Detroit Red Wings Prospects: Going Back to College
Dylan Larkin and James de Haas headline the Red Wings' NCAA prospects.
College hockey is about to enter a lull for the Christmas holiday. What better time to evaluate how Detroit Red Wings prospects in the NCAA have been doing so far this season?
James de Haas
#2 / Sophomore Defenseman / Clarkson University (ECAC)
May 3, 1994
How his team is doing: Clarkson's an interesting team this season. Their overall record isn't very impressive at a paltry 6-7-4, but the Golden Knights sit in third place (out of 12 teams) in the ECAC with 10 points and a 4-1-2 conference record. So Clarkson might make a visit to the NCAA tournament on a potential ECAC championship.
How he's doing: Clarkson's not a very potent offensive team, averaging just 1.82 goals per game through 16 games this season, but de Haas leads the blue line in scoring with nine points in 16 games, one point behind leading scorer Joe Zarbo. de Haas is also a part of a Clarkson defense which has given up just 2.00 goals per game this season, good for 11th in the nation out of 59 teams in Division 1.
I wrote about de Haas last season, and I must admit that of the players on this list, he's the one I know and see the most because of my life circumstances. Quite honestly, I'm floored by how far he's come in just one season of college hockey. People with more knowledge of the collegiate game than I do say the biggest transition comes between the freshman and sophomore seasons because one year of college hockey under a player's belt makes a player acutely aware of the level of competition and the kind of preparation necessary to overcome the challenges of NCAA hockey. de Haas's skating was already a big asset but it looks to have gotten better. Like every young defenseman, he's working on coverage in his own zone, and I'm sure head coach Casey Jones is giving his whole defense some lessons on how to use their big bodies to their advantage.
For a guy who didn't have much in the way of NHL prospects last season, the progress he's made is very encouraging. He's been bouncing around the lineup with all the shifts in the Clarkson defensive pairs, but he's spent most time on the second pair, an upgrade in responsibility from last season's third-pair duties.
If you want to watch de Haas play, Clarkson will visit Michigan State this Sunday, and the game should be on FSD.
#19 / Freshman Forward / University of Michigan (Big Ten)
July 30, 1996
How his team is doing: Michigan's been on the college hockey radar this season, but only after a recent run which featured six wins in the Wolverines' last seven games. Michigan sports an 8-6-0 overall record and sits second with six points and a 2-1-0 record in the Big Ten behind Penn State.
How he's doing: Michigan's offense is averaging 4.07 goals per game in large part thanks to the efforts of the line of Alex Kile, Zach Hyman, and one Dylan Larkin. Larkin is tied with Kile for second on the team with 15 points, and his 13 assists lead the team. Ordinarily, it's not surprising to see a freshman get in and out of the lineup as they adjust to the collegiate game, but Larkin has played in every game for the Wolverines this season, mostly in the second-line center position.
What's stood out in his impressive skill set is his two-way play as a freshman. He has the speed and skills to put up points, but the surprise to some at Michigan has been Larkin's play away from the puck. He hounds opponents and plays with a hunger for the puck that's defined the Red Wings during their current 23-season playoff streak. If Larkin is doing all this as a freshman, and head coach Red Berenson's most pressing concern is his consistency, it's a wonder to think of where he'll be in a year from now for his sophomore season and beyond.
Larkin was named to the preliminary roster for the U.S. World Junior team. We'll all find out on Christmas Eve if he made the team.
#10 / Senior Defenseman / University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
August 30, 1992
How his team is doing: Minnesota won seven of its first eight games, but since then has struggled with a 2-3-1 record in its last six games. The incumbent national runner-up sits fourth in the Big Ten with just four points, but the Golden Gophers have played just two conference games. Minnesota's biggest success so far has been winning the IceBreaker Tournament at Notre Dame to start off the season.
How he's doing: Marshall is second on his team in defense scoring, behind an absurd 17 points from junior blueliner (and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect) Mike Reilly. He's played in all of Minnesota's 14 games so far, most of them paired with San Jose Sharks prospect Michael Brodzinski.
This is honestly all I can say about Marshall at this point, as I haven't had a chance to watch a Gophers game this season and see him in action. I can't say what the organization's plans for him are, or what his own plans are for himself after graduation.
#35 / Freshman Goaltender / Colorado College (NCHC)
February 8, 1996
How his team is doing: Badly. There's no sugar-coating it. The Tigers are a bad team so far this season, with a 3-10-0 overall record, and a 0-7-0 mark in the powerhouse NCHC. Five of the eight teams in the conference are ranked in both the US College Hockey Online poll and the USA Today/ USA Hockey Magazine poll. Colorado College is just so far behind the rest of its competition in the NCHC.
How he's doing: There's no way Perry's to blame for all Colorado College's woes, but he's certainly played a part. A .879 save percentage isn't going to cut it, but it's not being helped with college hockey's second-worst team defense allowing 4.46 goals per game (just 0.01 away from Massachusetts' 4.47) and a 54th-ranked penalty kill at 76.4 percent. All the goals against the Tigers this season have led to both goalies in Perry and Tyler Marble getting pulled twice in games they've started.
Part of it certainly has to be the competition in their own conference. Miami is a powerhouse. North Dakota has been ranked the No. 1 team in the country. Minnesota Duluth swept Minnesota in a weekend series so far this season when Minnesota was the No. 1 team in the country. CC definitely can put away inferior opponents with solid performances against Alabama-Huntsville to open the season and against Wisconsin a few weeks ago. But against better competition, the Tigers just get shelled, and unless you expect Perry or Marble to make 35+ saves on a regular basis, there's no way CC can compete.
As I said about de Haas last season, the fact that Perry's a freshman does help him by buying time for his development. Whether that translates into some level of progress or success through Perry's NCAA career remains to be seen.
#2 / Sophomore Defenseman / Western Michigan University (Big Ten)
October 17, 1993
How his team is doing: Western Michigan has had a subpar season so far, going 5-8-1 and only 1-6-1 in the NCHC. Again, part of this is just a factor of how good the top teams are. The Broncos' only company in conference has been St. Cloud State. That said, Western does have some impressive wins on its resume, including a 6-3 win over Denver on November 8 and an 8-2 spanking of defending national champion Union in the Shillelagh Tournament final.
How he's doing: You see it in his stat line. No points, not many shots, but he's played in every game but one for the Broncos. His position is listed as a defenseman, but the Broncos have been using him as a forward in the left wing slot. You all learned from Michelle at the various prospect camps over the offseason just how much McKee has grown in a year. He's certainly not afraid to put that size to good use, but it did cost him a checking from behind major and game misconduct November 22 at Miami, which the RedHawks then used to swing the game in their favor.
For more (and better) insight into McKee as a player, here's Michelle's write-up from development camp. One thing I'll add is that aside from his 15 PIMs from that checking from behind penalty, McKee has taken only four minor penalties this season, which sounds like a major improvement for him.
#12 / Freshman Forward / University of Nebraska Omaha (NCHC)
September 27, 1994
How his team is doing: Omaha is a middling team in the NCHC, but as mentioned in Perry's entry, that's largely because the rest of the conference is just so good. An 8-4-2 mark overall and a 4-3-1 record in the NCHC have the Mavericks sitting in a respectable position.
How he's doing: Pope didn't crack the Omaha lineup until the team's seventh game of the season. I can't find anywhere if he was out injured or if the coach just decided to keep him as a healthy scratch, as freshmen tend to be. But he's played in the Mavericks' last eight games, and he's posted four goals in that stretch with that heavy shot of his. College hockey lineup sheets aren't wholly reliable for showing on what line or pair a player plays, but Pope has shifted between second and third line left wing.
I've hinted at this a few times already, but we have young college prospects. Larkin, based on his development trajectory, might not need or use all four years of college to develop and get ready before turning professional. Marshall is the closest to turning pro simply because of his class year, but the rest of them have plenty of time to grow as hockey players before needing to make any sort of jump to the AHL or NHL.