With the 2014 NHL Draft in the rearview mirror, it's time to turn our attention to 2015. It will be a special year for players born and playing in New England, highlighted by Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin.
The following is a ranking of first-time eligible players for the 2015 NHL Draft who are from New England or play New England prep school or high school hockey, USPHL or EHL. A few other east coast players will be included if this observer has seen them play.
It's important to remember that all players born in 1995 and 1996 as well as players born before September 15, 1997 are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. For the purpose of this ranking, it will only be of players eligible for the first time. For instance, '96 Bobo McCarthy of the Sioux City Musketeers, formerly of Austin Prep, will likely be taken, but he was eligible in 2014, so therefore will not be included in these rankings. Providence recruit Bryan Lemos is another second-year eligible player who will likely get taken in the 2015 draft, but won't be listed here.
The players will be listed along with their position, their project team for the 2014-15 season and college choice in parentheses (if applicable). Obviously, not all of these players will end up getting drafted. Not even close, but it's a list of prospects that NHL scouts will be zeroing in on during the upcoming season.
1. Jack Eichel, Forward, Boston University - A once in a generation player for the college game will get to showcase his skills for the Terriers this fall. The Chelmsford, Mass. native is a dynamic offensive talent.
2. Noah Hanifin, Defense, Boston College - Has been heralded as the best blue liner in this upcoming draft for quite some time.
3. Colin White, Forward, USNTDP (BC '15) - Hanover, Mass. native has produced offensively at every stop. He's strong on the puck and has good skillset.
4. A.J. Greer, Forward, Boston University - Former Penn State commit is a big power forward with good hands. He is accelerating to join the Terriers this fall. Joliette, Que. native is good character kid and smart in classroom.
5. Erik Foley, Forward, Cedar Rapids (PC '15) - Really like his power game. Drives the net hard and takes charge offensively.
6. David Cotton, Forward, Dubuque Fighting Saints (BC '16) - Another power forward heading to a Hockey East school, the former Cushing star is likely to play in the USHL this season.
7. Ryan Shea, Defense, BC High - This observer has been really high on the son of BC alum Danny Shea. The converted forward has good stick skills, vision and is extremely poised. Let's the game come to him. Needs to bulk up and take more of a leadership role. Hockey East schools are all in on him.
8. Spenser Young, Defense, Phillips Exeter (PC '16) - Very smooth skater for Dana Barbin's squad. Many scouts see him as the second best New England defenseman for this draft behind Hanifin.
9. John Marino, Defense, South Shore Kings (Yale '15) - The North Easton, Mass. native is similar to Shea and Young, but his stock really climbed this past season. He could skyrocket up these rankings if he continues to develop.
10. Ryan Dmowski, Forward, Des Moines Buccaneers (UML '15) - The East Lyme, Conn. native was a nice get for the River Hawks. He plays a power game and is strong on the puck. He has a pro release.
11. Jeremy Bracco, Forward, USNTDP U18 (BC '15) - Similar to Burke, he is undersized, but he has elite hands and feet.
12. Shane Sellar, Forward, Canterbury (Dartmouth '15) - Only saw him play once during the prep season and was impressed, but the big Carlisle, Pa. native had a terrific week at the USA Hockey Select 17 Festival in Amherst, NY.
13. Lucas Michaud, Forward, Berwick (Maine '15) - The South Portland, Maine native has a knack for the net. He's more of a wildcard, but has potential.
14. Luke Stevens, Forward, Nobles - Son of retired NHLer Kevin is a man-child on the ice in prep school hockey. He has some skill and could move up the rankings, especially with his size (6-4).
15. Connor Moynihan, Forward, Halifax Mooseheads - One of the few players from the QMJHL that this observer has seen. The Windham, NH native is a big forward who would likely be selected for his potential at being a solid third or fourth liner.
16. Cal Burke, Forward, Nobles (Notre Dame '15) - The percentage of players under six-feet getting drafted is slim, but the Boxborough, Mass. native has special hands that could allow NHL scouts to see past his lack of size.
17. Connor Moore, Defense, Brooks (Boston College '16) - Another blue liner who is great with the puck on his stick. Georgia native can take over a game from the backend. Continuing to work on his defensive game, according to prep school coach.
18. Matt Creamer, Forward, Selects Academy U18 - Big body that put up huge numbers at Bishop Hendricken before moving on to the USPHL.
19. Casey Fitzgerald, Defense, USNTDP U18 (BC '15) - Brother of Bruins prospect and BC sophomore forward Ryan and the son of Penguins executive Tom Fitzgerald. Family connections don't end there. Uncle Scott is a scout with the Bruins and he's cousins to Notre Dame recruit Matthew Tkachuk. Sound defenseman who can play both ways and is smooth as they come on the ice.
20. Peter Crinella, Forward, Springfield Cathedral (Holy Cross '16) - Big, strong kid whose brother plays baseball at Merrimack. Great character kid, who could continue to develop. Need to see him against better competition to truly gauge potential.
Other Players to Watch (Listed Alphabetically)
Billy Carrabino, Defense, Nobles
Joseph Cipollone, Forward, Selects Academy U18 (UNH '16)
Will D'Orsi, Forward, St. Sebastian's (Yale '15)
Chase Harwell, Forward, Sherbrooke
Kevin Hock, Forward, Dexter
Pat Kramer, Forward, BC High (Merrimack '15)
J.J. Layton, Defense, Kimball Union
Cameron Lee, Defense, Lincoln Stars (PC' 15)
Devin Moore, Forward, Exeter
Taylor Slade, Defense, Boston Jr. Bruins U18
Joe Snively, Forward, Yale
Connor Sundquist, Forward, Selects Academy U18
Alex Whelan, Forward, Jersey Hitmen U18 (Quinnipiac '16)
Goaltenders to Watch
Andrew Farrier, Taft
Ryan Glander, Jersey Hitmen
Conor O'Brien, Northfield Mt. Hermon
Max Prawdzik, Brooks
Kevin Resop, Boston Jr. Bruins
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSports.