June 19 2013 08:55AM
With the recent acquisition of Corban Knight – combined with the drafting in 2012 of college-bound kids Mark Jankowski, Matthew Deblouw and Jon Gillies – it's pretty obvious that the Calgary Flames are gung-ho about college prospects. This isn't exactly a brand-new proposition, as it's a drafting habit that arguably began in 2010, when the Flames grabbed University of Wisconsin defender John Ramage and then-incoming Boston College forward Bill Arnold.
Since then, Arnold's become one of the most interesting prospects in Calgary's system.
Arnold has put together a pretty good resume since being drafted in the fourth round in 2010. He's been to the World Juniors and two Frozen Four tournaments. He's won two conference championships and an NCAA championship. He's gone from being a bottom-six college player averaging just under half a point per game and transformed into a guy who has scored 71 points in his last 80 games while remaining a very reliable, very complete hockey player.
If there's a good comparable for Bill Arnold, it may be Max Reinhart. The eldest Reinhart son has excellent vision and hockey sense, but arguably isn't “exceptional” at anything beyond that. Arnold may lack Reinhart's puck distribution skills, but he's also kind of just good at everything. He's big (six-feet, 205 pounds) but relatively mobile. He's physical but doesn't take a lot of penalties. He's good defensively but doesn't lack a scoring touch.
Moreover, the legendary BC coach Jerry York has described Arnold as a strong two-way player, but also a guy who's capable of taking over a game. His teammates speak highly of him and he'll return to Boston College for his senior year as an alternate captain of the club. When he's dabbled in the high-end international world of hockey, he's played quite well – he was named one of Team USA's top three players at the 2011 World Juniors.
Bill Arnold is a year away from being a professional hockey player. Since being drafted by the Flames, he was a very good rookie in the NCAA, a really good sophomore in the NCAA and a really good junior in the NCAA. He probably doesn't project to be must higher than a third liner in the NHL, but his success in the NCAA – and how it's happened to unfold – suggests that he's likely to at least crack an NHL line-up in the near future.
He may not have a sky-high NHL ceiling like teammate Johnny Gaudreau, but his build, playing style and general demeanour suggests that he has a much higher floor than a lot of players within Calgary's prospect base.