The NCAA is an important grooming ground for future NHL players. Those who take the college route often bloom later than players who opt for the CHL, but the importance of finding future stars in the USHL and NCAA ranks is easily shown with stars like Jonathan Toews and Johnny Gaudreau.
The Anaheim Ducks have several recent late-round picks playing for various Division I programs, and five of them were involved in the NCAA tournament that took place this past weekend.
Troy Terry (Denver), Andy Welinski (Minnesota Duluth), Kevin Roy (Northeastern), and Keaton Thompson (North Dakota) all played in the tournament. Steven Ruggiero (Providence), a Ducks sixth round pick, did not play in his team’s loss to Minnesota-Duluth.
Two of the five Ducks draftees, Troy Terry and Keaton Thompson, made it through to the Frozen Four.
Terry was drafted in the fifth round, 148th overall in the 2015 entry draft from the USA U-18 team in the USHL. Terry had five assists in the wins against Boston University and Ferris State to send Denver to the Frozen Four, including an assist on the game winner vs BU.
The young forward has impressed in his first season in the NCAA, showcasing his skill set and finishing sixth in team scoring with nine goals and 22 points through 40 games. He still has some developing to do before making the jump to the pro ranks, and he is a bit undersized at 5’11 and 160 pounds.
Thompson, the other Ducks pick that will be playing in the Frozen Four, is in his junior year at the University of North Dakota. He was drafted in the third round, 87th overall in 2013 while with the USNTDP.
The 6-foot-1, 201 pound defensemen scored a pair of goals to go with 15 assists through 41 games, and has increased his point total each year at UND. Thompson had two assists and a plus-3 rating in the win vs Kevin Roy’s Northeastern squad, and a minus-1 rating in UND’s win against Michigan.
With their losses this past week, Kevin Roy and Andy Welinski both finished their college hockey careers, so it is likely that the next step will be turning pro like a few of their Division I peers and (hopefully) joining Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego.
Welinski captained Minnesota-Duluth for his senior season, scoring six goals and 19 points in 40 games. He was also second on the team with 45 penalty minutes, and finished plus-13 on the season.
The 6-foot-1, 196 pound dman had a whopping seven shots on goal in UMD’s win over Providence, followed by an even rating with two shots and two penalty minutes in the loss to Boston College.
Welinski was drafted by the Ducks way back in 2011 in the third round with the 83rd overall pick.
Kevin Roy also captained his team during his senior season, and finished with 10 goals and 26 points in just 29 games, including an assist in Northeastern’s loss to North Dakota. He had posted over 40 points in each of the past two seasons, so missing time this year likely caused the drop.
Roy was drafted in the fourth round, 97th overall in 2012. He’s a smaller player at just 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, but has shown he can play with men by putting up solid numbers over his four years at Northeastern.
Steven Ruggiero, the first of Anaheim’s two sixth-round selections in the 2015 draft, played his first season in the NCAA for Providence, though he didn’t play in their NCAA tournament loss.
Ruggiero played 10 games for Providence, and had one assist with 19 penalty minutes and a plus-three rating. The 19-year old defensemen already stands 6-foot-3, weighing in at 201 pounds, and will look to take the next step in his development next season.
Two of Anaheim’s NCAA prospects have a chance to shine on the biggest stage in college hockey, while two others are entering the next stage of their hockey careers and looking to climb the ranks to the NHL.
Anaheim has Division I prospects at almost every stage of their career, and the development of these players will be instrumental in the future of the Ducks.