Thursday, October 1, 2015

It Just Keeps Happening

Someone please remove the "kick me" sign from this program's back. Because things just keep happening in the offseasons or very early in the regular season that really lend itself to saying "you know, things could have been different."

Last season in the OJHL, Brady Wiffen lit the league on fire. He managed 66 goals and 48 assists in 68 games for the Trenton Golden Hawks. Now, there's a minor qualifier on that - he did it at the age of 20 in a league that's got a fair number of 17 and 18 year olds in it, but it still takes some talent to be able to put the puck in the net with that much frequency.

Can he do the same in the NCAA? Wiffen doesn't project as a guy who's going to be scoring in the neighborhood of a goal per game in college hockey, but he's clearly a prospect with a great deal of upside to him. But we're going to have to wait until 2016 - October 2016 - to find out.

Yesterday, word came down that the NCAA has ruled Wiffen a "partial qualifier," which means that while he's a high school graduate, he didn't meet all of the NCAA's academic requirements to compete in Division I athletics. He can practice with the team, but can't participate in games.

Now, we have to disagree with the assessments of the Albany Times Union and the Schenectady Daily Gazette, both of which declared Wiffen the Engineers' "top recruit." We've been bit more excited to see what Evan Tironese and Jesper Ohrvall will be able to do this year based on their accomplishments in junior hockey. But there's no doubt we were also looking forward to seeing if Wiffen's upside would be a solid contribution, too. He could well have been a scoring stud for the Engineers this year, and teams that had a hard time scoring the previous season need all the help they can scrounge. So it's still a bit of a blow to have to absorb, and so close to the season's start.

Since WaP has been a thing, pretty much every time period from March through October has ended up being rife with heartaches. In fact, there's been at least one in each of the last six years. Observe:

2010-11: ECAC Rookie of the Year F Jerry D'Amigo signs with Toronto in August, two months before the season begins. F Brandon Pirri follows suit with Chicago about a month later, which was quickly followed by the defection of highly touted recruit D Nick Quinn to the OHL.

2011-12: G Allen York signs with Columbus with a year of eligibility left shortly after leading the Engineers to the 2011 NCAA tournament.

2012-13: NHL draft pick D Patrick Koudys leaves the program, eventually transferring to Penn State.

2013-14: ECAC Rookie of the Year G Jason Kasdorf, who led the Engineers to a 2nd place ECAC finish as a freshman, is injured in a non-contact drill after the second game of the regular season, ending his year.

2014-15: Junior F Ryan Haggerty signs with the Rangers with a year of eligibility remaining after leading the nation in goal scoring. Sophomore F Mike Zalewski signs with Vancouver a week later. Very early on in the season, the team becomes ravaged with injuries, never really getting close to 100% health.

2015-16: NHL draft pick G Alec Dillon reneges on his commitment and bolts for the WHL in late May. In September, just two weeks before the season begins, freshman F Brady Wiffen is named a partial qualifier by the NCAA and sidelined for the year.

Some of these were expected, like York and Haggerty's departures. Some ultimately didn't turn out to be a huge deal, like with Quinn and Koudys. But many of them were definitely moments that left the RPI faithful with discouraged frowns.

So please, in the name of everything holy, stop kicking us, hockey gods.

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