NCAA prospects fast tracking to the NHL

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

TORONTO - With the decision to forego college, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Jerry D'Amigo and Montreal Canadiens first rounder Jarred Tinordi have joined a growing list of NHL draft picks to put down the books in favor of opportunism.

Although there is still immense talent throughout the college system, the repercussions of losing some of the brightest up-and-coming stars could have damaging long-term effects on hockey programs across the United States.

D'Amigo, a sixth-round pick in 2009, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Leafs on Wednesday in the hopes of cracking the big squad out of training camp this fall.

As a result of D'Amigo's aspirations, he lost his NCAA eligibility and cannot return to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where he posted 10 goals and 24 assists in 35 games en route to being named the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) rookie of the year.

If the 19-year old fails to impress in camp, his options include taking a trip down the road to suit up for the Toronto Marlies, or opt for the OHL and join the Kitchener Rangers, the owner of his junior rights.

While it is unlikely D'Amigo abandoned his fellow Engineers at RPI to play in the OHL, riding the bus in the American Hockey League is a different story, especially with the parent club in the same city.

Regardless of where the speedy winger starts the season, NHL action seems to be in the cards at some point this year, a mind-boggling revelation considering his development and expectations only a year ago.

Unlike D'Amigo who gave it the old college try (for one year, anyway), Tinordi changed course only a few weeks before he was slated to head off to study and play at the University of Notre Dame.

Instead, the hulking 6'6" defenseman will pack his bags and join Dale Hunter and the London Knights in the OHL.

Tinordi, the 22nd overall in this year's entry draft, is a bruising stay-at- home defenseman with a booming shot and good mobility. He also displayed his leadership qualities this past season as the captain of the U.S. National Development team.

Studying the game in the ultra-competitive OHL while honing his skills under the reigning coach of the year will do wonders for his progress, and was likely a major reason for the move.

Unfortunately for the NCAA, the current economic climate in the NHL, combined with the advanced development regiments of the OHL and the U.S. national team has allowed for a quicker transition to professional hockey.

In the salary cap world, players on entry-level deals become invaluable and opportunities arise sooner than they have in previous years. Thus, committing to four years of college has become a less attractive option for many.

Besides Tinordi, fellow draftees Cam Fowler and Jack Campbell also revoked their commitments to Notre Dame and Michigan, respectively, and fled to Windsor to join the Spitfires.

Dropping out of college and passing up thousands of dollars worth of scholarship money does not usually equate to success in the real world. But in the NHL, when ample opportunities call for younger, cheaper players, the math speaks for itself.

08/16 10:54:28 ET


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