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The top 75 players to watch in NCAA hockey

The men's season begins soon, so our prospect expert is counting down all the players with bright futures. If you like mobile defensemen, this is your year

Another NCAA men’s season is upon us and once again, I had too many names for my top-75 list. But that’s a good problem to have because it means the level of talent in the college game is still going strong. This year seems particularly fun if you like skilled defensemen and the top name on the list should be no surprise.

Once again, here are my rules for the rankings: These are the top 75 players I am excited to watch for this season. I skew towards freshmen and sophomores because they are new and tend to have higher upsides. For that reason, I've made a decision to omit certain older prospects that I know are good (like Nashville prospect Dante Fabbro of Boston U.) in order to get more new names on. I almost exclusively list players drafted by NHL teams already (or kids who are up for the draft this year), but I have included a couple top free agents to keep an eye out for. I do not try to be fair in terms of how many schools are included - though if I’m not mistaken, the Atlantic Hockey conference gets its first shout-out this year. But it was earned. Also, I’m not trying to be fair in terms of NHL rights. Philly, New Jersey and Vegas all seemed to do well this year, but again; those franchises just drafted players I’m interested in. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the list.

  1. Quinn Hughes, Michigan: The masterfully mobile defenseman and Vancouver Canucks first-rounder has a national championship on his mind and should be a Hobey Baker favorite.
  2. Cale Makar, UMass: Another ultra-skilled defenseman, the top Colorado Avalanche prospect is likely going pro as soon as the Minutemen are done this year.
  3. Oliver Wahlstrom, Boston College: The freshman winger brings a ton of scoring power to the Eagles and represents part of the New York Islanders’ great 2018 draft class.
  4. K’Andre Miller, Wisconsin: Two-way skill and great athleticism make Miller one of the most intriguing freshmen in the country. The New York Rangers nabbed the D-man in the first round.
  5. Scott Perunovich, Minnesota-Duluth: He led the Bulldogs to a national title last year, so what does the mobile D-man do for an encore? That’s the fun surrounding the St. Louis Blues pick.
  6. Cayden Primeau, Northeastern: My pick for last year’s most pleasant surprise, Primeau was one of the best goalies in the college game. Now the Montreal Canadiens pick returns with a possible world junior spot in line.
  7. Jay O’Brien, Providence College: The Philadelphia Flyers went high on O’Brien in the 2018 draft, now the prep school center gets a chance to use his two-way game against top competition in Hockey East.
  8. Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State: He used to be the youngest, now he’ll be one of the most effective. The Montreal Canadiens pick is a great two-way center.
  9. Riley Tufte, Minnesota-Duluth: Raw when the Dallas Stars drafted him, the 6-foot-6 left winger should be an all-out force up front for the defending champs as a junior.
  10. Ben Brinkman, Minnesota: Not many true freshmen roam college bluelines, but Brinkman has the skill and composure to make it happen. He’s up for the 2019 draft.
  11. Wade Allison, Western Michigan: Coming off a serious knee injury, the talented power forward is crucial to the Broncos’ success. He’s a Philadelphia Flyers pick.
  12. Ian Mitchell, Denver: Fantastic freshman campaign saw the smart, offensively-inclined blueliner put up 30 points for the Pioneers. With a lot of talent gone, they’ll need the Chicago Blackhawks pick.
  13. Reilly Walsh, Harvard: The New Jersey Devils drafted him as a raw puckmover but Walsh put up 20 points as a freshman. He’ll be even better as a sophomore, which is scary.
  14. Sampo Raanta, Minnesota: Incoming freshman has electric speed and a great shot. Originally committed to Wisconsin, the left winger and Colorado Avalanche pick could make noise with the Gophers.
  15. Benton Maass, New Hampshire: The sophomore offensive defenseman got off to a hot start as a frosh; can the Washington Capitals pick hit another level this year?
  16. Will Lockwood, Michigan: Injuries have plagued his NCAA tenure, but a healthy Lockwood would be huge for the Wolverines. The Vancouver Canucks pick is a tenacious two-way threat.
  17. Jack McBain, Boston College: Jumping from Ontario Jr. A to Hockey East will be a challenge for the Minnesota Wild pick, but the big body and scoring potential makes him intriguing.
  18. Morgan Barron, Cornell: One of the bigger surprises in college last year, big Barron put up nice offense and will contribute more as a sophomore. He’s a New York Rangers pick.
  19. Jack Dugan, Providence College: A late-bloomer who tore up the USHL last season, Dugan is a Vegas Golden Knights prospect with skill and great skating acumen.
  20. Filip Larsson, Denver: Starts the season on the shelf, but once he’s healthy, the Detroit Red Wings pick will give the Pioneers great protection in the crease. Larsson was a beast in the USHL last year.
  21. Ruslan Iskhakov, UConn: A smaller right winger with a dynamic skill set, Iskhakov makes his North American debut this year. He’s a New York Islanders pick that continues UConn’s Euro pipeline.
  22. Logan Hutsko, Boston College: Another breakout player from 2017-18, Hutsko returns to the Eagles as a Florida Panthers draft pick. Ultra-skilled, the center has already conquered some big injuries.
  23. Shane Bowers, Boston U: Ottawa fans are already wincing that Bowers went to Colorado in the Matt Duchene trade. The all-around center finished third in Terriers scoring last season as a freshman.
  24. Jeremy Davies, Northeastern: Part of that wicked Huskies team that won the Beanpot, Davies is a talented offensive defenseman who can really move the puck. He’s a New Jersey Devils selection.
  25. Blake McLaughlin, Minnesota: A home state kid who blitzed the USHL last season, McLaughlin is an Anaheim Ducks pick with great hockey IQ and puckhandling skills on the wing.
  26. Jonny Tychonick, North Dakota: The brash and talented Ottawa Senators pick can really make things happen with the puck on his stick and he’ll be a great addition to the North Dakota blueline.
  27. Jacob Bernard-Docker, North Dakota: The yin to Tychonick’s yang (they’re buddies), JBD is also an Ottawa Senators selection, but he brings more of a two-way game to the back end.
  28. Brandon Kruse, Bowling Green: The talented, playmaking left winger was a revelation for the Falcons in his freshman year, finishing second in team scoring. The Vegas Golden Knights snapped him up in the draft.
  29. Jeremy Swayman, Maine: Shocked many when he elbowed his way onto Team USA’s world junior squad. But the talented netminder and Boston Bruins pick had a .921 save percentage for Maine as a freshman.
  30. Josh Norris, Michigan: Now an Ottawa Senators prospect thanks to the Erik Karlsson trade, Norris brings great athleticism and a two-way game. The sophomore will be key for a Michigan team trying to make noise again.
  31. Mario Ferraro, UMass: The other talented and mobile sophomore on the Minutemen blueline, Ferraro is a San Jose Sharks pick. He actually had more points than Makar last year, albeit in more games played.
  32. Aarne Talvitie, Penn State: This is a real personal fave because Talvitie was great at the 2017 world junior summer showcase. Now, the skilled and sturdy Finn comes to North America. He’s a New Jersey Devils pick.
  33. Demetrios Koumontzis, Arizona State: Returning to the state he played two years of U16 hockey in, Koumontzis is a Calgary Flames pick with a dynamic skill set. The left winger played Minnesota high school hockey last year.
  34. Adam Fox, Harvard: His rights have been traded to Carolina and it’s hard to see Fox coming back for a senior year, so this could be the last stand for the smart blueliner with great power play skills.
  35. Clayton Phillips, Minnesota: The talented puckmover jumped into the NCAA early when the Gophers needed him last season, now the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect will return for his first full campaign.
  36. Mikey Anderson, Minnesota-Duluth: Part of the Bulldogs’ excellent defense corps, Anderson has high hockey IQ and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s a Los Angeles Kings selection.
  37. Peter DiLiberatore, Quinnipiac: The Bobcats have a lot of youngsters coming in and DiLiberatore brings tons of potential to the defense thanks to his skating ability. He’s a Vegas Golden Knights pick.
  38. Max Gildon, New Hampshire: The big, talented Florida Panthers pick had a great freshman campaign for the Wildcats. Gildon led the defense in scoring and finished second overall on the team with 23 points.
  39. Wyatt Kalynuk, Wisconsin: Maybe a bit under the radar, but Kalynuk is coming off a great freshman campaign that saw the Philadelphia Flyers pick lead the Badgers defense in scoring.
  40. Jakov Novak, Bentley: The first Bentley kid ever to make this list, Novak is a big, powerful dude who also had Michigan interested in his services. The left winger was selected by the Ottawa Senators this summer.
  41. Nicky Leivermann, Notre Dame: An offensive defenseman who played with Casey Mittelstadt in high school, Leivermann is a Colorado Avalanche pick coming off a solid BCHL campaign.
  42. Jack Gorniak, Wisconsin: A rarity in that he was drafted straight out of Wisconsin high school, Gorniak is a Montreal Canadiens pick who brings great energy and speed up front to the lineup.
  43. Slava Demin, Denver: The two-way defenseman helped Wenatchee win the BCHL championship last year and now he’s headed to Denver. Demin was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights.
  44. Tanner Laczynski, Ohio State: A talented producer with a lot of grit, Laczynski had 47 points as a sophomore, so expect more big numbers from the Philadelphia Flyers pick this season.
  45. Jack Adams, Union: The 6-foot-5 right winger will get more dangerous as his college career progresses and his frame fills out. Big-time scorer in the USHL is a Dutchmen sophomore and Detroit Red Wings pick.
  46. Dylan Samberg, Minnesota-Duluth: Big defenseman who can skate still developing his offensive game, but it’s hard to beat the experience of a national title as a freshman. He’s a Winnipeg Jets pick.
  47. Jack Rathbone, Harvard: Modern-style offensive defenseman enters his first year of college after a great prep career at Dexter. Rathbone is a Vancouver Canucks pick.
  48. Mattias Samuelsson, Western Michigan: He’s got size, smarts and an NHL pedigree thanks to father Kjell. Look for Samuelsson to be solid for the Broncos as a freshman. Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.
  49. Jake Oettinger, Boston U: Could have gone pro this summer, but Oettinger is back in net for the Terriers with team glory on his mind. The Dallas Stars pick is big, cool, and he controls his rebounds.
  50. Jachym Kondelik, UConn: Another European on his way to Storrs, Kondelik is a beguiling 6-foot-7 center with nice hands who just needs to iron out his skating. The Nashville Predators took him in the 2018 draft.
  51. Matej Tomek, Nebraska-Omaha: After a false start with North Dakota, Tomek is back in college with the Mavericks, where he’ll get the chance to reprove himself. He’s a Philadelphia Flyers selection.
  52. Jacob Bryson, Providence College: The Buffalo Sabres pick is a smaller playmaking defenseman who wore a letter as a sophomore and returns as an alternate captain for his junior year with the Friars.
  53. Spencer Stastney, Notre Dame: Another personal fave of mine, Stastney always seemed to make something happen when I watched him last year. The physical freshman D-man is a Nashville Predators pick.
  54. David Hrenak, St. Cloud State: The big netminder logged world junior duty for Slovakia last year and the Los Angeles Kings nabbed him in the draft. Sophomore will be key for the Huskies.
  55. Jon Gruden, Miami: The son of a coach (the hockey one), Gruden enters his freshman year with Miami as an Ottawa Senators draft pick. The left winger has smarts and nice offensive potential.
  56. Chase Pearson, Maine: Named captain as a sophomore, the Detroit Red Wings prospect returns as junior with the ‘C’ on his jersey. Pearson blends size and skill to make things happen for the Black Bears.
  57. Jack Drury, Harvard: Another kid with NHL pedigree (dad Ted and uncle Chris), Drury is a hard-working two-way center who enters his freshman year with the Crimson as a Carolina Hurricanes pick.
  58. Jasper Weatherby, North Dakota: The big dude had a monster BCHL year for champion Wenatchee, averaging nearly two points per game in the playoffs. The late bloomer is a San Jose Sharks pick.
  59. Joey Daccord, Arizona State: Let’s not sugar-coat it: Daccord faced a ton of shots last year and this season will likely be the same. Fortunately, the Ottawa Senators pick is pretty good at stopping them.
  60. Jack St. Ivany, Yale: The talented, playmaking defenseman enters his first year with the Bulldogs after a nice USHL career. St. Ivany is a Philadelphia Flyers selection.
  61. Noah Cates, Minnesota-Duluth: Another Philadelphia Flyers pick, Cates has great hockey smarts and will help the Bulldogs’ forward corps with his scoring potential.
  62. Dante Fabbro, Boston U: This has gotta be Fabbro’s last year in the NCAA and the two-way defenseman will do so as captain of the Terriers. He’s a Nashville Predators pick.
  63. Jordan Harris, Northeastern: A new-school offensive defenseman coming out of the prep ranks, Harris is a Montreal Canadiens selection who joins a Huskies team that still has talent, despite some attrition.
  64. Linus Weissbach, Wisconsin: The quick and energetic winger from Sweden finished third in Badgers scoring as a freshman. Let’s see what the Buffalo Sabres pick can do as a sophomore.
  65. Kale Howarth, UConn: He’s a towering specimen at 6-foot-5 on the left wing and coming off a solid campaign in the BCHL. Now we get to see what the Columbus Blue Jackets pick can do in Hockey East.
  66. John Leonard, UMass: Under the radar in his USHL days, Leonard broke out as a freshman for the Minutemen and led them in scoring. That prompted the San Jose Sharks to scoop him up in the draft.
  67. Andrew Peeke, Notre Dame: The two-way defenseman with great size returns to South Bend for his junior season and does so as captain. Peeke is a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect.
  68. Keith Petruzzelli, Quinnipiac: Last year was a bit of a nightmare for the skyscraper goalie, but he was just a freshman. Now the Detroit Red Wings pick returns with a chance to make amends.
  69. Tomas Vomacka, UConn: Adam Huska is still in town, so Vomacka will have to fight for starts, but the Nashville Predators pick has a pretty good resume of his own and the Huskies can run a platoon if need be.
  70. Ty Taylor, New Hampshire: Under the radar, but Taylor put up excellent numbers for BCHL Vernon last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted him and now the goalie heads to the Wildcats.
  71. Jimmy Schuldt, St. Cloud State: A steady, two-way defenseman who will once again vie for the Hobey Baker, Schuldt is also a coveted free agent who turns pro this spring.
  72. Nico Sturm, Clarkson: Another free agent that NHL teams are keeping an eye on, Sturm is a big, talented center and Clarkson’s new captain. He’s a junior this season.
  73. Seth Barton, UMass-Lowell: A two-way defenseman with nice size, Barton joins the RiverHawks from the BCHL. He was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings after getting passed over in 2017.
  74. Joseph Woll, Boston College: The Eagles netminder heads into the junior year of a pretty solid NCAA campaign and they’ll need him to use his size and talent again. Woll is a Toronto Maple Leafs pick.
  75. Christian and Cole Krygier, Michigan State: They’re twins, so I’m cheating and putting them together. Christian (New York Islanders) and Cole (Florida) both play a rambunctious game on the blueline that will be fun for Spartans fans to watch.

*Edit: every year I forget someone and this time it was Joel Farabee somehow. But the Philadelphia Flyers pick and Boston U. freshman would definitely be top-10. Great motor, great skill.


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