Keeping in mind that college hockey recruiting is always a fluid situation and recruits can change their mind at the drop of a hat, there are three Hockey East schools that are stockpiling tremendous classes for next fall. Boston College, Boston University and Providence all have some serious talent lined up for the 2015-16 season.
Note: With juniors and players deferring or accelerating it's sometimes difficult to track down an exact start date for some recruits.
Hockey East Class Recruiting Rankings
1. Boston College
After a few years of some swings and misses on recruiting a game changer offensively it appears the Eagles staff is primed to bring in a few players who could make an immediate impact at the college level. Jeremy Bracco and Colin White of the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) as well as Nobles senior Miles Wood all are expected to arrive at the Heights for the 2015-16 campaign.
Bracco has signed his National Letter of Intent, but there have been major junior rumors swirling from time to time. He's undersized, but he's dynamic with the puck. He's shifty and really works magic down low, dishing the puck out and finishing. White is a bigger prospect with good size, strength and a real hard shot. White is in the top 15 of almost every draft ranking available while Bracco's stock fluctuates depending on the source due to questions regarding his size.
Wood is the true definition of a power forward. The son of former NHLer Randy Wood, he surprised many observers by staying in prep school for his senior year. A 2013 NHL Draft choice of the New Jersey Devils, Wood was a man amongst boys in the prep ranks last winter.
Fellow Devils pick J.D. Dudek will arrive from the USHL. He is a player that could be a really good second or third liner. He's got some offensive pop, but certainly not in the class of the above mentioned trio.
Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) goaltender Chris Birdsall is expected to matriculate next fall. Depending on whether or not Thatcher Demko leaves early to sign with Vancouver, Birdsall could be a really important chip in this class.
The only concern right now is a lack of defensive commits for next season with the likely departure of Michael Matheson and possibly Steve Santini to early NHL signings.
2. Boston University
The new Terrier coaching staff has been on an absolute tear since taking the helm on their end of Comm Ave. David Quinn and company are bringing in four stud forwards including two European imports and a top defenseman from the USNTDP.
USNTDP forward Jordan Greenway is projected as a mid to late first rounder by most draft experts. The six-foot-five Potsdam, NY native is a monster in the corners and also can create opportunities by bulling his way into the slot. He's got a hard shot to go with a quick release.
St. Louis Blues second round pick Maxim Letunov and 2015 prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson are the two Euros who will don the scarlet and white next season. Both are putting up a point per game or more in the USHL this season with Youngstown and Omaha, respectively.
Bobo Carpenter is a name that many hockey fans should be familiar with. His sister Alex is a US Women's National Team member and his father Bobby played in 1,318 games in the NHL. He played high school hockey at Austin Prep before heading to the USHL this season where he has nine goals and 11 assists for Sioux City. There are areas of his game where he can show improvement, but he's got a rocket of a shot and an offensive drive when he brings it.
USNTDP product Charlie McAvoy should bring an immediate presence on the blue line and Youngstown Phantoms defender Vasili Kolias could be accelerated to next fall depending on early departures.
3. Providence College
Nate Leaman has continued to elevate the talent level on Huxley Avenue each of the four seasons he's been the Friars' bench boss, but this might be his best class yet. That's a big statement with how solid this year's junior class has been led by Calgary Flames prospects Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski and John Gilmour.
The stud of this year's class is Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL) forward Erik Foley, a hard nosed player out of Tabor Academy. He's the epitome of the recruit Leaman is looking for. He can skate, he's tenacious on the forecheck, cycles well and can produce offensively.
Foley is one of seven forwards projected to arrive at Providence next fall. Youngstown Phantom's Bryan Lemos, a former Junior Bruins star, is one of the other blue chippers in the class. Lemos is really creative in the offensive zone and exhibits good vision from down low and the side walls to find teammates.
Garrett Gamez, Jake Henderson and Dylan McLaughlin are three of the other top incoming forwards. Lincoln Stars defenseman Cam Lee is an undersized puck-moving blue liner from Nova Scotia who really stood out at the USHL Atlantic Challenge.
He's out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, but Hayden Hawkey out of the Omaha Lancers is expected to come in to compete for the starting job with sophomore Nick Ellis are the expected early departure of Jon Gillies.
The Catamounts are starting to see some revitalization on the recruiting trail with the hard work being put in by assistant Kyle Wallack. This class doesn't have a true superstar that is nationally known, but there are a lot of under the radar players who could have a very positive impact.
Edmonton Oilers draft pick Liam Coughlin is the only player with NHL rights heading to Burlington in the fall. The former Catholic Memorial standout who plays for Vernon in the BCHL had previously committed to UMass and BU before setting his sights on UVM.
Brian Bowen of the Green Bay Gamblers is a former high scoring forward for the USPHL's Junior Bruins and has had a good start to his USHL career. He's got a good shot and seems to know where to go to find the puck and the scoring areas.
Connor O'Neill committed to the Catamounts right after an outstanding showing at the Beantown Classic where he led the tournament in scoring. He's a Jersey Hitmen forward who doesn't possess any wow factor but he seems to just get the puck in the back of the net.
Haralds Egle might be the most intriguing prospect headed to Burlington. The '96 from Latvia has been over in the U.S. since 2011, playing in the EJHL for a few years before lacing up the skates for the USHL last season and this with Muskegon and Madison. He's got 15 points in 20 games played this season.
Two former prep players now playing juniors will be brought in to help fill the void of Michael Paliotta's impending graduation. Cedar Rapids' Matthew O'Donnell is more of a steady stay-at-home blue liner while former Gunnery defenseman Michael Lee, now playing in the BCHL, will be a capable power play quarterback and breakout specialist.
5. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish received some bad news on the recruiting trail a few weeks ago when Matthew Tkachuk and Brent Gates both de-committed. However, there is still some fruit on the tree in which to pull from for Jeff Jackson.
Christian Fischer, Joe Wegwerth, Cal Burke and Dylan Malmquist will all be heading to South Bend to add to what should be already be a good group of returning forwards even if Mario Lucia turns pro.
Fischer really stood out to me at the USHL Atlantic Challenge and at the CCM All-American Prospects Game. He's a solid two-way forward who has a really good presence on the ice. Wegwerth is a big grinder with good vision that should fit well into Jackson's system in South Bend.
2015 NHL Draft prospect Tory Dello out of Tri-City in the USHL headlines the pair of incoming freshman defenders. Teammate Robert Nardella is a small blue liner who can step into the offense and help offset the loss of NY Islanders prospect Robbie Russo.
Assistant coach Jerry Keefe has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail, finding some of skilled players to bring to Huntington Ave. The 2016 class is shaping up to be really solid, but 2015 is no slouch. Highlighting the 2015 class is former Thayer Academy forward Adam Gaudette who's playing this season with Cedar Rapids in the USHL. Having seen him at the Beantown and USHL Atlantic Challenge, he's really made huge strides and transferred his game nicely from the prep level to junior hockey.
Jason Cotton (West Kelowna, BCHL) and James Winkler (Youngstown) are more the third line grinder types, especially Winkler who plays a similar game to current NU senior Adam Reid. Lincoln Griffin is off to a hot start at Thayer, but he's expected to arrive in 2016. If he comes in a year early he'd be a nice add.
Former Providence lacrosse commit Jon Barry out of Thayer Academy is a rugged defenseman who should be an upgrade over many of the current defensemen. Des Moines Buccaneers goaltender Ryan Ruck out of California is being brought in as a replacement to Clay Witt.
Two years in a row Mark Dennehy's staff has gone into Ontario to pluck a speedy, elite forward out of the CCHL. One Ontario-based scout said Matthew Foget is even better than this year's freshman Brett Seney, who has drastically improved Merrimack's offense.
The son of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, Michael, is slated to arrive in North Andover. The younger Babcock has battled injuries the past two seasons, but is expected to be a good penalty killer and third or fourth line grinder. The Warriors will also add the Ludvig Larsson, the brother of current Merrimack freshman Alfred, to the squad. He's supposedly a little more of a playmaker than his brother.
Defensively, Shawn Brennan and Ethan Spaxman are two guys who can skate well and help with the breakout. Alex Carle, the brother of former Hobey Baker winner Matt, was expected to come this past season. Injuries have sidetracked his career. It's not known for sure if he's still coming as he's yet to play in a USHL game this season.
Drew Vogler is a highly touted goaltending prospect out of the St. Louis area. He's a big, traditional backstop of the modern era who people around the program are very excited about.
8. New Hampshire
This is a nice class slated to arrive in Durham that will bring some speed and skill with them. Another van Riemsdyk headlines the group of forward recruits. Brendan, a '96 who played for Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, is a pure goal scorer. He has 18 goals in 25 games played this season for the Islanders in the USPHL.
West Kelowna forward Liam Blackburn is off to a red hot start in the BCHL, averaging almost two points per game. If the '96 comes to Durham in the fall he'll be a huge boost to the Wildcat offense.
Des Moines teammates Ara Nazarian and Patrick Grasso are two guys that are still adjusting to the USHL, but should be nice piece parts to the Wildcat offense. Both were highly touted a year or two ago. Chris Miller and Charlie Kelleher are another pair of teammates heading UNH's way, by way of the USPHL's Junior Bruins. Marcus Vela, a '97, is a real nice setup guy out of the BCHL, who could arrive next fall, but some reports have him coming in 2016.
UNH is bringing in a solid defenseman out of the USNTDP in Joseph Masonius of New Jersey. He's solid defensively, in the mold of current Wildcat Brett Pesce. Nick Nonis, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis, is also expected to report to Durham.
Junior Bruins goaltender Danny Tirone is expected to join the Wildcats mid-season this year, offsetting the loss of Casey DeSmith who was kicked out of school and off the team for a domestic violence charge. If he wasn't forced to come in early, he'd be the best goaltender in next year's class.
The headliner of Mike Cavanaugh's second full class is Ottawa Senators prospect Miles Gendron, a Rivers School alum, who has converted from forward to defense. He played for former BU Terrier and NHLer Shawn MacEachern in prep school. He's got great hockey IQ, reads plays well and retrieves pucks well in his own zone. He's a lot bigger than current UConn freshman Johnny Austin, but possesses a lot of the same puck skills.
Karl El-Mir and Anthony Sideiro are two forwards who've played a lot in New England and have some decent upside. One forward who is an interesting pickup is Marco Richter, a European playing for the USHL's Madison Capitals this season.
10. UMass Lowell
Norm Bazin has indisputably, in this writer's humble opinion, been the best coach on the ice since his arrival in Lowell. He has made more out of very little than any other coach in recent memory and has led his team to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history.
He's scoffed at the idea of going out and recruiting young super stars to come play for him. Rather, he's picked up guys late in the game who he believes can fit into the UML system and do a good job of filling their roles.
One youngster who is thought of in high regards is French-born Guillaume Leclerc, who plays for the Madison Capitals. He played for the Austin Bruins last season. BCHL veteran Evan Anderson was also highly touted before injuries derailed his development. The two of them are the most well known of the UML commits.
Christian Folin's younger brother Niklas, a '94, is a steady defenseman for the Omaha Lancers. He has plenty of USHL experience and should be well versed in Lowell's system and ready to go right away.
Former Gunnery forward Ryan Dmowski, now playing in the USHL with Des Moines, is a solid prospect. He's got good offensive instincts and has put up respectable numbers in his first season in the top junior league in North America. Tyler Sifferlen, a four-time Super 8 Champion as a member of Massachusetts high school hockey power house Malden Catholic, is still trying to find his game in Chicago (USHL). Sifferlen, a North Andover native and 2014 winner of ESPN Boston's Mr Hockey, could be in the Joe Pendenza mold.
Ben Guite and Jay Leach are doing some nice work on the recruiting trail, but it will take some time to dig the Black Bears out of the hole they're in currently. Guite pulled in a nice get out of Minnesota in Omaha AAA '99 forward Baron Thompson, but his arrival is still years away. The Black Bears lost their best 2015 recruit when Joe Widmar (Des Moines) de-committed.
Justin Rai out of the BCHL is a '94 who the staff is hoping can be a late bloomer that will excel at the college game. Cameron Spicer is the top defensive recruit. The former Junior Monarchs blue liner is plying his trade with Tri-City in the USHL this season.
Former Merrimack commit Austin Plevy highlights the recruiting class for the Minutemen. Mike McMahon of College Hockey News had a good piece on it when it happened, but Plevy backed out of his NLI with Merrimack after enrolling in August. He's a talented player, albeit with a little bit of an attitude to go with it, that should add some more goal scoring punch. Another commit from Western Canada is Kurt Keats, who's having a good season offensively with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL.
The glaring weakness on the current roster is in goal and on defense and there is no goaltender committed and no difference maker on the blue line.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.