NHL Draft Notebook
Quartet's Futures Become Clearer
Four collegians selected in first round
of 2008 NHL Entry Draft
By Joe Gladziszewski
and Mike Eidelbes
|Forward Daultan Leveille, who
will be a freshman at Michigan State this fall, was
taken Friday by Atlanta in the first round of the 2008
OTTAWA, Ontario – It's
been a long time since college hockey fans had to wait this
long for a player with NCAA ties to go in the first round
of the NHL Draft. BU's Colin Wilson, who went to Phoenix
with the seventh overall selection, is the latest top choice
with a college connection since 2001, when Montreal used
the no. 7 pick on Michigan defenseman Mike Komisarek. Wilson
was one of four current or future collegians to be selected
in Friday's first round in Ottawa. Here's a look at the
Boston University forward Colin Wilson was
the first college player selected, and was flattered to
be taken by the Nashville Predators with the seventh overall
pick. Wilson's excitement was evident and he expressed that
he was especially proud of the fact that the Predators moved
up two spots in the draft order via trade. Going to an organization
that showed initiative in selecting him provides a huge
opportunity for Wilson.
He, in turn, is excited about helping Nashville
"Just like these other guys that have
been drafted before me I think I can step in right now.
It generally takes skills and a head for the game and being
able to be stong enough and I think I have all three of
those," Wilson said.
"I knew they had a couple of BU alums
on there and I've heard good things, so when they made that
trade up to seven I looked at my advisor and my parents
and said 'Yeah, I'm going there.' I got texts from my buddies
like (James) van Riemsdyk and Jimmy Hayes and they were
like, yeah, you're going right here. It was really cool."
As far as where Wilson will play next year,
discussions loom and he could sign a professional contact
this summer, but if he ends up back at Boston University,
that's OK too.
"I could deal with it, whatever they
decide. The reason I'm so happy and optimistic right now
is because I know no matter where I go, it's going to be
a good year. I talked to the coaches at BU, they've talked
about ice time and the team's going to be great. If I head
back there, I'll head back with a smile on my face and put
everything in to it. If not, and I'm in Nashville, that's
every kid's dream happening at 18."
The second college player taken was Joe Colborne,
who was selected by the Boston Bruins with the 16th overall
pick. A native of Calgary, Alberta, the soft-spoken forward
from the Camrose Kodiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League
is bound for the University of Denver this fall.
"I've been to Boston twice before and
I just love the city. I was actually pretty close to going
to either Boston College or Boston University too, so I'm
pretty ecstatic right now," Colborne said. "The
University of Denver just seemed like the right fit for
me. They have some great coaches and some good history with
both winning championships and getting guys to the next
level. I'm really looking forward to next year."
Colborne said he made the choice to attend
college for a number of reasons, but most importantly was
the ability to develop physical strength.
"Definitely one of the reasons why I
chose college hockey is because I'll be playing less games
and working out more, and Denver has a great strength and
conditioning trainer down there," Colborne said.
The Anaheim Ducks' selection of Jake Gardiner
followed immediately after Colborne was selected by the
Bruins. The defenseman from Minnetonka High School in Minnesota,
who will attend the University of Wisconsin this fall, is
embracing a steeper learning curve than many of his peers
in the first round because he's still relatively new to
his position. Last year at Minnetonka, Gardiner played as
a defenseman for the first time after plying his trade as
a forward for most of his youth.
The suggestion to move back to the blue line
was made by Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting. Gardiner
was unsure about the move at first, but made the adjustment
and had a great year for the skippers that led to him being
selected in the first round.
"I can just see the ice so much better
back there. My speed really helps me, my puck handling skills
help me make plays back there. As an offensive defenseman
it really helps," Gardiner said. "I just thought
Wisconsin was a better fit for me and I thought by going
to Wisconsin the NHL is so much closer because the coaching
staff, coach (Mark) Osiecki is going to develop me into
a better defenseman, a more well-rounded defenseman."
Gardiner prides himself on competing every
shift in every game.
"I hate to lose. I love winning and I'm
the most competitive guy on the ice," he said.
One of the fastest-rising prospects in this
year's entry draft found himself selected near the end of
the first round. Leveille, who is destined for Michigan
State this fall, was taken by the Atlanta Thrashers with
the 29th overall pick. Leveille shunned offers from Ontario
Hockey League clubs to leave his college options open and
found a good fit with the Spartans, who were the first team
to show significant interest in his services.
"Education is important in my family
and it's always been an option. To go to a school like that
will give me more time to develop physically," Leveille
said. "I think I'm going at a pretty fast pace. I think
the one part I need to address is physical strength, and
maybe a few other things like defensive zone coverage, but
when you do go to school you work on those and physical
Leveille played in the Golden Horseshoe League
with the St. Catherines Falcons, and was the only player
selected from that Junior B league in the first round. Scouts
noticed his skating and playmaking ability.
"I believe that I'm a speedy centerman,"
Leveille said. "My biggest asset is my skating. I have
good vision on the ice, good with the puck. I work really
hard game in and game out and I'm just going to do my best
to be the best."
SEEN AND HEARD AT SCOTIABANK PLACE
• In case you're wondering, the last
time a collegian failed to crack the top 10 was 1999 when
another Michigan blueliner, Jeff Jillson, went to San Jose
with the 14th overall pick.
• Speaking of 1999, that's the last
time that fewer than four collegians were taken in the first
round of the NHL Draft. A trio of college players went in
the first round that year, and all have had limited NHL
In addition to Jillson, Wisconsin defenseman
David Tanabe (picked by Carolina at no. 16), and Maine forward
Barrett Heisten (selected by Buffalo at no. 20) were among
the first 28 selections that year. Since being drafted,
the threesome has combined for 39 goals and 116 assists
in 599 career NHL games.
• The first two hours of Friday night's
proceedings at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft featured very little
notable news regarding college players on the stage in Ottawa,
but several notable news items regarding former players
who changed cities via trades.
The most direct college connection saw R.J.
Umberger dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Columbus
Blue Jackets, which will have Umberger returning to the
city where he played his college hockey with the Ohio State
"R.J. is a top six forward in my mind,"
Columbus general manager Scott Howson said. "The great
thing about R.J. is that he can play anywhere, left wing,
center, right wing. He can play some power play, he can
• In what turned out to be a busy day
on the trade front, a couple ex-collegians besides Umberger
got new addresses Friday. Former Minnesota Gopher defenseman
Keith Ballard was traded to Florida as part of the deal
that brought forward Olli Jokinen to Phoenix, and Calgary
dealt the 17th overall pick and a 2009 second-round selection
to Los Angeles in exchange for erstwhile Michigan forward
• If and when Denver recruit Joe Colborne
joins the Boston Bruins, don't be surprised if his sisters
hit him up for tickets — for Celtics games.
Colborne, a 6-foot-5 forward who will suit
up for the Pioneers this fall and is often compared to ex-Bruin
Joe Thornton. His oldest sister, Lauren, played college
hoops at the University of Alberta. The middle sister, Melissa,
was a 2008 All-Ivy League first-team selection after averaging
15.7 points for Yale during her sophomore campaign. The
youngest sister, Claire, led her team to this year's Alberta
class 3A high school basketball championship.
• Hard to believe that, in the storied
history of Denver hockey, Colborne is just the second player
with ties to the Pioneer program to go in the first round
of the NHL Draft. The only other DU skater selected in the
first round of the draft was defenseman Craig Redmond, who
was taken by the Los Angeles Kings with the sixth overall
pick in 1984.
• Since we're in the groove of documenting
when the last time something happened:
• The last time a Wisconsin player
went in the first round of the draft was last year, when
Kyle Turris (Phoenix), Ryan McDonagh (Montreal), and Brendan
Smith (Detroit) were all among the first 30 picks.
• Colin Wilson is BU's first
first-rounder since ... last year. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
was chosen by Colorado with the no. 14 pick.
• Leveille is the first Spartan
to go in round one since 2004, when Minnesota tabbed defenseman
A.J. Thelen at no. 12.
• Anaheim general manager Brian Burke,
the former Providence Friar, always seems to get the last
word. Booed lustily by the thousands of Senators fans in
attendance when he stepped to the podium to announce the
first of his team's two first-round picks — his Ducks
beat Ottawa in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals — Burke
replied, "It's great to be back in Ottawa, thank you."
Burke should get used to being the target
of catcalls in Scotiabank Place if, as has been widely rumored,
he takes a similar role with the Toronto Maple Leafs when
his contract with Anaheim expires at the end of the 2008-09
• When it's time for a particular team
to make a pick, they're often referred to as being "on
At the NHL Draft, however, there is no clock.
There's no display counting down the
time teams have remaining before their turn expires. There's
not even a clock indicating the time of day in the arena.
Do you know how much time teams get to make a first-round
selection? Neither do we — that protocol can't be
found anywhere in the NHL Draft materials provided to the