WCHA Hit Hard By Departures… Already.

Posted by: Dan Myers

The offseason is not even a week old for some, barely two weeks for others and the WCHA has already been hit exceedingly hard by early departures.

At this rate, there won’t be many top players left by the time the new season kicks off seven months from now.

Your early departures so far: Colorado College’s Jaden Schwartz, Nebraska-Omaha’s Terry Broadhurst, St. Cloud State’s David Eddy and Denver’s Drew Shore and Jason Zucker.

The departures of Schwartz, Shore and Zucker aren’t really surprising, although some believed Shore might stick around to play with brothers Nick (a junior next year) and Quentin (a freshman next season). In fact, earlier this season, he said playing with both of his brothers would indeed be the biggest reason to stay. But that won’t happen after he signed with the Florida Panthers Tuesday.

I’m not close enough to either program to judge whether Broadhurst or Eddy leaving were surprises. I guess I was taken aback a little when I heard they were leaving, especially Broadhurst. Eddy has had his share of off-ice issues over his time in St. Cloud, so perhaps his signing was only a matter of time.

And the signings aren’t done either. Sources have confirmed Minnesota Duluth’s J.T. Brown, a sophomore, is likely to sign with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay or Boston in the coming days with the Flyers as the leaders in the clubhouse.

Once Minnesota’s season is over, the eyes of Gopher fans will turn to sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad, and perhaps even fellow sophomore Erik Haula. I would put Bjugstad leaving at about 50/50 at this point, with Haula at 15/85. But that’s just a guess. Bjugstad has said in the past he would love to stay four years. But if Minnesota wins a national championship in two weeks, what is left for Bjugstad to accomplish? At 19, he’s already one of the most gifted players in college hockey. Haula could use another year of seasoning, and I think there is a better chance he bolts after his junior season.

Who else could leave early?

North Dakota’s Brock Nelson has had discussions with the New York Islanders, and they’ve told him they’ll take him whenever he’s ready. Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz is almost a sure bet to sign somewhere once he becomes a free agent this summer. CC’s Rylan Schwartz has been in discussions with several teams and is a smart bet to join his brother in St. Louis at some point. Could Ben Hanowski sign with Pittsburgh? Kevin Gravel with Los Angeles? Nick Jensen with Detroit? It’s possible. And of course, there are plenty of other guys that could end up bolting too, including Minnesota State’s Eriah Hayes, Wisconsin’s Mark Zengerle, Minnesota’s Nate Schmidt, North Dakota’s Corban Knight and Danny Kristo among others.

And with labor uncertainty clouding the NHL, that could shake-up this offseason even more.

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