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Predators Pick RPI's Foss in Sixth Round

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, June 22, 2008

Before he arrived at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last fall, defenseman Jeff Foss had a chance to be taken in last June's NHL draft. A number of teams were interested, but none picked him.

One year later, the Nashville Predators came calling.

The Predators took the sophomore Foss in the sixth round in the second day of the NHL draft in Kanata, Ontario. And Foss wasn't the only one with RPI ties to be selected.

Incoming freshman defenseman Mike Bergin was taken in the seventh round by the Dallas Stars.

Foss, who was the 166th overall selection, is the first RPI player to be picked, while with the Engineers, in the NHL draft since 2001, when defenseman Francois Senez was taken in the ninth round by the Detroit Red Wings.

"I talked to [Nashville] two or three times in the past couple of weeks," Foss said. "I was maybe expecting it, or maybe not. I wasn't getting my hopes up about it. I was definitely excited when I got the call."

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Foss came to RPI from Moorhead (Minn.) High School, where he had 15 goals and 31 assists for 46 points in 26 games his senior season. That attracted the attention of NHL scouts, but it wasn't enough to get him drafted.

"Last year, I talked to probably about 10 to 15 teams," Foss said. "I was expecting possibly last year, and I didn't [get picked]. This year, it makes it that much better."

Foss played in all of RPI's 38 games last season. He had a goal and three assists along with 28 penalty minutes. His goal was a short-handed one against Princeton on Nov. 30.

"He was well seen two years ago in Minnesota high school [hockey], and we thought he might go," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "For whatever reason, they passed. You like to see players being rewarded for their hard work and dedication."

Appert believes Foss will get better as he progresses in his RPI career.

"He's a very committed kid," Appert said. "He had a real good freshman year, especially considering he made the jump right out of high school. His work ethic, and competitiveness and detail to his game has made us a better program.

"We talked to Nashville a lot about him. They did a lot of homework on him, and I give their staff a lot of credit. I think a lot of people thought he was an offensive defenseman coming out of Minnesota, and maybe Jeff did to a certain extent. He's going to provide offense for us in the future, but what he's really good at, and what he can be great at the collegiate and then at the pro level is the stay-at-home, first-pass, puck-moving, physical, tough defenseman."

Bergin, the only defenseman in the RPI recruiting class that was announced Tuesday, had 11 goals and 18 assists, along with 38 penalty minutes, in 33 games for the Central Ontario Junior Hockey League's Smith Falls Bears. The

6-3, 200-pound Bergin was the 209th overall selection.

Appert thought Bergin might have been a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

"The only surprise our staff had is that he wasn't selected earlier," Appert said. "We had a number of NHL teams call us, probably 10, in the last month about Mike Bergin. What they kind of all had to say that their scouts loved him, but they didn't see him play enough. He played in a very good league in the Central Junior League, but a league that maybe doesn't get heavily scouted by NHL scouts."

RPI will have four players who have been selected by NHL teams. In addition to Bergin, two other players were selected prior to joining the Engineers. Incoming goalie Allen York was taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the sixth round of last year's draft. Junior defenseman Christian Jensen was taken in the ninth round of the 2004 draft by the San Jose Sharks.

RPI has had 54 players drafted by NHL teams. Only 15 other players have been selected higher than Foss.

"NHL draft picks aren't the only reason you win championships," Appert said. "But what it does is solidifies in recruits minds across [North] America that not only can you come and develop, and still get drafted from RPI."