Two towering defensemen are sure to make big splashes on the NCAA recruiting scene when they announce their college choices. Eric Gryba, a 6'4 farm boy was a second round pick in the 2003 WHL Bantam draft by the Portland Winter Hawks. He spent the last two seasons playing midget hockey with the Saskatoon Contacts, leading them this past season to the Canadian Midget championships. Gryba rebuffed the advances of the Winter Hawks, and the plan was for Gryba to make the oft-travelled path from Saskatchewan midgets to the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. However, new Hockey Canada rules prevent midget-aged players from moving out of their home province, and rejected Gryba's attempts to circumvent that rule by moving in with a relative living in British Columbia. As a result, it looks that the NCAA recruiters will have to drive to Melfort Saskatchewan, where he'll suit up for the Mustangs of the SJHL.
The second towering '88 defenseman is Simon Danis-Pepin, a 6'6 defenseman from Gatineau, Quebec. The two met up in the Canadian Midget tourney, and like Gryba, Danis-Pepin rejected overtures from the Quebec League, where he would have been a top-5 pick in the midget draft. Late this summer he was one of 40 players selected to try out for the Canadian Under-18 team. Although Danis-Pepin failed to make the cut, his selection as one of only five 5 amateur players in his age bracket, speaks well of his abilities. He will be playing this year in the EJHL for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in Manchester, NH, has narrowed his college choices to two, and should be committing to a Hockey East school before the early signing period. He'll become the second tallest college player, behind North Dakota's 6'7 Joe Finley and next to BU's 6'6 Tom Morrow.
Update: With Keith Yandle's decision to move to Moncton, Maine moved quickly and secured a commitment from Danis-Pepin for this coming season.
*Gryba won the Saskatchewan Midget League's top defenseman award this past season. The player who won the award the prior year, Kris Fredheim, moved on to the Notre Dame Hounds, and played well enough to become a 6th round pick of his home-town Vancouver Canucks. Fredheim is a well-rounded player, but with decent offensive upside, and also will commit to a college program in the next few weeks.