Many NCAA options for NOJHLers

January 5, 2016

As the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has developed its share of talent for the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League, many of its players aspire to combine the sport with an education at the National Collegiate Athletic Association level.

While the ultimate goal of the player seeking the NCAA route is undoubtedly to get a Division 1 commitment, there are multiple Division 3 schools that offer a combination of quality education and good level of hockey.

Division 3 schools of note in Michigan include Adrian College and Finlandia University while Wisconsin is a hotbed with the likes of Marian University, Lawrence University, Northland College and St. Norbert College.

Marian, which is located in Fond du Lac, has been home to a number of NOJHL grads over the years including several who stood out for the Blind River Beavers when they were contenders — goalie Randy Willis, defenseman Tanner Burton and forwards Billy Schill and Brett Campbell to name four.

The 27-year old Burton, who played four seasons at Marian and left with a degree, is now in his second full season in the minor-pro ranks.

As a member of the Wheeling Nailers, who are a farm club of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Burton is a teammate of his younger brother, 25-year old, high-scoring forward Jarrett Burton, who also skated in Blind River before moving on to play four years at the Division 1, NCAA level with Clarkson University.

Then there’s Bronson Kovacs, who was a standout NOJHL defenseman with the Soo Thunderbirds before heading to upstate New York to play four seasons as a multiple award-winner at Hobart College. Now 25-years old, Kovacs is a first-year pro playing overseas in Hungary.

The point is that while Division 3 is a level below Division 1, the opportunities to get there and move on from what are credible schools are abundant.

One man who has a good history of helping players move on to NCAA hockey is veteran NOJHL scout Charly Murray.

The frost-bitten Murray, who is now a special assignment scout and advisor to Soo Thunderbirds director of hockey operations Kevin Cain, has steered dozens of NOJHLers to the NCAA ranks over the years, particularly during a three-season stint with the erstwhile Northern Michigan Black Bears when he assisted late coaching great Jerry Lortie.

This season, Murray has invited scouts and recruiters from a dozen Division 3 schools to watch the league-leading Thunderbirds play.

Players looking at the NCAA route, be it Division 1 or Division 3, might want to make use of a family advisor to act on their behalf.

The person who I recommend as a family advisor is the well-connected David Maciuk of JDM Sports. I have known Maciuk since we were in grade school almost 50 years ago and do not hesitate to recommend him.

What you think about “Many NCAA options for NOJHLers”

  1. That is great to hear
    My son Dylan Holt is from Minnesota and playing for Kirkland Lake
    He finished High school early with a A average and looking to play college hockey

  2. Our two Burton grandsons are playing for the Wheeling Nailers and enjoying every minute of it. Both have university degrees but it is such a great program for them because they love hockey. We love hearing about their plays and what they give back to the many fans. We wish them all the luck in the world. We are so proud of them.

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