This is the final installment of our ten-part list covering the top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this season. These are our top ten NHL prospects in the NHL this season. To catch up on the previous installments, you can find them here: #11-20, #21-30, #31-40, #41-50 51-60, #61-70, #71-80,#81-90,#91-100.
Here they are, the best of the best. The top of the list wasn't quite as clear-cut as last year with top-five NHL Draft picks Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin essentially penciled in at the top by about November. But overall, the top of this list likely qualifies as above average in the grand scheme of things. Five of these players--four of which are freshmen--were selected in the first round of last summer's NHL Draft, and all five of them were really, really good this year. That may sound obvious, but statistically, is actually pretty unlikely. Once again, it was a rookie leading the NCAA in scoring and a couple young players on this section of the list weren't far behind. College hockey will be lucky to call these players alums in the future.
1. Kyle Connor, Forward, Michigan(Winnipeg Jets)
(photo by Dustin Satloff)
Kyle Connor is the nation's leading scorer and the most exciting and dynamic player in college hockey. His 71 points this season matched the total put up last year by #1 overall NCAA prospect Jack Eichel.
Connor has explosive acceleration with a great first step that can give him an edge on defenders. His best asset is his terrific finishing ability. Not only does Connor have a terrific, very accurate shot with a quick release, but he showed tremendous ability to get that shot off quickly and accurately even on bad passes into his body many times throughout the season.
There are still some issues Connor will need to work out before he goes to the next level. He needs to get physically stronger and needs a lot of work on the defensive end. But there is no other player in the NCAA with as much high-end potential as him. He could be a top line winger that scores a lot of goals at the NHL level.
2. Brock Boeser, Forward, North Dakota(Vancouver Canucks)
Boeser was just a notch below Kyle Connor in terms of scoring this year, though also played against a much tougher schedule. At 6'0" 191 lbs., Boeser is a bull of a forward that uses his strength to win battles along the boards and make plays in high-traffic areas. He has a terrific wrist shot that is a threat to pick the top corner any time he unleashes it.
His open ice skating isn't spectacular, but he has incredible quickness and edgework in tight spaces that make him extremely difficult to defend along the boards and in the corners.
Paired with a skilled playmaker, there's no doubt that Boeser could potentially be a big-time goal-scorer at the NHL level.
3. Ian McCoshen, Defenseman, Boston College(Florida Panthers)
(photo by Matt Dewkett)
From this past January:
The Wisconsin native has been a steady, if not flashy, defenseman since arriving at The Heights, but he has taken his game to a whole new level this season, especially the last month. He has pro size and skating ability that makes him a consistently reliable shutdown defender.
The offensive side to his game has always been underrated, but his five-game point streak over the last month, including a two goal, two assist night against archrival BU. He has a heavy shot and always skates with his head up to hit streaking forwards for lead passes. He's not the type of defenseman to carry the puck up ice end-to-end, but he makes simple, smart plays in transition. He's not going to be running all over the ice looking for the big hit, but his physical presence allows him to be a force.
If there's one defenseman in the league who could quickly step into an NHL lineup, it's McCoshen. His skating, hockey sense, physical and emotion maturity and reliability make him the unquestioned top defenseman in the league, if not all of NCAA hockey.
4. Steve Santini, Defenseman, Boston College(New Jersey Devils)
(photo by Matt Dewkett)
The son of a former college hockey player, Santini is as physical a defender as there is in college hockey. The Mahopac, NY native is not afraid to throw his weight and around and he has left more than a few opposing players bruised and battered. His mean streak is what's going to keep him in the NHL, but it's certainly not the only thing to like about his game.
He's a pro-ready skater who can go from stopped to start quickly. He can really get on opposing players coming at him and moving around the zone and in transition. The threat of his physicality keeps a lot of opposing players from coming across the middle. Like McCoshen, he will always be known more for his play in his own end than that of the offensive side of the puck. He does make good passes in transition and has a strong shot from the point.
He battled injury last season, but is back on track this year and should be a regular in the NHL in a few years.
5. Colin White, Forward, Boston College(Ottawa Senators)
Once thought to be a potential top-10, even top-5 NHL Draft pick, a lack of offensive production due in large part to a bout of mononucleosis last season dropped White to 21st in the NHL Draft. But in his first full season back healthy, White showed renewed scoring prowess and the Senators seemed primed to reap the rewards of their pick.
White is a true centerman with high hockey intelligence that is comfortable playing in all three seasons. He's the type of player that can really drive possession for his team and make everyone around him look better, and has the capability to both create a goal with a nice pass, or finish off a play with a good shot. White brings a little bit of everything to the table and should have no trouble developing into a very good second line center at the NHL level.
6. Jimmy Vesey, Forward, Harvard(Not Nashville Predators)
(photo by Matt Dewkett)
With all the circus surrounding Vesey and his impending free agency this summer, it can be easy to forget what all the controversy was about, and why Nashville wanted so desperately to sign him in the first place. Vesey is the rare college player that could step immediately onto the roster of an NHL playoff team and not miss a beat.
Vesey combines a big frame with quick feet and good weight shift making him very difficult to knock off the puck or slow down on the rush. He's got great goal-scoring touch around the net and has the hands to set up a teammate with a nice.
Whichever team lands Vesey this summer will be picking up a player that should be able to step in right away and play a third line role, with him potentially developing into a top-six forward once he fully adjusts to the pro game.
7. Zach Werenski, Defenseman, Michigan(Signed by Columbus Blue Jackets)
(photo by Patrick Barron)
Werenski is a supremely talented defenseman capable of being an offensive defenseman that provides scoring punch while also logging big minutes and matching up against top opponents defensively. His combination of size and movement is rare to see. After some surprising offensive numbers as a rookie, Werenski continued to develop that aspect of his game by becoming one of the top-scoring defensemen in all of college hockey.
His biggest issue at times in his second season in Ann Arbor seemed to be boredom and complacency, leading to some ugly defensive mistakes. But in the biggest moments of his season--when he was called up to carry the US defense at the World Juniors, and in the NCAA Tournament--Werenski was locked in and played outstanding, world-class hockey. He definitely has the potential to be a top-pairing defenseman at the NHL level.
8. Nick Schmaltz, Forward, North Dakota(Chicago Blackhawks)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Schmaltz made a big leap from year one to year two in college hockey, going from a talented, but young supporting player to centering one of the most dominaiting lines in college hockey this year.
Schmaltz has always been a pass-first playmaker. While that is where he feels the most comfortable, he's put in a lot of work over the past year to become a more complete player. That effort yielded results as he doubled his goal total from five to 10 this year. He's also accepted more defensive responsibility, as evidence by his move to center, and has worked hard to become a more consistent night-in, night-out type of player.
9. Jack Roslovic, Forward, Miami(Winnipeg Jets)
In what was an otherwise down year for Miami, Roslovic showed terrific promise in his rookie campaign. He's a terrific puckhandler that is extremely difficult to stop one-on-one.
There are still areas of his game that he'll need to clean up, especially on defense. His offensive skills are elite though. He's made big strides in the past 12 months to grow into his frame and get better body control with the puck. If he continues that upward development trend, he could potentially be a top line forward at the NHL level.
10. Brandon Hickey, Defenseman, Boston University
The offensive numbers that Hickey enjoyed as a freshman are not there in his second season as a collegiate, but his game goes way beyond that. His overall skating ability and how quickly he can go from zero to 60 is elite. His speed, footwork and reach allow him to effectively make pokechecks and keep opposing forwards at bay as they come at him in transition. He's not a hulking figure out there, but he makes solid hip checks and has just enough of an intimidation factor to warrant recognition. He has a cannon of a shot and does a very good job walking the blue line on the power play. Hockey Canada rarely selects an NCAA player to play in the World Juniors, but they did with Hickey, a Leduc, Alberta native. It's because he does a lot of the little things. He might not be flashy, but he's physically mature and plays a solid game. He's reliable and is a pro skater.