Brett Pesce may not have had the biggest impact on the box score, but he made a significant first impression on NHL scouts during his freshman season at New Hampshire.
The former Jersey Hitmen and North Jersey Avalanche prospect is expected to hear his name called in the first two rounds of the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Pesce got a taste of international competition when he played for the United States in the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
The Tarrytown, NJ native saw his stock drop slightly in the second half of the season, but he may have regained some momentum at the recent NHL Draft Combine in Toronto.
Pesce is a very good player who has tremendous gap control and does an outstanding job of bodying opposing forwards to the outside. Another strength is his stick control as he is adept at getting his stick into passing lanes. Pesce will most likely be more of a shutdown defender than a scoring blue liner at the next level, but his offensive potential is there.
Pesce's offensive numbers were not terrific in his first year at UNH, but that should not cause alarm. Wildcats head coach Dick Umile is old school. He doesn't rush freshmen into the lineup and tends to lean on his upperclassmen. Pesce was also behind offensive defensemen such as Trevor van Riemsdyk, the brother of Maple Leafs star James, and Eric Knodel, a Toronto draft pick.
As it was, Pesce played in 38 games this past season, which is more than most freshman usually play at the Durham, NH school. Most observers believe that Pesce will return to UNH for his sophomore campaign and possibly beyond. Pesce has indicated it is important to him and his family for him to graduate.
Jeff Cox covers hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.