In the CCHL, young players get the chance to prove they can excel at higher levels of hockey. While some players win scholarships and move on to become solid NCAA players, others become leaders at the next level—and continue to dominate.
Throughout my career, I’ve written about every hockey league from Jr. A up to the NHL—but I began with the CCHL. Since I’ll again be writing about the league on a bi-weekly basis for HockeyNow after a hiatus, I thought it would be fun to go back to my beginning and catch up with some of the players I used to write about.
Many of them are now highly-valued contributors in the NCAA, but some of them have grown enough to warrant a professional contract when they graduate—and perhaps even a look from the NHL. Here are the Top 5 CCHL Graduates in the NCAA.
*Blaine Byron (PIT) was not taken into consideration because he graduated before I joined HockeyNow.
1. Andy Sturtz, RW, Carleton Place Canadians Penn State University.
If the Carleton Place Canadians were to compete for another 100 years (and they will, if Owner/Head Coach/GM Jason Clarke can help it), Andy Sturtz might be known as the best to play for the team in its history (perhaps not if Clarke can help it). All he did was lead the team to consecutive appearances at the RBC Cup, and score 176 points in 116 games with the franchise. He was also a tenacious defensive forward, getting regular shifts on the penalty kill and scoring a jaw-dropping nine shorthanded goals in 2014-15.
In his first year with Penn State University, Sturtz scored 18 goals—incredible production from a Jr. A grad. This season, Sturtz is the fifth-leading goal scorer in the NCAA (second in Big Ten) at 17 goals and 23 points with games remaining. He has been rewarded for his insane year with a Hobey Baker Award nomination. You can show this former Carleton Place star some love by voting for him.
2. Eric Israel, D, Brockville Braves Robert Morris University
While Eric Israel was playing for the Brockville Braves, he and defensive partner Andrew Peski were one of the best combos around. Still, it was Peski who got most of the attention from scouts, appearing on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List in November, 2014. Since both players joined the NCAA however, it’s Israel who has been the more dominant of the two.
Now with Robert Morris University in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, Israel had a modest 11 points in 34 games during the 2015-16 season. This year, he has 25 in 28 as the team’s go-to distributor on the power play. Most notably, he helped his team climb back from a 5-1 deficit to defeat the Rochester Institute of Technology 6-5—a game in which he had five points and the game-tying goal.
3. Max Veronneau, RW, Gloucester Rangers Princeton University
Max Veronneau’s 17 points in 2015-16 were great, but he has raised his game to another level this year—scoring 27 points in 22 games. He was awarded the Hockey Commissioners Association National Division I Player of the Month award for December. During that month, his assist (10), power play goal (4) and point (16) totals were tops in the NCAA.
4. Ryan Kuffner, LW, Gloucester Rangers Princeton University
Ryan Kuffner was a teammate of Veronneau’s in Gloucester, and they’ve continued to excel together at Princeton. He made the transition to the NCAA look far easier than most of his peers, scoring 20 points in 31 games during his first year (2015-16) with Princeton. This season, he’s improved to 13 goals and 24 points in 23 games.
5. Erik Brown, LW, Kemptville 73’s Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
Although he was dismissed by OHL teams during his draft year, Erik Brown posted consecutive 30-goal campaigns for a bubble Kemptville 73’s team—thus receiving a scholarship to Atlantic Hockey’s RIT. Now, he is showing his true potential as one of the NCAA’s most potent scorers. He leads RIT with 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists).
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