Thorimbert tours Colorado College; drafted into USHL
It’s a decision he was able to put off during hockey season, but for Josh Thorimbert, crunch time is getting close.
The 17-year-old Kindersley Klippers goalie continues to draw strong interest from high-profile NCAA colleges in the United States and he plans to make a final decision this month.
The hottest pursuit is coming from the Colorado College Tigers, who are based in Colorado Springs and play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Thorimbert flew to Colorado May 18 for a two-day tour of the campus, including the arena and gym facilities. The quick trip also included some wining and dining with the coaching staff along with a hiking expedition for Thorimbert and his mother, Elaine.
The Saskatoon native was thoroughly impressed by what Colorado College had to offer.
“It’s unbelievable. The climate there and the view of the mountains, it’s almost perfect. You can’t get much better than that,” he said. “The facilities are top notch, the best I’ve seen. It rivals or betters any WHL arena and the dressing room is top of the line.”
The goaltender has also been contacted by the WCHA’s Minnesota Golden Gophers, who may fly Thorimbert down for a similar tour later this month, as well as the Cornell Big Red and Yale Bulldogs of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
But contact with the two Ivy League schools has been limited - an email exchange with Yale and a brief phone call from Cornell three weeks ago.
Thorimbert said Colorado and Minnesota are the most appealing schools, due to the WCHA’s high level of play and the higher costs to attend an Ivy League college.
“I want to play at the best level I can, the best school, and get the best deal I can out of it,” he commented, referring to the WCHA as a big seller. “I don’t want to pay $50,000 to go to school.”
Complicating matters is the fact that Colorado College has asked Thorimbert to take the fast track and play for them next season, rather than in 2011-12 as a 19-year-old.
He said he’s considering that option, but he also wants to stick around for another year in Kindersley.
“I’m definitely not overlooking it. It’s still on my mind and not something I’ve taken lightly,” he said of playing college next year.
Klippers head coach Larry Wintoneak, whose plans in goal next season are riding on Thorimbert’s decision, said going to college early isn’t always the best thing for a player’s development.
“It’s all about fast-tracking sometimes and I don’t know if that’s the right thing for him or not. I’d like to see him play another year (here), I really would. I think it would help his development curve,” said Wintoneak.
“But for him to go to school and do something he wants to do in his career is a bonus, so we’re supporting him 100 per cent, whatever the decision is.”
Aside from the NCAA, Thorimbert has two other options on the back burner.
The Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League selected him in the 18th round of that league’s draft on May 19. The USHL functions primarily as a place for players committed to the NCAA to spend one season in America before beginning their college career.
But Thorimbert called that “the last option.” The Stars had never seen him play before, only hearing about him.
“Lincoln had called me the day before and said they’d take me in one of their later rounds. That’s not really an option I want to take. I’ve said that from day one,” he explained.
“If I do come back to Kindersley, I’m not going to run off to the USHL.”
Those words would come as a relief to Wintoneak, who said Canadian Junior A coaches are not happy about the USHL taking some of their top players a year early.
“It’s a lot of politicking that goes on behind your back,” he said. “You work hard to develop your team and you don’t want to get stiffed. That’s why we have to protect ourselves more.”
Former Notre Dame Hounds forward Jaden Schwartz, who is committed to Colorado for next year, played in the USHL this season and is expected to be a first round pick in this year’s NHL draft.
Meanwhile, the Kamloops Blazers still hold Thorimbert’s WHL rights, but they have faded out of the picture with the goalie deciding to take the college route.
Thorimbert plans to make his decision by mid-to-late June. He is waiting to see if Minnesota offers him a tour so as not to close any doors.
“For a school like that to even be looking at me is a great honour, so I don’t want to just pass them up and not give them a chance,” he said.
Given the fact that he entered last year’s training camp as a Junior A back-up, Thorimbert can be forgiven for thinking it might be a dream every now and then.
“I have to pinch myself. I never would have thought this would happen to me, this much interest and how well last year went with Kindersley,” he said. “It’s been moving so fast these last couple months. It’s surreal.”