This is the 14th installment of our annual list of the Top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this year, covering spots 31--35 on the list.
35. Daniel Brickley, Defenseman, Minnesota State(Free Agent)
Last year, Minnesota State’s Casey Nelson was one of the top free agent defensemen available out of the NCAA, eventually signing with the Buffalo Sabres and jumping right into their lineup. Brickley is an extremely similar, if not slightly more polished, prospect.
Brickley isn’t a lightning-fast skater, and is still developing on the defensive end, but his combination of size—listed at 6-2 205 lbs.—and tremendous offensive abilities give him a tantalizing amount of upside. He missed time this year with a fractured wrist, but his time out only increased his value as Minnesota State’s power play struggled without him running things from the point.
What he lacks in straight-line speed, he makes up for with a shiftiness laterally which is really impressive for a big defender that allows him to create his own passing and shooting lanes. He’s aggressive in looking for his shot which helps generate a lot of offense. He’s still a bit of a project, but could develop into a second pairing defenseman that is very good on the power play at the NHL level.
Brickley has informed teams that he plans to return to Minnesota State for his junior season.
34. Ryan Lindgren, Defenseman, Minnesota(Boston Bruins)
Lindgren provides an aggressive, physical presence to a Minnesota backline that typically relies on puck-moving finesse defensemen. It helps that Lindgren has excellent four-direction skating ability and is a smart hockey player, so his physicality doesn’t come with many trade-offs. Lindgren is also a very mature player that served as team captain at the NTDP, and will likely be a captain in the future at Minnesota.
He’s still a few years away, but at the NHL level, he projects as a first or second pairing defenseman that eats a lot of minutes against tough match-ups.
33. Erik Foley, Left Wing, Providence(Winnipeg Jets)
Foley, who was a member of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. squad at the 2017 World Junior Championship, can be a dominant north-south player who excels down low and along the walls.
"Foley is a real strong kid. He’s very explosive. If you give it to him on the wall he just takes off. Sometimes I have to play catch up. He’s very good off the wall. If he has the puck in the corner, I can predict he’s going to take it to the net because he can out-muscle guys. We’ve been playing together for the whole season so it is easy for us to read off each other," Pinho explained of the 2015 second round pick of the Winnipeg Jets.
"Foley has really been playing good hockey since he’s come back from the World Juniors. He’s had a good second half of the season. Most of that is off the puck. He’s getting to the right spot. He’s getting to the right position. He’s working," added Leaman.
32. Tommy Novak, Center, Minnesota(Nashville Predators)
Novak’s season was cut short by a knee injury in January, but he had played well prior to that. Novak has always been a bit divisive as a prospect because of his lack of a 200-foot game. He made strides in that department this year, earning the opportunity to move from wing to center and centering Minnesota’s second line.
And while he continues to develop away from the puck, he has some incredible offensive skills to work with. His ability to handle the puck at high speeds forces the opposition to loosen gaps on him, making for easy zone entry and creating opportunities for him to use his heavy shot or pass out of a shooting position.
Novak has the ability to handle difficult passes and has a great one-timer, making him very effective on the power play. The injury slowed his development and will likely keep him in college for another season, but Novak has the potential to be a scoring line winger at the NHL level.
31. Will Borgen, Defenseman, St. Cloud State(Buffalo Sabres)
After a breakout freshman year, Borgen had a bit of a difficult transition in his sophomore season. With the departure of all-American and Hobey Baker finalist Ethan Prow on the SCSU blue line, Borgen got off to a very tough start to the season by trying to do a little too much of everything. He settled down as the season progressed and played much better by letting the game come to him rather than trying to force plays
Borgen’s skating ability and athleticism is excellent for a defender that plays a physical, defense-first style of hockey. He’s able to win one-on-one battles for the puck and skate his way out of tight situations to start transition offense. He sometimes struggles with discipline, but his refusal to not back down from opponents, even if it means sometimes crossing the line, likely won’t be seen as a negative in the pro game. He doesn’t project to provide much offense at the pro level, but he moves the puck well enough that he won’t be a liability. He has potential as a good second pairing defenseman at the NHL level that provides a nice stay-at-home complement to a more offensive-minded defenseman.