June 20, 2008
NHL Draft Notebook
College 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 NHL Draft.

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 college quartet.


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 right away.

"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."

2008 NHL Draft Coverage
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Friday's First Round: Picks | Notebook
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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 training."

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."


• 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 success.

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 Buckeyes.

"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 kill penalties."

• 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 Mike Cammalleri.

• 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 season.

• When it's time for a particular team to make a pick, they're often referred to as being "on the clock."

At the NHL Draft, however, there is no clock. Literally.

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 media.