NHL Draft: UMass hockey more likely to have commits selected than players in ’22

  • UMass hockey jersey originally from a Greg Carvel press conference photo. It makes a good home box pic.

  • Kenny Connors will join the UMass hockey program this fall but could be selected in the upcoming NHL Draft. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / STEPHEN GASSMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2022 3:51:21 PM

UMass’ relationship with the NHL Draft has changed rapidly over the past few years.

The question used to be if a Minuteman would hear his name called. Now it’s how many will be selected?

Last year the answer was four, tying a modern-era record. A UMass player has been drafted in each of the past five years. That number should grow to six by Thursday or Friday at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal.

“It’s where we wanted to be. We’re very proud of the fact that  we’re viewed as one of the top developmental teams in college hockey,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “It’s helping us commit kids. The draft is an indicator of a stronger program.”

Three of the four players drafted last season were commits, and UMass’ recruiting class included four NHL Draft picks minted before they stepped foot on campus.

“Things are changing. As our program the last number of years had success were getting kids like Marc del Gaizo, FilipLindberg, Josh Lopina that were getting drafted after they got there,” Carvel said. “Now teams look at kids in the USHL and they think ‘oh they’re going to UMass.’  Now they’re drafting them before they get here.”

Carvel said he expects “two to three” future Minutemen to hear their names in Montreal. He can only comment on players that have singed national letters of intent but mentioned forwards Kenny Connors and Cole O’Hara.

Connors played for the Dubuque fighting Saints last season, amassing 56 points in 61 games. The “power forward,” as Carvel described him, will attend the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp  later this month with sophomore defensemen Scott Morrow and Ryan Ufko.

O’Hara poured in 73 points for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm last season and is a skilled wing.

But the richest veins of UMass talent may be further down the pipeline.

Forward Cameron O’Neill is an 18-year-old prospect ranked as the No. 77 North American skater out of Mount. St. Charles Academy by NHL Central Scouting. He committed to UMass in September and should join the Minutemen in the next few years.

Potential fellow Class of 2023 forward Tyson Dyck is No. 110 after putting up 75 points in the British Columbia Hockey League for the Cranbrook Bucks. 

Corey Pronman of The Athletic projected O’Neill as a fourth-round pick, Dyck as a fifth and that Connors would be selected in the seventh round (of seven).

“I enjoy the draft,” Carvel said. “It’s fun to see where these kids who you’ve gotten to know, who have made a commitment to your school, where they could possibly be playing in the NHL some day.”

That newly draft-eligible 2023-24 group also includes two Pioneer Valley connections: South Deerfield’s Kaz Sobieski and Shaun McEwen of South Hadley.

Sobieski, 18, plays for the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s school in Minnesota that also produced Morrow, a second-rounder last season. He committed to the Minutemen last July and saw time with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. Sobieski is the No. 130 North American skater in the 2022 draft pool, per NHL Central Scouting.

McEwen, 18, former UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon’s grandson, played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL.

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