When college hockey players head back to school later this month, the Colorado Avalanche
will have their eye on one program in particular. One of the many NHL teams now relying heavily on the NCAA to find future talent, the Avs will have their focus fixed on the Boston University program.
While Colorado’s scouts might be scouring the globe for future Avs, the Avalanche have a keen interest in the proud Boston program.
And one dorm room, in particular.
That’s the space, thanks to an ironic twist and a hockey friendship born many years ago, that will house the Avalanche’s first two picks from the 2007 Entry Draft. Two months ago in Columbus, the Avs took a pair of defensemen with their first two picks, selecting Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen with the 14th and 45th overall picks.
Coincidentally, the two will room together this fall, their first semester at BU together. The two incoming freshmen, like many future pros, have put their NHL careers on hold so they may develop their skills at the NCAA level. It’s a growing trend among younger players, something a lot of NHL teams are looking for in their prospects. And it’s an avenue that will put Colorado’s top two picks from the most recent draft under the same roof for the foreseeable future.
“Rooming together, playing together,” Cohen said of his friendship with Shattenkirk. “We’ve known each other since we were 10.”
Cohen is originally from the suburbs outside of Philadelphia, where he grew up a Flyers fan. Shattenkirk was born in Connecticut, and the boys won’t be far from their hometowns this fall when they enter their freshman years at BU, where they’ll play for legendary coach Jack Parker. Another incoming Terrier, Nick Bonino, was drafted by the San Jose Sharks.
“Just being an American kid, I really like the idea of college,” said Cohen, one of an unprecedented 63 U.S.-born picks from this summer’s draft. “My mom went to Boston, so it’s just a perfect fit.”
The Avs also seem to like the idea of college. Of the 30 players they dressed last season, 11 of them -- including Princeton product George Parros, who was traded to the Ducks later in the year -- had college experience.
Some say Cohen, a skilled puck mover who led all USHL defensemen with 60 points in 53 games last season, could have been taken in the first round. But instead, he had to wait it out to the second day of the draft, had to bring a fresh shirt and tie to wear on Saturday when he was taken by the Avs early in the second round. Three of Colorado’s nine picks were defensemen, Cohen and Shattenkirk figuring heavily in the team’s future rearguard plans. For that reason, and a hundred others, Cohen wasn’t crushed by having to wait a little longer than his friend to hear his name called.
“Obviously, you’re a little bit upset, but that’s why they draft players,” Cohen said. “Anything can happen. If there was one team I would have chosen to play for in the NHL it would have been the Colorado Avalanche.”
You have to respect the kid’s spin skills, but it turns out, Cohen, the former Flyers fan, isn’t fibbing.
“I have a lot of family out in Colorado and I’ve just grown up really liking the Colorado Avalanche,” he explained. “Joe Sakic was always one of my favorite players. I’m an Avs fan now.”
OK, we’ll buy it. But before he pulls a Colorado sweater over his head again, he’ll don the Boston University red and white. Going the college route seems to be an option amateur hockey players are taking with more frequency now, where in the past, playing college hockey may have been seen as a last resort for those chasing NHL dreams.
While it’ll be nice that Shattenkirk and Cohen will always have someone to eat with in the dining hall, someone to work out with and navigate living life as a student-athlete and all-around Big Man on Campus with, they’ll also grow up as players together and that should mean a lot to the Colorado Avalanche.
“I really like the coaching staff there, the facilities were great,” Cohen said. “It’s four hours from home, so there’s a lot of great things about it. Boston is the best city in the world.
“Well,” he said, “it’s right there with Denver.”
Another nice recovery for a guy that hasn’t even taken a college class in public relations yet.
“I know what I’m going to do next year in college and I know where I’m going to be in a few years. I think the Avalanche know that, too. I think the Avs have been doing this a long time and they know what they’re doing.”