The Canes blue line has a bright future with the prospects they have in the system. We’ve already talked a little about Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy, but today we’re going to feature Mark Alt. Carolina’s second round pick from 2010 is currently in his sophomore year at the University of Minnesota and my friend Nathan Wells was kind enough to write an update on Alt and how his sophomore season at University of Minnesota (or The U as some people call it) is coming along. Nathan is a writer at SB Nation Minnesota, the Wild blog First Round Bust and a fan of all things Minnesota. I’ll let him take it from here.
“Hello Shutdown Line readers. My name is Nathan Wells and I’m the assistant editor over at SBN Minnesota along with many other things. One of the things I do there is write about University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey and thought it would be great this year to try to give NHL fanbases updates on the many Gophers draftees. Sometimes box scores can be deceiving or do not tell the whole story, especially with defensemen, so here is one person’s first-hand account on Carolina prospect Mark Alt.
Two weeks into the season, Minnesota sits undefeated at 4-0, having swept Sacred Heart – who for those who don’t follow college hockey are one of the worst teams and a gimme win – and the defending national champion Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.
Friday’s game was an overtime thriller which featured a late comeback by the Gopher hockey team after Duluth with two minutes left. Saturday’s game ended up being a sloppy affair where Minnesota’s power play shined and their defense withstood a late Bulldog charge. Mark, who is second in points by a defenseman, had a good weekend defensively in a series where Minnesota Duluth put up 100 shots.
For those who don’t know anything about Alt other than being last year’s 2nd round pick, he differs from defensemen like Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy with his size (Alt is listed at 6’3″, 202 lbs) and raw athleticism. College is the first time that Alt is dedicating himself one hundred percent to hockey – he was an all-state QB in high school – and while he is not the world’s best skater, Mark is able to make up for his deficiencies for now with his athletic talent.
So far this season, Gophers head coach Don Lucia has had Alt on the second defensive pairing with ftreshman Ben Marshall (DET) and creating an oddball pairing. Although Minnesota has a young blue line (seven of the eight defensemen are underclassmen), Mark is being used as a safety net for Marshall, who is a 5’9″, 178 lb offensive defenseman who likes to pinch.
That pairing has worked well for Minnesota this season and Alt has consistently been the best defensive presence so far. Whether it is the penalty kill or even strength, last weekend was a frustrating weekend for the Gophers blue line. Despite Carolina signing Justin Faulk this off-season, Minnesota Duluth still has a potent power play and one of the nation’s best forechecks. While almost every other Gophers defenseman was having trouble getting the puck out of the defensive zone and turned the puck over for a Grade A Bulldog chance on net, Alt was reliable time and time again. He’s used his size well and is not afraid to hit. It’s actually been the cause of both penalties this season.
If Alt could improve two things from the first two weeks, it would be skating and being more offensive. Minnesota leads the nation with 6.25 goals per game but Mark gets no more than one shot on goal. One of his shots from the point against Sacred Heart ended up being scored by Sam Warning on a rebound but regardless of having four assists in four games, most of them are secondary assists.
At the same time, while Alt’s skating is enough to get by on the college level, it might not be at the next level where forwards can him pay. Fortunately while size can’t be taught, skating can and the Gopher hockey program has churned out its share of defensemen (Erik Johnson, Paul Martin, Keith Ballard, Jordan Leopold, Alex Goligoski amongst others). How much Alt’s skating improves should be a good estimate of how close he can reach his ceiling.
Next weekend Minnesota hosts the University of Vermon and I will be there covering the team. If anyone has any questions which weren’t answered, I’ll be happy to answer them on here or Twitter.
Until then as a bonus here is an article covering Mark Alt and his college choice. Family is important to him and Mark ended up playing in Saturday’s game after attending his sister’s wedding.“