Pittsburgh, PA – – While the world waits for the Stanley Cup to begin, Tommy Wingels and a lot of players from both teams got a chance to talk about the big game and a lot more.
Wingels, 28, has been an NHL regular since 2011-12. He’s a hard working, greasy player who the Sharks love to draft. In 2008 he was drafted 177th overall and that’s not a-typical for Tim Burke, the Sharks Director of Scouting.
In 2009, Wingels was one of the leaders of his Miami University squad who advanced and lost in the Frozen Four. That’s the path he chose and he’s proud of it.
There seems to be mouting support towards changing the NHL Draft age from 18 to 19. It would help players get, bigger, faster and stronger and the feeder leagues like the USHL may get to hold on to some stars a bit longer.
College hockey seems to be on the rise. It’s getting more respect and there’s 30% of them playing in the NHL.
“I think so,” said WIngels. “The college hockey is very good. You see players now that maybe you didn’t see before. Guys are impacting the game in their first year. As a forward it used to take guys 2-3 years in the American League to figure it out. Now you have guys stepping in after right out of college.
“Guys are signing early and playing a handful of games at the end of seasons. Now you have free agents that 15 or 20 teams are going after. That’s a testament to college hockey and the way USA Hockey prepares players for it.’
As we dug into this conversation we talked about benefits the college game has over the Canadian Hockey League.
“U.S. college hockey gets players ready. There’s different routes to get there. I think that’s the best route. Kids develop at different ages. In major junior you have to be a very, very good player at 15 or 16. Which is fine. Lots of guys are,” he added. “When you go to college you have much more time to develop strength. For lots of guys that’s very important. For me, I couldn’t imagine playing in the NHL at 18. I was just getting to college at that point. I loved my time there and I love going back and staying involved.”
When I asked if he was in favor of a 19 year-old draft I wasn’t sure what his response would be. It’s a hot topic.
“Yes, there’s no pressure right away to make it. There’s more paitence. More opportunity for you to work on your game and get stronger and develop more as a person. Become a better person and become a better player. It’s different. There’s nothing wrong with the two different avenues. This one has suited me well.”
Another player Wingels couldn’t stop talking about was captain, Joe Pavelski, who starred at the University of Wisconsin.
Very few teams utilize college players better than Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks.
photo by Sportsology