2015 Top Recruiting Classes
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
The 2015 recruiting class might not have a freshman Hobey Baker winner in it like 2014, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some quality talent entering college hockey this season.
That said, recruiting is like throwing darts at a wall, hoping you hit on the right players. Especially with players committing at a younger and younger age. Projecting recruits is much of the same.
Four years from now, here’s how we think we’ll look back on college hockey’s best recruiting classes of 2015:
1. Boston College (Hockey East)
Top of the Class: F Jeremy Bracco (2015 TOR 2nd)
Where to begin? The Eagles add a large class (9 players) and it already includes four NHL Draft picks.
Jeremy Bracco is the most exciting. A second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs this past summer, Bracco set a new all-time assists record for the U.S. National Team Development Program (64) and is third all-time in points scored for the program, behind only Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane. Along the way, Bracco has won gold medals with Team USA at just about every turn. He’s skilled and he’s seasoned.
Colin White is also in this class. He was a first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in June and also comes from the NTDP. He didn’t have the numbers Bracco did, but most scouts say he moved up in the NHL Draft for his ability to be the best player in all three zones. He’s the rare 200-foot player that NHL teams crave, and it should make him a threat immediately in Hockey East.
Another top-end forward is Miles Wood. A fourth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils two years ago (2013), Wood took an non-traditional path to college hockey. He played for his high school, his parents didn’t ship him away to junior hockey at 15 years old. Wood is hopefully trailblazing by both being drafted and earning a scholarship at BC. He also made the World Junior team last season.
On the back end the Eagles add Casey Fitzgerald, the brother of forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who is mobile and has good range, often times playing bigger than his 5-foot-11 measurement. JD Dudek is another drafted talent the Eagles add and goaltender Chris Birdsall could see action right away if Thatcher Demko misses time after hip surgery; he was one of the best goalies in the USHL last season.
2. North Dakota (NCHC)
Top of the Class: F Brock Boeser (2015 VAN 1st)
A little more than one year ago, Matej Tomek was an unknown commodity. One year later, he’s a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and could potentially take over as North Dakota’s starting goaltender as a freshman in place of Zane McIntyre, who signed with the Boston Bruins this past summer.
Tomek was our top-ranked goalie recruit at CHN, and for good reason. In the NAHL last season with Topeka, he was named the league’s Goalie of the Year with a .928 save percentage, a 1.83 goals-against average and a 24-7-2 record. He’s UND’s highest-drafted goaltender since David Murphy in 1971.
Scouts say that Tomek plays bigger than 6-foot-2 and takes up most of the net. One NAHL coach compared him to former Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who also played in the NAHL, and his career turned out alright
UND also adds one of the highest-ranked forwards in Brock Boeser, who was originally committed to Wisconsin. Boeser was a first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks this past summer and scored 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 57 games for the Waterloo Blackawks of the USHL last season.
Boeser is just the latest in top-flight forwards to come out of Minnesota.
NHL scouts have complimented Boeser on his speed and his ability to make reads. They’ve also been wowed by his ability to possess the puck, keep it on his stick and rarely gets forced into turnovers.
UND also adds Chris Wilkie up front. The sixth-round pick of the Florida Panthers ironically tied Boeser for the league lead in goals last season (35) in the USHL. Wilkie also led the USHL with 300 shots on goal, averaging almost one shot per game more than any other player in the league. If the name sounds familiar, his father, David, played six NHL seasons with Montreal, Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers.
Shane Gersich is another NHL-drafted talent that UND brings into the fold; he was taken in the fifth round by the Washington Capitals.
3. Boston University (Hockey East)
Top of the Class: D Charle McAvoy (2016 draft eligible)
The Terriers were at the top of our rankings last season with the best recruit in the nation, Jack Eichel, going on to win the Hobey Baker Award. You know the story.
BU doesn’t miss a beat with this class, even with the loss of second-round pick Maxim Letunov to UConn after there was an admissions issue at BU.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy could make the most immediate impact, especially with captain Matt Grzelcyk expected to miss some early-season games due to knee surgery.
McAvoy is coming off of two seasons with the NTDP.
“Charlie has been an elite player for a long time,” said head coach David Quinn. “We expect him to make an immediate impact and play in all situations. He’s got great skills and vision and he’s a big, strong kid that skates well. One of the top freshman defenseman in college hockey.”
He could be the best at that position.
The Terriers also add the hulking Jordan Greenway, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds. At this level, he should be a force. It goes without saying, but he’s strong on the puck but scouts say he also skates extremely well for his size. You won’t find a freshman player in the country — especially an 18-year-old natural freshman — with as many physical gifts as Greenway.
NHL teams love size, and he was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Wild this past summer.
Bobo Carpenter is an intriguing local product for BU. He’s from North Reading and is the son of NHL great Bobby Carpenter (his sister is a star player at Boston College). Carpenter tied for the USHL lead in goals with Wilkie and Boeser last season (35).
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is another exciting forward for the Terriers. He scored 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) in 50 games last season for Omaha (USHL) before suffering a season-ending injury. Quinn compared him to Patrice Bergeron.
“He’s a well-rounded player who probably has more offensive skills than people give him credit for,” he said.
4. Michigan (Big Ten)
Top of the Class: Kyle Connor (2015 WPG 1st)
The Wolverines add one of the best players in this year’s class in Kyle Connor and five of their six new recruits are NHL draft picks.
Connor was selected in the first round (No. 17 overall) by the Winnipeg Jets this past summer and we have him ranked as the best incoming player. Auston Matthews, who decided to forego college hockey and sign a pro deal in Switzerland, was listed as our top 2015 recruit, even though he was uncommitted, but Connor second in line.
He lead the USHL last season in scoring with 80 points (34 goals, 46 assists) in 56 games and was named the USHL’s Player of the Year. In 2013-14, he scored 74 points in 56 games to finish his USHL career with 65 goals and 89 assists (154 points) in 112 games.
Brendan Warren grew up going to Michigan games — his mother is a grad — and now he’ll don the Maize and Blue. After playing for the NTDP last season, he was selected in the third round by the Arizona Coyotes this summer.
Michigan recruits kept hearing their names called in June and Joseph Cecconi was up next. The 6-foot-2 defenseman was taken in the fifth round by Dallas and arrives at Michigan after a season with Muskegon (USHL) last year.
Cooper Marody (Philadelphia) and Nicholas Boka (Minnesota) were both sixth-round picks. Marody scored 58 points in the USHL last season, including 22 goals, while Boka added 11 points on the NTDP’s blue line last year.
5. Minnesota (Big Ten)
Top of the Class: Tommy Novak (2015 NSH 3rd)
The Minnesota class is the largest of the top-five, with the Gophers adding 10 players this season.
Tommy Novak is the the best of the bunch; he was taken in the third round by the Nashville Predators this summer after finishing with 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) for Waterloo (USHL) last season. We had Novak ranked as the third-best incoming recruit at CHN for his playmaking ability.
One NHL scout for a rival Western Conference team said he was surprised how far Novak well in the draft. He regarded him as an incredible playmaker who plays very fast with the only knock being that he needed to get stronger to translate his skills to the NHL level. That should happen at Minnesota, where college players have ample time to hit the weights during the week and are working with elite strength coaches, especially at a program like Minnesota.
Jack Ramsey arrives in Minnesota after being selected in the seventh round by the Chicago Blackhawks. Ramsey last played for Penticton (BCHL), where he helped lead the Vees to a BCHL Title. His father, Mike, played for the Gophers and was also on the 1980 Miracle on Ice team.
Tyler Sheehy should also add some scoring up front. He might be on the smaller size (5-10, 182) but he has a scoring pedigree at every level, including 104 points in 118 career USHL games. While playing for the Waterloo Blackhawks, he was on a line with Novak.
Minnesota also brings in Brent Gates Jr., a third-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks last summer. He’s been nearly a point-per-game player in the USHL the last two seasons and was selected about 30 spots higher than most had him pegged in the NHL Draft. His father is a former major league baseball player.