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Spits prospect opts for college

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Austin Czarnik will not be joining the Windsor Spitfires for the upcoming season.

The talented forward spent the last two seasons with the United States Development Program.

After withdrawing a verbal commitment to attend Michigan State University last fall, many thought he was headed to Windsor.

"There was ongoing talk and we would have liked to have had him," Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel said.

"We offered him a full-ride education package. We offered everything we could."

Instead, Czarnik has opted to join the defending United States Hockey League champion Green Bay Gamblers this season and attend Miami of Ohio University in 2011-12.

"It was a hard decision and it was tough for me," the 17-year-old Czarnik said.

"Windsor's a great organization, a great place to play and has great fans, but I feel I need more time to develop and get stronger and I think college is best for that."

At five-foot-seven and 155 pounds, many feel Czarnik's size is more suited to the college game, but Rychel felt confident he could have an impact in junior hockey.

"He could have been a first-line centre for us," Rychel said.

"I think he should come to the best league for development, but it's not my choice. He's a real nice kid and has a great family and they made a choice."

Czarnik was second on the USDP in scoring last season with 10 goals and 28 points in 26 games.

He is ranked 80th by North American Central Scouting in its pre-season rankings for the 2011 NHL Draft and no doubt playing in Windsor would have given him more exposure.

"I just think (Miami of Ohio) works perfect," Czarnik said. "They do well developing young guys like (five-foot-eight) Andy Miele."

As always, Rychel will not close the door to Czarnik joining the team at some point down the road.

"I would never say never because there's always a chance," Rychel said.

For now, Rychel isn't in a rush to add any bodies to the Spitfires' roster and is willing to see how NHL camps shake down this fall.

"Right now, I think we're good," Rychel said.

The loss of Czarnik is tempered by the addition of Russian centre Alexander Khokhlachev, who is expected to get his release from Moscow Spartak this week.

The club also has overage centre Stephen Johnston in the fold.

"I think Johnston will be huge for us," Rychel said.

The club has also added German forward Tom Kuhnhackl and could return NHL draft picks Zack Kassian, Justin Shugg and Kenny Ryan up front.

"Once the season gets going, we'll see what holes we have," Rychel said.

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