One of the great battles for talent this year has been between the Boston University Terriers and the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. The prize? Arizona Coyotes first-rounder Clayton Keller. And it really looks like BU has a stranglehold on the St. Louis native's services.
All my intel says Keller is sticking with the NCAA route now that his exemplary career with Team USA's National Team Development Program is finished. This weekend, Keller made another pretty good indication what his intentions are by playing at the Chowder Cup in Massachusetts on a team loaded with players bound for the 2016-17 Terriers roster.
Along with Keller, the Boston Jr. A Knights squad included Charlie McAvoy (BOS), Kieffer Bellows (NYI), Dante Fabbro (NSH), Chad Krys (CHI) and Jake Oettinger (2017 draft).
The Chowder Cup is a huge annual summer tournament with a wide range of talent. Some of the players are eligible for the 2017 NHL draft, while others are already in college. Keller was one of the top scorers in this year's edition, but his super squad lost to the East Coast Kings Red squad in the playoffs (the game was at 8 a.m. and the Kings came out flying).
There is always the chance Keller changes his mind and that's the peril of these NCAA-CHL recruiting wars; even if a player makes it to campus, they might leave due to on-ice fit, academic issues or because they have signed their NHL rookie contract. We saw Toronto pick Jeremy Bracco leave Boston College after five games last season, with the gifted offensive talent hooking up with OHL Kitchener instead. Jack Roslovic just signed his entry-level deal with the Winnipeg Jets, so his career at Miami is done after one season. He is likely headed to OHL London.
But I really believe Keller is going to BU now and I've got no dog in the fight – both routes are good.
Here are some names from the Chowder Cup to keep in mind for the 2017 NHL draft:
Jake Oettinger, G – A late 1998 birthday, the 6-foot-4 netminder is an NTDP product who jumps into the NCAA this upcoming season with Boston U. He'll be one of the most high-profile netminders in the draft.
Neil Shea, LW – The son of a Colorado Avalanche scout, Shea was part of the East Coast Kings team that beat the Keller all-stars. A University of Maine commit, Shea will first play at Lawrence Academy. A big kid with great hockey sense, he makes plays off the rush and has good straight-away speed once he gets going.
Jayson Dobay, D – Another East Coast King, Dobay is a UMass commit who will play for coach Tony Amonte at Thayer Academy this season. An excellent skater with great offensive instincts, he has also started to round out his defensive game.
Marc McLaughlin, C – A Saint Lawrence commit slated to play for USHL Cedar Rapids first, McLaughlin is a competitive, two-way player with an NHL release on his shot and great wheels. Character kid plays physical, too.
Keith Petruzzelli, G – At 6-foot-6, it's hard to miss Petruzzelli, who has really improved in the past year. The Quinnipiac commit is using his size better and has great poise in net, which inspires confidence in his teammates. He'll play for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer before heading off to USHL Muskegon.
Ben Thomas, C – From the top of the circle down, Thomas has the skill and hockey sense to put up numbers. He still needs to round out his game, but the Union College commit has good hands and looks to be more of a playmaker than a shooter. He'll return to Winchendon prep school this year; Dubuque has his USHL rights.