Union College sophomore defenseman Jeff Taylor wasn’t rated in the final National Hockey League Scouting Bureau rankings. But playing for a national championship team and having a defensive partner who was one of the best players in college hockey last season got Taylor noticed.
On Saturday, the Clifton Park native and Albany Academy graduate was selected in the seventh round of the NHL draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had two recruits selected. Toronto Lakeshore Patriots defenseman Michael Prapavessis, who was ranked 108th among North American skaters, was selected in the fourth round by the Dallas Stars. Victoria Grizzlies goalie and 2015-16 recruit Alec Dillion, rated 13th among North American goalies, was a fifth-round selection of the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings.
Taylor, 20, had three goals and 13 assists in 41 games last season in helping the Dutchmen win the NCAA title. He was the 203rd pick overall.
“I wasn’t expecting to go high,” said Taylor, who will attend the Penguins’ development camp in July. “I was expecting to go in the late rounds. I was ecstatic once I finally saw my name. I was happy to even be considered or being invited to a camp. I was just happy that teams were talking to me a little bit.”
Taylor was paired with junior Shayne Gostisbehere for most of last season. All Gostisbehere did was win ECAC Hockey’s Co-Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Defenseman of the Year, earn All-America status and earn the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four after Union beat Boston College and Minnesota to win the title. Gostisbehere is now with the Penguins’ cross-state rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He helped me a lot,” Taylor said. “He did so many things that you would think you couldn’t do in college hockey. He gave me that confidence to try new stuff. It was great, especially since it was my first year. Him and Mat Bodie were great leaders on the back end.”
After graduating from Albany Academy, Taylor played with the U.S. Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2012-13.
Union coach Rick Bennett is very happy for Taylor. Bennett had a notion that Taylor was garnering some attention.
“Just as Shayne benefited from playing with Greg Coburn, Jeff, in a small way, benefited from playing with Shayne,” Bennett said. “But at the same token, you are who you are as a player, and Jeff earned this by his hard work and his dedication to the game.
“I’ve heard from numerous scouts that were watching Jeff [say] that his progression over the course of the season is what put him on the map.”
Prapavessis, the 105th overall pick by the Stars, had 11 goals and 66 assists in 71 games for the Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League last season. He was named the top defenseman of the Canadian Junior “A” Hockey’s Royal Bank Cup tournament.
“I’m thrilled for him,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “He’s a very talented young player who’s an even better person. He comes from an awesome family and they are just quality people.”
Dillon, the final pick of the fifth round (150th overall), was 21-7-2 this season with a 2.76 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and one shutout for the Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.