Questions from a college hockey newcomer

Submitted by AJDrain on June 13th, 2017 at 1:32 PM

UM student here who just bought tix for the upcoming UM college hockey season. As a kid in Ann Arbor, I went to a number of games at Yost and know how great of an atmosphere it is. However, I don't really know the ins and outs of how college hockey works, so I was wondereing if you guys can give me a hand. I know the sport of hockey, and have watched the NHL for many years. My questions mostly revolve about the college aspect. If you can answer any of the below questions, that would be great:

1.) Of the Division 1 conferences, which ones are considered to be the elite (like SEC in Football or ACC in basketball)? Where does the Big Ten fall? Which are the bottom feeders?

2.) How many wins/points does it typically take for a team like Michigan to get into the NCAA tournament? 

3.) How does the NHL factor into college hockey? How many NHL bound/drafted players is it optimal to have on a team? 

4.) How good do you expcet Michigan to be this season? I know they were not very good last year, but I read about how well Mel Pearson did at Tech and it seems like there's a good group of incoming players (Norris, Hughes, the other Pastujov)

5.) How does recruiting work? Is there any way to track which teams recruit better than others? 

Comments

drjaws

June 13th, 2017 at 1:51 PM ^

1) Hockey East, NCHC and B1G are top conferences.

2) 21-22 wins minimum is what it usually takes to get a sniff, depending on strength of schedule

3) You typically need 2-3 guys who are a year or so away from the NHL and another smattering of guys who are a couple years in the minors.  That's ideal.  That being said, more talented teams lose to better overall teams often.  Goaltending, just like the NHL, can make or break a season.

4) I expect Michigan to improve.  I expect 2018 and 2019 to be years where they are playing well but learning Mel's style.  2019 and 2020 on I expect yearly trips to the playoffs.

5) College hockey recruiting is hard to follow . . . . kids get picked up from high school, major juniors etc.  This website is badass though it is a pay site for most info.  https://www.neutralzone.net/mens/

Otherwise you'll have to use http://www.collegehockeynews.com/

 

Michigan Arrogance

June 13th, 2017 at 1:50 PM ^

1.) Of the Division 1 conferences, which ones are considered to be the elite (like SEC in Football or ACC in basketball)? Where does the Big Ten fall? Which are the bottom feeders?

Top to Bottom: NCHC, HE, ECAC, B10, WCHA, AHA

B10 will move up quickly with coaching changes at M, MSU, addition of ND. I'd probably put B10 in top 3 going forward but I'm a cart--> horse guy.

ECAC has been stong the last 5 years or so

2.) How many wins/points does it typically take for a team like Michigan to get into the NCAA tournament? 

25 should get you in? top 2 in the B10 should do it.

 

3.) How does the NHL factor into college hockey? How many NHL bound/drafted players is it optimal to have on a team? 

most top teams have 9-14, but some in the ECAC especially have fewer b/c they take older players with less top end potential and more experience (19-20 y/o FR).

 

4.) How good do you expcet Michigan to be this season? I know they were not very good last year, but I read about how well Mel Pearson did at Tech and it seems like there's a good group of incoming players (Norris, Hughes, the other Pastujov)

O/U 20 wins, top 4 in B10? At best, last team in tourney, IMO. I'm pessimistic compared to most IMO.

 

5.) How does recruiting work? Is there any way to track which teams recruit better than others?

I'll let others chime in on this one, some places will rank the classes this summer for the upcoming FR class, but recall that they committed 2-3 years ago and in many cases draft estimates change.

 

kdhoffma

June 13th, 2017 at 1:50 PM ^

1.  Top conferences are Hockey East and NCHC.  Big 10 is stacked with traditional powers and should be right near the top, but some of those big schools (Michigan, MSU, Wisky) are in a bit of a lull.

2. http://www.uscho.com/faq/pairwise-rankings-explanation/

3/5.  It's not just the NHL, but major junior hockey in Canada.  Kids get scooped up at 15/16 to play major junior and often times go that route before they even start getting recruitied for college hockey.  Once you go major junior (since there is a bit of monetary compensation) you lose your eligibilty in the eyes of the NCAA.  So recruiting is different in hcokey as compared to other NCAA sports.  You're not just recruiting against other schools, but other leagues.  You also are recruiting kids that are sometimes a couple years removed from high school playing junior hockey in the US.  I'll let others answer questions on how to follow hockey recruiting.

4. Bottom line is Michigan still has talent up and down the roster... this isn't basketball where a coach may need a few years to bring in top players for his system.  I think things could turn around rather quickly.

lhglrkwg

June 13th, 2017 at 1:54 PM ^

1) NCHC and Hockey East are tops. The Big Ten suuuucks right now but should be back shortly
3) teams have different philosophies. The teams that can actually recruit top NHL prospects do that and have fairly young teams (M, Minny, North Dakota, BC, etc). A lot of other teams go the over ager route and have a lot of 22-23 yr old freshmen which works as well. Union won a title recently under that philosophy
5) recruiting is tough to track. Unlike Football, not every top prospect goes the NCAA route (in fact its a minority who do) so you generally try to parse Central Scouting rankings to compare classes but it's nearly impossible to do an ESPN 300 of the current incoming year because guys come into college at different ages and many go play in the CHL, USHL, Europe, etc

stephenrjking

June 13th, 2017 at 2:04 PM ^

1. NCHC is unquestionably the best right now with the last two national champions and a number of other great programs. HEA is always near the top. The B1G will be in third place this season; it has been down since it was founded (the western conferences all went through a drastic realignment when Penn State took up hockey) but that is due to historic weakness at Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Michigan, all of which are pillars of the sport and all of which have been bad. 

Wisconsin is rising already, Michigan will be back in a year or two, Penn State has emerged as a strong program, Notre Dame has been added and is a national title contender. The B1G is at least top three, maybe top two this year.

2. Varies widely. There's no exact "target" because the math varies from year to year. What is important to know is that the hockey committee chooses tournament entrants on an entirely mathematical basis. The criteria used are identical to the Pairwise ratings produced at collegehockeynews.com and uscho.com--those sites predict all 16 teams with 100% accuracy. 

Pairwise is based heavily on RPI with some extra factors thrown in. RPI is heavily dependent on a small handful of games played between conferences. A conference that performs well out of league can have 6 teams right there contending for bids. A conference that performs poorly (as the B1G has in recent years) can have a team running away with things, with the same record, barely making the middle of the field. 

Don't worry about wins. Watch the pairwise.

3. National championships have been won recently by teams like Union with essentially no future NHL players on the team. Some teams focus on developing older players who play in junior hockey for a year or two after high school. Others, like Minnesota and (generally) Michigan, recruit NHL-bound prospects and rely on them from the moment they're eligible. 

The "older players" route is becoming more popular as teams win with it.

4. Hard to say. They were really bad last year, and were actually lucky to win as many games as they did. They'll be better, but the schedule is tougher. I'm guessing .500 or a little over; I don't expect to make the tournament.

5. I haven't found a way to reliably track recruiting. You can see how players that are draft eligible or just drafted rate as pro prospects by looking at places like hockeysfuture.com, but as mentioned in point #3, teams like UMD are winning with older guys that aren't great pro prospects when they exit their high school years.

 

misterzolo

June 13th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

Some of them I can't really answer off the top of my head since I'm on my phone. But I'll do my best:

1) I'll get negged for this, but I'm of the opinion Hockey East is by far the best hockey conference in division one. Boston College and Boston Unversity are arguably the two most storied programs in college hockey. Recent NHL names include Jack Eichel (BU) and Johnnu Gaudreau (BC) amongst a ton of others all time.

Next for me is the relatively new NCHC. The two most recent national champions, Denver and North Dakota, play in this conference. Western Michigan is here as well.

B1G comes in third for me, but it's on the rise. Michigan should be back soon. Minnesota has the strongest college hockey program in the state of hockey, and Wisconsin is also solid. Notre Dame is joining the conference for this upcoming season.

2) Usually it takes north of 20 wins to get into the field of 16, but don't quote me on that. And those wins better be strong wins. Similar to college football.

3) When Pittsburgh won the cup the other night, I saw a great image of and outline of the cup with all of the Penguins that played college hockey. There are more college hockey players than ever before in the NHL. College hockey has become a great feeder of top end talent to the NHL.

4) Michigan will be improved this season, but it will still be a rebuild type of year. Helps to have his like Will Lockwood and Jack LaFontaine to build around. Mel Pearson is the reason for a lot of the success the program had over the last few decades, and he'll get this ship in the right direction.

5) This answer won't help, but I like to gauge how talented North American guys are by seeing who owns their CHL rights and where those teams value them. The CHL is Canadian Major Junior Hockey. Those guys are the best compatibles for college hockey players. If I see a college hockey player was drafted high in the OHL, WHL or QMJHL, I know that people who know talent value that player in a higher regard.

Again, if I was near a desktop with more research, you'd get much stronger answers. But someone else on here will handle that.

On absolute thing I can tell you for certain, Yost is very special and THE BEST venue in college hockey. Enjoy every second of it. Most of Nashville's chants their fans got tons of credit for are actually Michigan Hockey chants. You'll be immersed in those soon enough. Enjoy!

stephenrjking

June 13th, 2017 at 2:29 PM ^

By the way, welcome to the sport. It's a wonderful game with great fanbases and facilities, hampered someone by a playoff system that is an embarrassing even as NCAA things go. Don't miss the opportunity to take a road trip to see the team in foreign arenas, they can be a blast (albeit not as easy or quite as entertaining now that we no longer share a conference with Western or Ferris et al).

goblueram

June 13th, 2017 at 2:32 PM ^

A lot of great answers have already been given above.  I'll stick to point #3.

Last year we saw an extreme example of this with Boston U.  They had I think 11 drafted players on their roster.  Not sure what the most Michigan has had at one time would be.  I want to say 7-8 of those BU guys also played in the World Juniors.  That's a bit of a downside for having so many top prospects on the team at one time.  Looking back a few years, Michigan would routinely go into the GLI in December missing at least 4-5 guys due to the World Juniors.

For the most part, more draft picks / top prospects is better.  Teams like BU, BC, NoDak, Michigan routinely make the tourney due to that combo of talent and coaching (yeah sore subject).  But with the absolute random crapshoot that is single elimination hockey, you never know what is going to happen in the end.  

chatster

June 13th, 2017 at 4:01 PM ^

It's rare for any one school to have so many players competing in the World Juniors Tournament. The tournament, usually scheduled for late December and early January may interfere with the team's regular season schedule. This year's tournament in Buffalo runs from December 26 through January 5 and it will include an outdoor game between the USA and Canada on December 29 at the stadium where the Buffalo Bills play. LINK

This past season, BUs defenseman Charlie McAvoy, forwards Kiefer Bellows, Clayton Keller, Jordan Greenway and Patrick Harper and goalie Jake Oettinger were on the USA team and defenseman Dante Fabbro was on Team Canada. The final cut from the USA team was BU defenseman Chad Krys.

Adam Schnepp

June 13th, 2017 at 2:52 PM ^

First of all, welcome to the sport. I think you'll love it. Always cool to see others get interested in college hockey thanks to Michigan.

As for point 5, I've found this sheet to be helpful. You can get basic stats on a player by clicking on their name, and if you're really interested I'd say google a guy's name from the list and see if you can find scouting reports. 

http://collegehockeyinc.com/commitments.php

Dylan

June 13th, 2017 at 3:11 PM ^

I would say the main difference to the NHL, save what happened recently in game 7, is that the refs seem to "lose sight of the puck" before an inevitable goal for Michigan at least once every two games.

chatster

June 13th, 2017 at 3:41 PM ^

In addition to other websites mentioned, I'd also recommend College Hockey News. Their "Recruit Watch" page has a drop down menu that links to a list of each team's recruits.  Michigan recruits can be found here.

Hope you'll enjoy the college hockey experience. I've been following college hockey since the 1960s when what's now known as the NCAA "Frozen Four" was the full extent of the NCAA college hockey championship tournament. Only two teams from the east and two from the west were in the "tournament."  My first experience at a "Frozen Four" before it was known as that was in Syracuse, New York in 1971. College hockey has changed dramatically since then.