Okotoks Oilers blueliner Rhett Holland is heading to Michigan State University for next season. Holland is a 6.01, 212 pound defenceman from Calgary, who's team is in the AJHL South Division final right now with the RBC host Camrose Kodiaks. However Holland isn't playing as he's been out since mid January with an upper body injury.
Holland is property of the Regina Pats in the WHL. Pats President Brent Parker was surprised to say the least.
"Thought he was coming. Really caught us off guard." Parker told me in an exchange of text messages.
Now WHL clubs rarely give up on players they've either drafted or listed who have committed to NCAA programs. That's where they have the advantage over Schools. Once a prospect plays in the WHL, he can't play in the NCAA. But a student athlete is free at any time to leave school and join the CHL or pro game. Tyler Pitlick, Jerry D'Amigo and Jack Campbell just to name a few, so don't expect Parker and the Pats to cross him off their depth chart.
Another scout told me that he didn't think this was a done deal and that Holland was 'too good to not be playing in our (WHL) league'
As for a scouting report, Holland is said to be a solid shut down defender, maybe a poor man's Dylan Olsen. He is draft eligible in 2012 and right now appears to be a solid 3rd round pick, who might be able to sneak into the second round with a strong freshman season for the Spartans. He won't put up a lot of points but does play physical and was a member of Team Canada West in the 2010 World Junior A Challenge where he registered 8 pim in 5 games. That's his game. He had 91 pim in his rookie season and smashed that total with 117 in just 31 games this year. One scout told me he feels Holland might be a better player after 4 years of college.
Here is a you tube video of Holland from his midget days with the Calgary Royals. Holland only played one year of midget, as an underager before making the jump to the AJHL.
Dan Sallows does a nice job of Q&A's with players, and here's his conversation with Holland.
It's interesting that this decision comes while MSU is without a head coach right now after Rick Comley resigned (or was asked to step down depending on who you ask) after the Spartans were knocked out in the first round of the CCHA playoffs this year.
It also happens on the same day that the Big Ten conference declared it's intentions for college hockey. College Hockey News and USCHO.com both have stories on it. I guess if this move brings more exposure to the game then it's a good move, but what if it backfires like putting hockey in South Florida, Atlanta and Phoenix instead of Winnipeg, Quebec or another team in Toronto? If that happens, you will have taken away some terrific conference rivalries and weakened the CCHA (Michigan, MSU, OSU) and WCHA (Wisconsin, Minnesota)