The NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament kicks off on Friday, with regionals in four cities. Sixteen teams will battle down the bracket in hopes of landing in Chicago for the championship weekend, which takes place April 6-8. Here’s a primer on every team in the tournament, with a list of NHL prospects to watch for on each squad. Fair warning: I didn’t strive for equality here. Some teams have a bunch of future stars, while others just happen to be really good college squads. Let’s get to the field.
West Regional, Fargo
(1) Minnesota-Duluth vs. Ohio State (4)
(2) Boston U. vs. North Dakota (3)
The NCHC champs have a ton of upperclassmen on the roster, but have also gotten key contributions from freshmen such as Joey Anderson and Hunter Miska.
Prospects to watch: Joey Anderson (NJ), Dom Toninato (TOR), Riley Tufte (DAL), Avery Peterson (MIN), Carson Soucy (MIN). Defenseman Neil Pionk is also a coveted free agent.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The at-large Big Ten entry will have to face UMD without suspended senior defenseman Josh Healey, who leads the Buckeyes in offense from the blueline.
Prospects to watch: Dakota Joshua (TOR), Tanner Laczynski (PHI), Miguel Fidler (FLA), Matt Tomkins (CHI)
Boston University Terriers
Few teams bring as much NHL talent as the Terriers, but the Hockey East at-large squad is also pretty young. North Dakota will be a big challenge.
Prospects to watch: Clayton Keller (ARI), Charlie McAvoy (BOS), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (BOS), Jordan Greenway (MIN), Kieffer Bellows (NYI), Patrick Harper (NSH), Dante Fabbro (NSH), Jake Oettinger (2017 draft), Brandon Hickey (CGY), Chad Krys (CHI), John McLeod (TB), Doyle Somerby (NYI)
North Dakota Fighting Hawks
The defending champs bring back some key players from last year’s outfit, but also did a good job replacing the exodus of talent that left for the pro ranks.
Prospects to watch: Brock Boeser (VAN), Tyson Jost (COL), Shane Gersich (WSH), Tucker Poolman (WPG), Austin Poganski (STL), Christian Wolanin (OTT), Rhett Gardner (DAL), Matej Tomek (PHI), Chris Wilkie (FLA), Gage Ausmus (SJ)
East Regional, Providence
(1) Harvard vs. Providence (4)
(2) Western Michigan vs. Air Force (3)
The ECAC champs also won the vaunted Beanpot tournament this season in Boston and boast the best win percentage in the nation.
Prospects to watch: Sean Malone (BUF), Ryan Donato (BOS), John Marino (EDM), Alexander Kerfoot (NJ), Tyler Moy (NSH), Adam Fox (CGY), Wiley Sherman (BOS), Merrick Madsen (PHI)
The Friars were gifted with a game in their own city and still have some talent from the 2015 Frozen Four champion squad.
Prospects to watch: Jake Walman (STL), Erik Foley (WPG), Brian Pinho (WSH), Brandon Duhaime (MIN), Anthony Florentino (BUF), Kasper Bjorkqvist (PIT), Vincent Desharnais (EDM), Hayden Hawkey (MTL)
Western Michigan Broncos
The NCHC at-large squad may have to do without injured excellent freshman Wade Allison (PHI), but they do have a good cast and conference coach of the year Andy Murray.
Prospects to watch: Matheson Iacopelli (CHI), Aidan Muir (EDM), Mike McKee (DET), Frederik Tiffels (PIT), Collin Olson (CAR)
Air Force Falcons
The Atlantic Hockey champs will be a tough out, even though they’re devoid of NHL prospects. Being a functioning military institute, that is understandable.
Prospects to watch: None.
Midwest Regional, Cincinnati
(1) Denver vs. Michigan Tech (4)
(2) Union vs. Penn State (3)
The top-ranked team in the country is stocked with talent and thirsty for their first title since 2005.
Prospects to watch: Henrik Borgstrom (FLA), Will Butcher (COL), Dylan Gambrell (SJ), Troy Terry (ANA), Evan Cowley (FLA), Blake Hillman (CHI)
Michigan Tech Huskies
The WCHA champions come into the tournament courtesy a double-overtime thriller versus Bowling Green.
Prospects to watch: Matt Roy (LA), Cliff Watson (SJ), Dane Birks (PIT), Jake Jackson (SJ)
The ECAC at-large squad boasts a powerful scoring tandem of Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo up top, with Vecchione a potential Hobey Baker winner and definitely one of the most coveted NCAA free agents this season.
Prospects to watch: Jeff Taylor (PIT), Jake Kupsky (SJ)
Penn State Nittany Lions
A great storyline, the Big Ten champs didn’t even have a Division 1 team six years ago. The growth of the program has been incredible and this is their first dance.
Prospects to watch: Nikita Pavlychev (PIT), Brett Murray (BUF), Denis Smirnov (2017 draft)
Northeast Regional, Manchester
(1) Minnesota vs. Notre Dame (4)
(2) UMass-Lowell vs. Cornell (3)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Always stacked with NHL picks, the at-large Big Ten squad is looking for its first title since 2003, but will have to do it without the injured Ryan Lindgren (BOS) and Tommy Novak (NSH).
Prospects to watch: Rem Pitlick (NSH), Jake Bischoff (NYI), Brent Gates Jr. (ANA), Taylor Cammarata (NYI), Steve Johnson (LA), Jack Sadek (MIN), Ryan Collins (CBJ), Ryan Zuhlsdorf (TB), Jack Ramsey (CHI), Jack Glover (WPG)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The at-large Hockey East bid will challenge thanks to a balanced roster and difference-making goalie Cal Petersen.
Prospects to watch: Cal Petersen (BUF), Anders Bjork (BOS), Jake Evans (MTL), Dennis Gilbert (CHI), Cam Morrison (COL), Connor Hurley (BUF), Andrew Peeke (CBJ), Joe Wegwerth (FLA)
UMass-Lowell River Hawks
There’s a ton of experience up top for the River Hawks, who come in as the champs from Hockey East.
Prospects to watch: Tyler Wall (NYR), Ryan Lohin (TB), Evan Campbell (EDM), Garrett Metcalf (ANA)
Cornell Big Red
The ECAC finalists may have lost the conference title to Harvard, but they can still be dangerous.
Prospects to watch: Anthony Angello (PIT), Beau Starrett (CHI), Matt Buckles (FLA), Dwyer Tschantz (STL)