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NCAA Preview: The top 75 players to watch

A lot of talent left the college ranks over the summer, but some stunning freshman classes will keep the excitement going

The college hockey season is upon us, so it's time for my annual top 75. As per usual, the list skews towards NHL prospects and if I'm not mistaken, all 30 franchises are represented this year. There's also a couple 2017 draft favorites, if you plan to cheer for Las Vegas. Because of this edict and because I like to keep things fresh, many of the players are incoming freshmen or sophomores. This is not a "best" list, so much as a "most anticipated."

A couple situations to note before we get started: goaltending can be tricky to anticipate, so I steered clear of North Dakota (Cam Johnson vs. Matej Tomek) and Michigan (Zach Nagelvoort vs. Jack LaFontaine). Also, Boston University has so many prospects that I had to cut off Patrick Harper (NAS), even though he just had an exhibition debut for the ages. Consider him No. 76. Without further ado, let's get to the list.

1. Brock Boeser, North Dakota (VAN) – He may not have Nick Schmaltz, but Boeser is instant offense on his own (and Tyson Jost is a pretty good replacement).

2. Clayton Keller, Boston U (ARI) – Dynamic and creative, Keller leads an incredible freshman class for the Terriers.

3. Tyson Jost, North Dakota (COL) – Powerful and skilled, he’ll make an immediate impact in Grand Forks.

4. Colin White, Boston College (OTT) – Incredible two-way center will be counted on heavily by Eagles, who lost a good chunk of talent early.

5. Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (2017) – Powerful center is a rare true freshman for the Huskies. Gets to play with his older brothers, though.

6. Charlie McAvoy, BU (BOS) – Team USA’s top defenseman for this year’s world juniors will also be key for the Terriers.

7. Ryan Fitzgerald, BC (BOS) – Makes magic with Colin White. Expect Fitzgerald to put up big numbers, maybe even challenge for the Hobey Baker.

8. Luke Kunin, Wisconsin (MIN) – Solid, all-around player finally getting some reinforcements in Wisconsin. Should be fun to see what he can do now.

9. Tage Thompson, UConn (STL) – Amazing summer world junior camp propels Thompson up the charts. Hopefully he keeps crashing the net upon his return.

10. Henrik Borgstrom, Denver (FLA) – Talented and charismatic Finn comes in raw, but it will be fun watching him grow.

11. Dante Fabbro, Boston U (NAS) – Two-way defenseman has great smarts and a nice shot. He’ll bolster that BU back end.

12. Kieffer Bellows, Boston U (NYI) – Keller’s NTDP running mate joins him in Boston. Bellows has a sweet release and can play physical, too.

13. Dennis Cholowski, St. Cloud State (DET) – Big second half in the BCHL turned him into an NHL first-rounder, now the offensive D-man readies for the next challenge.

14. Trent Frederic, Wisconsin (BOS) – Excellent two-way center was dragged down unfairly by descriptions at draft. Badgers could have a David Backes on their hands.

15. Adam Huska, UConn (NYR) – Scintillating goaltender was masterful in USHL; now joins a Huskies squad with a European flavor.

16. Wade Allison, Western Michigan (PHI) – Strong, driving winger will turn a lot of heads in Kalamazoo. Coming off great USHL run.

17. Luke Martin, Michigan (2017) – Defensive defenseman comes into Ann Arbor as a true freshman. With big departures, Michigan needs him to hit the ground running.

18. Patrick Khodorenko, Michigan State (2017) – Smart two-way center was hurt by injuries last year. Now, NTDP product gets a chance to shine.

19. Riley Tufte, Minnesota-Duluth (DAL) – Wrist injury will delay his start, but the tall drink of water has a ton of potential to unleash for the Bulldogs.

20. Cam Morrison, Notre Dame (COL) – Fighting Irish have a lot of experience, which will help this freshman use his scoring touch right away.

21. Jake Walman, Providence (STL) – Big injury truncated last season; look for offensive defenseman to rebound with big numbers.

22. Tanner Laczynski, Ohio State (PHI) – Nasty to play against, the freshman has size, physicality and a scoring touch, to boot.

23. Andrew Peeke, Notre Dame (CBJ) – Frosh defenseman brings good size and a nice offensive capability to the Fighting Irish.

24. Chad Krys, Boston U (CHI) – Great athlete and puckmover yet another member of Terriers’ excellent incoming class.

25. Dylan Gambrell, Denver (SJ) – Member of Denver’s ‘Pacific Rim’ line returns to burn more defenses with his speed and skill.

26. Will Borgen, St. Cloud State (BUF) – Fast-developing defenseman already has a world juniors under his belt thanks to his excellent skating.

27. Jake Oettinger, Boston U (2017) – Big task ahead for freshman netminder, but Oettinger has the size and athleticism to make stops.

28. Adam Fox, Harvard (CGY) – Brilliant offensive defenseman doesn’t have a lot of size, but it hasn’t slowed him down so far.

29. Colton Point, Colgate (DAL) – Big goaltender joins the Raiders after an exemplary season and playoff run with Jr. A Carleton Place near Ottawa.

30. Todd Burgess, RPI (OTT) – NAHL star and Arizona native has some scouts seeing another Jimmy Vesey-type of scorer (Update: Burgess is out for the season after knee surgery. Oof.)

31. Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota (BOS) – Character kid and two-way blueliner comes from a hockey family. Wants to be a leader.

32. Erik Foley, Providence (WPG) – Great world junior summer camp for the skilled and involved winger sets up an exciting sophomore season.

33. Rem Pitlick, Minnesota (NAS) – Big-time scorer in the USHL will be great for the Gophers attack; dad is former NHLer Lance Pitlick.

34. Ryan Donato, Harvard (BOS) – The coach’s son has never needed special treatment; Ryan has dangerous hands and will get more looks with Jimmy Vesey gone.

35. Ross Colton, Vermont (TB) – Another player who lit up the tough USHL, Colton gives the Catamounts a nice weapon up front.

36. Mark Friedman, Bowling Green (PHI) – Offensive defenseman played much more disciplined in sophomore campaign. How big will he be for Falcons as a junior?

37. Dennis Gilbert, Notre Dame (CHI) – Smooth-skating blueliner is also responsible in his own zone. Enters his sophomore year in South Bend.

38. Chase Pearson, Maine (DET) – Smart kid with great size joins a Black Bears squad that could use a boost on offense.

39. Joseph Woll, Boston College (TOR) – Former NTDP goaltender instilled confidence in his teammates. Eagles will need the same as they seek a replacement for Thatcher Demko.

40. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Boston U (BOS) – Two-way center will play a big role as a sophomore on an offense studded with new recruits.

41. Ryan Zuhlsdorf, Minnesota (TB) – Slick defenseman is much more of a playmaker than he is a goal-scorer.

42. Max Letunov UConn (SJ via ARI via STL) – Rights already traded twice, but talented and smart center has the type of potential all teams covet.

43. J.D. Greenway, Wisconsin (TOR) – Took huge strides last season with the NTDP. Now brings his big frame and offensive hops to Badgers’ blueline.

44. Brendan Warren, Michigan (ARI) – Speedster with nice skills must step up as sophomore after Wolverines lost a ton of potent forwards.

45. Marcus Vela, New Hampshire (SJ) – Power forward with great puck possession attributes returns for second season with the Wildcats.

46. William Lagesson, UMass (EDM) – Nasty, physical defenseman gets a new coach in Amherst as Greg Carvel tries to right the ship for Minutemen.

47. Karch Bachman, Miami (FLA) – Skilled and fast, Bachman will help the RedHawks replenish their losses up front (Roslovic, Kuraly, etc).

48. Jordan Greenway, Boston U (MIN) – Already a beast up front, Greenway played with more snarl at summer WJC tournament and that’s bad news for opponents.

49. Mason Appleton, Michigan State (WPG) – Big-framed playmaker will try to get Spartans on track in the Big Ten.

50. Joey Anderson, Minnesota-Duluth (NJ) – An excellent complementary player on the wing, Anderson has nice size and skill.

51. Kris Oldham, Nebraska-Omaha (TB) – Highly acclaimed USHL netminder brings his big frame and great positioning to the Mavericks.

52. Casey Fitzgerald, Boston College (BUF) – Undersized but tough defenseman has nice rushing capabilities and proved doubters wrong, getting drafted the second time around.

53. Adam Gaudette, Northeastern (VAN) – Competitive, playmaking center really turned on the jets after Christmas. Let’s see what he can do as a sophomore.

54. Matt Filipe, Northeastern (CAR) – Incoming center brings size, physicality and a nose for the net to the Huskies.

55. Joey Daccord, Arizona State (OTT) – Sun Devils will have a steep learning curve this season, so look for their positionally sound freshman goaltender to be key.

56. Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard (NJ) – Another Crimson forward who must step up with Vesey gone, Kerfoot has proven himself to be elusive in the offensive end.

57. John Hayden, Yale (CHI) – Rock-solid power forward always makes the Bulldogs a little less fun to play against.

58. Nick Pastujov, Michigan (NYI) – Coming off an injury-mired year with NTDP, Pastujov now gets a chance to show off his great offensive tools.

59. Tucker Poolman, North Dakota (WPG) – The Jets would have been stoked to sign him this summer, but the bomb-shot D-man gets to play with younger bro Colton now.

60. Cameron Clarke, Ferris State (BOS) – Converted forward brings nice vision and, obviously, offense, to the Bulldogs’ blueline.

61. Chase Priskie, Quinnipiac (WSH) – Offensive defenseman has been working on getting stronger and that will make him even more deadly for the Bobcats.

62. Max Zimmer, Wisconsin (CAR) – Speedy kid with nice moves part of the resurrection Tony Granato is putting together in Madison.

63. Matt Roy, Michigan Tech (LA) – Sturdy, responsible defenseman still managed to put up some pretty good offensive numbers as a freshman.

64. C.J. Franklin, MSU-Mankato (WPG) – Hard-working, competitive winger found the net more as a sophomore with Mavericks.

65. Teemu Kivihalme, Colorado College (NAS) – Offensive defenseman still needs to carry a big load for Tigers as he enters junior year.

66. Anders Bjork, Notre Dame (BOS) – Point-per-gamer as a sophomore also had nice world juniors for USA. Brings speed and grit to the lineup.

67. Brandon Duhaime, Providence (MIN) – Excellent playoff run with USHL champs Tri-City sets up his freshman season with Friars. Plays with an edge.

68. Joe Cecconi, Michigan (DAL) – Big, mobile, defensive defenseman has a large task ahead of him with Werenski and Downing gone.

69. Nikita Pavlychev, Penn State (PIT) – Mammoth winger has a lot of potential thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame. Will he reach it in Happy Valley?

70. Garrett Metcalf, UMass-Lowell (ANA) – Big netminder joins a River Hawks program with some pretty good goalies in its past.

71. Blaine Byron, Maine (PIT) – Returns as Black Bears’ leading scorer, but the fast and smart center will need to do even more if team is to move up.

72. Louis Belpedio, Miami (MIN) – Smart offensive defenseman will be key to Miami attack in the very difficult NCHC.

73. Luc Snuggerud, Nebraska-Omaha (CHI) – Fast offensive defenseman has been big part of Mavs’ offense through two seasons.

74. Will Lockwood, Michigan (VAN) – Hard-working, always-involved right winger comes to Wolverines from the vaunted NTDP.

75. Jake Evans, Notre Dame (MTL) – Skilled scorer doubled his offensive totals year over year. What’s in store for his junior campaign?



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