Doc DelCastillo was named the head coach at Alaska early in June and his first couple months on the job, at least from a recruiting standpoint, have been extremely entertaining.
DelCastillo has received commitments from 7 players since taking over as head coach. His first two recruits; Indiana's Nathan Lawrence for next year, and Tri-City's Jordan vanGilder for 2008 were fairly typical. Since then, however, DelCastillo has gone "off the board" so to speak with commitments from OPJHL forward Tim Revell, Russell Stover midget defenseman Bob Marx, Culver Academy defenseman Steven Hoshaw, and his two most recent commitments, Kaare Odegard and Jake Slemp from the Red Deer Optimist Rebels midget team. The latter four players were all born in 1990, and aren't expected to join the Nanooks until 2010.
That's not to say any of those players are bad choices. To be honest, I know close to nothing about them, and DelCastillo has earned a fabulous reputation as a recruiter and spotter of talent. It's just a very non-traditional approach. For comparison, there are only 6 other players slated to join college programs in 2010. Furthermore, three of the four players played Midget AAA hockey last season(Culver Academy plays a mix of AAA programs and other prep schools). While it is becoming more commonplace to recruit players out of AAA hockey, it is still pretty rare that a kid commits to a college prior to playing junior hockey.
The risks are fairly obvious. These are still fairly young kids who have a lot of developing to do before they are ready for college hockey. It's tough enough to predict what a kid will do three weeks from now, let alone three years from now. Fairbanks could end up with four superstars, or four average players. Some of them may not even make it to campus.
It's certainly a gamble, but probably a gamble worth taking for Alaska. Fairbanks is in a difficult position, having to compete with teams like Michigan, Notre Dame, and Michigan State, who are able to pick from the "cream of the crop" in terms of prospects, and having to deal with being so far away from the rest of the United States. It would be very difficult for the Nanooks to compete with those other programs if they tried the same methods as their peers.
Will it work? Only time will tell, and it will be a long time until we know for sure. In five years time, DelCastillo will probably either look like the smartest coach in college hockey, or the dumbest. I have a feeling, however, that things just may work in his favor.