NCAA conference tournaments are underway, so we’re getting to that point in the season where early exits and free agents become headline news. One of the biggest exits has already happened: defenseman Quinn Hughes signed with the Vancouver Canucks after two seasons at the University of Michigan. The other top dog to keep a eye on is Cale Makar of UMass, who is certainly ready for the NHL and the Colorado Avalanche. Of course, the Minutemen are one of the best teams in the country, so they might be busy for awhile.
Princeton is done for the year and the Tigers are a very interesting team when it comes to free agents. Forwards Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner lead the way, while defenseman Josh Teves has garnered interest, too (Update: all three have signed, with Ottawa, Detroit and Calgary, respectively). The first name off the board, however, is Michigan Tech’s Jake Lucchini, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins – an organization that desperately needs to restock the cupboards. Who else is making news right now in the prospect world? Let’s take a look.
Jack Dugan, RW, Providence College Friars (Hockey East): The Friars are preparing for the conference quarterfinal, but let’s take a second to gaze upon the wonder that was Dugan’s freshman campaign. The Vegas Golden Knights pick led Hockey East in rookie scoring with 32 points in 36 games, using his size, hands and skating ability. NHL arrival: 2021-22
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): It cannot be understated how good Luukkonen has been for the Wolves this year. The Finnish national and Buffalo Sabres pick just set a franchise record with his sixth shutout and Sudbury will have home ice for the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001, when Mike Smith was their goalie. NHL arrival: 2021-22
Rem Pitlick, C, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (BigTen): The Gophers are on the outside looking in right now for the Frozen Four, so the conference semifinal against Notre Dame will be crucial. Pitlick, the hard-working and talented Nashville Predators pick, had four points in two games to knock off Michigan in the quarters. NHL arrival: 2020-21
Matias Macelli, LW, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL): A Finnish import now in his second year with Dubuque, Macelli is one of the league’s top scorers with 59 points in 50 games. The 2019 draft prospect is a terrific puckhandler and lethal on the power play, but is not committed to an NCAA school yet – so where does he play next season? It’s an intriguing question. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Layton Ahac, D, Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL): Scouts flocked to Coquitlam to see Ahac last week, as his Spruce Kings were en route to beating the Express in the first round of the playoffs. Ahac, a 2019 draft prospect and Ohio State commit, is a great skater who plays a Chris Tanev-style defensive game and had four points in the five-game series. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): The Chiefs are hot right now and Anderson-Dolan has been a big driver. The Los Angeles Kings prospect is currently riding a seven-game point streak that has seen the talented two-way center put up 13 points in that span. ‘JAD’ has been limited to 29 games with Spokane (NHL, WJC, injury), but he’s been lights-out when he has suited up. NHL arrival: 2019-20
Jayden Struble, D, St. Sebastian’s Arrows (Mass. HS): A hard-hitting blueliner who can really skate, Struble is one of the top 2019 draft prospects available in the New England prep circuit. A Northeastern recruit, Struble’s USHL rights are owned by Tri-City and he’s best when he keeps his game simple. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Matthew Stienburg, RW, St. Andrew’s College Saints (Ont. HS): The Canadian prep ranks (NISIC) had their tournament on the weekend, with St. Andrew’s taking the title over Stanstead. Stienburg, a power forward and 2019 draft prospect, earned MVP honors for the Saints. A great skater with a big-time physical dimension, he’s a Cornell commit. NHL arrival: 2023-24
Dillon Dube, C, Stockton Heat (AHL): The AHL’s player of the week with seven points in three games, Dube even helped the Heat beat sizzling Bakersfield. Most impressively, the Calgary Flames prospect had two shorthanded goals in that three-game span. His skating and his hockey IQ are calling cards. NHL arrival: 2019-20
Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): The Memorial Cup hosts have a tall task ahead of them, but Groulx is part of a very good collective that just needs to get healthy. The Anaheim Ducks pick is having a great campaign with 73 points in 62 games (including seven in his past five) and his two-way game is very pro-oriented. NHL arrival: 2020-21