The summer of 2009 will be known for two things: the flight of the Penguins and the rise in prominence of college free agents. Once considered long-shot projects at best, over-age NCAA products like Tyler Bozak and Matt Gilroy are proving that investing in an education can still lead to a first round pick’s pay cheque. So which recruits should you be on the look-out for next season?
First, let’s recap the paths that lead the collegiate class of 2009 to where they are today.
Tyler Bozak, C
b: March 19, 1986 (23)
Ht/Wt: 6’1, 180 lbs
2008-09 Team: University of Denver
2008-09 Stats: 19 GP, 8-15-23, 10 PIM
Recruited From: Victoria Salsas (BCHL)
2004-05: 55 GP, 15-16-31
2005-06: 56 GP, 31-38-69
2006-07: 59 GP, 45-83-128
Many people will point to Tyler Bozak’s last season on BC’s Tier II circuit as the year he truly became a noteworthy player. In only 59 games, the then-20 year-old netted an incredible 128 points- seven more than top-five pick KyleTurris.
Bozak was signed to a National Letter of Intent (LOI) before the 2006-07 season was even half-over; although he was officially introduced as a recruit in December, he had committed by the first week of November. Other schools were rumored to have been chasing him even earlier.
So what had so many D1 schools interested? While Bozak had 46 points in the first 18 games of the season, he was still second (at that point) in the BCHL scoring race. And despite his advanced age, he’d still only had 69 points the year before. No, what endeared teams to the undersized center was not skill- although that proved to be what got a world-class program like Denver after him. It wasBozak’s work ethic and terrific play in all zones that made an impression even the previous year.
Matt Gilroy, D
b: July 30th, 1984 (24)
Ht/Wt: 6’2, 195 lbs
2008-09 Team: Boston University
2008-09 Stats: 45 GP, 8-29-37, 12 PIM
Recruited From: Walpole Jr. Stars (EJHL)
2004-05: 55 GP, 24-29-53, 20 PIM
Matt Gilroy’s story has been well-dissected by this point. The prize recruit of the 2009 NCAA free agent class grew- literally- from an average forward in Junior A into the top rearguard in the country. An incredible drive to succeed and unmatched hockey sense ultimately aided him in his conversion to defense, and it didn’t hurt that he could skate and shoot, either.
Gilroy joined BU in the fall of 2005 as a walk-on, meaning his way wasn’t even paid. Instead, he earned his way into the rotation by practicing as the team’s eighthdefenseman. Prior to joining the Terriers, Gilroy paced the Walpole Jr. Stars in points, finishing 13th league-wide.
Brad Thiessen, G
b: March 19th, 1986
Ht/Wt: 6’0, 172 lbs
2008-09 Team: Northeastern University
2008-09 Stats: 25-12-4, 2.12 GAA, 0.931 Sv%
Recruited From: Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
2005-06: 49 GP, 22-21-4, 2.88 GAA, 0.922 Sv%
2004-05: 36 GP, 12-22-1, 3.42 GAA, 0.904 Sv%
2003-04: 42 GP, 13-17-1, 3.44 GAA, 0.897 Sv%
The only goalie of note in the loaded 2009 collegiate free agent class, Brad Thiessen followed a very similar path to Colorado fourth round selection Kieran Millan. A Junior A star who honed his game in Western Canada, T