NHL Draftees Wear Crimson
Icemen Lead Nation With Five Players Picked in 1996 Draft
And now for today's trivia bonus question: Which university had the most players selected in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft?
Contestant #1: Michigan?
Host: I'm sorry, no.
Contestant #3: Boston University?
Host: That's incorrect.
Contestant #2: Minnesota, maybe?
Host: No, I'm sorry. Harvard University had five players drafted in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft the most of any college or university and two more than Michagan, Boston University and Minnesota.
That's right: national powers. Boston University, Michigan and Minnesota each had only three players selected, as did Providence or St. Cloud State. Harvard had five, and although draft statistics don't necessarily correlate with power ratings or national rankings, Harvard's showing in the June 22 draft was impressive and may bode well for the future.
Sophomore center Craig MacDonald of Antigonish, Nova Scotia was the first Harvard player chosen. He went to the Hartford Whalers with the 88th pick overall.
"I went with my family to St. Louis [the site of this year's draft], so it was a really nice experience," MacDonald said. "The atmosphere was really exciting. Being there is every kid's dream. They call your name and you go down to the floor and they give you a jersey and team bag."
"I was expecting to go a little earlier, so it was a little tense sitting there watching the rounds go by," MacDonald added. "But when the time came and I was called, I was happy with the team that picked me."
MacDonald and fellow sophomore Craig Adams, who was selected in the ninth round by Hartford, continued the Crimson migration down I-84. The Harvard-to-Hartford connection that began with Ted Drury '92-'93 continues today with Steve Martins '95, Tripp Tracy '96, captain Ashlin Halfnight, MacDonald and Adams.
In case you're wondering, the link between the Crimson and the Whalers extends to team ownership. The Whalers are owned by Peter Karmanos, father of Jason Karmonos '96, a forward who graduated last year and is now playing for Richmond of the ECHL.
According to MacDonald, the elder Karmonos likes the character of Harvard players and comments that they have done well for him.
"Obviously, he got to watch a lot of our games, so he knows what we can do," MacDonald said.
Freshman defenseman Matt Scorsune of Morris Plains, N.J., decided he'd rather stay at home than travel to Missouri to find out where he was selected.
"I stayed at home and waited to get a call from the team drafting me," Scorsune said. "My family and I were thinking of going, but it would have been more nerve-wracking."
In fact, Scorsune waited it out with fellow freshman and high school buddy J.R Prestifilippo.
"We were hanging out and didn't really know what was going on," Prestifilippo said.
Prestifilippo's father saw the draft results appear over the Internet and called home to tell J.R. and Matt that they had been selected.
J.R. was taken with the 165th pick overall by the New York Islanders.
"It was pretty exciting because it was a hometown team for me," Prestifilippo said.
Scorsune was taken by the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the eighth round.
"I'd met with the Islanders and the Calgary Flames, but Colorado was a surprise," Scorsune said. "I'd never talked to them before they drafted me."
Being drafted before freshman year can make any player's first season more difficult, with all the extra attention he has to endure.
"I guess there is a little bit of added pressure to perform up to expectations," Scorsune said.
Added pressure may be just one of the reasons a high draft number does not necessarily lead to outstanding college or professional play.
"I think the fact that we had five players drafted shows we have a lot of promise, but we have to play well to do well," Scorsune said.
Also, professional teams often look for different assets than do college teams, with a distinct emphasis on a player's long-term potential. For example, junior Ethan Philpott is the Crimson player with the highest overall draft number--he was selected 64th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1993 draft. Philpott's 6'4", 233-pound frame was a definite attraction at draft time for NHL teams looking for an Eric Lindros-like player.
However, depending on the college team, different strengths and skills make for a successful college-level player.