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Jersey Hitmen Forward Gurkan Commits To NCAA Division I Yale University

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com, 07/09/21, 11:45AM EDT

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Kurt Gurkan only got a chance to play in six USPHL games for three Jersey Hitmen teams  (NCDC, {Premier and 18U), but he made a big impression in his short time. After all, he came away with eight points in his short time in Wayne, N.J.

Over the course of his young career, the 2004-born native of Darien, Conn., has made a big impression on NCAA coaches as well. Yale University, in the end, stepped up and got the commitment from Gurkan on Thursday, July 8. 

“I am super excited. I can’t even believe it at this point,” said Gurkan. “I’m so excited for these next couple of years. It started months ago when I was playing for a split-season team, and then I went to the Select 17 National Development Camp. Then they got serious and asked me for transcripts and invited me on a tour. It has all happened over the last four, five months.” 

Gurkan, who also previously played with the Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers’ youth and tournament teams, is excited for the opportunity to prove himself both academically and athletically at one of the nation’s - and world’s - top universities. 

“That’s always been important to my family and I, to make sure you work as hard as you can in the classroom as well as on the ice,” said Gurkan. “Putting equal focus on both, that was one of the determining factors for Yale University.” 

Gurkan said that in his conversations with the Yale staff, led by 15-year Head Coach Keith Allain (a Yale grad himself), it was clear that his game checked all of the boxes - once his transcript fit the most important criteria of an Ivy League education, of course. 

“They have three things they look for in players on the ice and in the locker room. First, they want gritty hard-working players; they want focused and determined players; and they want players with good hockey IQ,” said Gurkan. “Along with the academic side, my tenacity and skill set and hockey IQ were something they thought would be beneficial to the program.” 

He’s not exactly sure which season he will be making his way to New Haven to begin with Yale, but he will take any route he can find to get there, which may include a bigger future with the Jersey Hitmen beyond this year. 

“I want to finish my senior year at [Phillips] Exeter, and after that I am absolutely considering the Hitmen,” said Gurkan. “Yale typically wants their incoming players to have two years of junior hockey, but it’s a very fluid situation - it could be anywhere from one year from now to three years from now - it all comes down to when they believe I’ll have the most impact on the team.” 

With prep school hockey sidelined for the 2020-21 season, he was grateful to the Hitmen, all of whose teams played through this “COVID year.” 

“The Hitmen drafted me in the [2020] Futures Draft, and at the time, I didn’t know much about the NCDC,” said Gurkan. “Head Coach Toby Harris explained to me about the League and the more he spoke to me, the more excited I was. Toby was excited as well and he had me come to the 2020-21 Main Camp. They really took me in, and that was one of the biggest stages for my development. I was 16 at the time and to play and practice with these older guys, and train with them was very beneficial. The NCDC is a great league and the Hitmen are one of the best in the league. They helped me a ton.” 

He played one October game at the Hitmen Classic for the NCDC Hitmen, with whom he practiced even more. He had one assist in that appearance. He played in four games for the Premier Hitmen, including an outdoor game in December at Englewood Field Club. He took full advantage of that occasion, posting a 1-2-3 line. In November, he played an 18U weekend home-and-home against the Philadelphia Hockey Club, putting up a 2-1-3 line in his first league game there as well.

“I definitely see the NCDC was the fastest hockey, and very skilled hockey as well,” he said. “The game was naturally slowed down a little bit at 18U and Premier, just because of the younger age groups, but at every level, I enjoyed being surrounded by the players. The most time I spent was with NCDC and 18U teams, and I got close with those teams.”

The USPHL congratulates Kurt Gurkan, his family, the Jersey Hitmen and Yale University for his commitment.