It's a fairly quiet time in the NCAA hockey world, The coaches are sunning down in Florida at the annual Coaches Convention. But with seasons ending around the world of hockey, players are starting to make plans and announce decisions for next season.
Here's an update on five outstanding prospects and where they might end up next year.
We'll start with the biggest one, which is uber-prospect Auston Matthews. Matthews recently completed a dominating performance at the World U18s championships, and even got into an exhibition game with the US Men's World Championships team. He's raised questions of whether he's a better prospect than Jack Eichel for some, while for others(myself included), Matthews is already ahead of Eichel.
So where will he play next year? Matthews hasn't decided yet, but tells Mike Morreale of NHL.com that a decision could be coming in the next few weeks. His CHL rights are held by the Everett Silvertips. If he chooses the NCAA route, Matthews still lists the same five schools he's listed all year--Boston College, Boston University, Michigan, North Dakota, Denver--and has added Wisconsin, for some reason.
But lest you get excited about the chances of Matthews playing NCAA hockey, he gave this quote, which is about as lukewarm as you can get about the chances of that happening:
"We've had that conversation and Jack [Eichel] gave me his spiel but in the end said it's what will make me happy and where I want to play, where I believe I fit in and can develop most as a player," Matthews said. "I'll sit down with my family and figure it out."
Expect Matthews to play for Everett next season and have an absolutely monster year.
One of Matthews' teammates has already made a decision for the CHL. Defenseman Caleb Jones has chosen to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Seth and play for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL rather than pursuing the college route. Jones developed nicely in his second year with the NTDP and should go somewhere in the middle rounds of this June's NHL Draft.
The final big decision to watch off of this year's NTDP U18 team will be forward Matthew Tkachuk, who de-committed from Notre Dame this past fall, and is deciding between committing to a difference college or signing with London of the Ontario Hockey League. Again, all signs point to Tkachuk choosing to sign with the Knights.
There's quite a recruiting battle shaping up for British Columbia defenseman Dante Fabbro, who is projected as a first round draft pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Fabbro currently plays for Penticton of the BCHL. He's a former first round pick of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, who would desperately love to sign him, and being pursued by a number of major NCAA schools.
Seattle's general manager Russ Farwell spoke about the outlook for next season and the topic of Fabbro came up.
"(Fabbro) is going to take a while. I think he's intrigued by playing, but I think the family has their hearts set on going the other way," admitted Farwell. "At the end of the day that's going to be hard for him to do. He has another year of high school to play and he's going to really be stalled if he stays at that level. We're just trying to work with that. No progress at this point and we have to operate, until we know, as though it's not going to happen. We're hopeful and working on it and would love to have him, but that's all we know at this point."
It's tougher to tell how this one will play out. What the kid wants usually wins out over what the parent wants in most cases. And the fact that Fabbro has to play another year of junior is problematic. Fabbro was already excellent this season as a 16-year-old in the BCHL. There probably isn't a lot for him to gain with another year there. His USHL rights are held by Bloomington, so that's a possibility. In any case, this one will be worth watching.
Finally, on the topic of players already playing college hockey, Michigan freshman Dylan Larkin is playing with Team USA at the World Championships and he'll be playing in front of some special company at the tournament in Prague:
Babcock & Holland are going to Prague together to watch Dylan Larkin. Holland said he's going to speak with Larkin about what to do next yr.— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) May 3, 2015
I doubt speaking to Larkin is the sole purpose of the trip--you can get a lot of bang for your scouting buck with a trip to the Worlds--but it will be interesting to see what comes out of that. Now that Detroit's season is over, they'll likely have a better idea of where they stand in terms of roster for next season, which likely plays a role in Larkin's decision. I would lean towards Larkin returning to Michigan next season, but wouldn't feel confident about it until he's in school next fall.