After a year-long lockout, the reinstatement of the National Hockey League and its presence as being the main haven for bright-eyed college players has already had an impact on the Cornell men’s hockey team.
A week ago, Cornell senior forward Shane Hynes ’06, who was selected in the third round of the 2003 NHL Entry draft by Anaheim, signed a professional contract with the Mighty Ducks, thereby foregoing his senior year on East Hill.
While the Red has been able to adapt to these types of situations — for example, two years ago, Hobey Baker finalist David LeNeveu ’05 signed with the Phoenix Coyotes — Hynes’ relatively surprising departure will undoubtedly leave a hole in the Cornell offense. Hynes, whose 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) were second on the team, used his size and ability to be a consistent nuisance in front of the crease and along the boards. His coaches were pleased that he was signed.
“If you’re going to be an elite program in the NCAA now, you’re going to deal with guys leaving early and that’s what we are and hoped to be when [head] coach [Mike] Schafer ’86 took over back in 1995,” said assistant coach Scott Garrow. “It’s more of a celebration for Shane to have that success than a loss for our team.”
And his former teammates feel that they will be able to make do without the forward.
“I don’t think [his departure] decreases our chances [of winning],” said sophomore defenseman Sasha Pokulok. “Some guys are going to have to step up and play bigger roles and this is a good opportunity for younger players and players who have not gotten as much ice time to step into a bigger role this year.”
Hynes’ departure comes at a point where the complexion of college hockey might start changing due to the new NHL collective bargaining agreement. While entry-level money decreased 33 percent to a maximum $850,000, unlike the old deal, NHL teams would be unable to hold rights to drafted players for an unlimited amonut of time. In fact, the agreement states that if college players are unsigned by Aug. 15 of their final year, they become unrestricted free agents. Thus, NHL teams might be more prone to sign players before their senior season of college.
“I think some guys might leave early, but under the new agreement, I think we get a little less money in the signing bonuses so there’s a little less incentive for guys to leave,” said senior captain Matt Moulson, who was selected in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003. “It will be interesting to see what happens.”
With the new agreement in place, Garrow said that the Cornell program and others around the nation might have to adjust their recruiting tactics. One possibility is to recruit extra kids and then defer their enrollment for a year to prepare for possible departures.
Hynes’ signing comes during a time when other talented players from college powerhouses, such as Boston College’s Patrick Eaves or Michigan’s Jeff Tambellini who are under the old collective bargaining agreement, are also leaving. Garrow points out that this college signing spree comes at a time after NHL teams have solidified their rosters by penning veteran players.
“No [college program] is getting out of this last month untouched,” Garrow said. “It seems that everyone is getting a loss here or there and it’s the price you pay for being a top program.”
Pokulok also made headlines over the summer when he was the first Cornell player ever to be taken in the first round when the Washington Capitals selected him with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft. While some projected the 6-5 defenseman to go as high as 22nd, even he was caught off-guard that he was picked so high.
“I was expecting to wait a little bit longer, but it really was such a great feeling,” Pokulok said. “It was just a happy all-around day for me.”
Pokulok said that he understands there is going to be pressure with being the highest draft pick in program history and he said that he is determined to prove to people why he was picked 14th. In addition, Garrow said that his current players, nine of whom have been selected in an NHL draft, have their eyes on a championship season for Cornell hockey — quickly turning their attention away from Hynes’ departure.
“We have faced adversity before so this isn’t something new and we’re losing a lot [in Hynes], but you’ve got to move on and look forward.
Abbott named assistant captain
Hynes’ vacant assistant captain spot will be filled by senior forward Chris Abbott. After Hynes’ departure was announced, Garrow said the players had a vote of whether to add another assistant captain to join Moulson and assistant captain Jon Gleed. According to Garrow, an overwhelming majority voted for Abbott.
“Chris is a hard worker on and off the ice and in the classroom,” Garrow said. “He treats the younger players very well, welcomes them to the program and he’s one of the guys who’s a great teammate and they know he’ll lay it on the line during the game.”
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor