This week, the Michigan State Spartans hockey team has a bye week before playing a home-and-home series against the Western Michigan Broncos November 22-23. A bye week, combined with the beginning of the early signing period for national letters of intent, felt like a good time to update hockey recruiting. You can view a list of all college commitments and future Spartan classes here.
A common question in the comments section of the hockey stories, has been whats in the pipeline for the Spartans and how is Tom Anastos recruiting? Before getting into profiles on the committed recruits I thought I'd point some nuances in hockey recruiting. Hockey recruiting begins at a young age, similar to basketball, but unlike basketball, it also has early commitments. Many of the top hockey recruits have committed by age 16 or 17, a couple of seasons before they arrive on campus. Since hockey recruiting is done so far in advance, it usually takes a coach 2-3 seasons before he puts together a class he has recruited from beginning to end.
The 2014-2015 class will represent the most talented class from top to bottom that Anastos has brought to Michigan State. It will include players with international tournament experience, 3 players on the NHL Central Scouting List and all five players are in the United States Hockey League. The USHL is the top tier junior hockey league in the United States.
One quick caveat before getting into player profiles is that none of these players have signed their NLI yet. Many of these kids have been drafted in the Ontario Hockey League as well, which makes them a possible flight risk. I wouldn't think any of these guys decommit, but for a program that has lost both Matt Duchene and Reid Boucher to the OHL in recent years, you can never be too certain.
Joshua Jacobs (Defense, Indiana Ice, Shelby Township, MI)- Jacobs represents the crown jewel in the 2014-15 recruiting class. The 6'2" 196 pound defenseman played in 48 games as a 16-year-old last season for an Indiana team that finished last in their conference. Jacobs has been rated as a B skater on the most recent Central Scouting List of North American players released by the NHL. This would project Jacobs as a second to third round selection in the upcoming 2014 NHL Draft. Jacobs has been described as a smooth skating, offensively talented defenseman. With the continuing struggles for MSU to produce offense, a defenseman who can rush the puck and create offense will be a welcome addition. Jacobs recently was a part of the World Junior A Championship, helping the United States defeat Russia for the gold medal. For Indiana this season, Jacobs has 1 goal and 6 points through 10 games played. The Sarnia Sting drafted Jacobs in the 2012 OHL draft in the 4th round. The Sting are the same organization that drafted former Spartan commit Reid Boucher.
Edwin Minney (Goaltender, USA National Development Team, Wind Gap, PA)- Minney, like Jacobs was invited to play in the CCM/USA Hockey All American Prospects game on September 26th, 2013. Minney made 16 stops in the game on 17 shots and is considered the best goalie of all 1996 birthdates. He has played in 13 games for the U.S. Under 18 National Team, that splits time between the USHL and international tournaments. This season, Minney is 7-4-1 with a .903 save % and a 2.58 GAA. Minney has also been the goaltender in net for the U18s as they have played exhibitions against North Dakota, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State. Minney is a big goaltender standing 6'4" and 201 pounds. Minney should come to campus and push for playing time right away. Minney, whose rights are held by the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, was rated as a B goaltender by NHL Central Scouting.
Cody Milan (Forward, Sioux Falls Stampede, White Lake, MI)- Milan is the 3rd and last Spartan recruit for 2014-15 who appears on the Central Scouting list of players to watch. Like Jacobs, Milan is rated as a B skater, slated to go around rounds 2-4 in the 2014 NHL Draft. Milan had great success playing high school hockey for Orchard Lake St. Marys, registering 53 points in 61 games played. Milan was drafted 9th overall by the Sioux Falls Stampede in the 2012 USHL Futures Draft and played 34 games with the club in 2012-13. Milan in 16 games played this season has 0 goals and 1 assist. It would seem that Milan has struggled to find the offensive game that he possessed while playing MHSAA hockey. However, even though Milan hasn't been scoring as much it hasn't hurt his grades from NHL scouts. Cody also is the 3rd youngest player on the Stampede (April 1996) so his struggles could be age related. Milan is probably someone who won't play above the 3rd line his freshman year but should be a good 3-4 year college player. Like Jacobs, Milan was selected in the 4th round in the OHL draft and his rights belong to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Marcel Godbout ( Forward, Des Moines Buccaneers, Center Line, MI)- The second forward in the 2014-15 recruiting is Godbout, who was also on the gold medal winning US Junior A Challenge squad. Godbout played his minor hockey at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota (Think Crosby, Parise, Toews). Looking at his stats from Shattuck, it is clear that Godbout can fill the net. In his bantam season (freshman age year) Godbout had 54 goals and 117 points in only 61 games. Godbout has only played 8 games this season in the USHL, due to the international tournament, and has 4 points in those games. He has the potential to be a leading scorer as he continues to adjust to junior hockey in Des Moines and I see his stock rising more the rest of the season. As is the case with his fellow classmates above, Godbout also has his rights held by an OHL franchise, the Kingston Frontenacs.
Carson Gatt ( Defense, Muskegon Lumberjacks, Farmington Hills, MI) - Gatt is in his first season playing in the USHL after spending three seasons with Detroit Catholic Central. Carson, the younger brother of Spartan Nickolas, is the biggest project of the recruiting class. The Spartans are only graduating two defenseman this season and will return six players to go along with Jacobs and Gatt. Since most nights Anastos will dress six defenseman, playing time for Gatt his freshman year could be sparse. Gatt had a strong junior season at DCC, scoring 26 points from the blue line including the Shamrocks only goal in a 2-1 loss to Brighton in the Division 1 State Final. Through 17 games in the USHL this season Gatt has two goals and seven points.
Overall, the recruiting class that Anastos has assembled for next season looks strong, and is an improvement over his first two seasons and the end of the Rick Comley era. The key will be keeping all four of the OHL drafted recruits from deciding to choose major junior over NCAA hockey. A big factor in that decision could come from who holds their NHL rights come this spring. Some NHL teams are more patient and believe in college hockey, while some clubs prefer their prospects play more games like the OHL schedule provides. With six scholarship players graduating from MSU this season, I believe that this recruiting class is complete, unless there is a defection from one of the committed Spartans.