One of the best defenseman available in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is set to join the team that cleaned up at the top of the 2016 Draft, Boston University. This June, the Terriers watched as a combination of current players and 2016-17 commits were selected all over the first round of the NHL Draft. Freshman Clayton Keller went #7 to the Arizona Coyotes, sophomore defenseman Charlie McAvoy was taken by the hometown Boston Bruins at #14, freshman defenseman Dante Fabbro went soon after at #17 to the Nashville Predators, and almost immediately following that, freshman forward Kieffer Bellows went #19 to the New York Islanders. Yet another freshman defenseman, Chad Krys, was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. After the recent commitment of Kasper Kotkansalo, BU will have yet another defenseman go early in 2017.
Kotkansalo, a strong, Finnish defenseman who played most of his junior hockey with the Espoo Blues in Finland, finally made the jump overseas this year to play with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Just three games in to the new campaign, Kotkansalo has decided where he’ll be going for his next season in North America, as he’ll head to Boston to join the Terriers. In a draft that looks to be dominated early on by CHL junior players, Kotkansalo appears to be one of only three NCAA-bound players that look like first round picks at this point. His Blues and World Juniors teammate Eeli Tolvanen has gone from friend to foe, joining USHL rival Sioux City Musketeers this season, having already committed to joining BU’s biggest rival, the Boston College Eagles, next year. Tolvanen is expected not only to be a first round pick, but a top ten pick. After the winger Tolvanen is center Casey Mittelstadt, an American playing for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers and committed to the University of Minnesota. Mittelstadt too is a bona-fide first rounder, with potential to move up into the top ten ranger as well.
Rounding out the group is Kotkansalo, who is expected by most to be a mid-to-late first round pick, and right now is realistically the only NCAA-bound defenseman capable of being taken near the top of the draft. The fact that he is headed to a school where he will play with other top picks may be enticing for teams, as Boston University has put together an elite team where player development is assured. Watch for the big Finnish blue liner this June in the NHL Draft and next year in NCAA action with the BU Terriers.