Nick Oliver saw his college hockey career at St. Cloud State end in a 4-1 loss in the second round to the second-ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux on Saturday, March 28. Typically once the season comes to a close, a senior will turn pro. The Nashville Predators, who drafted Oliver in the 4th round in 2009, have been mute on the situation.
It brings up the question: what is next for the 23-year-old?
“I’m still waiting to find out what’s next for me,” Oliver said in a phone conversion. “I’ve got people working on that for me, so nothing is really set in stone. I’m just playing the waiting game. It’s weird not knowing what’s next, but I’m looking forward to facing some of the challenges I will see over the next few months as I move forward with my life.”
Oliver has not been offered a contract by the Predators, so he can sign elsewhere in the NHL.
As captain of the Huskies in his senior season, Oliver scored 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 40 games. In four years at St. Cloud State, the Roseau, Minnesota native amassed 19 points (7 g, 12 a) in 145 games and helped lead the school to the Frozen Four, once, and the NCAA tournament regional finals, twice.
“When I first got here as a freshman, we would have been happy winning one game in the tournament and being close to going to the Frozen Four,” Oliver said. “In the last three years, after going to the Frozen Four and reaching the regional finals, your expectations change.
“I would like to think I was a part in this program taking off the last couple years. It goes way beyond me — my class was phenomenal. The other classes had so many good people, [too], I was just glad to be a part of it. To see where this program has come in my four years here is pretty special.”
Any student-athlete will tell you how difficult it is to maintain high grades while playing a sport. However, his parents, who are teachers, put an emphasis on academics for Oliver at an early age. It has apparently worked because he was named to the all-WCHA academic team in 2013 and all-NCHC academic team in 2014. On March 19, he won the 2015 NCHC Sportsmanship Award.
If pro hockey does not work for the finance major, he has a good backup plan.
“My first year [at St. Cloud State], I was just taking general classes because I did not know what I wanted to do,” Oliver said. “I thought maybe I wanted to teach like my parents, but half of the people go through the business school at St. Cloud, whether that is marketing, finance, accounting or whatever it may be. St. Cloud has a very good business school, so that seemed like the right choice for me. It has worked out well for me.
“I’m going to miss play college hockey here, but I’m not going to miss going to class. It will be nice to have a degree.”
College Hockey’s Rising Credibility
Every year, there are more former college players in the NHL than the one before. An unprecedented four college players were selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In 2014, three were selected. Though it will take time for college hockey to reach the same level as the Canadian Hockey League, the hockey world can no longer sleep on the NCAA.
“The amount of kids that played college hockey that go on to have successful NHL careers [proves that],” Oliver said. “People have a better appreciation for it. College hockey has definitely taken off.”
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.