Sunday, April 7, 2013

Haula and Alt Sign Pro Contracts

Following the departures of some of the Gophers' key players earlier this week in Schmidt, Budish, and Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Mark Alt follow the trend and sign entry level contracts with NHL teams. Both Haula and Alt were juniors this past season and had one year of eligibility remaining, which they will forgo to pursue their professional careers. All of these players leaving early to sign contracts brings up other possible departures. Could Nate Condon be next? While Condon has played primarily on the third line for his first three seasons, he has also seen time on the first and second lines. He may be the fastest player in college hockey, or at least in the top ten. He has had decent stats the last couple of seasons and has scored some big goals, and his speed may help him transition more easily at the next level. He was drafted in 2008 by the Colorado Avalanche in the 7th round (200th overall). He had 12 goals and 19 assists this season for 31 points, with 30 points his sophomore year. Or could Ben Marshall be next? A seventh round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010 (201st overall), Marshall showed flashes of offensive ability his freshman season, but showed vulnerability in the defensive zone and playing his 1-on-1's. His sophomore season saw him score 8 goals and 11 assists for 19 points. His speed may be a concern for the next level, so I think he stays and takes over the top of the power play for Nate Schmidt. With some of the team's top players leaving, it means others need to step up next season. While the Gophers have some great prospects coming in with Kloos, Guertler, and Cammarata, these players will need to adapt to the speed of Division I hockey and play with players who can help them contribute. Players like Sam Warning, who showed great flashes of skill this season, need to break out next year and be a consistent threat to score. Along with Kyle Rau who will have to continue his production without the help of Bjugstad and Budish next year. Let's take a look at the newest departures...

Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild, 7th round, 182nd overall
Haula was drafted in 2009 by the Wild
Haula had a pretty good freshman campaign, putting up 24 points as a rookie. As a sophomore, he took over and led the team in scoring with 49 points, including 20 goals for second on the team behind Nick Bjugstad in goals scored. In his junior season he was good for 51 points on 16 goals and 35 assists. I admit the last two seasons I was critical on Haula's habit of shooting the puck whenever humanly
possible, but this season his unselfish play really impressed me. He played like a real team-first player this year and his skill is undeniable. He has great vision on the ice, and is a pretty good puck handler. With the Wild being in playoff contention, I would doubt Haula will see any ice with the Wild this season, but rather play for the Houston Aeros and get some legitimate ice time in preparation for next season. The Wild forwards are deep this year in comparison to the past, so Haula might have to wait a few years to find himself a regular in the lineup, but if he does well with Houston, he may see a few call ups next year and get a few games in.

Mark Alt, Philadelphia Flyers, 7th round, 200th overall (Carolina Hurricanes)
Mark Alt playing with the Gophers
Alt was originally drafted in 2010 by the Carolina Hurricanes, but was recently dealt to the Flyers in a trade deal. Alt had two goals and eight assists in his rookie season. His sophomore season, I really thought he broke out. Alt posted five goals and 17 assists for 22 points his sophomore campaign. He looked great defensively and also showed patience on the blueline which allowed him to chip in on the
score sheet. This season, Alt did not register a goal, and had seven assists. While usually steady defensively, Alt did take a small step back this year. He struggled sometimes tying players up in front and let offensive players get behind him. Not known as an offensive defenseman during his career thus far, I think Alt will do fine at the next level if he keeps his focus on playing solid defense. He has a big body and good instincts. Like Haula, Alt likely won't have a shot at the Flyers lineup until next season, but I think it might take him at least two before he can play at that level.

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