Most of the elite prep defenders are younger and committed, but there are several blue liners still on the board who could be picked up by a Division I college down the road. In alphabetical order, here's seven 1997-born defensemen who college coaches will be watching this season and beyond.
Exeter #5 - 6'0" 183 - LD - 10/16/97
He's part of what might be the best blue line in prep hockey. Exeter's defense might not have the name recognition of some of the others, but they are an older group that plays well and executes the system to perfection. Christie exemplifies that as well as anyone. He's a decent skater to always has his head up to make a smart, simple breakout pass. He has a decent stick and is responsible in his own end. Rated a "C" prospect by NHL Central Scouting, he's a long shot to hear his name called in the draft, but he could wind up with an offer from an ECAC Hockey school or as a walk-on in Hockey East if he plays a year or two of junior hockey.
Cushing #3 - 6'0" 165 - LD - 11/20/97
The Shrewsbury, Mass. native enters his second season of prep hockey after starring in the Division 3 high school hockey ranks. He's a very good skater who likes to join the rush and push the pace in transition. He projects as an offensive defenseman, a player who could possibly quarterback the power play and be the fifth or sixth defenseman for a Division I team. Also rated a "C" prospect by NHL Central Scouting, don't be surprised if he joins the Boston Junior Bruins of the USPHL for a year or two of junior hockey after this season.
Salisbury #20 - 5'11" 190 - LD - 10/1/97
The Arborg, Manitoba native joined Andrew Will's Knights last season. The top returner on the blue line, he'll be counted on to log more minutes this season. He's a solid defenseman who does everything well, but nothing flashy. He keeps it simple, but he can distribute the puck and get shots through on net from the point. He brings confidence and hockey IQ to the Salisbury blue line.
Gunnery #3 - 6'0" 205 - LD - 2/3/97
The Ridgefield, Conn. native was ranked by NHL Central Scouting last season, but was bypassed in the 2015 draft. He's a high risk, high reward type of defenseman. He's a rugged, physical player who isn't afraid to step up and make the big hit in the neutral zone or ride an opposing forward into the boards. He's mobile and likes to join the rush. If he can learn to pick his spots a little more wisely, he'll likely land a commitment from a Division I school.
Belmont Hill #11 - 6'0" 185 - RD - 4/10/97
He often gets overshadowed by teammate Brian Matthews, but he's a solid defender who a few college coaches have spoken highly of. He's not flashy at all and keeps things very simple, but he rarely makes a mistake as he goes about his job on the back end. He's an adequate skater who could be relied on to be a solid fifth or sixth defenseman after a year or two of junior hockey.
Kent #24 - 5'10" 180 - LD - 6/16/97
The Lions captain is a smooth-skating blue liner with the ability to rush the puck up ice and make a strong outlet pass. He's a very good offensive defenseman at the prep level, but his skillset might not be dynamic enough to translate to the NCAA level. The one question remains if he is solid enough defensively to garner Division I interest. A good student, the Chappaqua, NY native will likely find a nice home at a NESCAC school, but he's a fringe D1 prospect.
Brooks #5 - 5'11" 185 - RD - 7/12/97
Watching his teammate and BC commit Connor Moore last season, Stevens piqued this observer's interest. He's certainly not dynamic enough to gain big time interest, but he could be the most fundamentally sound defenseman in prep hockey. He has good gaps, has a good stick and skates well. He's just so smooth. He also does a nice job keeping his head up, making heady lead passes and getting shots on net from the right point. Also a very good student, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him opt to play for a NESCAC school instead of trying his luck in juniors.