"I felt we made a mistake in building a baseball field. I thought that should have been the ice skating rink, because I think hockey in this state right now, not just hockey, but ice skating, if you come up to our office building at 6:00 in the morning, some mornings you can't get a parking spot because parents have taken their kids up here to skate...I think hockey will be a great addition to our intercollegiate program. [The Pegula gift] is a great, great gift. And I think very far-sighted and I'm really pleased with it." - Joe Paterno

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stocking Up For The Big Time

In what should be considered the single biggest recruiting haul in the young history of Penn State's NCAA program, Guy Gadowsky landed three highly-touted players over the last two days according to recruiting guru Chris Heisenberg.

First thing's first: all three of the players in this post will be starting at PSU in 2012, as NCAA play gets underway. That's not the only commonality shared by the trio, however. All three hail from decidedly traditional hockey areas (two from Canada, one from Michigan), as Gadowsky continues to prove that he'll go where the players reside. And all three provide a glimpse of the Nittany Lions' recruiting pull once full-fledged varsity status arrives. Quite simply, that pull is pretty strong.


Luke Juha

Defenseman
Burlington Cougars (OJHL)
5'11", 180 pounds
Mississauga, ON
DOB 3/9/1993

OJHL player page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
-------------------------------------------------------------

2009-10  Burlington Cougars     CCHL   29    6   25   31   24
2010-11  Burlington Cougars     OJHL   44    9   39   48   16

Did this post's intro get you pumped? No? Well, maybe this will. Sit down for a second - it's declaration time.

Luke Juha may be the first Penn Stater ever to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft.

In case it slipped your mind, we'll know about that soon enough - the draft is next weekend, June 24th and 25th to be exact. In the meantime, here's a projection from December that shows Juha as a second-rounder. Granted, he's not likely to be taken that high, as he's considered something of a sleeper. Opinions of Juha are widely varied, to the point where he doesn't even appear on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters. So essentially, he could go anywhere from the second round to undrafted. Glad I could nail that down for you.

In the event Juha's name does get called in St. Paul, some lucky NHL team will have acquired the rights to a defenseman with rare vision and puck-moving ability. According to TheScoutingReport.org:
He is a defenseman with tremendous offensive upside, will not over complicate the game and always makes the smart pass. Juha has been said to make passes that other players his age would not attempt, which supports the fact that the Mississauga native, has outstanding vision.
In other words, he fits perfectly in Gadowsky's up-tempo system. But it took a fortuitous sequence of events to get Juha to Hockey Valley. He originally spurned Gadowsky's Princeton program (as well as Maine, Harvard and the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm, who drafted him in 2009) and committed to Clarkson last year, with plans to begin this fall. But in April, the Golden Knights dismissed coach George Roll, who recruited Juha. Put that together with Gadowsky's arrival at PSU and it's pretty easy to understand why Juha has now had an apparent change of heart regarding his college choice.

The guy's not exactly light on accolades either.
Luke Juha is the only player to receive recognition as both an [OJHL] All-Star, being named to the North-West Conference 1st All-Star Team, and as an All-Prospect. The seventeen-year old’s award-filled season includes winning a silver medal as a member of Team Canada East at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, participating in the CJHL Prospects Game and leading the Burlington Cougars to a West Division title.
Here's a video that shows a little bit of Juha's background before heading to Burlington - he and four others spent an unbelievable seven years as teammates through minor hockey. Two of that Fab Five are Ryan Strome and Michael Curtis, both anticipated NHL draft picks next weekend. Hopefully Juha will be joining them.




Jonathan Milley

Forward
Pembroke Lumber Kings (CCHL)
6'4", 215 pounds
Ottawa, ON
DOB 5/8/1991

CCHL player page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
-------------------------------------------------------------

2007-08  Smiths Falls Bears     CJHL   30    3    5    8   29
2008-09  Smiths Falls Bears     CJHL   58   28   33   61  109
2009-10  Smiths Falls Bears     CJHL   31   13   29   42   78
2010-11  Pembroke Lumber Kings  CCHL   42   29   29   58   50

Jonathan Milley did a lot of winning last season.

Sure, his Pembroke Lumber Kings cruised to a CCHL-best 51-9-2 record last season and went on to take the Bogart Cup, symbolic of the league's playoff championship, for the fifth straight time. But while that's a destination for most outfits, for Milley and his teammates, that was just the beginning.

From there, it was on to the Fred Page Cup, contested each year by the champions of the CCHL, the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League, the Maritime Hockey League and a host team. Once again, the Lumber Kings met little resistance, going 2-1-0 in the round robin, then defeating QJAAAHL champion Longueuil College Francais for the Cup. That win allowed Pembroke to compete for the RBC Cup, Canada's Junior A national championship, along with champions from other regions. And as you might have guessed, the Lumber Kings won that too, topping the two-time defending champion Vernon Vipers in the final.

Not bad for a season's work.

At this point, you may be thinking "all of this is well and good, but team success doesn't necessarily say anything about an individual player on the team."

Except in this case it does, because Milley's play grew exponentially along with the importance of the games. During the CCHL regular season, his 29 goals and 58 points were good for second and fourth on the team, respectively. Then, come CCHL playoff time, he led the Lumber Kings in scoring. At the Fred Page Cup, he notched four points in the championship game and was named player of the tournament. By the final of the RBC Cup, Milley had taken over completely, scoring the only two goals in the game (part of his tournament-high seven).

Milley's RBC Cup-winning goal somehow found that hole.

Milley brings something important to the table - size and presence down low, particularly on the power play. Fifteen of his 29 goals last season came on the man advantage - I imagine many of them looked quite a bit like the one shown in the photo above as well as the ones in the videos on Milley's Lumber Kings profile page.

A big player who plays even bigger in important situations and important games. Name a hockey team that doesn't need one (or more) of those.


Mark Yanis

Defenseman
Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
6'2", 190 pounds
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
DOB 5/26/1994

USHL player page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
-------------------------------------------------------------

2009-10  Belle Tire U16         Mdgt.  64    6   16   22  112
2010-11  Muskegon Lumberjacks   USHL   54    1    4    5  136

Coming off of a productive midget season in his native Detroit area, defenseman Mark Yanis was chosen by the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in the ninth round of the 2010 OHL draft. If you're new in the game, there's a common dilemma faced by high-end players once they turn 16 - play Canadian major junior and lose NCAA eligibility or take what's commonly referred to as the college track and play in the USHL (or other junior leagues considered amateur by the NCAA) until ready for higher education.

Yanis (as well as fellow one-time OHL picks Juha and Milley) chose the latter, signing with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks this past season and holding his own as the youngest player on the team to log more than ten games. He had a top-six defense spot on lockdown and contributed a physical presence on the back end.

If it's not obvious yet, he has a big-time ceiling. For starters, look at the college programs knocking on his door.
Yanis is a well sought-out player, with the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, The Ohio State University and University of Notre Dame heavily recruiting him. [Note: Penn State wasn't on his radar at this point, as the article was written two months prior to PSU having an NCAA program.]
Yanis doesn't plan on ending his hockey career in college either, as he's considered a likely pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

A couple quick scouting reports are in order, first from Lumberjacks coach Kevin Patrick:
“Mark is a hard-nosed defenseman who loves to play physical and in a guy’s face. He skates well and moves the puck well. And he’s not afraid to get up and support the rush.”
Next, from the USHL Prospects Blog:
A big shut down style defenseman. At 16, Yanis already has pro caliber size, standing at 6'3" and 190 pounds. Yanis, like [Sioux City Musketeers defenseman Sam] Piazza, plays a more defensive game, not really producing offensively.
And finally, from Yanis himself:
"I skate well for a guy my size and I take pride in making tape-to-tape passes coming out of the defensive zone. I can mix it up in the corners and play a physical game...I like the way [Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas] Kronwall plays and I think I play hockey like he does."
Yanis dispenses some justice.

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