The NHL Trade Deadline doesn’t directly impact the college ranks, but there are usually one or two NCAA players whose rights are moved before the end of February. The Hockey News’ Steven Ellis recently wrote about the “under-the-radar” college players who enjoying breakout seasons, but at this time of year the article may as well be titled “Trade Bait”. The leading name, of course, is Hobey Baker hopeful Jack Dugan (VGK) of No. 9 Providence. Dugan leads the NCAA in points – total and per game – and assists, as he has all year, and looks like a steal as fifth-round pick. However, could the Vegas Golden Knights instead opt to sell high on the upstart prospect? The team desperately needs to improve on the blue line and dangling Dugan could help to land them a top-four defenseman.
A number of the others named by Ellis who could also be trade fodder over the next few weeks, including Dugan’s Providence teammate, defenseman Michael Callahan (ARI). The Arizona Coyotes are all in this season after trading for Taylor Hall and Callahan is an expendable piece given the team’s depth in young blue liners. If senior forward David Cotton (CAR) of No. 5 Boston College does not plan to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team could try to use him as piece to make a deal. The same goes for goalie Tyler Wall (NYR) of No. 14 UMass Lowell, as the New York Rangers have a logjam in goal and seem like a poor fit for one of the best keepers in college hockey. Could the Boston Bruins be convinced to part ways with Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman (BOS), another of the NCAA’s elite, if it helps them make a needed deadline deal? Finally, circling back to the Golden Knights, if Vegas deems Dugan to be untouchable, they have another rising star in Bowling Green forward Brandon Kruse (VGK) who they could offer up instead. The next few weeks could change the career path of these players and many more in the collegiate ranks, but they can at least take comfort in knowing that they’ll be closing out this season with their college team regardless.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for just about every team at the top of the national rankings. Over the past two weeks – four games for most teams – only two teams among the top 15 came away with more than two wins, No. 3 Minnesota State and No. 12 Arizona State, and even those teams suffered a loss to go with their three wins. No. 1 Cornell stays atop the charts despite a mediocre 2-0-2 stretch, while No. 2 North Dakota stays put as well, despite a tie to unranked Miami and a loss to No. 10 Minnesota Duluth. The defending champs were happy to get the win after being swept by unranked St. Cloud State the weekend prior. Rounding out the top five are still No. 4 Denver and No. 5 Boston College, despite both struggling through weekend series with unranked teams: two ties for Denver against Nebraska-Omaha and two losses for BC versus Maine.
Hockey East could not be much tighter right with Maine and UConn tied for eighth in the conference, but trailing top seed No. 7 UMass by just six points with a game in hand. Wedged in between are Boston College, No. 14 UMass Lowell (one win in last four games), No. 9 Providence College, Boston University, No. 13 Northeastern, and New Hampshire, who has been red-hot with wins over Northeastern, Providence, and UMass in recent weeks and is on the verge of cracking the national rankings. There’s no telling how Hockey East will shake out, but it’s making for a great conference tournament.
The same can’t be said for the Big Ten, which continues to disappoint this year. No. 8 Penn State and No. 11 Ohio State continue to be ranked among the best in the NCAA, but do they belong? Both teams won just one of their four games over the past two weeks, with each losing at least one game to an unranked opponent. As for their conference competition, preseason darlings Wisconsin and Notre Dame have disappeared from the national rankings and only No. 17 Michigan State is left. Compared not only to Hockey East, but the NCHC, ECAC, and even the WCHA, the Big Ten is looking weak in 2019-20.
Marc Michaelis Sidelined
The formula for No. 3 Minnesota State has been pretty straightforward for the past few year: dominate the WCHA, stay healthy, and try your luck as a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Mavericks are well on their way to such a result again this season, but have been dealt a blow in the health department. Senior forward Marc Michaelis suffered a leg injury back on January 17 after a collision with a Bowling Green opponent. Michaelis left the game and did not return and did not play the second game on Saturday, nor the team’s most recent weekend series versus No. 19 Bemidji State, which featured a rare loss. So far, there has been no time line given for his return to action. Even though Minnesota State is a defense-first team centered around goalie Dryden McKay and defenseman Connor Mackey, Michaelis’ absence is a major loss. Michaelis, 24, is the team’s captain and leading scorer and the German forward is an all-situations player for Mankato. If the team hopes to avoid another early exit from the NCAA tournament, they will need a healthy Michaelis.
Luke Reid Commits To UNH
Not only has the University of New Hampshire been making big moves in the standings of late, they have been doing so in the recruiting game as well. UNH landed a major commitment this past weekend in USHL defenseman Luke Reid. Reid, an Illinois native playing for the Chicago Steel, has nevertheless decided to take his talents to Durham, New Hampshire. The right-shot defenseman plays a balanced game and has been a nice piece on a strong Chicago team. However, he is much more than just a complimentary player. Reid is ranked No. 77 by Future Considerations in their 2020 NHL Draft rankings and is considered by many to be a mid-round pick. While UNH has housed many NHL prospects over the years, including current defensive ace Max Gildon (FLA), top recruits have been less frequent in recent years for the Wildcats and Reid will be a welcome addition to the program.