While college hockey is not as popular as the other major sports in the United States, there are still several great college programs producing future NHL stars.
The top college hockey program in the country would have to be Michigan. They have won more national championships in hockey than any other school in the United States. They have also been able to send Brendan Morrison, Max Pacioretty and many more players to the NHL.
Boston College and Boston University are two of the more productive programs of the past few years. They both have won five national championships, and Boston College has been able to make the finals five of the past eight years.
Denver currently sits in second place with seven national championships in hockey. Their last two titles came in 2004 and 2005 with the help of Paul Statsny.
Minnesota is another great hockey program that seems to always be in contention of the championship. While their last title came in 2003, they have been able to win five titles in the program's history.
The final great college hockey program would have to be Wisconsin. They have won six titles and made the frozen four 12 times. They are also known for sending Dany Heatley to the NHL.
The 2013 NHL entry draft is set to take place at the end of June, and it features the best young talent in the world looking to take the next step. The draft is filled with several great players that look like they will become stars in the NHL, but will they be able to succeed or fail to live up to expectations.
The top prospect in the draft is Seth Jones, who is also one of the only great prospects from the United Stats. Jones' father played professional basketball in the NBA, so he certainly has the genes to succeed. Seth Jones thrived in the WHL last year, and he is the best defensive prospect to hit the draft in quite some time.
Nathan MacKinnon is the other prospect that should have no problem succeeding at the next level. The Canadian center has been able to score 63 goals and 153 points in just two seasons in the QMJHL.
The rest of the first round should be filled with Canadian and European players that have already thrived at pro hockey. Jonathan Drouin is a teammate of Nathan MacKinnon, and would not be surprising to see them taken back to back at the top of the draft. It would be wise for a team at the bottom of the first round to take a shot with Zach Fucale. He is the top goalie prospect in the draft, and he has shown an ability to become an all-star in the league.
Parity has been the name of the game in the National Hockey League over the last decade. Of the last ten times the Stanley Cup has been awarded, the Detroit Red Wings are the only team to win it twice (although either the Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins are on the cusp of winning a second one in five years).
In other words, there really hasn't been one or two extremely dominant teams in the current era.
Similarly, there's also been parity to some degree when it comes to individual talent, which makes it difficult to agree on who the top five players have been during this era.
What follows is a countdown of five of the best NHL players over the last ten seasons.
(5) Evgeni Malkin
While a bit more attention is rightly paid to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Malkin is arguably equally responsible for the Penguins' success and he's received nearly as many awards as his teammate. Both players are nearly even in terms of average points-per-season over their careers, and Malkin has won two scoring titles to Crosby's one. Both Penguins have won the Hart Trophy for most valuable player once and the two men hoisted the Stanley cup together in 2009, but it was Malkin rather than Crosby who was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs that year. With Crosby's various injuries mounting over the course of the decade, Malkin has proven his skill and value, and would perhaps be higher on this list if he led his own team and if his profile were higher in popular hockey culture.
(4) Martin Brodeur
Although he's well into the twilight of his career and will no doubt be retiring soon, there's no denying that Brodeur has been not only the most consistently good player in the toughest position in the sport over the last ten years, but he was also perhaps the best goaltender during the previous ten, which was when he won two of his Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. He went on to win a third in 2003 at the start of the current era, and surprisingly took the Devils to the finals again in 2012 at the age of 40. Even though he never won the Smythe or the Hart, he won the Vezina four times in the last decade as the league's top goaltender and has racked up 669 regular season wins (a league record), 113 playoff wins, and holds numerous other records.
(3) Alexander Ovechkin
While the Washington Capitals' captain could be higher on this list, he can't be due to the fact that he's the only one on this list who hasn't won a Stanley Cup or even taken his team to the finals. But he's been the best goal scorer in the game and has now won the Hart three times and the Ross once. If he can win the ultimate prize, this list will have to be revisited.
(2) Nicklas Lidstrom
Even though he retired in 2012, Lidstrom is still easily the best defenseman of the last decade. Like Brodeur, his previous decade was pretty sweet too, and, like Brodeur, his consistency in an inconsistent league has been remarkable. Lidstrom won two of his four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008, and he got his team within minutes of another in 2009. He won four of his seven Norris trophies for best defenseman during the last decade and notched the Smythe in 2002. He's responsible for continuing Steve Yzerman's legacy in Detroit, taking over as captain in 2006 and extending the Red Wings' record for most consecutive playoff appearances by any North American professional sports team, which still continues to this day.
(1) Sidney Crosby
While injuries and sharing the limelight in Pittsburgh with Malkin have perhaps limited Crosby's accolades, there's no question that he has been the most important, exciting, and best player in the NHL over the last decade. A winner of the Stanley Cup, Hart, and Ross trophies, he's in the conversation for individual awards every year and will continue to be, and his team has consistently been and will be the favorite to win it all year after year. Crosby also won the gold medal for Canada in the 2010 Olympics. The only way he'll lose this ranking in hindsight is if his injuries continue to plague him and if he as a result doesn't live up to his amazing potential. You thought this was good? Brace yourself: Pens, Malkin Agree On 8-Year, 76 Million Extension
Who Are The Best Ten College Hockey Players Of The Last Decade?
College hockey is becoming one of the fastest and most beloved collegiate sports in history. Moreover, picking the ten best collegiate hockey stars is a tall order. There have been hundreds of outstanding players to emerge throughout the United States. Therefore, refining a list to ten exceptional players is one that requires objectivity, foresight and a true understanding for the league. Looking back, the important thing to bear in mind is the evolution and consistency of a player's entire collegiate career. What made each of these players unique were the early signs of draft status that they manifested in their freshman and sophomore years of playing. It is also important to watch out for inflated collegiate numbers. In this sense, a consistent average of a player's highs and lows is crucial to understanding who the best players were in the last ten years. This was no easy matter, but here is the list of the top ten players in college history over the previous decade.
1. Kyle Flanagan
2. Austin Czarnik
3. Brett Gensler
4. Daniel Carr
5. Joey Diamond
6. Peter Mannino
7. Matt Read
8. Matt Nieto
9. Jeff Lerg
10. Kevin Porter
More info here: Indiana Tech Is To Launch Men's Hockey Team
Jim Craig became a legend when he played in goal on the 1980 US Olympic team that beat the Soviets in the "Miracle on Ice". He had been drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1977, and entered the NHL shortly after his Olympic triumph. However, he failed to impress as a professional and finished his career with only 30 games played.
Rick DiPietro is another goaltender that had a tough time as a pro. DiPietro was selected first in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and was awarded a 15 year contract. After a string of injuries he now finds himself playing in the AHL with the Islanders' affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers.The full explanation can be found at http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2013/06/04/report-isles-will-try-to-make-it-worthwhile-to-take-dipietro/
Jim Montgomery racked up 300 points in college with Maine and had a promising start as a pro. He earned a high profile trade to the Montreal Canadiens for the 1994-95 season, but was released after only five games.
Tony Hirac won the 1987 Hobey Baker Award and seemed to have a glittering pro career ahead of him. However, he never managed to establish himself as an NHL star during a 12 season career which included stints with 10 teams.
Another Hobey Award winner was Scott Fusco. After 123 games and 248 points with Harvard he was drafted by the Devils in 1982. Fusco struggled in New Jersey and never played in an NHL game.