ns don’t remember how this summer project obtained started. Maybe it was simply the realization that I’ve excellent this for so long that a the majority of the old story that I take into consideration canon are no longer recognized to most people.

But anyway, the inquiry I collection out to answer was this: who were the ideal players to commit to a college, however never play NCAA hockey?

Criteria because that my list was: 1) the player had to be committed to one NCAA school(This can be a little muddier going ago to the Dark Ages prior to Twitter, but I had to have the ability to find at least some reference tying a player to a particular school), 2) the player didn’t appear in any type of NCAA games(No Duncan Keith, that played a year-and-a-half prior to signing in the CHL), and also 3) the player had to pat at the very least one game in the NHL(so no Angelo Esposito or George Pelawa).

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I tried to be as thorough as possible in producing this list. Ns think i did a reasonably solid job within my an individual frame of recommendation which dates back to around 2005, and have a few well-known persons from before that time too. I’m sure there space a the majority of older ones ns missed.

I must also allude out the this no an proof of any specific route the development. In going v the archives and also researching for this list, the number of players that broke college commitments and also then were never ever heard native again far, much outweighed the ones that made it to the big time. This is an ext an practice in looking earlier wistfully at what might have been.

Grouping what came to be a reasonably long list was a daunting task. I determined to pick one six-player team of guys that I taken into consideration to be the biggest losses/best stories, a couple of other story I preferred as honorable mentions, and then, if she still with me a couple of thousand indigenous later, I broke down the rest right into a couple different categories that assist explain your situation.

The All-Decommit Team

Eric Lindros, Michigan


The saga that Eric Lindros could probably fill this whole article, if not an entire book.

If Hockey Canada’s exceptional Player exemption had existed earlier in the late 1980’s, Eric Lindros definitely would have received it. It can be suggested that in the virtually three decades because Lindros came v the minor hockey ranks there have been a couple of more talented attack prospects. Sidney Crosby, man Tavares and Connor McDavid space the 3 I would certainly consider. But there hasn’t to be anything nearby to one more player that was maybe to conquer the game both v his offense and also physicality the means that Lindros was able to, specifically as a youngster comes up through minor hockey in Toronto. This term it s okay thrown around, paradoxically, about the likes the Crosby, Ovechkin, McDavid, and also Matthews these days, but Eric Lindros is the just player that I would truly label a once-in-a-generation player.

So Lindros was seemingly a slam-dunk to be selected very first overall in the 1989 OHL Draft, v the pick held by the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. The only thing standing in the way was Lindros’ notoriously daunting parents. The Lindros household made it clear both to Sault Ste Marie and the basic public the Eric would not report if he to be picked by the Greyhounds. The official family members line was the the long bus rides in the OHL station would have a negative effect top top Eric’s schooling, though many read in between the lines and saw the as password for the Soo gift too far away for the Lindros parental to micromanage his career.

Despite the Lindros family members telling Sault Ste Marie Eric i will not ~ report—in rather explicit terms—the Greyhounds did end up drafting Eric first overall. He was plainly the best overall player in the draft(#2 overall Jamie Matthews would certainly go on to have actually a very nice OHL career, but never play hockey after ~ that). Yet the other reason Sault Ste Marie drafted Lindros, at the very least according to the Lindros family, was the NHL legend Phil Esposito, who was a partial owner of the Greyhounds, to be looking to offer his share of the team and also insisted ~ above drafting Lindros to rise the worth of the franchise for the sale. Together conspiracy theories go, it’s in reality pretty plausible. Esposito readily available a half-hearted denial at best(""Mrs. Lindros needs to understand the junior hockey is a business. What if her son gets drafted by Quebec next year? Where"s he going come go, Europe?"", Esposito said, with what turned out to be an excellent prescience) and also perhaps tellingly, had actually sold his share of the team by the adhering to winter.

With Lindros refusing to play because that Sault Ste Marie, he started the year v the Compuware Ambassadors the the NAHL and his parents dangling the possibility of NCAA hockey if Eric’s legal rights weren’t traded in other places in the league.

Michigan was passionate to jump at the opportunity. Red Berenson called Lindros the best 16-year-old hockey player he had ever before seen and also was desperate to get the star player. In ~ that allude in time, Berenson had actually started to rotate Michigan’s program around, posting two directly winning seasons after three losing seasons, however had yet to knife an appearance in the NCAA tournament. He even had a Michigan jersey through Lindros’ favorite number, 88, printed up for him.(It i will not ~ be till 1998 when Mike Comrie joined the Wolverines that a player would wear a number higher than 35 at Michigan). The Lindros camp started telling human being that that was all set to play in ~ Michigan if the Greyhounds didn’t trade him.

Lindros was slated to graduate indigenous high institution on January 15th the year. Presumably, he could have enrolled in ~ Michigan for the 2nd semester of that season. The clock to be ticking because that the Greyhounds to make a trade and keep the superstar in the OHL.

Complicating problem was that the OHL had actually a dominance saying 16-year-old football player couldn’t it is in traded until a year after ~ they had actually been drafted; the reasonable being the if a youngster cursed to one OHL program, the wouldn’t have to worry about being shipped elsewhere for at the very least a year. Therefore OHL commissioner David Branch developed a unique trading home window from January 1st to January 10th of that year because that the Greyhounds to relocate Lindros to a various team. The Oshawa Generals come in through the best offer among teams agree to the Lindros clan, and also Eric joined the Generals for the second half of the season, whereby he was instantly an impact player in the league.

The special trading window ended up being a an excellent deal because that the OHL as a whole. Lindros’ an initial 15 gamings in the league attracted a linked total of 22,098 more fans than the median attendance pre-Lindros in those buildings.

As for Michigan, they dropped just brief of the NCAA competition in the ‘89-’90 season thanks to a controversial decision by the competition committee to select Bowling Green, then a national power, end the up-and-coming Wolverines regardless of Michigan beating the Falcons in that week’s CCHA Tournament. That was one of the determinants in the competition committee relocating towards a more strictly math-based technique to selecting a competition field.

Lindros’ scholarship at Michigan ended up going to Anton Fyodorov, significant for gift the first athlete native the Soviet Union to obtain an NCAA athletic scholarship and also not much else. The played just 18 games at Michigan, scoring a single goal.

Patrick Kane, Boston University

photograph by Jonathan Daniel/Getty images The us National breakthrough Program has undeniably to be a large boon because that college hockey. This perform would have actually been a many longer had the NTDP not noted a deluxe two-year regime for few of America’s finest young players.

But over there is one quirk in the regime that has ended up hurting college hockey native time come time. The IIHF offers January first as your birthday cut-off line, and with the NTDP concentrated towards worldwide success, they select their groups by bear year(everyone joining next year’s NTDP U17 team will be born in 2001, because that example). However the US school system generally uses September 1st as the cut-off day for beginning school. That method that while the majority of players the come into the NTDP join as 11th graders, and also have i graduated high institution by the time they age out that the routine two year later, those football player born the latter quarter the the year typically come into the regimen as 10th graders, and also would still have a year of high college to complete prior to they were eligible to play college hockey. Some players played secondary year in the USHL while they finished high school. Jimmy Hayes took the unconventional route of continuing to be with the NTDP for a 3rd year, despite being can not to pat in any type of of their worldwide events. And some football player accelerate your schooling for this reason they in essence graduate a year earlier and also move to university hockey after ~ aging the end of the NTDP.

That to be the place Pat Kane—a November birthday— was in in 2006. That had developed into a leading player v the NTDP. He scored 102 points with the NTDP U18s, a program document that would certainly stand till it was broken by Auston Matthews in 2015. The wasn’t rather yet in the conversation to go very first overall in the 2007 NHL Draft, however he was quite clearly the top available NCAA recruitment at the time—Boston University and also Michigan were thought about the 2 finalists, through BU stop a presumed edge—and was additionally being greatly pursued through the London Knights the the OHL.

Standing in the means of the NCAA course was the Kane tho had one more year of high institution to complete. There was some effort made in the direction of Kane speeding up his studies to be eligible to play college hockey the next fall, yet the best-case scenario was the Kane beat the first half of the year either with the Omaha Lancers in the USHL, or through the NTDP and also then join a university team because that the second semester.

Kane didn’t make his last decision till late-August of the year, yet ultimately made decision the London Knights. It was most likely the logical choice to emphasis on hockey in his NHL breeze year, fairly than worrying around cramming in a most schoolwork simply to play college hockey for what would have likely been a really short amount of time. The move finished up working out. Kane was an excellent with the Knights and also ended up going native a heavy mid-first round choose to the clear-cut #1 all at once player in the draft, and an NHL superstar.

Jamie Benn, Alaska-Fairbanks

picture by Bruce Bennett/Getty images A big part that the factor Alaska-Fairbanks has been may be to stay competitive in college hockey in spite of the multitude of challenges lugged on by your location has actually been their incredible recruiting track document in western Canada. Out of the 11 Nanook alumni come play in the NHL, 10 have come out of west Canada(Shawn Chambers is the one exception), including one of the height young defensemen in the league in Colton Parayko. However their biggest discover in west Canada never ever made it to campus.

Fairbanks recruited Jamie Benn as a 16-year-old out of something dubbed the Vancouver Island small Hockey League, a Jr. B league that has had a grasp of alumni at some point go on come play in the NHL, but I battle to think of any other player that secured an NCAA commitment while play in the league. For good measure, they likewise picked a commitment from his older, much less heralded brothers Jordie together well.

The next year, Benn moved up to the BCHL and had a solid season, which caused him gift selected in the fifth round that the NHL breeze by the Dallas Stars. Likewise that summer, Alaska-Fairbanks head coach Tavis MacMillan unexpectedly resigned native his position, and rather than hiring one of two people of his two aides at the reference of MacMillan, UAF chose to rental Doc DelCastillo, who lasted simply one odd, turoulend season in the role(One that the aides recommended by MacMillan, Dallas Ferguson, would be hired the adhering to summer and held the job until this summer, once he came to be head coach the the Calgary Hitmen).

Meanwhile, Kelowna the the WHL was putting on the full-court press for Benn’s services, claiming to sell a faster track to the NHL, especially since Benn would have had actually to return to the BCHL for another year prior to being able to play for the Nanooks.

Eventually, Benn relented, signing through the Rockets early on that adhering to season. ~ two solid WHL seasons, Benn jumped straight right into the NHL and also has become of the game’s premier goal scorers.

Having fewer options than his younger brother, Jordie stayed committed come Alaska-Fairbanks, yet was never able to make it previous the NCAA Clearinghouse. That signed right into the ECHL straight out of junior hockey, and also worked his method up to play end 300 NHL games.

Chris Pronger, Bowling Green

This was well prior to the era that Twitter, wherein players publicly announce your college commitments, say thanks to everyone that assisted them follow me the way, and also then a 52-year-old guy races to leave a snapshot of self in tights as the first reply for this reason he have the right to sell much more hats. It to be a simpler, and also arguably better, time. For this reason it’s not really clear how “officially” committed to Bowling eco-friendly Chris Pronger was, however there was at least some expectation in the spring of 1991 that Pronger would follow in his older brothers Sean’s footsteps to play because that the Falcons.

I can not tell you much about the agreement rankings for the 1991 OHL Draft, yet the reality that Pronger, that was currently enormous and coming turn off a season where he average over a allude per video game and almost 3 PIMs per game in Jr. B hockey, and also had stood for Ontario in ~ the Canadian Winter Games, dropped to the sixth round of the OHL draft leads me to think that expectation that him play college hockey was reasonably strong.

Pronger sat down through his family members that summer, however and decided to authorize with the Peterborough Petes, and also that move finished up paying turn off for him. Pronger would ultimately be selected 2nd overall in the 1993 NHL Draft. The first overall pick in that Draft to be Alexandre Daigle, who infamously and also unfortunately said “I’m glad ns went number one, since no one remembers number two”. Daigle go on to be among the biggest busts ever selected first overall, while Pronger go on to a room of reputation career.

Pronger no a complete stranger in Bowling Green, however. Three days ~ his rookie season with the Hartford Whalers ended, Pronger to be arrested for driving under the influence by the Ohio State Patrol just external of Bowling eco-friendly while visiting his enlarge brother. It was Pronger’s 2nd arrest in much less than a month ~ being one of seven Whalers affiliated in a 4AM nightclub brawl in Buffalo in late March, the night before a game against the Sabres(which Hartford lost). Pronger pled no challenge to the DUI in Ohio for which he to be fined $483 and also sentenced to 3 days in jail. 2 weeks after being sentenced to literal jail, Pronger to be freed from a figurative jail as soon as the Hartford Whalers fired head coach Pierre McGuire(yes, that one) after simply six months, for great reason.

Cam Fowler, Notre Dame

photo by take care of How/Getty photos Rumors of money pass under-the-table to peak prospects have actually been approximately for a long time in the CHL. Most civilization in the hockey people accept it as among those things everybody knows, but nobody yes, really talks about. Every once in a while though, the issue flares come the surface and becomes public.

There to be a lengthy time that i said electronic came Fowler was the ideal 15-year-old hockey player I had seen. Since then, just Zach Werenski maybe falls into that category. So when Fowler made decision to commit to Notre Dame the September the his OHL draft year, everyone meant there to be still walking to be a huge fight for his services when the OHL was able to go after him.

The college commitment dropped Fowler to 18th in its entirety in the 2007 OHL draft to the Kitchener Rangers. Fowler played the next season through the NTDP U17s and the complying with spring, v Fowler spring poised to play because that the U18s the following year, the rangers released their rights to Fowler in order to get a second round choose as compensation(which castle reportedly needed to complete a previous trade). Fowler went ago into the OHL draft pool and also was selected 17th all at once by the Windsor Spitfires.

By February of that year, Windsor had convinced Fowler to play the complying with year, his NHL breeze year, through the Spitfires. The Spitfires, led by the likes that Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Ryan Ellis and Fowler would cruise come a Memorial Cup v what is taken into consideration one of the ideal CHL teams ever.

But what takes this from a generic NCAA/CHL battle to worthy the this list is what taken place after Fowler de-committed. In mid-March of 2009, soon after the news the Fowler’s signing v Windsor ended up being official, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson to be quoted in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record together saying “"Mr. Fowler called me himself the Kitchener placed together like a $500,000 package for him" and that he was specific Windsor placed together a similar healthy offer. (Fowler’s dad publicly denied any such remarks ever happened.)

Kitchener and also Windsor instantly fired back, threaten to paper a libel lawsuit against Jackson because that his claims. Sadly, the situation never make it come court.

After the Fowler allegations, and among other comparable whispers and also rumors, the OHL hired a retirement police officer come investigate together alleged rules violations. In 2012, the OHL announced a $400,000 fine and a ns of multiple first round draft selections for the Windsor Spitfires because that two different violations that the league’s player benefit and recruitment rules and policies.

John Gibson, Michigan

picture by Bruce Bennett/Getty images In late-2010, Michigan had remained in search the a true number one goalie for half-a-decade, ever because Al Montoya signed through the brand-new York rangers in the summer of 2005. One experiment through 17-year-old Billy Sauer was a failure. Bryan Hogan never occurred into anything past serviceable. And also most notably, the team’s presumptive savior in goal, Jack Campbell had opted to sign with the Windsor Spitfires the the OHL the previous winter, releasing a publicly statement saying that he was trying to find a quicker route to the NHL.(At time of publish, Campbell has played 80 minute in the NHL).

Those concerns finally appeared to be over when Michigan landing a appointment from john Gibson in December the 2010. Gibson had actually committed come Ohio State in ~ a young age, yet chose come re-open his recruitment once Ohio State fired head coach man Markell in the summer of 2010. It seemed favor a perfect fit. Gibson to be the peak goalie at the NTDP and also one the the top-ranked goalies for the 2011 NHL Draft. Michigan to be an elite routine with immediate playing time come offer.

Gibson never ever gave any type of sort that indication that the OHL to be a possibility at the 2011 NHL Draft, wherein he was selected 39th overall. But about a month later, Gibson signed a contract through the Kitchener ranger of the OHL, and Michigan was left jilted at the altar for the second straight year by a goalie indigenous the NTDP.

Things finished up working out well because that Michigan though. Gibson’s exit opened the door for Shawn Hunwick—a walk-on who had made ten start the previous season the end of slim desperation—to become the permanent starter. Hunwick was significant in the role. The was named the CCHA’s peak goalie the complying with season and led the Wolverines come overtime that the national championship game prior to falling come Minnesota Duluth.

Hunwick would certainly be a Hobey Baker finalist in his senior season and also make a three-minute appearance in a game for the Columbus Blue Jackets to lid off one unlikely job that never ever would have actually happened had actually it no been for 2 late departures come the CHL.

Honorable Mention

Some great stories that didn’t rather make the cut.

Jeremy Roenick, Boston College

After being selected 8th all at once in the 1988 NHL Draft, Roenick infamously spent 4 days enrolled in ~ Boston College, never playing in an yes, really game, prior to choosing to authorize with Hull of the QMJHL. In Roenick’s very own words:

“My college education consisted of going right into one class at Boston College and also hearing a professor talk about a “syllabus”. Ns didn’t understand what a syllabus was, and I consisted of my psychic then and there that it to be time to sign my very first professional hockey contract.”

Sam Gagner, Wisconsin

In the summer of 2005, Sam Gagner and Brendan Smith, two of the top prospects ~ above a loaded Toronto Marlboros U16 team, attend tryout camp for the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL with the intentionally of play there. Standing in the way was a fairly recent dominance by Hockey Canada stating that Canadians had to obtain special relax if they to be going to play small hockey external of the country as a 16-year-old. Gagner’s mommy was American, so as a dual-citizen, the ascendancy couldn’t touch him. Smith, ~ above the various other hand, had actually to use for the release and was denied.

So Gagner played in Sioux City while smith signed on v the St. Michael’s Buzzers in the OJHL, and the two friends both cursed to Wisconsin within weeks that each other the following January.

The typical wisdom at the moment was that Gagner, play in the united States, was an ext likely to store his college commitment than Smith, that would constantly have actually the OHL in his ear play in Ontario. The opposite turned the end to be true.

Gagner had actually one the the ideal individual years ever before for a 16-year-old in the USHL up to that point, yet had a miserable time playing for a bad Sioux City team. That summer, the London Knights readily available an assistant coaching position to Gagner’s father Dave(a job he’d only hold for two years), and Sam signed v the Knights. Smith held his commitment and went ~ above to have a pretty three-year career v Wisconsin the culminated with a breakout junior project in which he was an All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, and helped Wisconsin reach the national title game.

Scott Gomez, Colorado university

Gomez to be a scoring phenom as a youngster play high school hockey in Anchorage, Alaska, and also that success ongoing when that made the jump to pat for south Surrey the the BCHL in 1996-97, scoring 124 clues in 54 gamings as a rookie. He was a highly-recruited NCAA prospect and also ended up agree a scholarship to Colorado College. The tigers were simply coming turn off an illustration in the nationwide title game and also had strong Alaska connections. Head coach Don Lucia had previously invested time as head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks if assistant coach man Hill had been one assistant coach at Alaska-Anchorage throughout Gomez’s time in high school. The tigers’ star player, Brian Swanson, was also an Anchorage-area native.

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Gomez appeared destined to follow the NCAA path. The Tri-City american of the WHL had spotted Gomez in a competition in Seattle as a bantam and selected the in the fifth round of the 1995 WHL Bantam Draft, yet relinquished his rights and also the adhering to year Spokane took a chance on that drafting that in the 9th round. V Gomez seemingly top to Colorado College, the Chiefs additionally gave up their rights to Gomez.

But if in south Surrey, Gomez’s billet household happened to be great friends with Tri-City owner Ron Toigo. Together, they persuaded Gomez ~ above the WHL route. Gomez claimed it took some occupational to talk his parents into offering up a college scholarship, yet he eventually did sign with the Tri-City Americans and also went on come a an excellent NHL career that extended over 1000 games.

Max Domi, Michigan

Domi to be a height prospect because that the 2011 OHL Draft. Every indications heading into the draft were that Domi wanted to it is in a London Knight, and also that to be the just OHL team that he would certainly play for.

Standing in the means of that was Kingston and newly-hired basic manager Doug Gilmour, who was looking come revitalize the struggling franchise. The Frontenacs selected Domi 8th overall, one spot before the Knights’ an initial draft choice. Gilmour was perhaps banking ~ above his partnership with his former teammate, Max’s dad Tie, to aid sway the younger Domi. However the final speak to on wherein Max would play was made through Max and also his mother, who Tie had gone v a messy divorce with 5 years prior ~ Tie was outed for having actually an affair with a member the Canadian Parliament. And they appeared to have small interest in Kingston.

Twitter to be still a reasonably nascent medium in the feather of 2011. The “Proud come announce my commitment to (Blank). Many thanks to anyone that assisted me along the way.” cookie-cutter type had no yet bring away hold, therefore instead, we got this exchange from Domi and also some random web bro quickly after the OHL Draft(all very, really much ):