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Northeast Regional: It's not all about the future NHL players

Providence senior Kevin Rooney
Providence senior Kevin Rooney
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When there are 32 players drafted by NHL teams among the four teams at a regional, it can be easy to lose track of the players that make a big difference over a four year period.

As many future NHL players as there likely are in the 2016 NCAA Hockey Tournament Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., there are even more four-year college players that will never reach the pinnacle of the hockey profession.

As any savvy college hockey recruiter will tell you, there needs to be a balance of elite players that might just play a year or two before moving on to pro hockey with the player that will stay four years and contribute to the winning culture.

Defending NCAA Champion Providence College, the top seed in Worcester, is the ultimate example of this, but No. 2 Boston College, No. 3 Harvard and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth all have players who are just simply good college hockey players.

While it is undeniable that it is fun to watch the stars of tomorrow in the college game today, it is equally enjoyable to see the true student-athletes ply their trade in such important games with so much at stake.

Here are four players that will have a huge impact on their team's chances for success this weekend that will likely never make it past a cup of coffee in the ECHL or in Europe.

Kevin Rooney, Sr., Center, Providence College

The Canton, Mass. native comes from a hockey family. His uncle, Steve, scored the game-winning goal for the Friars in the 1985 Hockey East Championship Game. His cousin, Chris, was a former teammate before graduating from Providence in 2013.

Rooney has just 17 goals and 19 assists over his four seasons in a Friar uniform. This year's he put up six goals and four assists, but his impact goes far beyond the score sheet. He's one of the most relentless fore checkers in Hockey East and plays the game the right way. He goes hard every shift and plays well away from the puck.

Despite his limited scoring prowess, Rooney's offensive contributions usually signal good things for Nate Leaman's club. When Rooney has a goal or an assist, Providence is 27-5-1 the last four years, including 8-2-0 this season.

A Berkshire School alum, he'll forever go down in Providence lore for winning the face-off that got the puck to Brandon Tanev for the game-winning goal in last year's NCAA Championship Game against Boston University. The finance major was named the team's Unsung Hero last season.

Austin Cangelosi, Jr., Center, Boston College

On a team full of NHL Draft picks, many of whom were picked in the first few rounds, it's easy to forget about Cangelosi. However, that's a big mistake. The speedy, undersized forward from Estero, Fla. has a major role on Jerry York's club.

A former prep star at Northfield Mount Hermon, Cangelosi checks in at just five-foot-seven. The former USHL All-Star with the Youngstown Phantoms had scored 18 goals and added 17 assists this season and will all but certainly surpass the century mark for his career next winter. Cangelosi has been clutch, potting three of his goals and securing four assists on game-winners this season.

Aside from having a knack for scoring goals and setting up his linemates, he does a lot of the little things well. He's always good in puck pursuit, plays through opposing players and isn't afraid to mix it up, despite his size.

Cangelosi has centered a line that has had freshman Miles Wood on the left wing and the duo have generated a ton of energy and have formed quite the chemistry. His motor while killing penalties and racing up and down the sheet can be infectious.

His older brother, J.C. Cangelosi, also prepped at Northfield Mount Hermon before a stellar four-year career at Division III Connecticut College.

Matt Dewkett/SB Nation
(Photo Credit: Matt Dewkett)

Kyle Criscuolo, Sr., Right Wing, Harvard

A Hockey Humanitarian Award Finalist, Criscuolo is the epitome of an outstanding four-year student-athlete. A two-year captain, everyone who knows the Southampton, NJ native raves about his leadership and character.

He burst onto the national season as a junior while scoring 17 goals and 31 assists on way to earning All-ECAC Hockey Second Team honors as well as being a semifinalist for the Walter Brown Award. He's taken a backseat to linemate Jimmy Vesey, a 2014-15 Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist and 2015-16 Hobey Baker Award Finalist.

Criscuolo, who played prep hockey for Choate, is just five-foot-nine and isn't exactly rugged, but he skates like the wind and has good hockey IQ.

The 2015-16 season has been somewhat of a disappointment for the Crimson after such a hot start, but an upset of BC in the Northeast Regional could go a long way in helping erase those memories. Criscuolo, along with center Alexander Kerfoot and Vesey on the left wing, can generate as much offense as any line in this regional.

In addition to the Hockey Humanitarian Award, Criscuolo is also a candidate for the Senior C.L.A.S.S. Award, given to an exemplary four-year student-athlete.

Photo Gallery: Harvard Crimson vs. Yale Bulldogs
(Photo Credit: Matt Dewkett)

Austin Farley, Sr., Left Wing, Minnesota Duluth

The Niles, Ill. native had a productive career in the USHL with the Fargo before before becoming a Bulldog. The undersized Farley has always been an offensive spark plug, dating back to his minor midget days with Chicago Mission and Team Illinois.

Farley, who scored his 100th career point Feb. 5 against Colorado College, has 14 goals and 15 assists on the season. He leads the Bulldogs in plus/minus with a +23 rating.

Despite standing at just five-foot-eight, Farley has always piqued the interest of scouts based on his high offensive skill set and speed. He was ranked by NHL Central Scouting during his first year of draft eligibility and was a participant in the 2012 USA Hockey/CCM All-American Prospects Game.

Wearing an 'A' on his sweater this season, Farley is part of an eight-member senior class that is looking to take UMD back to the Frozen Four for the first time since the Bulldogs won it all in 2011.

austin farley duluth (Matt Christians)
(Photo Credit: Matt Christians)