Thursday, August 5, 2010

It Has Begun ...

... or rather, it continues.

Kyle Palmieri. Louis Leblanc. Nick Leddy. What do they all have in common?

They all played college hockey. That's right - played. As in done, or rather one and done. Each recently signed his first professional contract after just one season of play at the NCAA Division I college level. Palmieri departed Notre Dame for the Anaheim Ducks, Leblanc left Harvard for his hometown Montreal Canadiens, and Leddy is off to the Chicago Blackhawks organization from Minnesota.

Mind you, they've just signed contracts, not picked out their locker in an NHL dressing room. There's no guarantee any of them will be in the "The Show" next season, or ever, but their college eligibility is kaput. Such is the nature of the beast with elite players, but more and more it seems like college is becoming a stopover for some skaters. Two semesters of play and study, and they're off - barely enough time to arrange their dorm room before they pack their bag for their pro career.

Players are going to leave early every year, but after just one college campaign? Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader both left Michigan State after its 2007 NCAA title, and Nathan Gerbe followed suit a year later when Boston College won the whole thing; but each of those guys played three collegiate seasons. None of them has really become a fixture with his respective NHL team - Kennedy was just waived by Buffalo, and Gerbe has had trouble sticking with those same Sabres. Abdelkader scored two goals in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals and spent the first half of last season with Detroit, but was later sent back to the Red Wings' AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Makes you wonder how Palmieri, Leblanc and Leddy might fare when it's their turn. Being all first-round draft choices, the odds are in their favor that they'll (eventually) make it - but will any of them make a bigger impact than Kennedy, Abdelkader or Gerbe did in their first few NHL seasons? Or any of the other players who will eschew a scholarship for a one- or two-way contract between now and Opening Night?

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