Victoria Grizzlies head coach and GM Rylan Ferster said “when people come to the rink, they want to see a defenceman like Cale Makar.” Ferster could have also mentioned Quinn Hughes if he wanted to make it more of a B.C. example, but you get the point.
Yet for every offensively wheeling blueliner, there needs to be one who gets the job done in other ways. Tim Busconi is that guy for the Grizzlies and was rewarded for it this week with an NCAA Div. 1 commitment to play at Dartmouth College.
He was originally committed to Boston University, but the Terriers have a loaded roster with 14 NHL draft picks, six of whom are defencemen, including Vancouver Canucks blueline prospects Tom Willander and Aiden Celebrini.
“I think I would develop better [at Dartmouth],” said Busconi, as the Grizzlies prepared to meet the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm on Friday night and the defending B.C. Hockey League-champion Vees in Penticton Saturday night.
“It [Dartmouth] seemed like a good fit for me, as a person and as a player.”
Dartmouth College has two NHL draft picks on its roster this season, with Toronto Maple Leafs-prospect John Fusco being the lone drafted defenceman. That makes the opportunity for immediate ice time much more abundant for a player like Busconi.
The 19-year-old grew up as an all-rounder in Milton, Massachusetts, playing hockey, lacrosse, baseball, basketball and tennis. The six-foot-one, 170-pound rearguard had a goal and 13 assists in 51 regular season and playoff games last season in Victoria and had a goal and four assists in 18 games this season heading into Friday night. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“A lot of people don’t realize how good he is,” said Grizzlies bench-boss Ferster.
“Tim doesn’t make mistakes. He is a first-class kid and teammate, and could have gone to any NCAA team.”
Added Busconi: “I take a lot of pride in things like penalty killing.”
Those kinds of players are just as valuable as the flashier rushing defencemen.
Busconi is among 13 Grizzlies players this season who have commitments to NCAA Div. 1 teams. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have 15, Nanaimo Clippers 12 and Cowichan Valley Capitals nine among the 186 BCHL commits to date. Penticton leads with 18 and Salmon Arm is second with 17 commits to NCAA schools.
There are 404 BCHL alumni on U.S. collegiate NCAA Div. 1 rosters this season, which accounts for 23 per cent of all the players in Div. 1. That is behind only the 411 former BCHL players who played NCAA Div. 1 last season, including 104 who skated in the 2023 NCAA Div. 1 tournament, with 14 BCHL alumni on the 2023 Frozen Four champion Quinnipiac team.
BCHL alumni are represented on all 64 NCAA Div. 1 teams this season.
Penticton and Salmon Arm lead in producing next season’s crop out of the BCHL.
“The Vees (13-1-3) and Silverbacks (11-5) are two of the top teams in the league,” affirmed Ferster, underscoring the task at hand this weekend for his Grizzlies (13-6).
It began Friday night with a 4-3 loss against the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm.