With essentially his first two recruiting classes done by the previous head coach, Anastos starts out behind the proverbial eight ball. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

How MSU hockey coaches plan to choose the right kids to succeed

New Michigan State hockey head coach Tom Anastos recently discussed how he plans to attack the recruiting game, which is essential to any college sport – especially in this day and age.

He mentioned looking at players on a broad scope, using intellect of the coaching staff to pick out players which are not only quite talented but also fit the persona of what a student-athlete should strive to be while at Michigan State University. It is more than just finding a talented 17-year-old in Ottawa, Canada; it revolves around making sure the young man has talent and a maturity level which will help him develop into a two-way player and an even better person.

Those kinds of finds on the recruiting trail help build programs into what they become over time. When you think of colleges and certain sports which help define their institutions (like basketball at Duke or football at Boise State), you become reminded with how difficult it is to start a winning tradition and keep that tradition going. The same instance is taking place at MSU, where a team recently won a national championship and is trying to retread its hockey program into a winner once more.

While players are still around from the last regime, it offers the coaches the best of both worlds in terms of learning why the players wanted to be Spartans and how to encourage future college hockey players to do the same. As assistant coach Kelly Miller said, Michigan State sells itself based on its list of merits.

“This is a great university,” Miller said. “When you take a kid around this campus and all that it has to offer, that in itself is a great thing. I’ve been there and done that and know what it takes to get to that level.

“Tommy Anastos knows what it takes from a different angle, but again, he’s been heavily involved with hockey and he knows a lot of these kids coming up that are future Spartan hockey players.”

Miller proved confident when speaking of the three coaches’ abilities to persuade parents of future players that Michigan State is the right place for them, not just in terms of playing at a good program but also getting a strong education and becoming a man in the process. Basically, it is about more than just offering a scholarship and expecting greatness through athletic ability.

Tom Newton has been around the college game a long time. He has recruited many players and worked in different areas to improve the good of the game and the entire Spartan brand.

He said recruiting is a two-time process, in the sense that coaches have to find a kid they like as a player and person and notify the kid and his family that Michigan State would love to have him. Then, after the coaches have the teenager’s attention, they must sell him on the idea that playing college hockey is the track one has to ride on in order to reach the pinnacle of hockey in the Western Hemisphere, the National Hockey League.

“(The player) will have himself in a situation when hockey’s over, he has something to use the rest of his life in a quality college degree,” Newton said.

That may not be the case in other sports, like basketball or football, where the primary goal is usually to reach the next level and become a professional. But most college athletes do not get to enjoy the satisfaction of playing at the next level, or simply don’t choose to go that route for whatever reason.

Michigan State’s new coaching additions and current mainstay realizes how integral the recruiting process is and what it means to have quality individuals make up the composition of a locker room. So, too, will the young men who will decide to tie their skates regularly in East Lansing once the time arrives to pick the place that is best for them.