NCAA hockey was on a fine display for the Utica Comet’s this past weekend at Scotiabank Arena and the Coca-Cola Coliseum for they’re first games of the season against the Toronto Marlies. The AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks started the year off on fire, but have slowed down as of late. However, the former NCAA players on the team have been doing a solid job of contributing to the roster.
Zane McIntyre, Carter Camper, Brogan Rafferty and Josh Teves, they all played for the comets this weekend, with the latter two playing their first full professional season.
Carter Camper was the only one to find the scoresheet this weekend, but the path they have all followed has become very popular. In the first season of Utica Comets hockey, there were no NHL contracted players who had played university hockey on the roster, this year both McIntyre and Rafferty have an NHL stamp on their contracts.
The change in hockey’s developmental pathway has been well documented across this site, but there is still more to get into. Rafferty and Teves took a different route to pro hockey than the other two on the Comets. They signed with the Canucks at the end of their college season and immediately joined the NHL. They’re what’s called an undrafted college free agent, someone who was looked over through all seven rounds of the NHL Entry draft or opted to pursue their degree. This move of signing an NHL contract right out of college is one that many players follow, but only in recent years. The last Canuck before these two to follow this path was Troy Stetcher, who recently worked his way onto Team Canada for the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championships. It has worked well for Rafferty and the quick jump in competition from the NCAA to the NHL has helped him settle into the AHL this year. At 24 years old, each is still considered a prospect, whereas McIntyre and Camper are career AHL’ers.
Rafferty’s first professional year in the AHL is also helping him get used to the speed of the professional game. The NHL is a major step up from the NCAA, and is the fastest league in the world, whereas the AHL is slower. This is important for Rafferty because he is legally blind in one eye. “Maybe it’s helped me, making decisions and that, but it hasn’t hindered me,” he said to the Vancouver Courier before making his pro debut in Nashville. He is able to see shapes in his right eye but is not able to do things such as read.
Teves, a Princeton graduate is known as one of the smartest players in the entire canucks organization. He’s a smart, puck-moving defenseman, but that’s not what I’m talking about. He opted out of the NHL draft four all four years of college in order to earn his degree in mechanical engineering. The engineering skills he has shown in the classroom translate onto the ice, where he is able to engineer players, especially with the man advantage. Upon his signing to the Canucks, he was touted as a puck-moving defenseman similar to Quinn Hughes, the sixth overall pick from the 2018 NHL draft. Before playing in the NCAA, he played in the BCHL for the Merrit Centennials, in the same province as the Vancouver Canucks.
Both Teves and Rafferty took the undrafted free agent path and will be hoping to leave AHL arenas very soon for the greener pastures (or colder ice?) of the NHL.
For now, both Teves and Rafferty find themselves as call up options for Vancouver and can probably expect a call from the west coast sometime soon, especially given that stalwart defenseman Alexander Edler left the Canuck’s Saturday night game early due to injury.
Cover Photo: Princeton University Athletics