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Last week Wisconsin forward Jason Clark shocked many when he announced that he would be leaving the University after his sophomore season to sign a contract with the New York Islanders. Clark had been a third round draft pick of New York, but had recorded just two points in 35 career games for the Badgers.
Given that Clark was a fairly high profile recruit out of Shattuck St. Mary's, we can only assume that he was likely on a high percentage, or even a full scholarship at Wisconsin. Unlike football and basketball where each player is given a full scholarship, hockey can divide 18 total scholarships up into percentages in whatever way they see fit.
One of the many questions that had been asked surrounding the departure of Clark was what Eaves had planned to do with the now available scholarship money. Eaves told Madison.com Tuesday that he didn't expect to bring in another recruit to fill Jason Clark's roster spot.
Expect being the key word there. Mike Eaves also didn't 'expect' that USHL Player of the Year Kevin Roy would become available just a week later.
Roy put up an astounding 104 points (54g, 50a) in 59 games during the regular season for the Lincoln Stars. It was the most points in a season during the USHL Tier 1 era (2002-present) and the first 100-point scorer since the 1998-99 season when Peter Fregoe scored 103 points (46g, 57a) for the Des Moines Buccaneers.
Lincoln's super-star originally committed to Brown University, an Ivy League school which plays hockey in the ECAC in August of 2010 along with his brother Derick. A goaltender with the South Shore Kings in the EJHL, Derick was 21-4 with a 2.78 GAA and .912 save percentage last season.
After Kevin Roy's prospect status started blowing up this year as he was putting together a historical season in the USHL, many questioned how strong his commitment was to Brown. Obviously Brown isn't the pro hockey development school that other NCAA programs around the country are.
Although obviously Brown is an elite academic institution that has many additional benefits outside of athletics that can certainly be enticing for elite athletes who excel on the ice and in the classroom.
At this point, it appears that hockey development has won out. Matt Moran reported via twitter on Sunday night that Kevin Roy has decommitted from Brown.
Roy was recently selected in the NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks in the fourth round (97th overall). It wouldn't be fair to assume that the Ducks pushed Roy to look at other options. That said, every NHL team has to look out for the future development for their prospects, and it wouldn't be out of bounds to suggest that there are better places for Roy to hone his skills at the NCAA level.
Since Ivy League schools do not use letters of intent because they aren't giving out scholarships to players, Roy was essentially a free agent until he stepped onto campus at Brown. Of course there has always been a gentleman's agreement within conferences to not recruit committed players. That's why in my opinion it's unlikely Roy stays within the ECAC at a Harvard, Yale, or Cornell.
Four options immediately stick out in regards to the now top available recruit for this upcoming season.
The first option that immediately comes to mind is the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL. Roy and his family are from the Quebec province and playing in front of friends and family is something that could be enticing for Roy. Patrick Roy, who is of no relation to Kevin is in hot pursuit of the USHL scoring champ.
The top option from the NCAA ranks is Northeastern from the Hockey East Conference. Northeastern currently employs Jerry Keefe as an assistant coach. He was hired last summer when new coach Jim Madigan took over the Huskies program.
One of the reasons that Madigan hired Keefe as an assistant was for his work on the recruiting trail. Keefe's biggest recruiting coup in his prior job? Luring in the Roy brothers when Keefe was an assistant coach at Brown.
In talking with people in the hockey community Monday in regards to the Roy decommittment, the first name that was brought up was Jerry Keefe and his connection to Roy at Brown.
Another option in the same conference is the Vermont Catamounts. Roy is from Greenfield Park, QC which is just an hour and 45 minutes away from Burlington, VT which is where the campus is located for the University of Vermont. That's the closest NCAA D-1 hockey campus to the Roy home.
Additionally, Vermont recently lost five star recruit Zemgus Girgensons who decided to bypass college and sign with the Buffalo Sabres who selected him in the first round of the just completed NHL Draft. Vermont has the open spot and full scholarship in hand, and replacing Girgensons with Roy would certainly ease the blow.
The fourth option is a bit more off the wall and probably the least likely to happen. But with the departure of Jason Clark to the New York Islanders, the Wisconsin Badgers present an intriguing option for Roy. There aren't many teams that produce pro talent year after year like the Badgers, and now they have the scholarship room to add a kid like Roy late in the game.
Wisconsin presents sort of the best of both worlds for a kid like Roy. While the University of Wisconsin isn't on the level of Brown academically, it's much closer than the likes of Northeastern and Vermont. Additionally, it's obvious that Wisconsin is producing significantly more NHL ready talent than the two previously mentioned schools.
It also wouldn't be the first time Mike Eaves recruited a player that had a previous commitment out of the ECAC. After decommitting from Princeton in the summer of 2010, Wisconsin locked up Bloomington Jefferson defenseman Joe Faust. There was speculation that Eaves had recruited Faust despite his commitment to Princeton due to the losses of Brendan Smith, Cody Goloubef, and Ryan McDonagh to the NHL that offseason.
That same summer, it appeared that Dartmouth commit Matt Lindblad out of Chicago may have changed his mind to stay closer to home. Lindblad briefly decommited from Dartmouth and was looking at Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
With the unexpected loss of Derek Stepan to the NHL that summer, some believed that Eaves pursued Lindblad knowing that he wasn't locked into Dartmouth given those players can't sign letters of intent. After looking at his options, Lindblad eventually reconfirmed his commitment to Dartmouth where he is still enrolled.
Despite the rumors, Eaves vehemently denied recruiting a committed player, noting that he fully abides by the gentleman's agreement through the American Hockey Coaches Association. Faust also confirmed that he in fact sought out Wisconsin first after his decommitment.
In addition to the Ramparts, Northeastern, Vermont, and Wisconsin, don't count out Boston University and Boston College. Back in late May The Pipeline Show reported that Roy was looking at possibly getting out of his commitment and mentioned BU and BC as possible destinations.
Remember that Boston College landed John Gaudreau in early August of 2011 after a late decommitment from Northeastern. Gaudreau helped lead the Eagles to the National Championship this past April.
Buckle your seat belts ladies and gentlemen, because some team is going to get an impact recruit at the last second.
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