This is the 13th installment of our annual list of the Top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this year, covering spots 36--40 on the list.
40. Rem Pitlick, Left Wing, Minnesota(Nashville Predators)
And one final thought: 365 days ago tonight, Rem Pitlick was in Muskegon, sitting at one point in three games on the season, giving him 17 points in 50 career USHL games, and there was legitimate question of whether he’d ever actually play for Minnesota. 88 points in the next 53 USHL games, a selection in the third round of the NHL Draft, and there was no question he was the main driver of Minnesota’s offense tonight. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a kid that has definitely put in the work to make it happen.
Rem Pitlick put together a very solid freshman season at Minnesota, scoring 14-18-32 in 35 games, showing that his big production in the USHL last year was no fluke.
There are no longer as many concerns about his size now that he has grown to 5’10” and developed into a very strong, thick 205 lbs., making him much stronger on the puck. Pitlick has a tremendous burst of speed that allows him to create opportunities off the wing, and allows him to use his wicked shot.
He struggled with consistency—partly due to injury—as a freshman. There were times that he wasn’t aggressive and shooting enough to make a big impact on games. But Pitlick showed extremely promising potential this year, and that should only improve when he sees a bigger role with Minnesota next year.
39. Mike Vecchione, Center, Union(Free Agent)
He competes hard throughout the entire sheet. He backchecks and doesn’t mind battling for pucks along the wall. Listed at just 5-feet-10, he’s rugged and hard to knock off pucks. His compete level is high, a trait that is evident based on how he plays with and without the puck.
He doesn’t have blazing speed, but it’s not an absolute deterrent to his game. He has an explosive stride that allows him to get going quickly and to penetrate into the scoring areas. More than a few of his goals this season have come in transition where he didn’t finesse his way into the zone. He just skated it right into the slot and let go of an absolute cannon of a wrister.
—from our full feature on Vecchione, November 8, 2016
38. Neal Pionk, Defenseman, Minnesota Duluth(Free Agent)
In his sophomore season, the Duluth-area native has developed into the top defenseman for the Bulldogs, who have spent much of the season as one of the top teams in the country.
Pionk is a very good two-way defenseman thanks to his excellent skating ability and agility. He moves the puck up the ice reliably thanks to an ability to spin his way out of traffic and is an excellent outlet passer. His quickness also gives him the confidence to hold the line in the offensive zone, rather than giving up ice to give himself more cushion defensively.
He’s just an okay defender one-on-one against the rush, but has an above average amount of toughness and physicality for a guy that will classify as a smaller defenseman at the next level.
37. Will Lockwood, Left Wing, Michigan(Vancouver Canucks)
Lockwood’s best asset remains his speed. He’s great in open ice. He’s got the agility to side-step checks to get through the neutral zone, and his speed keeps opposing defensemen off-balance and forces them to be conservative with their gaps, allowing him to gain easy zone entry. Even though he gained the zone quite easily on most rushes, he sometimes struggled to set up possession once inside the zone.
—from our full scouting report on Lockwood, December 5th, 2016
36. Karlis Cukste, Defenseman, Quinnipiac(San Jose Sharks)
Cukste is a rugged defensive defenseman that has made big strides in his mobility in his first year of college hockey, after spending an extra year in the USHL following being drafted by the Sharks in 2015.
He’s smart and reliable with the puck, even under heavy duress. He doesn’t make a lot of fancy plays with the puck, but makes the quick, safe play very well. Cukste was drafted as a project pick by the Sharks in the late rounds of the 2015 Draft, and his quick transition to college hockey makes it seem like he is heading in the right direction.