This is the third installment of our annual list counting down the Top 100 NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this season, covering spots 86-90 on the list.
90. Blaine Byron, Left Wing, Maine(Pittsburgh Penguins)
Blaine Byron has always been a crafty offensive player that created chances thanks to his hockey IQ rather than raw physical ability. In his fourth year in Orono, Byron has gotten stronger and more consistent, allowing him to become one of the top scorers in Hockey East this season with an 18-23-41 scoring line.
His lack of size may make him a bit of a tweener as a pro prospect, but Byron’s understanding of timing and space in the offensive zone may allow him to continue to overcome some of those size concerns.
89. Brent Gates Jr., Left Wing, Minnesota(Anaheim Ducks)
After a quiet, disappointing freshman season, Gates has started to find his niche with the Gophers. Gates has excelled by simplifying his game and using his big frame to get into scoring areas and utilize his shot. Shooting first and asking questions later has led to 14 goals in 33 games, second in goal-scoring on an excellent Minnesota team, and considerably fewer questions about his potential.
If Gates continues developing as a goal-scoring power forward, he has the potential to be a very useful professional player.
88. Jeremy Davies, Defenseman, Northeastern(New Jersey Devils)
“He’s a smart offensive player. He has real good hockey sense,” explained Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “He’s defending better. He’s defending quickly. He’s come a long way. He and [Chicago Blackhawks prospect] Ryan Shea are playing 20-22 minutes a game. For freshman defensemen, that says something about the confidence and comfort level we have in them.”
—November 21st, 2016, from our full scouting report on Davies.
87. Adam Johnson, Left Wing/Center, Minnesota Duluth(Free Agent)
Johnson was a prospect that drew serious attention from NHL Central Scouting in his first year of NHL Draft eligibility, way back in 2012, due in large part to his explosive skating ability. But ultimately teams backed off because of a lack of physical maturity and a lack of toughness he showed playing against weak high school competition.
Five years later, two years of junior hockey and two years in college hockey has really matured Johnson’s game. He has filled out his frame a bit and plays a much heavier game while still maintaining that explosive quickness. He has the tools to be a very effective winger at the NHL level.
86. Steve Johnson, Defenseman, Minnesota(Los Angeles Kings)
Johnson isn’t a very flashy defenseman, but plays a consistent, reliable game. He’s a smooth skater and handles the puck very well. He isn’t a big shooter—he’s only scored three goals over his three years—but creates a fair amount of offense with his passing ability, especially by starting transition opportunities.
His defensive play is passable, and he makes up for whatever he lacks in that area by being above average on the offensive end. He’s not likely to be a big name guy at the pro level, but should be able to find a niche as a dependable third-pairing type for an NHL team.