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Pro hockey prospects piling up for DU Pioneers

Mike Chambers
The Denver Post

When George Gwozdecky took over the University of Denver hockey team in 1994, the coach had two NHL draft picks on his roster. Every player was expected to play four years. Discussing a player’s professional future took place after his eligibility expired.

Today, the Pioneers have a program-record 13 NHL draft picks, and some underclassmen who joined the program at age 18 might not be around to see their junior seasons.

The rapid-fire turnover has turned Gwozdecky’s summers into a high-anxiety period.

“The landscape has changed,” Gwozdecky said. “It makes the assistant coaches’ jobs far more challenging, because not only do they have to build the incoming freshman class, but look at replacing some of those guys two, three years down the road, way more than in the past.”

Longtime recruiting coordinator Steve Miller is the man in charge of replenishing the roster. For a school proud of its high academic standards, DU’s hockey program has become a short-term NHL development camp for many. Since 2000, 12 players have left the program early for the NHL, including nine in the past 3 1/2 years. Centers Paul Stastny (2006) and Tyler Bozak (2009) signed NHL deals after their sophomore seasons.

Some other underclassmen left because they felt they could develop quicker by playing more games in major-junior or the minor leagues.

“Our priority is not to be a farm system for the National Hockey League,” Gwozdecky said. “That’s not our priority. It never has and never will be.”


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