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Hockey: Irish boast impressive lineup of recruits despite record

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, February 11, 2010

Judging by its record, and last weekend’s debacle at Western Michigan, Notre Dame isn’t one of the nation’s elite teams this year. But if Irish coach Jeff Jackson’s latest recruiting haul is any indication, Notre Dame is still a big player in college hockey — and should be for some time.

The class of nine boasts two players already drafted by teams in the NHL, four players within the top-100 of the NHL’s Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings and five USHL All-Stars. Yet it is not these accolades that draw the attention of Jackson and associate coach Andy Slaggert, Notre Dame’s lead recruiter.

“We don’t really evaluate based on NHL capability or potential,” Slaggert said. “It is really more if we think they could help us here … We look for kids that are really competitive, that know the game well — are smart hockey payers — and kids that skate well.”

This class certainly has had its chances to compete, and win in doing so. Three members, left wing Jeff Costello, right wing David Gerths and defenseman Kevin Lind won gold-medals with the U.S. Junior Select Team that won the World Jr. A Challenge in early November.

“As a class, [competing] is a strength of theirs,” Slaggert said. “Talking to some guys who play against him, Jeff Costello tends to stand out as a player that other kids don’t necessarily enjoy paling against, which is a good thing.”

Costello was drafted 146th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, and currently leads the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the USHL with 21 goals and 13 assists.

Drafted six spots after Costello by the New York Islanders, center Anders Lee is also starring in the USHL, for the Green Bay Gamblers. Lee leads the Gamblers with 21 goals and 21 assists, and in 2008 was named Minnesota’s Gatorade Player of the Year for his accomplishments as a quarterback at Edina High School.

“[Ander’s] got good hands and with his size, his puck skills and his instincts has shown that he is more of a power-type forward who has become an effective goal scorer while also being a good playmaker,” Jackson told UND.com in November.

Joining Costello and Lee from the USHL will be Gerths, Lind, right wing Garrett Peterson and center T.J. Tynam.

Three members of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program complete the recruiting class and are each included in NHL’s Central Scouting’s mid-term ratings, along with Lind. Defenseman Stephen Johns is rated the 28th best North American skater, followed by Lind at 32nd, defenseman Jarred Tinordi at 42nd and center Bryan Rust at 76th. His time on the U.S. Under-18 team has brought Johns a reputation as a very physical player, and in their two years with USA Hockey, Slaggert said Tinordi and Rust have gained ideal experience.

“Any diverse experience is good, not always playing with the same guys, always in the same role, always asked to do the same thing,” he said. “A more varied hockey experiences makes for a more complete player.”

While the letters of intent seemingly ended the process of recruiting these nine players, Slaggert said he and Jackson continue to scout them even now.

“We’re not going to sign them and not pay any attention to them, so actually coach Jackson and I went to see the [USHL] All-Star Game in Indianapolis last weekend, and [associate head] coach [Paul] Pooley went to see the National Team as well,” Slaggert said. “We have to evaluate them to try and figure out where they’re going to fit in, what they bring to the table.”