbs. Canadian forward Anthony Peluso. Obviously Peluso has unbelievable size for a 15 year old, and has the skills to match. UNO fans had every reason to be thrilled. Yesterday, the chances of him ever wearing a Maverick uniform got a little bit smaller. Peluso was drafted in the first round, 10th overall by the Erie Otters. Peluso definitely has first round ability, and maybe someone of that size and skill level was too sweet to pass up, but it's really hard to believe that Erie would waste a first round pick on a kid without knowing they had at least a decent chance of signing him. It's not unprecedented that a kid is drafted in the first round of the OHL draft and still ends up in college hockey. Former Michigan State forward Brock Radunske is one example. But as of right now, I'd say the odds are now tipped pretty heavily in favor of Pelsuo going to the OHL rather than UNO.

Probably the biggest fallout from yesterday, however, is that it began to shape the talent pool for the class of 2007. Coaches no longer have to worry about recruiting some of the higher drafted players such as New York's Neil Petrecki, and can instead focus their efforts of players that were drafted lower, such as Ian Cole, Sam Gagner and Kevin Shattenkirk, or players that weren't drafted at all, such as Blake Geoffrion.

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