Jordan George is the kind of player who's becoming more and more rare in college hockey each year - a true freshman making an impact at the NCAA Division I level.
And make an impact George has as he was immediately inserted into the top line of the Bemidji State University team to begin the 2009-10 season. The Beavers have started fast, entering the weekend series agaisnt Niagara at 11-2-1 and ranked in the top five nationally.
George has played a big role in that success.
He currently stands second on the team in points (17) and goals (6). His 11 assists put him in a three way tie for the team lead. George has been named College Hockey America Rookie of the Week four times already this season.
"Right now, he's one of the most talented freshmen we've had in the program since moving to Division I," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "I'd put him in the same category as Tyler Scofield - not quite the same electric feet, but great skills and tremendous hands."
George took a fairly direct route to the college game. After a year of hockey as a freshman at Madison (Wis.) Edgewood High School, George made the decision to move to the midget hockey ranks and went to Russel Stover in Kanas.
"I wanted to stay and play hockey with my friends," George said, "but my parents and I thought it best to go where there was a higher quality of competition."
After a year in Kansas, George moved on to the North American Hockey League where he played for the Topeka Roadrunners. While there he finished his high school studies online.
It was also during his second year when the Bemidji State coaches started calling. "BSU showed interest in me early in the season and kept up the contact," George said. "I made a visit in the late fall and almost immediately knew it was the place for me.
"At the rink, I noticed all the banners right away and got to understand BSU's great hockey tradition. Plus, the players and the coaches were all great."
George reported teams from Atlantic Hockey and Central Collegiate Hockey Association were also recruiting him at the time. "But BSU was always the place I wanted to go," he said. "It was my dream to play in the WCHA."
Serratore said George is the first Wisconsin player BSU has signed in the school's NCAA Division I era. "We knew he was good, but he's exceeded our expectations," Serratore reported. "When we get a freshman who can score and get a lot of playing time right away it's a huge bonus, since we rely so heavily on our upperclassmen.
"He was highly recruited and we really wanted him. (George) is a marquee-type player and that's the way he's played so far - we just didn't think he'd have this quick of a start."
George said he didn't think too much about making the jump to the collegiate level. "I concentrated on getting stronger and faster," he said. "When you come to BSU and get involved with the program they have in place, they make you ready. I wanted to do whatever I had to do to make sure I was in the line up every night. I didn't care where, I just wanted to be in the line up.
"I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play with Matt Read and Ian Lowe from the start. Having players of that caliber alongside makes it pretty easy on me."
A near instant chemistry with Read has been a major reason behind George seeing so much playing time.
"George has great chemistry with (Read). He moves the puck quickly and is very good in tight areas - he can stick handle out of a phone booth," Serratore said. "They complement each other very well."
George said the biggest adjustment he's had to make has been the tempo of the college game. "Another major one is how all the little things make such a major difference," he said. "In juniors, you could sit back a bit from time to time. But not here. One little thing can cost you a game."
George reported he's a bit surprised with the Beavers' fast start. "I knew we'd have a good team, but top five in the country?" he said. "Now I realize that's what can happen when you have a bunch of guys who are all on the same page and buy into the program.
"We all get along so well - it's like 25 brothers in the locker room. We're a hard working group and keep our eyes on the prize."
Yet another superlative from Serratore is George's strongly competitive nature.
"He'll be a fixture here for us the next four years," Serratore said. "As we move to the WCHA, we need players like (George). It's a league of high-end players and he's one of them."