In 1975, a relatively unknown 16 year-old, 5’8″ 180 pound defenseman from the Pas,Manitoba arrived on the campus of UMD.for his freshman season with the Bulldogs. With fellow defensemen Dave Langevin at 6’2″ and 215 pounds and Keith Hendrickson at 6′ 0″ 205 pounds he certainly didn’t fit the physical stereotype of defensemen on the team or in the WCHA of that era. But,Curt Giles had intangibles such as intensity, poise, work ethic and heart that eventually made him one of the most revered Bulldog defensemen of all time. It also didn’t hurt that he possessed one of the most effective hip checks in college hockey or that he also had a knack for offense with three consecutive seasons near 50 points and career numbers at UMD of 171 points including 36 goals. These qualities eventually carried him to 998 NHL games including 12 years with the Minnesota North Stars.Giles proved that size at defense was not a limitation and in his case an advantage.
SCSU recruit, Jack Ahcan, is an undersized defenseman at 5″8″ 174 pounds. He committed to the Huskies in October of 2014 without a lot of fanfare and was drafted in the 8th round of the 2013 USHL Phase 1 draft …again, without a lot of fanfare. Don’t get me wrong, he had three very successful years at Burnsville (MN) high school compiling 59 points in 48 games his last two seasons and by his senior season was really showcasing his skating and offensive skills. He also turned heads in the 2014 Minnesota Elite League skating for Team Southeast putting up 16 points in 20 games and was one of the top scoring defensemen in the league. And, although he was recruited by UMD, MSU-Mankato,Ohio State and Vermont he may have been overlooked by others due to his smallish size at the rear guard position.Obviously, this was not a concern for SCSU assistant coach, Garrett Raboin who coached Ahcan in the Select 15’s and was himself a “smallish” defenseman but pound for pound one of the hardest hitters in the WCHA. Again, proving size does not matter.
Expected to play for Cedar Rapids of the USHL for two years, Ahcan made a huge impact his first season with the Roughriders scoring 14 goals and adding 30 assists for 44 points in 56 games placing him second among all USHL defensemen. His offensive numbers included 7 power play goals and 6 game-winning goals. His efforts were key to the Roughriders winning the USHL’s Anderson Cup awarded to the team finishing the regular season with the most standings points. Individually, the frosting on the cake was the recent announcement that he was named USHL Defenseman of the Year and All-USHL First Team. Coach Mark Carlson was quoted “He played well on both sides of the puck, offensively and defensively. He is a fierce competitor (and) is physical. He was a tremendous leader for us by example. Wire to wire he was very good.”
Ahcan’s success during the 2015-16 season accelerated things and he’ll be joining the Huskies for the 2016-17 season. So, what should we expect from Ahcan? On offense, he’s a dynamic skater with good speed and lateral movement. He’s strong and confident on the puck and literally begs for the puck to move it up ice. And, in Bob Motzko’s attacking style of offense, he’s just what the doctor ordered. Defensively, you merely need to read what assistant coach Doug Leaverton had to say to the St. Cloud Times. “He sticks his nose in the middle of (physical play) more than anybody on our team. He’s gritty, not afraid and won’t back down in the corners or in front of the net”.
Ahcan will be one of two incoming recruits on defense in 2016-17. The other is Dennis Cholowski, a high-profile defenseman who was with the Chiliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in 2015-16. Cholowski, who has been rocketing up the scouting charts, is now listed #23 by the NHL’s Central Scouting (NA) and could be a high second round draft choice in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Both Ahcan and Cholowski competed in the 2015 World Junior A Challenge in Ontario, Canada. Dennis Cholowski Video
Ahcan spent the 2015-16 season breaking the stereotype that an undersized defenseman could not be an elite player in the rugged and defensive USHL. He’s now ready for the challenge of the NCHC in 2016-17. We look forward to following his progress at the next level of play for the St. Cloud State University Huskies.
Two of my favorite Jack Ahcan Tweets:
Scott Herbst: “If Jack Ahcan was 6’0″ he would be a top 15 NHL pick. His skill set is elite”
Steven Ellis: “What a shift by Jack Ahcan who looked like he was shot out of a cannon for that entire minute”