SUN Hockey Pool

NHL responsible for NCAA exodus

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:14 AM ET

It's been a tough off-season for NCAA hockey teams and the NHL is responsible for most of the pain.

Although it's really nothing new, the exodus of players from American colleges to the pro or junior ranks seems to be more pronounced this year.

The trend continued Tuesday when Montreal Canadiens' first-round pick Jarred Tinordi bailed on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to join the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Tinordi hasn't signed with the Habs but jumping to the Knights allows him to attend training camp in Montreal, something that wouldn't have happened if he stuck with Notre Dame.

But Tinordi, the son of former NHLer Mark Tinordi, isn't even the only Canadiens prospect to walk away from school in the last month or so.

Louis Leblanc, the Habs' first-rounder from 2009, was forced to leave the Harvard Crimson after one season when he signed an entry-level contract with the Canadiens. He's eligible to play in the American Hockey League but instead joined the Montreal Junior of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Forward Jerry D'Amigo officially ended his short career with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he signed with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. D'Amigo spent just one season at RPI, racking up 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) in 35 games.

In the last couple of weeks, first-rounder Kyle Palmieri has skated away from Notre Dame after agreeing to a contract with the Anaheim Ducks and Nick Leddy signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving Minnesota in the process. Palmieri will start the season in the AHL and there's a good chance D'Amigo will wind up with the Marlies, although the Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers have their fingers crossed that the two U.S. junior teammates get sent to junior at some point.

Major junior teams gave the NCAA a couple of kicks of their own, though, snatching away some top-end talent at the last minute.

Lucas Lessio, playing with the Canadian under-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, didn't live up to the verbal commitment he made to join Michigan in 2011 and opted instead to sign with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. Julian Melchiori did the same when he joined the Kitchener Rangers recently instead of heading to Massachusetts-Lowell for his freshman season.

Since April 1, 17 players gave up NCAA eligibility to sign with NHL teams, according to figures compiled by insidecollegehockey.com. Factor in the others, like Tinord, Lessio and Melchiori, all of whom never even showed up on campus, and you can see how hard the U.S. schools have been hit.

It's not unusual for players to leave college early, though. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Blues defenceman Erik Johnson, Kings blueliner Jack Johnson, Oilers forward Andrew Cogliano and Canucks forward Mason Raymond all dropped out in 2007 to work in the NHL.

STILL TICKING

Calgary's ageless wonder, centre Craig Conroy, will play a 15th NHL season after agreeing to a one-year contract with the Flames.

Conroy needs just nine games to reach the 1000-game plateau. He had three goals and 12 assists in 63 games a season ago.

The 38-year-old, in his second tour of duty with the Flames, has 180 goals and 360 assists in 991 career games.

SECOND CHANCE

One day Marc-André Dorion may follow in McGill alumnus Mike Babcock's footsteps behind an NHL bench but for now the 22-year-old defenceman will be content with trying to earn a spot on the Maple Leafs.

Not many players make the jump from Canadian university hockey to the NHL but Dorion did enough at Toronto's prospect camp in July to get another look. Dorion, a 5-foot-11, 188-pound native of St. Hubert, Que., has been invited to take part in the Leafs' rookie camp in London early next month.

It will be the second NHL training camp for Dorion, a former QMJHL all-star and the top defenceman in CIS hockey last season. He skated with the Dallas Stars in 2008.

MINOR SIGNINGS

Jordan Hendry will be back with the Stanley Cup champs after signing a one-year deal Wednesday.

The 26-year-old defenceman played 43 games with the Blackhawks last season, finishing with two goals and six assists. He also played 15 times in the post-season.

Hendry, a native of Nokomis, Sask., has played 92 games with the 'Hawks during his three-year pro career.

Also, right winger Mike Blunden signed a one-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets and forward Mark Mancari re-upped for one year with the Buffalo Sabres.

Blunden, a 23-year-old from Toronto, spent half the 2009-10 season with the Jackets. He had two goals and two assists.

Mancari had one goal and one assist in six games with the Sabres last season. The 25-year-old from London, Ont. has led the Sabres' AHL affiliate in scoring the last three years.


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