While rumours circulate about a Western Hockey League team landing an NCAA player, the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats plucked a Penn State recruit Wednesday afternoon, signing 1996-born Conor Garland off of the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks. He'll become the second Penn State-commit to join the Canadian Hockey League in less than a week.
The Moncton Wildcats have received a commitment from 1996 born and Wildcats 6th round draft pick in 2012 Conor Garland. He is anticipated to suit up for his first QMJHL game on Friday versus Victoriaville. Garland has been playing with the Muskegon Lumberjack in the USHL as a 16 year old where he had 3 points in 6 games.
"Conor is an offensively gifted young player. I had the opportunity to coach him in a tournament in Moncton this summer. He has great hockey sense and a nose for the net." described Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Danny Flynn. "Keep in mind that he is just 16 years old but he has the potential to develop into a very good offensive player for the Wildcats down the road."
Conor previously played with the Boston Jr. Bruins in the EmJHL where he had 94 points in 40 games. In the 2010-2011 Season he played with Shattuck St. Mary's and scored 116 points in 52 games.
Garland is from Scituate, MA, (evidently pronounced "Sit-choo-it", and my new favourite town name in the Northeastern United States) and was a pretty good scorer in his midget years. There's no good basis for comparison against other high quality players—he led his Shattuck St. Mary's "A" Bantam team in scoring with 65 goals—but for some reason, finding scoring totals of 16-year old hockey players is difficult to come across, even with Google.
Of course, the timing couldn't be worse for the Penn State program. They had just lost defenceman Thomas Welsh to the Mississauga Steelheads, who was set to join the team next year. Garland was supposedly on the path to join the college program in the fall of 2015.
As for the Wildcats, they don't yet have a 96-born player on the roster, having traded away their first round pick in the QMJHL Draft to Saint John this past summer. Garland was one of two American players selected by Moncton at the draft, the second being Anthony Florentino, a Providence College-commit.
Under a new rule implemented last year, QMJHL teams each had to select two American-born players to establish a stronger footprint for the "Q" in the Eastern United States after the Lewiston MAINEiacs folded.