The University of Connecticut landed a big fish this week in 17-year-old Russian defenseman Yan Kuznetsov. The big, two-way defender has committed to join the Huskies as early as next season, NHL.com’s Mike Morreale reports. Kuznetsov, who is in fact not related to Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, is looking to make his name known for more than just its similarity to an existing NHL star. A 2020 NHL Draft prospect, Kuznetsov is a dominant defensive blue liner who stands 6’3″ and over 200 lbs. with room left to grow. Both with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede and on the international stage with Russia, Kuznetsov has shown high-end defensive positioning and instincts and is a strong skater, especially for size. The offense has yet to come, but it will follow as Kuzanetsov’s ability to move the puck continues to improve. Earlier this season, TSN’s Craig Button ranked the soon-to-be Huskie as the 13th-best player in the 2020 class and that projection could even improve if he makes the immediate jump to the college ranks next season and adapts well. It is very likely that Kuznetsov will become UConn’s highest-drafted player once 2020 rolls around. The Huskies, the newest addition to the Hockey East Conference, have done a good job of improving their program, especially in overseas recruiting, over the last few years and Kuznetsov is another major step. Recent draft selections like forwards Ruslan Iskhakov (NYI – 2nd, 2018) and Jachym Kondelik (NSH – 4th, 2018), and goalie Tomas Vomacka (NSH – 5th, 2017) played key roles this season, while 2019 draft-eligible winger Vladislav Firstov is expected by many to be a second-round pick this June before joining UConn in the fall. The future is bright for the program.
- It wasn’t enough for the University of Michigan to just add one of the top freshman classes in the NCAA to their program next year, including potential 2019 first-round picks out of the U.S. National Team Development program in Cam York and John Beecher. No, the Wolverines scoured the transfer market and are now adding one the top available graduate players as well. College hockey insider Jeff Cox reports that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute standout Jacob Hayhurst will transfer to Michigan next year for his fourth and final collegiate season. Hayhurst, 22, enjoyed an impressive stretch at RPI. As a freshman, the talented forward was third on the team in scoring and in each of the past two seasons, he has been even better, leading the Engineers in points. Meanwhile, Hayhurst somehow managed to graduate from RPI in just three years as well and can thus move on to a new program without having to sit for a transfer year. In Hayhurst, the Wolverines are adding an intelligent and skilled forward, who makes up for his lack of size with vision and quickness. After losing Quinn Hughes to the pros, the addition of Hayhurst (and York) should help to keep Michigan’s power play lethal next season.
- One of the leaders of the two-time defending champion University of Minnesota – Duluth Bulldogs has found a home in the pros. The AHL’s Texas Stars announced today that hard-working forward Parker MacKay has signed a one-year deal with team. MacKay, who steadily improved over his four years at UMD, topped out at 16 goals and 33 points as a senior, which both led the team. MacKay, 24, is a tough, talented forward who wins puck battles and creates offense with his effort. He did just that in the National Championship game this year, recording a goal and assist to earn Frozen Four MVP honors. While a relatively late college free agent signing, MacKay is sure to make an immediate impact for Texas next season and could have NHL upside if he continue to be a force at the pro level.