This is the eleventh installment of our annual list of the Top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this year, covering spots 46--50 on the list.
50. CJ Franklin, Center, Minnesota State(Winnipeg Jets)
As a upper-classmen, Franklin made the full-time move to the center position this year, centering the Mavericks top line. He’s always been a strong, explosive skater with a good shot. But this year, he showed better defensive responsibility and more ability to distribute the puck. Franklin has the ability to take over games, but struggles to do so consistently.
As a pro, Franklin should slot in as a strong winger in a third or fourth line energy role.
49. Phillip Nyberg, Defenseman, Connecticut(Buffalo Sabres)
After an admissions issue at the University of Wisconsin, Nyberg spent the first half of the year in the USHL before enrolling at UConn for the second half of the season.
Nyberg is a bit raw and still developing on the defensive end, but he has the smooth skating and physical element to his game to be a very good defenseman in a few years.
48. Dominic Toninato, Center, Minnesota Duluth(Toronto Maple Leafs)
Toninato opted to return to Minnesota Duluth for his senior season to serve as captain of his hometown team, and that has proven to be a wise decision. Toninato is the top line center on the best team in the country, and capable of contributing on both the power play and penalty kill.
Toninato is a big, physica center, with the puck-handling ability to be effective on the cycle and make plays in front of the net. The biggest improvement he’s made as a senior is improving his discipline and cutting down on the number of silly penalties that he takes.
He should slot in as a terrific option as a big third or fourth line center at the NHL level.
47. Luke Martin, Defenseman, Michigan(2017 Draft eligible)
It has been an extremely difficult year for Michigan, but Luke Martin has acquitted himself fairly well as a defensive defenseman playing top pairing minutes and special teams on a very thin Wolverine blue line. Martin is strong and athletic and does a good job disrupting passing lanes, protecting the front of the net, and blocking shots.
The offensive side of his game isn’t as advanced as some hoped it might be when he was younger, but he’s still a very young and there is certainly time for his confidence with the puck to develop further with another few years in college hockey.
46. Nolan Stevens, Left Wing, Northeastern(St. Louis Blues)
Nolan Stevens had his season cut short thanks to an injury that kept him out from October to February. But when he was healthy and on the ice, he was fantastic for Northeastern, both in the six games prior to his injury, and the 11 games afterwards. In total, he had 22 points over his 17 games, which extrapolates to 49 points, and just barely inside the top-10 nationally in scoring if he maintained that rate over a full season.
Despite being slowed by injury, Stevens is a much stronger player than when he first came to college hockey. He’s a smart two-way player capable of playing a bottom line role at the NHL level, but his scoring production for a second straight year suggests that he might be able to contribute offensively as well at the NHL level.