BU Leads CHN Recruiting Rankings
Recruiting is about securing talent and filling needs or areas of weaknesses. The recruiting process can be grueling, but it’s the lifeblood of a program.
Top programs have it easier than the also-rans when it comes to recruiting. Schools like North Dakota and Boston University, rich in tradition, steep in resources, and with proven track records of developing NHL talent can lure blue chip prospects with ease.
The 2017-18 freshman crop coming to college hockey includes four first round NHL Draft picks. Unlike most years when a big name program has the headliner, it’s the University of Massachusetts touting the marque name. Cale Makar, selected fourth overall by the Colorado Avalanche, is the highest drafted player entering the college ranks this season. Will he singlehandedly be able to turn around the fortunes of the Minutemen? Time will tell, but he’ll have help in the form of 12 rookie classmates.
Minnesota’s Casey Mittelstadt (8th, Buffalo), Michigan’s Joshua Norris (19th, San Jose) and Boston University’s Shane Bowers (28th, Ottawa) were the other incoming freshmen to be selected in the first round. Two rising sophomores, St. Cloud forward Ryan Poehling and Boston University goaltender Jake Oettinger were also selected.
Two freshmen, Boston University forward Brady Tkachuk and Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, are both projected to be selected in the top 10 of next summer’s NHL Draft. Both Tkachuk and Hughes have bloodlines that are familiar to those who follow hockey.
As has become commonplace, multiple programs were dealt a blow with a recruit not making it to school. This year’s most notable case came at Boston College when prized commit Eeli Tolvanen didn’t clear admissions. After being selected by Nashville in the first round, he opted to play in the KHL this season. Minnesota State lost the best goaltending recruit in the nation when Matiss Kivlenieks signed with Columbus instead of playing college. Clarkson and Massachusetts-Lowell also took hits with Nick Campoli and Erikz Zohovs having to defer until 2018-19, respectively.
2017 Recruiting Class Rankings
1. Boston University
The success David Quinn and his staff are having on the recruiting trail seems to border on being unfair to the competition. This class is another star-studded group with five NHL Draft picks, another projected top 10 pick in 2018 and an older freshman considered to be a terrific college prospect.
Brady Tkachuk will draw the headlines. His dad played for BU before a long and prosperous NHL career. The younger Tkachuk is projected to hear his name called in the top 10 of next summer’s NHL Draft. Tkachuk combines size, skill and grit to be a formidable wing.
Shane Bowers, an Ottawa pick, spurned the QMJHL to play for Waterloo in the USHL before matriculating to BU. Bowers is a strong, two-way center out of Halifax. Speedy Logan Cockerill is one of two NTDP alums heading to this end of Commonwealth Ave. after being picked by the New York Islanders. A player that might get lost in the shadows is Hank Crone, an older freshman who excelled with the Fargo Force in the USHL.
All three newcomers on defense are draft picks. Led by Cameron Crotty, an Arizona prospect, this group can really skate, push the pace and hold on to possession. Nashville pick David Farrance and Detroit pick Kasper Kotkansalo are the other two rookies on the blue line.
2. North Dakota
The Fighting Hawks have one of the top recruiting classes in college hockey thanks to a star-laden, but balanced group. North Dakota’s coaches did a good job bringing in a mix of younger freshmen and older, junior hockey veterans.
Grant Mismash was considered one of the top forwards on the U.S. NTDP last season. The Edina, Minn. native was picked by the Nashville Predators in the NHL Draft.
New York Islanders prospect Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi are high-end forwards who could contribute immediately. Adams put up good numbers with Muskegon in the USHL while Kawaguchi was the second leading scorer in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Matt Kiersted, Josh Rieger and and Gabe Bast arrive in Grand Forks to bolster a blue line that has been hit hard due to graduation and early defections.
While he won’t see much time in back of Cam Johnson, Peter Thome is considered the goaltender of the future for UND. The Minneapolis, Minn. native tended the crease for Waterloo in the USHL.
Like North Dakota, the Pioneers bring in a balanced group that might lack the star power of BU. However, it’s a deep and talented class that will have a significant impact over four seasons.
Ian Mitchell, an offensive-minded defenseman out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, highlights the class. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Mitchell this past summer. Big Griffin Mendel from the BCHL will provide a physical presence on the back end.
Kohen Olischefski is the prize up front. The BCHL product put up big numbers last season. Ryan Barrow and Jake Durflinger should provide solid depth for a team loaded with talent. Jaakko Heikkinen is a Finnish native who comes with a little less fanfare, but he’s thought of as a strong playmaker.
He’ll sit behind Tanner Jaillet this season, but goaltender Dayton Rasmussen comes in highly regarded from the Chicago Steel.
Makar and fellow freshman defenseman Mario Ferraro are the main reason the Minutemen come in this high in the rankings. Makar is a special talent who can be a force in all three zones. His ability to jump into the offense will be similar to that of former BU defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who is now in the NHL. Ferraro is no slouch. The Ontario native was picked by San Jose in the second round of the draft.
Matt Murray, who played for Fargo last season, could be a difference maker between the pipes. Murray picked up a slew of awards in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before moving over to the USHL. Goaltending has been a position that’s plagued the Minutemen in recent years. Improving the team’s overall save percentage would go a long way to winning more hockey games.
Up front, the coaching staff is excited about the addition of Jake Gaudet, a big two-way center from Ontario. Marco Bozzo, Oliver Chau and Philip Lagunov are three more Ontario-born forwards who could make an impact.
Local product John Leonard comes to UMass after a few years in the USHL. His father was previously an assistant coach for the school’s basketball program.
The Gophers have a few big time forwards coming into the program this year, led by Mittelstadt, the eighth overall pick by Buffalo. Mittelstadt has an uncanny shot and hands that will fool more than a few opposing defenders in the Big Ten.
Joining Mittelstadt up front are Scott Reedy from the NTDP and Brannon McManus from the USHL’s Chicago Steel. Reedy and McManus are both young, true freshmen that might take time to adjust to Division I.
Defensemen Nate Knoepke, a NTDP alum, and Sam Rossini join the forces on the blue line.
Don Lucia and his staff didn’t bring in a large class, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.
Minnesota State, even without Matiss Kivlenieks, had the best recruiting class in the WCHA. Two players, Reggie Lutz and Jake Jaremko, from Chicago Steel’s Clark Cup Championship squad arrive. Six others were USHL experience bolster a strong class. The Mavericks also added graduate transfer Connor LaCouvee from Boston University.
Two NHL Draft picks, forward Jack Badini (Anaheim) and defenseman Reilly Walsh (New Jersey) helped Harvard lock up the top spot in ECAC Hockey. Clarkson, Union, Quinnipiac and Yale also had nice classes.