This is the 12th installment of our annual list of the Top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this year, covering spots 41--45 on the list.
45. Mason Appleton, Center/Right Wing, Michigan State(Winnipeg Jets)
Appleton is a terrific hockey player that doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves because he plays on a terrible team. He’s team captain as a sophomore and has been involved in the scoring on 30 of his team’s 81 goals this year(37%).
Appleton has a pro-size frame at 6-2 190lbs. and is a really good athlete. He’s confident and poised with the puck and makes good decisions to create offense. He has the potential to be a really reliable supporting piece on a good hockey team.
44. Cam Morrison, Left Wing, Notre Dame(Colorado Avalanche)
Morrison is a strong, grinding winger that excels at using his strength and big shot. There was a bit of an adjustment for the young forward moving to college hockey as a true 18-year-old freshman, but he’s managed to put together a very respectable 20 points in 36 games this year while playing a second line role for the Irish.
With another year of strength and maturity, and the opportunity for more ice time, Morrison should improve on those numbers as a sophomore. The extra strength training should hopefully make him a step quicker too, which would really aid his transition to the NHL. Morrison is still a little raw, but as potential as a tough second line scoring winger at the NHL level.
43. Shane Gersich, Left Wing, North Dakota(Washington Capitals)
Gersich was tasked with making a big jump this season, going from a secondary scoring role last year to being a top line forward this year after North Dakota lost Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz from last year’s team.
He responded by going from 11 points as a freshman to a team-leading 37 points as a sophomore. Gersich has always been a very smooth skater. This year, he’s added a little more muscle to his frame, making him much better at winning battles along the boards. He’s more of a shooter than a playmaker, and the extra bulk has made his shot more effective as well.
Gersich likely projects to play a scoring role at the pro level, so the big increase in scoring is a positive sign for his development.
42. John Hayden, Right Wing, Yale(Signed by Chicago Blackhawks)
Hayden is a power forward that plays a smart, strong defensive game and has improved his offensive production in each of his past three seasons at Yale. He likely won’t project as a big scorer at the pro level, but could play a valuable role. His maturity and consistency should allow him to play a solid game as a third or fourth line grinder.
41. Dennis Gilbert, Defenseman, Notre Dame(Chicago Blackhawks)
Gilbert’s best asset has always been his skating, which is exceptional for a defenseman that is 6-2. In his second season at Notre Dame this year, he’s become much better at picking his spots to join the offensive rush in transition and take advantage of that speed.
He improved his point total from 10 points as a freshman to 21 as a sophomore(all assists), despite only one of his points coming via the power play. He’s not an offensive wizard, but his skating is good enough that he should have a solid career in the NHL.