The Detroit Red Wings roster is being strengthened greatly by collegiate hockey programs. Current Roster Players who followed the path being chosen by more and more athletes are Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller (Michigan State University), Gustav Nyquist and Jimmy Howard (University of Maine), Danny Dekeyser (Western Michigan University), Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame) and Brendan Smith (University of Wisconsin). Of Course, Head Coach Jeff Blashill played as a goal tender (Ferris State University) and worked on staff at Ferris State University, before becoming the Head Coach at Western Michigan University. Many point to Dylan Larkin (University of Michigan) as an impressive standout and top ranked prospect in the current system. Robbie Russo, one time draft pick of the New York Islanders (2011 draft), has been signed to a 2 year entry level contract after a very strong season at Notre Dame (15 goals and 26 assists).
Currently, 8 players on a 22 man roster have a college hockey background. It would be reasonable to expect this trend to increase over time. In part, college hockey allows a different sort of development than the junior hockey or professional route. Apart from the obvious value of the education they have access to, players can be part of a team for 4 or 5 years and grow without being traded. The ability to put on weight (a very difficult issue for many young players) can be facilitated differently because of the type of schedule the players have. Most games are on weekends, giving the week for nutrition and training. The potential can be exposed and developed for those who may not get drafted (i.e. Danny Dekeyser), and those who are drafted have the ability to work with coaches who offer a different nurturing environment.
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons the collegiate path will continue to impact the Detroit Red Wings and their farm system so greatly is the head coach himself, Jeff Blashill. He knows the systems well, and did a lot of his own scouting and development. Coach Blashill has the unique gift of having been through every part of the college process (student, assistant, and head coach). He seems to communicate very well with young players, and has great insight into the collegiate game.
We look forward to the coming year, and it is fast approaching. Soon the Bulldogs and the Broncos, the Wolverines and the Spartans, and the passionate fans from Central Michigan, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and all of the incredible programs in this great state will gather together again. It is a treat to see who will rise to the top and reach the next level, but also to watch the greatest game in the world played for the simple love and passion that Hockey can bring.