Hobey to NHL: It takes talent and timing
October 21, 2002
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Winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top U.S. college hockey player doesn't automatically translate into success at the NHL level.

"Often times, great college hockey players who have a legitimate chance to win the award leave school early -- like Edmonton's Mike Comrie," said a Western Conference scout. "Conversely, a lot of players didn't have great college careers because they needed time to develop and find a niche. John LeClair was a good college player, but he's developed into an even better pro."

ESPN.com asked the scout, who crossed paths with every Hobey Baker winner either as a player, coach or scout, to analyze each player's game and how they handled the transition to the professional ranks:

1981: Neal Broten, So., F, Minnesota

Drafted: Third round (42nd overall) in 1979 by the Minnesota North Stars

Scout: "In college, Broten dominated every facet of the game -- his skating, his ability with the puck and his hockey sense. And the situation didn't matter -- even strength, power play, penalty kill -- he was good at them all. He was such a premier player, I don't think there was a question that he was going to be a good pro."

Finalists: Sandy Beadle, Northeastern; Steve Bozek, Northern Michigan; Neal Broten, Minnesota; Steve Carroll, Mankato State; Mark Hentges, St. Thomas; Tom Lawler, Merrimack; Bill Provencher, Bowdoin; Ed Small, Clarkson; Rick Strack, Plattsburgh State; Steve Ulseth, Minnesota.

1982: George McPhee, Sr., F, Bowling Green

Drafted: Not drafted.

Scout: "George was smart, skilled and tough for his size (5-9, 170). When he got to the NHL, he knew he'd have to make his career on toughness and hard work. It's interesting to look at his stats and see his penalty numbers (139 minutes in 49 games in 1984-85). Ironically, it was that style of play that led to injuries that eventually ended his career."

Finalists: Ed Beers, Denver; Steve Cruickshank, Clarkson; Bryan Erickson, Minnesota; Brian Hills, Bowling Green; Paul Lohnes, Mass.-Lowell; Kirk McCaskill, Vermont; George McPhee, Bowling Green; John Newberry, Wisconsin; Dave Poulin, Notre Dame; Ron Scott, Michigan State.

1983: Mark Fusco, Sr., D, Harvard

Drafted: Not drafted

Scout: "Mark controlled the game. It seemed like however he wanted the game to progress, he could make it happen. Whatever Harvard had to do, if he did it, not only would his team follow, but the other team would as well. When he wanted to speed up the game, the game sped up; when he wanted to slow it down, it would slow down. It was amazing. In his case, the size issue came into play when he got to the pros, and he got hurt. He was 5-9, 185 as a defenseman. College hockey gave him the canvas he needed to succeed. The NHL wasn't going to provide him that. But back then, the NHL wasn't necessarily a goal for college kids."

Finalists: Scott Bjugstad, Minnesota; Bob Brooke, Yale; Mike Carr, Mass.-Lowell; Bryan Erickson, Minnesota; Mark Fusco, Harvard; Brian Hills, Bowling Green; Kurt Kleinendorst, Providence; James Patrick, North Dakota; Ron Scott, Michigan State; Randy Velischek, Providence.

1984: Tom Kurvers, Sr., D, Minnesota-Duluth

Drafted: Seventh round (145th overall) in 1981 by the Montreal Canadiens

Scout: "Kurvers was one of the smartest guys to make the jump. He knew how good he was in college and that he could get away with doing things, and when he got to the pros he realized there were things he could no longer do. He made himself incredibly steady and reliable, responsible. He was one of those guys who knew he couldn't take the same kind of chances he took in college and get away with it. Instead of being one of those guys who went to the NHL and all of a sudden became a high-risk guy, kept turning the puck over and never made it, he just cut that out of his game."

Finalists: Jon Casey, North Dakota; Cleon Daskalakis, Boston U.; Paul Donato, Babson; Dan Dorion, Western Michigan; Tom Kurvers, Minnesota-Duluth; Gates Orlando, Providence; Joel Otto, Bemidji State; Paul Pooley, Ohio State; Jean Roy, Bowdoin; Steve Smith, St. Lawrence.

1985: Bill Watson, Jr., F, Minnesota-Duluth

Drafted: Fourth round (70th overall) in 1982 by the Chicago Blackhawks

Scout: "Billy wasn't just a goal scorer, he was a point producer. He had 35 and 49 goals his sophomore and junior years, but he also had the assists to go with them (51 and 60). That was a great power play -- Kurvers, Watson and Hull. Those guys had huge amounts of points. We'll never know if he could have been a good pro. He had decent numbers when he first got out, but his career was cut short by a back injury."

Finalists: Tim Army, Providence; Dave Fretz, Clarkson; Scott Fusco, Harvard; Hubie McDonough, St. Anselm; Pat Micheletti, Minnesota; Kelly Miller, Michigan State; Adam Oates, Rensselaer; Craig Simpson, Michigan State; Ray Staszak, Illinois-Chicago; Bill Watson, Minnesota-Duluth.

1986: Scott Fusco, Sr., F, Harvard

Drafted: 11th round (211th overall) in 1982 by the New Jersey Devils

Scout: "Scott was a very competitive and intense player. He won 1-on-1 battles, despite his size, he was always around the puck, the puck was always around him, but in the NHL in 1986 you're not doing anything like that in the NHL at that size. The game is completely different now. Also, he played in two Olympics (1984, 1988) and accomplished what he wanted to as a player."

Finalists: Mike Donnelly, Michigan State; Dan Dorion, Western Michigan; Gary Emmons, Northern Michigan; Scott Fusco, Harvard; Dallas Gaume, Denver; Scott Harlow, Boston College; Brett Hull, Minnesota-Duluth; Norm Maciver, Minnesota-Duluth; Scott Sandelin, North Dakota; Chris Terreri, Providence.

1987: Tony Hrkac, Sr., F, North Dakota

Drafted: Second round (32nd overall) in 1984 by St. Louis Blues

Scout: "Tony was a scary college player. He had the advantage of playing a year at North Dakota, a year with the Canadian Olympic team, then went back to North Dakota, so he went back to a level of play that was probably less than what he was used to and he dominated his last year in college. North Dakota was called the 'Hrkac Circus' that year, when they won the national championship with Ed Belfour in goal. That building used to get crazy, especially when he'd wind up with the puck. I think it took him a long time to realize that he wasn't going to be able to be the same kind of player in the pros. Early in his career he was trying to fit into a goal-scorer's role, now he's had a long career because he's learned what kind of player he can be. Management always has a role in it -- they were probably thinking he was going to be that same kind of player, too. Now, he's a really skilled third-line player who goes out, eats up some minutes and if he's in scoring position...
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