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Friday, February 23, 2007

Hockey down the road. The USHL profiles a couple of '91 recruits. One is future NTDPer David Valek, who is either a Czech dual citizen...

David came to Detroit Honeybaked this year via the Czech Republic, where he has played the past few seasons. The last two years he has played in a town called Tinec, and in both years he played for two teams - a younger development team and the older main team in his town.
...or didn't get the memo that Prague is so 1995. Valek's currently at Detroit Honeybaked and has Michigan season tickets. As a '91, he would come in with the 2009 class. But that's only of provincial interest.

The larger issue is raised by the other recruit profiled. He doesn't have any particular Michigan connections; he does have an interesting opinion or two on the OHL-NCAA tug of war:
Lowry has a bit of knowledge of college hockey, and feels that living in the major junior hockey hotbed of Kitchener/Waterloo that college hockey falls short in promoting their game to kids in Ontario, Canada. "I think I have gotten one thing from a college and it was a survey," Lowry said. "I have gotten 5 or 6 cover letters from OHL teams and OHL Central Scouting. As well, my team had a seminar with the OHL." With that said, he is well aware of the opportunity to play in the NCAA. When asked about his knowledge of college hockey, Lowry stated, "at Prospects a few years ago I went to a great seminar about NCAA hockey. They explained it to us, and I know it is good hockey for sure." When asked what college hockey needs to do to get the word out more, Lowry said, "I think they need to open up the rules a bit, let college coaches contact kids earlier."
Lowry's proposed rule change is on the table according to this Waterloo, Ontario newspaper article on the OHL's push towards ever-younger contact with youth hockey players:
This April, the NCAA will consider changing its rules to allow schools to contact players in their Grade 10 years once a month.
The only reason for this rule change is the NCAA's ongoing war with the CHL; the primary reason for this OHL initiative is the ascension of the USHL, which attained "Tier I" status from USA Hockey in 2002 by increasing its financial commitments to its players. The ensuing rush of talented players planning on playing in college gutted the NAHL, its domestic college-feeder competitor, and created a league nearly on a par with anything the CHL can offer. Current Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, who left LSSU for the OHL years back:
Notre Dame's Jackson, who also coached in the Ontario Hockey League, believes the USHL's top teams would be competitive if they moved to the OHL.
That implies that the league as a whole is still a step or two behind the CHL but the difference is neglible enough for the OHL to start a series of "Elite U-16" camps that seem an obvious attempt to win mindshare. You can check the OHL's breathless press release or the above-mentioned Waterloo article, which features a couple of partisans going "did too/did not" for its length. The series of events (USHL gets big, USHL starts raking in recruits who might otherwise be CHL all the way, OHL starts reaching out to younger kids, filling their heads with LIES LIES LIES their opinion about the college game) and Occam's razor suggests that "did too" is the right answer.

A world-class junior league that maintains players' collegiate eligibility removes a major selling point the OHL had over college hockey by providing elite players a place to go for the last couple years before they hit campus. USA Today had an extensive article on the league a couple weeks ago with quotes from Tristin Llewellyn:
Clearly, the USHL players have pride in their league. "Actually I think this league is just as good, if not better, than most (Canadian) Major Junior," Tri-City player Tristin Llewellyn says.

Llewellyn says the USHL "has to be the fastest league in North America." He says when he trains with OHL players or in Calgary with Western Hockey League players, what those players see as "their fastest speed seems average to me."

Llewellyn will be suiting up at Yost this fall.

(Via WCH and Marc Foster.)