Though it should come as no surprise, USA Hockey has officially tabbed Providence College head coach Nate Leaman to lead the American entry into the 2022 World Junior Championship. Leaman coached Team USA to a gold medal this year and more than earned another go-round as head coach. “It’s always an honor to be asked to coach for my country and I’m grateful to be back behind the bench,” Leaman stated. “I’m excited to see some familiar faces, and coach some of America’s best young talent, as we look to build another championship roster.” The Friars’ bench boss, who has also been linked to NHL openings in the past, has nearly two decades of experience as a head coach at the college level, not only finding consistent success in the standings, but also in developing NHLers. Leaman will also be making his fourth appearance at the WJC for the U.S., but only his second as head coach. The Americans have medaled in six of the past seven tournaments, including two gold medals, so the bar has been raised for their performance. Fortunately, with Leaman at the helm they are in good hands in 2022.
- Notre Dame defenseman Matt Hellickson has signed with the Devils, but not the ones who drafted him – at least not yet. Hellickson, a seventh-round selection of New Jersey back in 2017, has signed a contract with the AHL’s Binghamton Devils for the remainder of the season, the team announced. The organization going in this direction with the prospect defender as opposed to signing an entry-level contract that begins next season and merely finishing the year in Binghampton on an amateur tryout raises questions about his future. It seems possible that the Devils are still hoping to see more development from the four-year Fighting Irish starter before handing him an NHL contract. Hellickson, 23, was not as productive in the NCAA as he had been in the USHL before he was drafted, but was still a reliable presence on the back end for Notre Dame. Perhaps the concern from New Jersey is not that Hellickson is not pro ready, but simply lacks NHL upside. He will look to prove otherwise over the rest of the season.
- As the NCAA transfer market continues to operate like NHL free agency this off-season, another notable name is moving on. Bowling Green captain Connor Ford has announced that he will spend his graduate season at North Dakota. Ford, 23, has been one of Bowling Green’s best players in each of his four seasons and has certainly drawn some attention from the pro ranks. However, this move likely indicates that his current offers were of the AHL variety instead of NHL entry-level proposals, so he will take his chances with a fifth year in college. If Ford is able to maintain his top scorer status with a power house like North Dakota, those NHL offers should roll in next year for the impressive forward.
- As if St. Cloud State University needed anything else to be excited about, the NCAA Tournament finalist can now claim to be the future home of the best high school player in the state. Defenseman Jack Peart has been named the 2021 recipient of the Mr. Hockey Award as Minnesota high school hockey’s top athlete. The dynamic defender recorded a stunning 11 goals and 35 points in just 18 games for Grand Rapids High this year, earning him the honors. He added 11 goals in 18 games for the USHL’s Fargo Force as well. The offensive blue liner is a game-changer on the back end, which will likely lead to his selection in the second or third round of the upcoming NHL Draft. He will then head to St. Cloud where he will be expected to take on a big role right away. There is a strong correlation between winning the Mr. Hockey Award and finding NCAA success and playing in the NHL, with past winners including Ryan McDonagh, Nick Leddy, Nick Bjugstad, and Casey Mittelstadt. Peart is a name to keep an eye on.