There is some bad news out of the world of college hockey, as the NCAA will lose another hockey program at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Also, a pair of former second-round draft picks find new homes with NHL clubs. Finally, we profile one of the top European goaltenders heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
WHCA Loses Another Team
The players and fans of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) ice hockey team received some devasting news on Wednesday. UAA officials announced they would be cutting four sports from their athletic program including men’s hockey, women’s gymnastics and men’s and women’s skiing.
“The decision to cut any UAA program, academic or athletic, is devastating. Since fiscal year 2014, state funding for UAA declined by $34 million, forcing leadership to make difficult decisions about which programs and services the university can sustain long term,” UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said in an official statement. “That includes our sports programs. My heart goes out to our student-athletes and coaching staffs affected by this situation. This comes at a difficult time as they are already facing much uncertainty surrounding this year’s season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of the incredible resilience they have shown.”
UAA started its hockey program in 1979. They made three NCAA tournament appearances in 1990, 1991 and 1992. There have been nine former Seadogs who have skated in the NHL including Curtis Glencross and Stanley Cup winners Jay Beagle and Mike Peluso.
The 2020-21 season will be the final one for the Seadogs hockey team. They compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) which is in some serious trouble. The 10-team conference is losing seven teams the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) after this season, so their future is in doubt.
Blackhawks Add College Free Agent
The deadline for NHL teams to sign their draft picks who’ve completed their college careers passed on Aug. 15. One such player, former Notre Dame forward Cam Morrison, went the free agency route and chose to sign with the team of his liking.
Morrison was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round (40th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Just a couple of days after not working out a deal with the Avalanche, the soon to be 22-year-old forward signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In four seasons at Notre Dame, Morrison scored 44 goals and 95 points in 149 games. He set new career-highs with 13 goals and 27 points during his 37-game senior season. He was named to the Big Ten all-tournament team in 2018 and 2019 as he scored the game-winning goal of the championship game in each of those years.
Morrison is a big and strong forward who plays a solid all-around game. He is touted for his good vision and puck skills, while he has no problem getting to the front of the net. His ceiling is likely a bottom-six power forward who can play in all situations. He is expected to start the 2020-21 season with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Fucale Heads to D.C.
The majority of goaltending prospects need more time and experience before being considered an NHL roster spot than their skater counterparts. Sure, every once in awhile, you get a young phenom like a Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price or Carter Hart, but, for the most part, young goalies need time to master their craft.
25-year-old netminder Zach Fucale is still looking to make his NHL debut. He was taken with the 36th overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He has yet to live up to his high expectations as he has split time between the ECHL and AHL over the past five seasons.
Fucale signed on with his fourth organization on Wednesday by inking a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals.
This past season in the ECHL, he went 10-8-4 with the Orlando Solar Bears posting a .928 save percentage (SV%) and 2.36 goals-against average (GAA). He appeared in just one AHL game last season with the Syracuse Crunch, giving up three goals on 15 shots. In 69 career AHL games, Fucale has a .900 SV% and 3.09 GAA.
Prospect of the Day – Jan Bednar
We will stay between the pipes to profile one of the top goaltending prospects heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Bednar, a native of the Czech Republic, is ranked second among European goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. One of our resident draft experts, Larry Fisher, has him as the sixth-ranked goaltending prospect of the draft class.
Related: THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
There is no doubt that Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov is the top goaltender in this year’s draft. There are some that say he is the best goaltending prospect since Price, who was taken fifth overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2005. The drop off after Askarov is pretty severe and it is anybody’s guess when the next netminder will be selected.
Bednar has the big frame that today’s NHL teams look for in a goaltender, at 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds. He made his professional debut in the Czech Republic at the age of 18 and earned a shutout in his very first start. He played in 10 games during the 2018-19 season and posted a .917 SV% and 2.73 GAA as a teenager facing veteran professionals.
He struggled in his second season, with a .884 SV% and 4.39 GAA in 13 games at the top level. He was loaned to the Czech Republic’s equivalent of the AHL where he put up a .873 SV% and 3.26 GAA in 24 appearances.
His consistency has caused his overall numbers to suffer, but the foundation is there. He uses his size well to cut down on the shooting angles. He is very aggressive and loves to play at the top of his crease, challenging the shot. He has remarkable lateral movements and very good reflexes, which help him make up for some deficiencies, like his underwhelming rebound control.
Our own Jeb Biggart gave us his thoughts on Bednar’s NHL projection.
As a projected third-round pick, Bednar can’t be projected as anything above a fringe starter or back up at the NHL level. He possesses the size, the foundation and the vision to succeed, but there are plenty of points of refinement before he can make the jump towards a bonafide NHL starter.
Bednar has the tools to make it, but he needs to make a lot of improvements before there is any serious discussion about a professional career in North America. He was drafted by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan with the second pick of the recent Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft. Playing in the smaller rinks of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) will go a long way in Bednar’s development.