Rohlik Reloading on Recruits

By Aubrey Nelson on December 20, 2013 at 1:00p
17 Comments
Steve Rohlik and company have been busy on the recruiting trail

It was a long, uncertain summer for Buckeye hockey fans. After Mark Osiecki was canned, they wondered what would become of the program. Spirits were particularly low over the summer as they watched some of Ohio State’s best recruits decommit, one after another.

While Steve Rohlik and company have allayed many of the fans’ fears about the Buckeyes’ on-ice product, there were still concerns about the staff’s ability to draw commitments from top shelf players. They’ve been hard at work replacing the decommittments and stockpiling future talent. If it’s too early to definitively declare them a success, we can at least say that they’ve recruited some exciting players. The program’s future isn’t nearly as bleak as fans may have feared.

There are currently eleven players who have made commitments to play for Ohio State. Four have signed National Letter of Intent and are projected to join the team for the 2014-15 season. The other seven have made official verbal commitments. They are scheduled to join OSU for the 2015-16 season or later. It all depends on the needs of the player or those of the Buckeyes. It isn’t unusual for a player to come earlier or later than supposed.

Here’s a brief look at each recruit’s vitals, stats, and (when available) the particular assets they bring to their teams.

Tyler Busch

FORWARD
Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
Height: 6’2”     Weight: 175 lbs.     Age: 17
Verbal Commitment

Busch was recently rated a "C" prospect (latter round choice) in Central Scouting's early rankings for the 2014 NHL draft. Saints head coach Jason McKee was complimentary in his comments following Busch's commitment to the Buckeyes:

"Tyler is a big, strong player, with a high level of compete within in him.  Tyler has fit in very well with the Saints and is very deserving to play in a prestigious program such as Ohio State…"

Jason Dhooghe

FORWARD
Chicago Mission (HPHL)
Height: 5’7”     Weight: 141 lbs.     Age: 16
Verbal Commitment

Dhooghe is tied for most points in his league (with Tanner Laczynski) and is the runaway leader in goals. An interesting note about those goals: According to the HPHL’s stats, not a single one of them has come on the power play. Dhooghe describes his own game in this interview. The folks at USHR offered this scouting report after he attended the US Select 15 camp in the summer of 2012:

“Small, crafty forward is fun to watch and makes a lot of things happen with the puck on his stick.”

Nicholas Jones

FORWARD
Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)
Height: 5’11”     Weight: 185 lbs.     Age: 17
Letter of Intent

Despite missing some time while playing for Canada West at the World Jr. A Challenge, Jones leads the AJHL in points, including the six he hung on the Canmore Eagles last week. He's another "C" player in Central Scouting's preliminary 2014 NHL Draft rankings. Crusaders coach Tim Fragle sums up Jones' game thusly:

“He is a competitor that has a very structured two-way game and a tremendous work ethic.”

Tanner Laczynski

FORWARD
Chicago Mission (HPHL)
Height: 5’10”     Weight: 161 lbs.     Age: 16
Verbal Commitment

Laczynski is presently tied for most points in his league along with teammate and fellow Buckeye commit Jason Dhooghe. Michael Cavallini, director of the Mission hockey program, had this (among other things) to say about him following last season:

“He’s a complete player, good at everything. If we’re up a goal with a minute left, we can put him on the ice to help us defensively. If we’re down a goal, we want him out there to help us offensively.”

Christian Lampasso

FORWARD
Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Height: 5’10”     Weight: 167 lbs.     Age: 19
Verbal Commitment

Tim from Black and Blue: The Official Unofficial Lincoln Stars Blog had this to say after the Stars acquired Lampasso in August:

“He's a bit on the small side (5'9", 165 pounds), but he plays much bigger than that.  More importantly, he has soft hands and along with his speed, is more than capable of being a top 6 forward for the Stars this upcoming season… Everything I've heard about Lampasso from Sioux City and Des Moines fans has been positive.  For the most part, I've been told Christian is a very hard worker on the ice, gives 100% each shift, and has speed to burn.”

Sam McCormick

FORWARD
Notre Dame Acad. Tritons (Wisconsin Prep)
Height: 5’9”     Weight: 155 lbs.     Age: 16
Verbal Commitment

GP G A PT PPG PPA SHG PIM PT/GM
7 10 11 21 2 2 0 2 3.00

(Elite Prospects doesn't have stats for Wisconsin Prep. These are from the WPH website.)

McCormick's 21 points are good for second-most in the conference. Nine of those points (four goals and five assists) came in the Tritons’ 26-0 shellacking of Manitowac last month. He's the brother of current Buckeye Max McCormick, but as Notre Dame Academy coach Cory Cracken points out, he isn’t riding the coattails of his brother’s success:

"(Sam) lived, ate and breathed hockey all summer long to put himself in a position to have the success he is having now. It doesn't come by having the last name of McCormick. It comes from all the work he is putting in."

Janik Moeser

DEFENSE
Muskegeon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Height: 5’11”     Weight: 185 lbs.     Age: 18
Letter of Intent

Moeser is one of the Buckeyes' more experienced recruits. He was rated a "C" player (latter round choice) in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for the 2014 Draft. He's represented Team Germany on several occasions and it looks as though he'll do so once again when the World Juniors get underway next week. 

Kevin Miller

FORWARD
Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL)
Height: 5’11”     Weight: 182 lbs.     Age: 19
Verbal Commitment

Miller is ninth in the league's scoring chart. You can check out a couple of his goal in this video. He was also rated a "C" player in Central Scouting's preliminary 2014 Draft rankings. Oil Barons head coach Gord Thibodeau has high praise for one of his top scorers:

“He’s a very skilled hockey player. Offensively he does a lot of things with his vision skill that guys just can’t do at this level. Ohio State sees him as a top-six contributor at some point in their program. He’s been an all-around player for us this year but the thing that stands out is his ability to create offence."

Luke Stork

FORWARD
Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Height: 6’0”     Weight: 180 lbs.     Age: 18
Letter of Intent

Stork is the fourth future Buckeye to earn a "C" rating from Central Scouting, on the scouts' radar for the 2014 NHL draft. They had great things to say about him on The Pipeline Show earlier this year, noting that he's "a pain to play against" and that he always stood out in a good way when watching the Phantoms play last season. Oh, and Stork can do this (fast forward to 0:57 and then look for No. 27 in the dark jersey):

Matthew Weis

FORWARD
Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Height: 5’10”     Weight: 185 lbs     Age: 18
Letter of Intent

The Hockey Writers profiled Weis prior to the 2013 Draft. It's well worth the read. USHR has described him as a non-flashy player who "just goes about his business" making smart plays. Russ Bitely rated Weis a "B" skater and gave this scouting report following Weis' participation in the US Select 17 Festival:

"(Weis) definitely has some above-average stick skills as showed great poise with puck in traffic and around the net. He skates with some good speed but does not have that explosive, high-end top gear. He has great offensive abilities and is quite dangerous around the net. He has a scoring touch along with good playmaking ability."

John Wiitala

FORWARD
Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
Height: 5’11”     Weight: 165 lbs.     Age: 18
Verbal Commitment

Prior to the start of the 2012-13 season USHR named him one of the top 25 uncommitted players in the USHL:

Quick and shifty. Protects the puck well and has the ability to beat defenders 1x1.

17 Comments

Comments

Calgarybuck's picture

More than a few Alberta boys, You'll be getting tough gritty players who can put the puck in the net, expect a much more physical team going forward.

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Definitely looking forward to the next wave of Albertan talent. I don't know what you all feed them up there, but it sure works!

Calgarybuck's picture

And think this is before many of them hit the weight program! Expect many of them to hit 210-220, Alot of NHL defenseman come from western Canada, if you have any recruiting connections with the bucks i'd recommend they take a look at BC, even better talent coming out of there! 

BuckeyeDave's picture

Noticed several players were ranked as a "C".  Is this normal for college recruits (because the "A" and "B" players just turn pro) or are we just not getting elite prospects?

William's picture

Guys that are rated "A" by Central Scouting will most likely get drafted and either turn pro, or be sent to Juniors for one more year (Toews of the Blackhawks being the exception, as he was an elite Canadian talent that never played in a Junior league, and instead decided to play for North Dakota). "B" players often get drafted from the 2nd-4th round and usually go back to Juniors, or play in the NCAA for a few years, before possibly turning pro. "C" players are late round draft picks that are usually shots in the dark. They may turn into solid Junior or NCAA players, but very rarely become NHL players. They're more likely to never make the pros, or at the most, become solid AHL guys. 
Rohlik isn't bringing in elite players like Michigan, Minnesota, or Boston College do, because Ohio State doesn't have the draw of those programs, and the Junior leagues in North America (OHL, WHL, QMJHL, and to a lesser extent the USHL) are all extremely good at developing talent without the addition of having to attend an actual university. 
It sounds like Rohlik is bringing in a bunch of guys that can lay the wood, while also providing some offense, which isn't a bad strategy, but he's not bringing in any elite talent like Johnny Gaudreau at Boston College, or even JT Compher at Michigan. 

Calgarybuck's picture

It's all about baby steps, build a solid roster with kids you can mold win some games and push the envolpe with a few upsets here and there and you'll see the tide changing.  
I'm excited these kids have decided to Roll......with Ohio State!

William's picture

Oh, no doubt, and to be fair, most elite North American hockey talent, doesn't play in the NCAA. The OHL/WHL/QMJHL has always been a draw for most Canadian players, but more and more Americans are choosing to go through Juniors than the NCAA, and I can't say that I blame them, the system is way better. The fact that OSU pulled in a bunch of guys that are projected to go in the later rounds of the draft this year is great, as that builds depth, a lot of which is very solid. 

Calgarybuck's picture

It's more of an understanding on the kids and parents part..Depending where in Canada a kid playing AAA can cost 3000-6000 a year with everything included and this is before any of the ever popular elite camps, If a kid is a fringe WHL/OHL/Q-league player they can see that going to the NCAA gives them A)a full scholarship to set them up for life, B) no riding the bus to play 5 min a game away from family/friends...Our university hockey here in Canada is ubber competitive as well made up mostly of top Junior players who didn't make the pro's.  Finding a solid hockey player is as easy as finding a football star in Ohio/FL/TX/GA Their everywhere!

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Enjoyed the article, Aubrey.
Could you help me paint a little clearer picture of the college hockey recruiting scene (I never followed it until you started writing for 11w).  When a player gets a C rating would that be comparable to a 3 star recruit?  How often do guys pass on going to college for the pros? What is a reasonable number of commits for a hockey class?  Appreciate the insight!

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Maybe someone else can help me out with the three star comparison. I'm not very fluent in football. There are what? Six or seven rounds in the NFL draft? A "C" hockey recruit would be comparable to a player projected to go in somewhere in the 5th through 7th rounds of the NFL draft. William gave a pretty good rundown of the ratings system in the comment above.

If a drafted "A" player even goes the college route, you can guarantee he'll go pro before his four years are up. Drafted "B" players aren't likely to stick through their senior seasons either. Undrafted players who build up impressive college resumes often depart early for the pro leagues too. Dan DeKeyser is an example of that. He slipped through the cracks at the NHL draft but distinguished himself with three quality seasons at Western Michigan, was courted by several NHL teams, and signed a pro contract with Detroit after his junior year. 

Ohio State was progressing toward a higher quality of recruit prior to the firing of Osiecki. Unfortunately the Bucks lost a lot of their better prospects in the wake of his dismissal, including Jack Dougherty who is a "B" rated skater and recently committed to Wisconsin. (Isn't that just a bucket of awesome?) 

As for commitment class sizes, it varies due to early departures and such. The Buckeyes currently seem to be on a cycle where they'll have a huge class, then three smaller classes. The general average is probably between four and six. 

Calgarybuck's picture

Hey Aubrey, happy to help.  A Grade would be your high 4*/5* recruits B Grade would be your leftover 4*'s those 2 groups make up roughly the top 200-300 football prospects, where things get interesting in football is that 3* are your everything else, they have something lacking holding them down either something in their measurements, skill, coaching, or play that scouts feel is not at an elite enough level.
Now in football many of these guys will overcome and learn/grow/placed in better positions to succeed as football players and are rarely a finished product at the high school level whereas in Hockey you have a much clearer picture of what the ceiling is for a player at 17 than a football player.

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Thank you, that's a great explanation. Hopefully others find it helpful too, but if nothing else I feel like I almost understand what what the football fans are talking about now!

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Really appreciate the insight Aubrey. You as well, Calgarybuck. Tossed a couple upvotes your way. Thanks for the explanation.

Frostybuck88's picture

I was wondering, is it common to have so much turnover/decommits when you have a coaching change?  Wasn't Rohlik part of Osiecki's staff?  Great background stuff Calgarybuck and William, and I love the depth of reporting Aubrey, keep up the great work!
 
Go Bucks!

The Dude abides...

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Well it isn't uncommon. Between players wanting the best coach to develop their particular skill set and coaches wanting players that fit their particular system of play, losing half a dozen recruits in a regime change probably falls within the normal range. It stinks, but it isn't a surprise. You're right that Rohlik had been part of Osiecki's crew. Their coaching styles aren't identical, though, and Rohlik's reputation isn't as established as Osiecki's yet.

Frostybuck88's picture

Thanks Aubrey.  I think Osiecki's departure was a little messy if I recall, that may have had something to do with the exodus of commits as well.  Too bad but time to move on, looks like Rohlik is at least building some depth.

The Dude abides...