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December 13, 2010 // 5:21pm ET
Joining the Varsity
By John Hove, TheFourthPeriod.com

LOS ANGELES, CA -- The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings each have one. So, we can't be talking about Stanley Cups.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a pair. No, this has nothing to do with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

In San Jose, they have a trio. While the Penguins have four.

Yet in L.A., the Kings have six and one more an injured reserve.

You see, every defenseman on the Kings' roster is from a U.S. college hockey program - with one exception, Drew Doughty.
 

It's a rather surprising statistic considering outside of a few pockets - Boston and Minnesota, for example - most Americans don't even have college hockey on their radar. In fact, casual hockey fans in the U.S. probably just think that hockey players come from...um, Canada. While that may be true historically, there is a major shift underway.

College sports news tends to come in two waves. Right now it's bowl season, so it's college football 24/7. This gives fans of the Raiders, Giants, Cowboys, etc. a chance to see some of the best up and coming grid iron warriors.

In the spring, it's March Madness - featuring non-stop college hoops news. Again, giving fans of the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, etc. a chance to see some of the best up and coming hard court ballers.

But, what about hockey?

It's become a big time part of hockey development.

The Kings are not only stacked with former college hockey players at the NHL level, they're betting big on the future too - having taken Derek Forbort in the first round of last June's draft. He's currently a freshman at the University of North Dakota, one of the top college programs in the country.

Equally as impressive as the sheer numbers on the Kings' roster are the accomplishments of those players while in school...

Jack Johnson went to Michigan University, the school that has sent more players to the NHL than any other university. Battling for second place are North Dakota, Wisconsin and Boston College.

Johnson played just two years for the Wolverines before leaving to pursue the NHL. While there though, he led all defensemen in goals, assists and points during his freshman year. The following season he again led the blue liners in goals and assists. He was also named the Best Offensive Defenseman in the conference and was an All American that year (2006-07).

To show the growing power of college hockey, this weekend 110,000 fans will be at "The Big Chill" - a game between Michigan and Michigan State being played inside the Wolverines football stadium. Not only will it help set attendance records, it will help the hockey program bring in over $1 million more in ticket revenue than basketball this season!

Rob Scuderi spent four full years as an Eagle at Boston College, winning a National Championship in 2001. As a freshman, he played in all 42 games and earned Hockey East all-rookie team honors (1997-98). He also played all 42 games the following two seasons and finished his career there having played more games in a BC sweater than anyone else in team history. His teams played for NCAA Championship three of the four years he was there.

Like Scuderi, Peter Harrold played four years for Boston College (2002-06). While he never won a National Championship, he still had a stellar career there - including serving as team captain for his senior year (2005-06). He also earned BC's outstanding freshman award and was named a first team All-American on defense in 2006.

Davis Drewiske and his teammates at the University of Wisconsin were the ones that kept Harrold from winning a Championship, beating them in the NCAA title game in 2006. Drewiske played all four years at Wisconsin (2004-08) and like Harrold, served as team captain during his senior year. His leadership extended to the stat sheets that year as well, finishing top among the defenseman with 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists). He was also named the team's MVP that year.

Like junior hockey players, college guys don't forget their roots either. When Wisconsin played Boston College for the NCAA Championship last year, Drewiske stood up and made a bet with Kings' teammates Harrold and Scuderi. Unfortunately, he lost the wager when BC pounded the Badgers 5-0. A few days later when he had to spend the day in BC colors, "which didn't feel right at all" he said.

Matt Greene went to another of the big time college hockey programs, the University of North Dakota. The school has won seven national titles. Greene came close in 2004-05, his final year with the Fighting Sioux. However, they lost to Denver in the championship game. Nonetheless, his time there included leading the defenseman in assists his second season and wearing the captain's 'C'.

Over the summer the Kings added Willie Mitchell to their stable. He went to Clarkson University, the same school as Kings' legend Dave Taylor. Mitchell's Clarkson team won the ECAC Championship in 1999. He was also earned playoff MVP and ECAC First Team All-Star honors that same year.

His most dramatic moment may have come in the '99 ECAC semi-finals, when he scored the game winning goal with just three seconds remaining against Princeton.

The following season, he led the team's defenseman with 29 points (10 goals and 19 assists) and a plus-13 rating.

Continuing with the college hockey theme, just a few weeks ago, the Kings added Alec Martinez. He played three years at Miami (of Ohio) University (2005-08), where he was an accounting major. During his time there the RedHawks grew into a national powerhouse on the ice. Their first real taste of success came during his first year, where they were ranked #1 in the country for the first time and won their first Conference (CCHA) Championship.

In the playoffs, they were eliminated three straight years by Boston College. Yes, those pesky teams Drewiske was part of.

One of his highlights had to be a goal he scored during his first year with the program. He scored the game-winner in overtime versus Western Michigan University to send Miami to the CCHA Championship. His game-winner was the final goal in the history of Goggin Ice Arena, as the following year the team moved into their current home, the Steve Cady Arena (named after the school's first hockey coach).

Martinez led all defenseman with 24 points during his second season and like many of the names above, he played every game on the RedHawks schedule during the time he was there.

Interestingly, one of his college teammates was Jeff Zatkoff, a Kings goaltending prospect currently playing in Manchester (AHL).

Up with the big club, starting goaltender Jonathan Quick is also a college boy. He minded net at the University of Massachusetts for two seasons, including setting team records for wins, goals-against-average and save percentage in 2006-07.

Poor Drew Doughty. He's like an outsider trying to crash a college frat house.

John Hove, aka The Mayor, covers the Los Angeles Kings for TheFourthPeriod.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/Mayor119 to get daily information, interviews and updates on the Kings.


 
 
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