Just like their professional and junior counterparts, the college hockey season is underway. With each passing year, the NCAA’s influence on the world of hockey grows, and in 2017-18 the college ranks contain an impressive amount of talent:
The Recent Draft Picks
D Cale Makar, UMass (COL) – The fourth overall pick this past June, Makar arguably has the highest upside of any player in his draft class. He’s even drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson. He would be a big deal at any school, but for a Minutemen team that has struggled greatly in recent years, Makar stands to revolutionize coach Greg Carvel’s program. Fans in Amherst hope that Makar won’t be “one and done”, but the Colorado Avalanche need him just as much as UMass does. This exceptional skater could be an offensive force in the NHL sooner rather than later.
C Casey Mittelstadt, Minnesota (BUF) – Mittelstadt may have slipped in the 2017 draft, but the eighth overall pick is a dynamic offensive talent with speed and creativity. Perhaps more than anything, Mittelstadt thinks the game at an advanced level. The Gophers have a special talent on their hands and he could make waves in the NCAA this season. The only concern is whether the high school star yet has the physical tools to play at a high level.
C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (MTL) – The college ranks have already seen a year’s worth of Poehling, but as the two-way threat enters his sophomore season, he’s primed to show more of his offensive ability. The 25th overall pick is as solid a center as can be found at his age and simply needs to bring the same knack for scoring as he brings to defense. He’s developing into the type of player that Canadiens head coach Claude Julien loves. If Montreal struggles to acclimate to their new coach’s defense-first system, Poehling could even be a late-season addition.
The Soon-To-Be Draft Picks
RW Brady Tkachuk, Boston University – The trend of NCAA freshman going early in the draft may reach a new high in 2017, with Tkachuk leading the charge. The son of Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk, Brady brings the same physicality and knack for scoring to his power forward role. Already 6’3”, 200-lbs. and still growing, Tkachuk will one day be a force in the NHL like his family members, but first he’s going give the college game a run for its money. Tkachuk will be fun to watch this season, especially for fans of teams looking like lottery candidates.
D Quinn Hughes, Michigan – Hughes will push Tkachuk to be the first college player selected next June, but in reality both players could easily be top ten, even top five picks. An undersized, but unbelievably skilled blue liner, Hughes could be one of the top scoring defenseman in the NCAA. The Wolverines have become the recruiting capital for top American defenseman and Hughes is their poster boy. Expect a big season from the 17-year-old.
LW Michael Pastujov, Michigan – Joining Hughes in Ann Arbor is the Florida-native Pastujov, a raw, but high-ceiling forward. An underrated member of last year’s U.S. National Development team behind the likes of Tkachuk and recent draft picks/current college players Josh Norris, Grant Mismash, and Evan Barratt in the forward corps, Pastujov’s successes were often lost in the mix. However, Michigan may be strong on defense, but ranked only 42nd in scoring last year. Alongside Norris, the San Jose Sharks’ first-round pick whom he should have some leftover chemistry with, Pastujov could be one of the top offensive threats for the Wolverines. He’s primed for a breakout campaign that could vault him into first-round consideration.
The Soon-To-Be NHLers
LW Jordan Greenway, Boston University (MIN) – The 2015 second-rounder has spent the last couple of years climbing into consideration of being one of the top prospects in hockey. Many believed that Greenway would sign with the Wild this summer, leaving school early, but he’ll instead head back to BU for almost certainly his final season. Don’t be surprised if Greenway takes a brief break from the Terriers this season to instead play with Team USA in Pyeongchang, as the 6’6”, 227-lb. winger is ready to compete at the next level and could be a breakout star for the Americans.
C Troy Terry, Denver (ANA) – Fresh off of an NCAA title with the Pioneers, Terry returns to captivate the college hockey crowds. The Ducks already know that they got an absolute steal in the fifth round in 2015, but after another season for the high-scoring forward, Anaheim will be dying to add him to roster as soon as possible. Terry is also a very likely candidate for the U.S. Olympic team and could soon be dazzling onlookers on an international stage.
D Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota (BOS) – If you aren’t specifically watching for Lindgren, you won’t even notice him. For a 19-year-old defenseman playing at a major program like Minnesota, that is a huge compliment. Lindgren is as solid a defenseman as you’ll find in the college game this season, equipped with next-level intelligence and great checking ability. While he may not have the same size, Lindgren is able to shut down the opposition in a similar fashion to a certain 40-year-old Bruins defenseman who may not have much time left in the NHL. Lindgren may be the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara on the left side of Boston’s blue line, but he needs to first focus on fully recovering from a late season leg injury, then on competing for a title with Minnesota, and then on beating out the numerous early draft picks that the Bruins have been collecting on defense.
No joke, the talented Terriers squad honestly deserves its own category. Even after losing Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Clayton Keller, BU is still tremendously talented and anything less than a championship would be a disappointment. We’ve already talked about Tkachuk and Greenway, but how about Predators picks Dante Fabbro and David Farrance leading a defense that also includes Chad Krys (CHI), Kasper Kotkansalo (DET), and senior captain Brandon Hickey (ARI), another Nashville selection, Patrick Harper, heading a forward group that also contains Shane Bowers (OTT) and Logan Cockerill (NYI), and of course Dallas Stars first-round goaltender Jake Oettinger, likely the best keeper in all of college hockey. If you are an NHL fan, an NCAA fan, or a hockey fan in general, try to see a Boston University game this season.