Catching the Torch: The NCAA/European Class of 2013-14

Bruce Bennett

Examining the NCAA and European league players that will be featured on Catching the Torch for the 2013-14 season.

Today we will examine the Canadiens prospects playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division-1 Hockey system and the prospects playing out of the European hockey leagues. With the Canadiens shying away from the College system, this group of prospects is almost becoming an endangered species for quality names. On the other hand, with a renewed interest by the Canadiens in recruiting overseas talent, there are three very good names playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and Finnish League (sm-Liiga) this year.

NCAA:

D Mac Bennett: 22 years old, 6', 195 pounds, LH shot.

NCAA Team: University of Michigan Wolverines

2012-2013 Stats:

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Regular Season 32 6 12 18 4

Expectations: This will be Bennett's final year with Michigan as a senior and comes with very straightforward expectations in that he will show further growth in his offensive production and become a better overall defender. With Bennett's NCAA career coming to a close and the heavily expanded defensive depth of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the last two years, he may need to display an exceptional senior season to maintain his position in the organzation's depth chart as a viable defensive prospect.

C Mark MacMillan: 21 years old, 6', 183 pounds, LH shot.

NCAA Team: University of North Dakota

2012-2013 Stats:

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Regular Season 42 13 12 25 28

Expectations: A breakout in MacMillan's offensive totals is something that arguably needs to happen this season, after posting nearly identical scoring numbers in his first two seasons at North Dakota, a failure to edge towards point-per-game production could arguably cast a dim view on his future. While MacMillan has displayed some good offensive talent, he will need to show more than he previously has in order to keep pace with the organization's rapidly expanding talent base.

SHL:

RW Sebastian Collberg: 19 years old, 5'11", 175 pounds, RH shot.

SHL Team: Frolunda HC

2012-2013 Stats:

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Regular Season 35 6 3 9 6
Playoffs 5 0 2 2 0

Expectations: After another year that saw him relegated to very limited minutes in the SHL, Collberg is likely looking to make a step up in his contributions for Frolunda this season. Collberg is very likely to be the recipient of more favourable ice time this season as the new head coach of Frolunda, Roger Ronnberg, has previously coached Collberg at the 2012 and 2013 World Junior Championships where Sweden collected Gold and Silver respectively. With a coach he is familiar with and the benefit of moree pro experience, a favourable projection would be a season at or above a pace of 0.5 points per game.

LW Jacob de la Rose: 18 years old, 6'2", 190 pounds, LH shot.

SHL Team: Leksands IF

2012-2013 Stats (Allsvenskan):

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Regular Season 38 6 6 12 31
Playoffs 10 0 1 1 2

Expectations: With De la Rose stepping up to a new level of competition this season after Leksands IF was promoted from the Allsvenskan the secondary professional league in Sweden, one should not expect too much of a difference from his production last season, if not a bit less. This is not a knock on De La Rose, as his offensive skills are not purported as the highlight of his game and as an 18-year old in a men's league, he is not favoured for heavy role or expected to be that much of a difference maker at his age.

SM-Liiga:

LW Artturi Lehkonen: 18 years old, 5'11", 163 pounds, LH shot.

Liiga Team: KalPa Kupio

2012-2013 Stats:

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Regular Season 45 14 16 30 12
Playoffs 4 2 1 3 2

Expectations: After a very impressive season in the SM-Liiga as a 17-year old, one would hope to see further offensive growth in Lekhonen's game this year. Lekhonen finished 4th among players under 20 in scoring last season, trailing only 2013 2nd overall pick Aleksander Barkov and then Buffalo's Joel Armia and Chicago's Teuvo Teravainen. Going into 2013-14, one could hope that Lehkonen will edge towards a point-per-game pace, while avoiding injury as he suffered two concussions the previous year.

Special Report regarding coverage of the Swiss Süpahappifunbäal:

Unfortunately, we may not be able to give regular updates for Sprague Ribinsoin during the 2013-14 season due to several on- and off-ice issues that recently surfaced.

As you may know, Ribinsoin has a Ph.D in quantum physics. What you may not know is when not working his beet farm or annihilating the Süpahappifunbäal, Sprague has a part-time deal with the Swiss Free Radicals of the Liga
Higgs-Boson, a physicist-only European hockey league that pits various physics departments against each other when they are otherwise unable to reach a consensus on a proposed theory.

In a recent game against the CERN Colliders, Sprague lined up next to Francois "Le Badger" Bouchard, the legendary agitator of the Liga Higgs-Boson, not to mention the physics world, at large. Ribinsoin has a long-standing rivalry with Bouchard going back to their university days, when Bouchard maliciously published an article under Ribinsoin's name in the school paper arguing that Larry Ribinsoin was not only the superior hockey talent in the Ribinsoin clan, but also a better physicist, and, most damningly, an excellent father. During the game, Bouchard provoked Ribinsoin, suggesting there likely is an alternative universe where Sprague is the league's assists king. Ribinsoin immediately snapped, cracked his stick over Bouchard's head, and proceeded to carve out E=YOURASSISMINE into Bouchard's chest with his skate. Ribinsoin received an immediate lifetime ban from the Liga Higgs-Boson.

Ribinsoin was subsequently found in violation of Glöorpf HK's drug policy. With a rampant history of PED use in the Süpahappifunbäal, increasingly strict regulations have come into place over the last several years. Sprague, in an effort to circumvent the rules, had successfully designed the world's first performance-enhancing beet and was caught attempting to conceal 10 pallet loads of the contraband beets in the team's training facility. Unfortunately, his unwillingness to share his bounty of UberBeetsTM with the rest of the club put Ribinsoin in direct violation of Glöorpf's
strictly-enforced "Bring Enough For Everyone" policy, resulting in a potential internal suspension from play.

Due to the myriad of legal consequences arising from these recent incidents, the complexities of which are far too banal to flesh out here, our coverage of Sprague's progress this season with Glöorpf is likely to be intermittent.


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