Welcome to the first installment of our annual list of the Top 100 NHL Prospects in the NCAA this season. This project is the culmination of a year of scouting and looking for the college hockey players that could some day make an impact in the NHL. Lists from previous years can be found here: 2016, 2015, 2014.
Here are the players we ranked 96-100 on our list.
100. Nikita Pavlychev, Center, Penn State(Pittsburgh Penguins)
Nikita Pavlychev was part of a group of Russians that came to North America as young teenagers to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton AAA program, which included Philadelphia Flyer Ivan Provorov and Penn State top scorer Denis Smirnov.
He is listed at 6-7 212 lbs., though looks extremely lanky and like he still has room to add a lot of muscle. Pavlychev is still developing on the offensive end. He’s not much of a passer and doesn’t generate a ton of shots. He’s most effective offensively using his big frame as a net-front presence on the power play for Penn State.
But what makes him most intriguing as a pro prospect is his potential as a defensive centerman at the NHL level. Pavlychev is a very smooth skater for his size and his length makes him a very effective on the defensive end, including allowing him to help kill penalties.
99. Jack LaFontaine, Goalie, Michigan(Carolina Hurricanes)
LaFontaine has only played about 600 minutes this season because Michigan has used a three-man platoon of goalies. And LaFontaine’s numbers haven’t been overly impressive playing for a Michigan team that is not good defensively. But he hasn’t looked out of place playing college hockey as a ‘98-birthdate—one of only six in the NCAA this year.
LaFontaine has a pro-style frame and very sound positioning. He also has excellent puck-handling abilities. He’s still a long ways from being pro-ready, but should see more playing time next season to help him develop.
98. Alex Kerfoot, Center, Harvard(New Jersey Devils)
After three seasons of falling in the shadows of Jimmy Vesey, this season has finally been Alexander Kerfoot’s time to shine in a Crimson uniform. The senior from West Vancouver, British Columbia has nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 22 games played which ranks 17th nationally.
A 2012 NHL Draft selection of the New Jersey Devils, he is undersized, but he has above average speed and exceptional vision. He does a good job of creating time and space for his linemates by using his quickness to separate from defenders.
97. Dominik Shine, Right Wing, Northern Michigan(Free Agent)
Shine was one of the most underrated goal scorers in the country, posting 20 goals in 33 games(14th nationally in goals per game), despite having very little help from his supporting cast on an offensively-challenge Northern Michigan team.
After a slow start to the year thanks to a suspension for an undisclosed violation, Shine was one of the WCHA’s best players when he returned to the line-up. His combination of speed, toughness, and skill make him an incredibly difficult match-up one-on-one and should allow him to play any role at the NHL level.
96. Ryan Zuhlsdorf, Defenseman, Minnesota(Tampa Bay Lightning)
Zuhlsdorf is a prototypical puck-moving defenseman. He has terrific vision and excels at creating space and making strong passes out of the zone to jumpstart transition opportunities. In his rookie year with the University of Minnesota, he hasn’t shown much more than that; he still has a long ways to go in his development. But his ability to distribute the puck is a pro-level skill and as he continues to mature and take on a bigger role at the University of Minnesota, he should be able to develop a more well-rounded game.