Flashback three years to May of 2013. A 5’6″ 126 pound defenseman was drafted 200th in the 10th round by the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in their annual bantam draft. The WHL draft allows the league to stockpile players on their “Protected Player List” between the ages of 14 and 20. At the time, this 15 year-old defenseman was just finishing up his year with the Langley Eagles Bantam A1 squad and getting ready to enroll at the Yale Hockey Academy to begin midget hockey play. Along with Cholowski, hockey peers Tyler Jost (UND) and Dante Fabbro (BU) were also selected that year in the first-round of the WHL Bantam draft but about 190 positions earlier.
The youngster was coming off an excellent season with the Langley Eagles Bantam AAA squad and was already getting noticed by the scouting community. At age 15, Todd Harkins, the Prince George major midget scout called him “one of the most skilled defensemen in the draft” stating “he’s got great vision, is a slick skater and we are glad he was still around at this time”. Cholowski joined the Yale Hockey Academy Lions of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for the 2013-14 season with the notoriety of being the shortest player on the squad at 5’8″ and 141 pounds. Nevertheless he compiled 21 points in 19 games (including playoffs) helping lead the lions to the CSSHL title in the leagues inaugural season. At seasons end, the 15-year-old was able to skate with the Chilliwack Chiefs and a half-dozen 20 year-olds for one game to complete his season and get a taste of the BCHL.
By the time Cholowski began the 2014-15 season with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League he was now 16 with his growth spurt elongating his slim frame from 5′ 9″ to 5′ 11″ and by then the WHL and teams such as SCSU were taking notice of the 16 year-old who was competing on a roster loaded with 18-20 year-olds. He logged 55 games for the Chiefs scoring 4 goals and adding 23 assists for 27 points. The accolades continued from his coaching staff being described by head coach Jason Tatarnic as “a fantastic skater and has great vision” and a player “every team covets”. He further commented “the biggest thing is his skating ability; that is what makes him good”. Convinced to make an official visit to the SCSU campus in October, the well-spoken Cholowski committed to the Huskies immediately following the trip and commented “I loved everything about it…the hockey was absolutely fantastic and the fans were great. As soon as I got back I knew that was where I wanted to go.”
By the start of the 2015-16 season, Cholowski was a 6’1′ 165 pound smooth skating defenseman now being noticed by NHL scouts as a 2016 draft eligible player. After being projected as a 4th to 6th round pick in the CSS preliminary rankings, Cholowski was #48 in the January mid-term Central Scouting rankings and by April had rocketed to #23 in the final rankings making him a possible late first-round or early second-round NHL draft choice. He suddenly closed the gap on hockey peers Tyler Jost ranked #16 and Dante Fabbro #18. The highest drafted SCSU player to date is Matt Cullen picked 35th in the second round of the 1996 NHL draft by Anaheim. The highest drafted defenseman was Josh DeWolf who was picked 41st in the second round of the 1996 draft by the New Jersey Devils. Defenseman, Brian Gaffaney was drafted 44th by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round in 1997. Cholowski finished the 2015-16 campaign carrying Chilliwack to the second round of the BCHL playoffs producing 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in 64 games (incl playoffs). His efforts earned him second team BCHL All-Star status.
No doubt, Cholowski will have to work on his strength and defensive play as he heads into the rough and tumble NCHC.With the likelihood of adding another inch or two to his height and the ability to fill out his frame he’ll ultimately become the physical prototype coveted by the NHL. But, his skating skills and poise with the puck will give him an immediate advantage on the larger 100 X 200 surface of the Huskies home ice. I’m also impressed with his calm demeanor with the puck – he never seems to get rattled. He’ll arrive as an 18 year-old as did 2015-16 first-year defenseman, Will Borgen, who was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and will join one of the deepest defensive corps in college hockey. It’ll give him the opportunity to acclimate at the appropriate pace as the St. Cloud coaching staff looks to take advantage of the skills Cholowski brings to the table. “I like to jump into the rush and contribute on offense” Cholowski told the Langley Times last October. “But I also know my defensive responsibilities”. With unlimited upside potential, this will be a player to watch as he develops into a bona-fide NHL prospect.
Cholowski is one of 114 draft-eligible players invited to the 2016 NHL scouting combine being held three weeks prior to the draft. The Combine gives all 30 NHL teams a complete physical and medical assessment of the top prospects three weeks before the draft. Keep an eye on this player during the 54th NHL Entry Draft on June 24-25, 2016.
Joining SCSU alongside the USHL’s Defenseman of the Year, Jack Ahcan the Huskies look to have two of the top first-year players at defense in all of college hockey. Exciting stuff for the Huskies.