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Hockey East: Undrafted Freshmen to Watch

CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game
Boston College freshman defenseman Luke McInnis
Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Boston — The freshman class at Boston University has been hyped, over and over again, and rightfully so.

Three first rounders, a second rounder and a fourth rounder from the 2016 NHL Draft class join the Terriers. Another freshman is expected to be one of the first goaltenders selected in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Overall, 24 Hockey East freshmen have been drafted by a NHL club. However, there are several intriguing freshmen coming into Hockey East who are not NHL Draft picks. Here’s a look at the undrafted freshmen who will gain notoriety for their play on the ice this season:

Patrick Curry, 5’11”/185, C/LW, Boston University - He’s a player the coaching staff brought in late in the recruiting process to fill a void. He’s played three seasons of junior hockey, including the last two with the Bloomington Thunder in the USHL.

The Schaumburg, Ill. native, who played his bantam and midget hockey with the Chicago Young Americans, scored 20 goals and 19 assists in 70 games last year. He also racked up 171 penalty minutes over the course of the last two seasons.

He wasn’t recruited to be a top six player. He’s a player the staff hopes can play four seasons, be reliable on the third or fourth line, bring grit and energy, and contribute offensively from time to time.

Tory Dello, 6’1”/190, RD, Notre Dame - Despite going undrafted, the Crystal Lake, Ill. native has always been regarded as one of the better ‘97-born defensemen in the U.S. He was the captain for Bill Muckalt’s Clark Cup Championship-winning Tri-City Storm in the USHL last season.

He previously wore the USA sweater in both the Five Nations U17 and Ivan Hlinka Memorial (U18) tournaments. He played his midget hockey with the perennially strong Chicago Mission program.

He comes to South Bend after playing three seasons in the USHL, all with Tri-City, so he is a veteran of junior hockey and will adjust to college hockey quicker than some others. He was +25 in 61 games with the Storm last season while posting five goals and 15 assists.

Nick Fiorentino, 6’2”/196, RD, Northeastern - While the other two freshman defensemen are property of NHL clubs, the Hartsdale, NY native will bring a mean streak to the Huskies’ blue line.

Florentino played last season with the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL after moving up the ladder in the NJ Rockets youth program. He racked up 118 penalty minutes in 58 games while scoring nine goals and adding 29 assists.

“There was more of an emphasis and focus on puck-moving defensemen, guys with mobility and agility [in the recruiting process],” said Madigan. “Nick Fiorentino is more of a physical player, but he still plays the game fast.”

Mattias Goransson, 6’3”/205, LD, UMass Lowell - The Grums, Sweden native comes to the River Hawks after having been a major cog on the blue line for the Clark Cup Champion, Tri-City Storm, in the USHL.

Goransson had seven goals and 39 assists in 69 games played for Bill Muckalt’s team during his final season of junior hockey. He was an impressive +12 in 11 post-season games.

He’s not overly physical for a player his size, but he is expected to be a consistently steady presence in his own zone for Norm Bazin’s club. He’s reliable and sturdy in his own zone.

Johnny Kovacevic, 6’4”/215, RD, Merrimack - The Grimsby, Ont. native was a prospect that some scouts thought could be taken in the later rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft. He still has one year left of draft eligibility.

He’s a big, physical presence on the blue line, but he has good mobility and can move the puck well. He really fits the new mold of defensemen that Mark Dennehy and his staff are trying to recruit to Merrimack.

He spent the past two seasons playing in the CCHL, with the Ottawa Jr. Senators and Hawkesbury Hawks. In 61 combined games last season, he recorded eight goals and 35 assists.

With several established blue liners already in place, Kovacevic won’t be rushed into the fire right away, but by the second semester, expect him to get plenty of ice time.

Stefanos Lekkas, 5’9”/170, G, Vermont - A native of Elburn, Ill., he is a similarly undersized goaltender to the Catamounts’ incumbent, Mike Santaguida. The Team Illinois product comes to Burlington after two seasons with Sioux Falls in the USHL.

Lekkas had a .924 save percentage in 45 regular season games a year ago with the Stampede. While he won’t be pushed into action right away, UVM coach Kevin Sneddon indicated his staff expects him to push Santaguida for playing time.

“[Santaguida] is going to get pushed by Stefanos Lekkas,” Sneddon remarked. Stefanos is a great goaltender. It might take him a little while to get used to college hockey, but I think we have a great one-two punch.”

Luke McInnis, 5’10”/175, LD, Boston College - He’s the son of former Eagle and current volunteer assistant coach Marty McInnis. The Hingham, Mass. native has always garnered plenty of attention, but he went undrafted after spending the year on the NHL Central Scouting list.

This will be McInnis’ fourth team in four years. He spent the last season with the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL. The MVP of the 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game tallied six goals and 22 assists in 58 USHL games.

McInnis is a high risk, high reward blue liner. He’s a very good skater who excels with the puck on his stick. He is prone to pinch and turn the puck over because of his style of play, but he’s fun to watch and will likely start the year on the Eagles’ second power play unit.

Jake Pappalardo, 5’10”/181, C, Maine - The Proctor Academy alum doesn’t have the prettiest stride, which is something that likely kept him from getting drafted. However, the Salem, NH native is a competitor.

He always seemed to score big goals, whether it was for his prep team or in various showcases or in midget tournaments. He has a heavy shot that he gets off quickly. He wins battles for pucks. He creates chances by working hard. Despite always being overshadowed, he always seemed to put up just as many points, or more, than the more hyped players in the region.

He’ll likely be a fan favorite in Orono because of his compete level and ability to play his best hockey in pressure situations.

Alexandre Payusov, 5’11”/180, RW, Connecticut - A former third round pick in the QMJHL, the Lasalle, Quebec native has the offensive skill set to make an impact right away on the second or third line for the Huskies.

Last season, with the Madison Capitols in the USHL, he scored 17 goals and 14 assists in 57 games played. Those might not sound like great numbers, but they are in the USHL, especially as a player who was 18 for the entire season.

Mike Cavanaugh believes the Huskies will finally have more depth, especially on lines two and three, to compete night in and night out in Hockey East. Payusov could be a factor, especially with opposing teams trying to key in on Max Letunov and Tage Thompson on the first line.

Vimal Sukumaran, 5’10”/193, RW, Providence - The Montreal, Quebec native comes to the Friars with a winning pedigree. He was a two-time prep champion at Salisbury and was the BCHL Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 with the Chilliwack Chiefs, the runner-up in the Fred Page Cup.

He scored 39 goals and 46 assists in 72 games, including the playoffs last season. He plays a style of play that meshes perfectly with Nate Leaman’s system. He’s not going to score with skill, but he’s a hard worker who will get to pucks quickly, grind down low and never stop moving his feet.

The Friars lost 10 players off their roster from a year ago, including seven forwards. Sukumaran and the other freshmen up front will have plenty of opportunity to earn ice time from the early part of the season.

Jack Suter, 6’0”/178, C, Massachusetts - Another proven winner, the Omaha, Neb. native won a USHL Clark Cup Championship with Sioux Falls during the 2014-15 season.

He enjoyed an increased roll with the Stampede last year, his second and final season of junior hockey. He posted 14 goals and 26 assists in 60 regular season games.

"Jack is a smooth-skating center who should help our production up front right away," said Carvel in a UMass press release. "He was the second leading scorer on his USHL team last season and also won a Clark Cup championship with Sioux Falls his first year there. Being older and experienced, he's been around the block, which will help with building our culture here."

Anthony Wyse, 6’3”/225, LD, New Hampshire - The Newton, Mass. native and Boston Advantage product played the 2015-16 season with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL. He had battled injuries the year prior, but had a strong season for Chris Hartman’s team.

He will add an element that the Wildcats were missing in 2015-16, which is something that has UNH head coach Dick Umile excited.

“We have a big, strong defenseman in Anthony Wyse who I think is going to help us back on defense,” Umile explained.

Umile isn’t known for giving freshman significant ice time, but the Wildcats know they need a physical presence who can shut down other teams in their own zone. Wyse, a former Dartmouth commit, can help bolster the blue line.