Calgary's College Boys

Ryan Pike
February 22 2014 11:05AM

mortar-board

Once upon a time, the Calgary Flames were a team that was comprised primarily of western Canadian players. That's changed in recent years, with more of an emphasis on college scouting and, as a result, college players.

In the interest of providing a bit of info on the Flames many former NCAA players, here's a quick look at which players came through college, where they went and what they took. Bear in mind that this collection was lovingly compiled through the various team websites and asking players what they took. In the majority of four-year colleges, students declare a major after their second year. If a player left school after two years, they probably didn't declare a major and therefore were just taking classes within a program of study.

Mike Cammalleri: three years at University of Michigan (1999-2002), majored in movement science (a kineseology program)

Lee Stempniak: four years at Dartmouth College (2001-05), majored in economics

Curtis Glencross: two years at University of Alaska-Anchorage (2002-04), studying business management

Kevin Westgarth: four years at Princeton University (2003-07), majoring in psychology

David Jones: three years at Dartmouth College (2004-07), majoring in economics

Derek Smith: three years at Lake Superior State University (2004-07), majoring in business management

Chris Butler: three years at University of Denver (2005-08), majoring in business management

Ben Street: five years at University of Wisconsin (2005-10), majoring in management

T.J. Galiardi: one year at Dartmouth College (2006-07), taking studio art

Joe Colborne: two years at University of Denver (2008-10), taking business management

David Eddy: three years at St. Cloud State University (2009-12), major unknown

Corban Knight: four years at University of North Dakota (2009-13), majoring in physical education, exercise science and wellness

Ben Hanowski: four years at St. Cloud State University (2009-13), majoring in business

John Ramage: four years at University of Wisconsin (2009-13), majoring in life science communication

Josh Jooris: three years at Union College (2010-13), majoring in liberal arts

Kenny Agostino: currently a senior at Yale University (2010-14), majoring in political science

Bill Arnold: currently a senior at Boston College (2010-14), majoring in communications

Johnny Gaudreau: currently a junior at Boston College (2011-), majoring in communications

Matthew Deblouw: current a sophomore at Michigan State University (2012-), major undeclared

John Gilmour: currently a sophomore at Providence College (2012-), major undeclared

Jon Gillies: currently a sophomore at Providence College (2012-), taking management

Mark Jankowski: currently a sophomore at Providence College (2012-), taking management

Tim Harrison: currently a freshman at Colgate University (2013-), major undeclared

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#1 EugeneV
February 22 2014, 11:51AM
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I thought this was going to be an article that would try to show that drafting and signing college players was preferable to junior players. Thanks for not going that route.

Question. Have CHL teams ever played games against the top college teams? Do you advocate that the college teams would beat the CHL teams?

Why, or why not?

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#2 Parallex
February 22 2014, 12:58PM
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EugeneV wrote:

I thought this was going to be an article that would try to show that drafting and signing college players was preferable to junior players. Thanks for not going that route.

Question. Have CHL teams ever played games against the top college teams? Do you advocate that the college teams would beat the CHL teams?

Why, or why not?

I don't think they have (played against one another) and considering the adversarial relationship they have I doubt it would ever happen

I would advocate that... that NCAA teams would generally beat CHL teams... no disrespect to the CHL it's the top youth league organization in the world. But that's what it is... a youth league. Pairing them against NCAA athletes would literally be playing boys against men.

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#3 beloch
February 22 2014, 01:03PM
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@EugeneV

The CHL is primarily for 16-20 year olds while the NCAA is primarily for 19-22 year olds. A really awesome CHL team might beat a bad NCAA team on a good day, but I'd put money on the NCAA team every time. The NHLE rates for these leagues do reflect that as well.

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#4 FireOnIce
February 22 2014, 01:15PM
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Interesting that Westgarth went the George Parros route... goes to Princeton University, enrolls in a seemingly top-flight program (psychology), and then chooses to become a dancing bear. I can only imagine that going to Princeton makes you want to punch faces for a living, if at all possible.

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#5 coachedpotatoe
February 22 2014, 01:19PM
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The NCAA has often been the route for the late bloomers and so we should not be surprised by the talent that is at this level. Also by the time they graduate their bodies are much more mature and the nature of coaching is different. More practices than games vs the CHL where there are more games than practices. I will be really interested to see the level of preparedness of Arnold, Agostino and of course Johnny G.

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#6 coachedpotatoe
February 22 2014, 02:13PM
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The Heat plays the Chicago Wolves in a double header this weekend (St L farm team) and as there has been a lot of chatter about that being where Cammi might go it might be a good idea to pay attention and see who they have and we might need. Also a good gauge to see how our prospect shape up against a more elite franchise.

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#7 beloch
February 22 2014, 02:33PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Interesting that Westgarth went the George Parros route... goes to Princeton University, enrolls in a seemingly top-flight program (psychology), and then chooses to become a dancing bear. I can only imagine that going to Princeton makes you want to punch faces for a living, if at all possible.

I'm not sure psychology is viewed as "top flight", but it certainly might come in handy for an enforcer. Making the other guy punch you first is way more useful to your team.

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#8 BurningSensation
February 22 2014, 02:36PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Interesting that Westgarth went the George Parros route... goes to Princeton University, enrolls in a seemingly top-flight program (psychology), and then chooses to become a dancing bear. I can only imagine that going to Princeton makes you want to punch faces for a living, if at all possible.

I look at it differently, the smart guys who go to Princeton and become dancing bears have recognized that they have a unique opportunity to make millions of $s by 'playing hockey' despite a marked lack of anything resembling hockey skills.

Big money, skill not required - sounds like a Princeton grad to me.

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#9 Nick24
February 22 2014, 02:47PM
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EugeneV wrote:

I thought this was going to be an article that would try to show that drafting and signing college players was preferable to junior players. Thanks for not going that route.

Question. Have CHL teams ever played games against the top college teams? Do you advocate that the college teams would beat the CHL teams?

Why, or why not?

I know that when the World Junior team practised in Calgary two years ago they played the UofC team and I think that they lost, or at least they usually do.

I'd imagine that its pretty tough for kids in their late teens to be dominant against guys that are in their twenties.

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#10 Derzie
February 22 2014, 03:32PM
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I'm happy with the rebuild results to date BUT this article has me wondering about this College Fetish the new Flames have. When we focused on WHL stock, we were making the playoffs. With our stable of academics we are in the basement. I hope is just 2 trajectories passing in the night and we are on the way up but: How many of the Top 10 in each stats category in the NHL are college boys? Hall of Famers? Olympians? I don't know the answer and didn't Google but my gut is worried. The more products of Canadian minor hockey that we have, the better we will be in my opinion. Being smart AND athletically skilled is rare, relatively speaking. The top tier HOF players of the past tend to be high school struggler stock.

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#11 beloch
February 22 2014, 04:21PM
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Derzie wrote:

I'm happy with the rebuild results to date BUT this article has me wondering about this College Fetish the new Flames have. When we focused on WHL stock, we were making the playoffs. With our stable of academics we are in the basement. I hope is just 2 trajectories passing in the night and we are on the way up but: How many of the Top 10 in each stats category in the NHL are college boys? Hall of Famers? Olympians? I don't know the answer and didn't Google but my gut is worried. The more products of Canadian minor hockey that we have, the better we will be in my opinion. Being smart AND athletically skilled is rare, relatively speaking. The top tier HOF players of the past tend to be high school struggler stock.

Okay... You've got some misconceptions that we should probably sort out.

College hockey, at least in the U.S., is certainly a more roundabout path to the NHL than the CHL, WHL, etc.. Prospects who are clearly elite when drafted are more likely to eschew college because they have a good shot at making the NHL and there isn't much reason for them to pass on, potentially, several years of NHL earnings. That doesn't mean these guys couldn't hack college if they went, just that it doesn't make sense for them to go. Lesser prospects, who do sometimes develop into elite players, have more reason to get a post-secondary education. It's a backup plan.

This bias should be kept in mind when you jump to the conclusion that elite hockey players are too dumb to succeed in college. They almost certainly aren't. Anyone with sufficient discipline and who can think the game at a high enough level to make even the fourth line in the NHL would probably do very well in academics. Likewise, you shouldn't conclude that college hockey is a poor place for players to develop. The near parity between the AHL and the NCAA in terms of NHLE blows that theory right out of the water.

Consider the Canadian olympic team. The following players went to college in the U.S.:

Duncan Keith (Michigan State)
Chris Kunitz (Ferris State)
Patrick Sharp (U. of Vermont)
Martin St. Louis (U. of Vermont)
Jonathan Toews (U. of North Dakota)

Bear in mind these are Canadian players who left Canada to go to college in the U.S.. Players who wish to attend a university in Canada probably do not want to play for their University team, since Canadian university hockey isn't very good. Good hockey players who want to stay in Canada will most likely join the CHL/WHL and attend university, which actually gets players access to some decent scholarships and financial support. There are probably more players on the Olympic team who attended Canadian universities, but I'm too lazy to google them all!

So, I hope we've dispelled the notion that athletics and academics are mutually exclusive. There is a bias towards exiting academics early for players who are clearly elite early on, but prospects taken outside of the first-round are likely to pursue post-secondary education and that goal is not incompatible with development in either a Canadian junior league or a U.S. college league. Finally, you should also bear in mind that the majority of players drafted under Feaster's regime and his "college fetish" are still too young for us to know where they'll wind up. Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau represent the vanguard of prospects resulting from that "fetish", and early indications suggest we'll all be very pleased with how they turn out.

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#12 BurningSensation
February 22 2014, 04:42PM
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Derzie wrote:

I'm happy with the rebuild results to date BUT this article has me wondering about this College Fetish the new Flames have. When we focused on WHL stock, we were making the playoffs. With our stable of academics we are in the basement. I hope is just 2 trajectories passing in the night and we are on the way up but: How many of the Top 10 in each stats category in the NHL are college boys? Hall of Famers? Olympians? I don't know the answer and didn't Google but my gut is worried. The more products of Canadian minor hockey that we have, the better we will be in my opinion. Being smart AND athletically skilled is rare, relatively speaking. The top tier HOF players of the past tend to be high school struggler stock.

These things go in waves. As I recall back in the 80's when the Flames were super competitive the Flames brass was targeting College players (as well as CHLrs), as they saw this as a talent pipeline that was underserved.

As a result, useful guys like Joe Mullen (albeit via StL) Joel Otto, and Neil Sheehy were brought on board.

As for Dutters preference for WHL kids, one need only look at how dried up the talent pipeline was when he was finally let go to see that putting blinders on (few foreigners, no Russians, lots of slugs from the Dub), is not a good strategy.

Talent is talent. Find good players wherever they are.

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#13 Kenta
February 22 2014, 04:59PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

I look at it differently, the smart guys who go to Princeton and become dancing bears have recognized that they have a unique opportunity to make millions of $s by 'playing hockey' despite a marked lack of anything resembling hockey skills.

Big money, skill not required - sounds like a Princeton grad to me.

Wow - also an expert on Ivy League Colleges grads. You must run into allot of Princeton grads down in the Bridge. Will wonders never cease...

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#14 Baalzamon
February 22 2014, 05:27PM
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@Derzie

When we focused on WHL stock, we were making the playoffs. With our stable of academics we are in the basement.

Uh ahem. How much of that "WHL stock" made the NHL? The Flames' "success" in those days had less than nothing to do with their drafting.

Over the last three drafts, the college prospects the Flames have drafted are: Jankowski, Gaudreau, Gillies, Harrison, DeBlouw, and Gilmour. WHL prospects? Klimchuk, Baertschi, Gordon, Kulak, Kanzig, Brossoit, and Wotherspoon.

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#15 coachedpotatoe
February 22 2014, 07:05PM
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Speaking of the NCAA guys BC is up 2-1, Johnny G has a goal, Providence up 2-1, Janko with a goal, Yale up 3-2 Agostino with an a. Heat down 2-1, Billins with the goal.

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#16 BurningSensation
February 22 2014, 11:08PM
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Kenta wrote:

Wow - also an expert on Ivy League Colleges grads. You must run into allot of Princeton grads down in the Bridge. Will wonders never cease...

Here's five $. Go buy a stick that works.

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#17 Sobueno
February 22 2014, 11:38PM
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That's cool, didn't realize Gadreau and Arnold are even in the same program at school. I'd heard they were close friends, and I know from experience going through school with your buds can bring you closer together - let alone adding a demanding hockey program on top of that. Must be exciting for those two to have been drafted to the same team and have an opportunity to make the show together too! Hope they both dominate in Flames silks for years to come.

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#18 beloch
February 22 2014, 11:44PM
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@Sobueno

I, for one, welcome our new heterosexual lifemate Flames overlords.

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#19 Sobueno
February 23 2014, 06:43PM
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@beloch

Haha!

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