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2015 Hockey East Recruiting Rankings by Class

Incoming Boston College freshman Jeremy Bracco will be one of the more exciting rookies to watch in Hockey East this season.
Incoming Boston College freshman Jeremy Bracco will be one of the more exciting rookies to watch in Hockey East this season.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There is no Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin in this year's crop of Hockey East freshmen, but there are some impact players who could change the landscape at the top of the league standings.

There's little doubt that Boston College has the top class in the league as Jerry York and his staff have stockpiled several blue chippers among the newest members of the Eagles.

Boston University isn't far behind, but the Terriers' were dealt a crushing blow when Maxim Letunov opted for UConn late in the summer.

Speaking of the Huskies, Mike Cavanaugh and his staff have done a great job elevating the talent level in Storrs, but this is by far the best class for that staff as it enters year three. UConn benefited from two players defecting from other Hockey East programs.

1. Boston College

This is a star-studded class headlined by three potentially huge impact players up front in Jeremy Bracco, Colin White and Miles Wood. Goaltender Chris Birdsall likely won't see much time between the pipes, barring an injury to starter Thatcher Demko, but he will be a key piece of the future.

York has typically shied away from older freshmen, but big '95 defenseman Josh Couturier, a former Northeastern commit, was added to the class this past December. The other defensive recruit is a familiar name to BC and hockey fans. Casey Fitzgerald, a USNTDP product and former Malden Catholic Lancer, is the brother of BC junior Ryan and son of New Jersey Devils Assistant GM Tom.

Also joining the Eagles are three forwards who are more energy, third-fourth line types in JD Dudek, Chris Brown and Chris Shero.

Impact Player: While White and Wood might have more pro upside, look for Jeremy Bracco to make the biggest contribution out of this year's rookies. The second round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs is small, but his stick skills and offensive creativity are off the charts. His speed isn't overwhelming, but he's magical with the puck and can make some slick passes even in traffic.

Sleeper: Dudek, a sixth round selection of the New Jersey Devils in 2014, comes to BC from the USHL. The Kimball Union alum isn't likely to make a big difference on the offensive side of the ice, but he's a good skater with high hockey IQ. He could be a real solid third or fourth liner that could occasionally chip into the offense. His father Joe finished ninth in the 1985 Heisman Trophy voting as a Division III player at Plymouth State, the highest ever for a non-Division I player.

2. Boston University

The Terriers were dealt a blow late in the offseason when Maxim Letunov de-committed in favor of UConn after an issue with his academics arose at BU. Still, David Quinn's staff brought in a solid group of players.

The absence of Letunov to the rookie class was particularly jarring because his presence would have helped address the team's biggest glaring need -- offensive production.

No one player can make up for the loss of Jack Eichel and the rest of the goal scoring output that left, but BU is bringing in four forwards that the coaching staff hopes can contribute offensively. The top incoming forward is Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, a Swedish native who comes to the Terriers from the Omaha Lancers. Joining him up front will be Jordan Greenway, Bobo Carpenter and Ryan Cloonan.

BU didn't lose any defensemen from last year's top six so the two newcomers on the blue line will have a chance to ease their way into college hockey. USNTDP product Charlie McAvoy is considered one of the top American defensemen for the 2016 NHL Draft. He will play in next week's CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo.

Max Prawdzik, a prep school champion with Brooks School, will vie for time in goal with the two returnees.

Impact Player: Forsbacka Karlson is a gifted play maker who will dish the puck out well. He's not the fastest of skaters, but his hockey sense offsets that. He is the player most likely to make an offensive impact right away.

Sleeper: Cloonan was originally slated to arrive in 2016, but was pushed up to this fall when J.J. Piccinich left for the OHL and Letunov fell through the admissions process. The Boston Junior Bruins prospect has blazing speed and can find open teammates. A former Maine commit who fielded offers from BC, UVM and Colorado College, he's gritty and plays hard. He should be a fan favorite.

3. Connecticut

Mike Cavanaugh's team is still probably a year or two away from making serious noise in Hockey East, but the Huskies are continuing to narrow the talent gap between themselves and the rest of the league.

Highlighting the incoming class are a pair of prominent NHL prospects up front. The aforementioned Letunov, a second round NHL Draft pick of St. Louis whose rights are now owned by Arizona, is a slick center who will likely light up the score sheet. Tage Thompson, the son of Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson, is a big, physical forward with high end skill.

Austrian-born Marco Richter, Montreal native Karl El-Mir and Max Kalter are the other three additions up front.

The Huskies brought in two blue liners, Ottawa Senators pick Miles Gendron and USNTDP product Joseph Masonius, a late de-commit from UNH. Gendron is a converted forward who will really help out in transition while Masonius is a solid presence in all three zones.

Impact Player: Out of the four big name members of the freshman class, Letunov stands out. He has a chance to be a game changer and provide serious offensive punch, something that Cavanaugh's team clearly needed at times last year.

Sleeper: Out o the three less marquee additions, Kalter has a chance to be a spark plug, provide energy and occasionally help out offensively.

4. Providence

The defending national champions continue to roll on the recruiting trail. This class is a good one, but the next few classes look even better. The top recruit in this class is Erik Foley, a third round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, who could make an immediate impact.

The two rookie defensemen will provide physicality to the blue line, and will be more stay-at-home defenders than most of the returning players. Stephen Ruggiero, a Penn State de-commit, comes to the Friars from the NTDP while Vincent Desharnais played last season in the BCHL.

With the departure of Frozen Four MOP Jon Gillies, the Friars needed to fill that void. They did so with the addition of Hayden Hawkey out of Omaha in the USHL. The Colorado native suffered a season-ending lower body injury last season, but the Montreal Canadiens prospect is highly regarded.

Impact Player: Foley is a clone of a player that Nate Leaman looks for on the recruiting trail. A former prep player at Tabor, he learned under the tutelage of Mark Carlson in Cedar Rapids last year. He's not the biggest of players, but he's strong and knows how to work down low, especially on the forecheck. He's a good skater whose skill is adequate enough that he could be a big force this season. He's not going to be making any fancy, highlight reel plays, but he can finish and dish the puck out.

Sleeper: Lemos, an East Providence, RI native who comes to the Friars from the USHL, could be a terrific four year player. He's a hard worker who does a nice job digging pucks out from behind the goal line and in corners to find teammates out front. Lemos has sometimes been critiqued for not having the prettiest of strides, but his footwork and skating ability are plenty good enough for the college game.

5. Vermont

The Catamounts' class is underrated with some good mid-level prospects. None of the new freshmen entering Burlington were as sought after as the players in the top four classes, but there are some good college players in the mix.

All of UVM's forward recruits are '94s and '95s with plenty of junior hockey experience. Edmonton Oilers pick Liam Coughlin, who had previously committed to BU and UMass, is the most well known, but Brian Bowen and Conor O'Neil could surprise some people. Craig Puffer, Drew Best and Tyler Gernhofer are the other incoming forwards.

Former Gunnery star Mike Lee is a much-needed addition to the blue line. He played a year of junior in the BCHL last winter and his puck-moving ability will help offset the loss of Mike Paliotta to graduation. Packy Munson has been brought in to challenge junior Mike Santaguida between the pipes.

Associate head coach Kyle Wallack has done a nice job on the recruiting trail, finding some hidden gems who might have taken longer to develop.

Impact Player: Bowen is an intriguing prospect who had a nice year in the USHL with Green Bay and Dubuque last year after playing for the Junior Bruins previously. He's a goal scorer who knows where to go to find the puck. He could be another go-to goal scorer alongside former Hockey East Rookie of the Year Mario Puskarich.

Sleeper: O'Neil is a '94 who played for the Jersey Hitmen in the USPHL. Admittedly, the league is watered down, but he had a terrific final campaign for Toby Harris' team. He has a quick, heavy release and is around the puck a lot. He could be a real nice late find for the Catamounts.

6. Northeastern

The Huskies have two of the better talent evaluators in Hockey East in head coach Jim Madigan and associate head coach Jerry Keefe. This year's rookie class has a nice mix of elite skill players and junior hockey veterans who have potentially developed later.

A pair of former Thayer teammates, Adam Gaudette and Lincoln Griffin, should bring some spark to the offense. Gaudette is a two-way player who skates well and has a good release. Griffin is a little quicker and more slippery, but isn't as complete of a player.

Jason Cotton and Patrick Schule are a pair of junior hockey veterans that could see some ice time up front. Also new to the Huskies' roster is another transfer from BU, Sam Kurker who spent last season in the USHL with Sioux City.

Another Thayer alum, Jon Barry, joins Eric Williams as newcomers to the blue line. Barry, a once a highly sought after lacrosse recruit, is an athletic defender who should be solid. Williams, an Ontario native, was an effective offensive defenseman in the OJHL.

Ryan Ruck is a '94 goaltender from California who played the last two seasons with Des Moines in the USHL. He has good size and put up decent numbers for the Buccaneers. The coaching staff hopes he can challenge Derrick Roy for time in net.

Impact Player: Gaudette was a player that impressed at the prep level, but he elevated his game to a whole new level in the USHL. He's a complete player who Cedar Rapids used in all situations last year, an impressive feat for a rookie in the top junior league in North America.

Sleeper: Schule, a high-scoring threat as an overager with the Jersey Hitmen in the USPHL last season, is a player that compares favorably to former Huskie Torin Snydeman. He has good puck pursuit, is quick and can chip in a little offensively from the third or fourth liners.

7. Massachusetts

The Minutemen were another beneficiary of some other schools' de-commits, including forwards Austin Plevy (Merrimack), Ryan Badger (Maine) and Joe Widmar (Maine). John Micheletto and his staff are bringing in a total of nine freshmen to bolster the UMass roster.

Swedish defenseman William Lagesson highlights the group of newcomers. The fourth round selection of the Edmonton Oilers will help offset the loss of Brandon Montour, who spent just a semester in Amherst. Buffalo Sabres seventh round pick Ivan Chukarov, Ontario-born Callum Fryer and Carmine Buono are also nice additions to the blue line.

The group of incoming forwards are an older, experienced group of '95s and '94s. Plevy, a former Merrimack commit, is a quick, slippery center. Widmar is a late developer who struggled in his first go-around in the USHL. After some seasoning in the EHL, he had a nice year in Des Moines which led to his de-commitment from Maine. Badger is more of a strong fourth line type who can grind it out. Kurt Keats amassed a ton of points over several years in the MJHL and BCHL.

Impact Player: The Minutemen haven't had a team save percentage above .900 since the 2010-11 season. The UMass staff is hoping freshman Nic Renyard can change that. The Victoria, British Columbia native was the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) MVP, the CJHL Junior A MVP Top Goaltender.

Sleeper: Fryer doesn't come with the fanfare of the two drafted defensemen, but he's a solid prospect who could be a sought after college free agent down the road. He was selected to the CJHL Top Prospects Game in 2015 and participated in this summer's Toronto Maple Leafs Development Camp.

8. UMass Lowell

Under Norm Bazin, the River Hawks haven't been known for tearing it up on the recruiting trail, but one can't really find fault with the results. This year's class is no different in that there aren't any household names, but there are some promising collegiate prospects.

Connor Wilson is a solid playmaker out of the AJHL while Nick Master, another '95, put up decent numbers with Tri-City in the USHL last season. Ryan Dmowski, a former prep star at Gunnery, breaks the mold of older freshmen arriving in Lowell. A '97, he's a legit goal scorer that put up 23 goals in his rookie season in the USHL last year with Des Moines.

UML is hoping to hit gold with another Folin. Niklas, the younger brother of former star college free agent Christian, comes to Lowell from Omaha in the USHL. Avni Berisha and Jacob Townsend are two more '94s who should bring experience to a blue line that relies on executing the system as much as any team in Hockey East.

Lowell's goaltending took a hit last season with the departure of Connor Hellebuyck. Bazin and his staff are bringing in '95 Christoffer Hernberg from Finland and '94 Sean Cleary to push senior Kevin Boyle for time in the crease.

Impact Player: Dmowski had a nice rookie season in the USHL. He's a goal scorer who can impact the game with his strength and skating ability. He could have a similar impact on the score sheet to that of C.J. Smith last season.

Sleepers: The staff is hoping Hernberg or Cleary can push for ice time in goal and help the River Hawks in the save percentage department. Cleary has been successful in summer showcases and committed to UML right after the Chowder Cup Pre-Draft. Hernberg is more of an unknown, but there have been some positive comments about the Finnish-born netminder.

9. Notre Dame

The Irish, victims to several high profile de-commits in recent years, were burnt again in August with the announcement that Christian Fischer would play major junior over NCAA. It put a damper on Jeff Jackson's incoming class, but there are still some solid prospects in the wings in South Bend.

Defensively the Irish bring in two solid prospects from the USHL. Dennis Gilbert is a Buffalo native who is more of a stay-at-home defender while Bobby Nardella, an offensive defenseman, is a Chicago Mission product who starred with Tri-City last year.

Dylan Malmquist is the most well regarded skill player out of the forwards. The Edina, Minn. native put up 26 goals and 40 assists in 25 Minnesota high school games with perennial power Edina last year. Jack Jenkins and Andrew Oglevie had fairly productive USHL careers while Joe Wegwerth is a very solid defensive forward out of the USNTDP.

Impact Player: Nardella is a smaller defenseman, but his skating ability and stick skills should allow him to make an immediate impact for the Irish power play unit as well as the transition game. He's the type of possession defender that ND will need to replace the departed Robbie Russo.

Sleeper: Oglevie put up a point per game in the USHL last season. The '95 doesn't come to South Bend with a lot of fanfare, but he's a former Hlinka player for the U.S. and was a one-time first round draft pick in the USHL. He's a playmaker that could get the puck to Mario Lucia if given up the opportunity.

10. Merrimack

Mark Dennehy and his staff did a nice job finding some players that should fit well into the system in North Andover. The group is highlighted by forward Mathieu Foget, defenseman Ethan Spaxman and goaltender Drew Vogler.

In addition to Foget up front, Michael Babcock joins the Warriors from the Fargo Force. He is the son of former Detroit Red Wings and current Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. Ludvig Larsson will make it a pair of Swedish brothers on the team, joining elder sibling Alfred. The younger Larsson has a little more offensive upside.

Alex Carle, the brother of Denver alum and NHLer Matt, will join Spaxman as rookie defensemen. Carle has battled injuries, but the staff has hopes he can be a steady defender if healthy. Spaxman is a big, mobile defender that was thought to have a chance to be selected in this past June's draft.

Vogler, a '96 was considered at one time to be a potential NHL Draft pick, but his stock slipped and he lost his starting position to North Dakota freshman Matej Tomek. The raw ability is still there and he should challenge Collin Delia for playing time in the Warrior crease.

Impact Player: Foget spent the past two seasons playing for the Gloucester Rangers in the CCHL, the second best Junior A league in Ontario. He's a speedy playmaker that compares favorably to Merrimack sophomore and New Jersey Devils prospect Brett Seney.

Sleeper: Larsson is a player that put up just over a point per game in the NAHL. He's not as big as his brother, but the offensive instincts are a little more pronounced. He's the type of player that can win battles for loose pucks and find open teammates. He should help Merrimack's third line in all three zones.

11. New Hampshire

The Wildcats have a couple of promising prospects, but the lack of an impact defenseman is concerning considering Dick Umile's squad lost Brett Pesce to the Carolina Hurricanes a year after losing Trevor van Riemsdyk, Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta.

San Jose Sharks pick Marcus Vela highlights the group of incoming forwards while former high school star Ara Nazarian is likely coming to Durham a year too soon, but time will tell. The staff is hoping '95s Frankie Cefalu, Jason Kalinowski and Chris Miller can bring some offense as older freshmen.

'96 defenseman Matt Dawson is a British Columbia native who played last season with Green Bay in the USHL.

Impact Player: Vela, a seventh round pick of the Sharks, comes to Durham from the Langley Rivermen in the BCHL. He's an elite offensive talent that should be a great collegiate forward. As skilled as he is, he brings a lunch pail attitude to the ice and has strong hockey sense.

Sleeper: Nazarian is a proven winner who helped Malden Catholic to three straight Massachusetts Super 8 titles. He didn't put up the numbers he's accustomed to in his first USHL season, but he's a skill player that could thrive on the big ice surface of the Whittemore Center.

12. Maine

Red Gendron and his staff have made a concerted effort to improve the blue line and add size across the board. Ben Guite has done a nice job adding some more high-end players for future classes, but this class is more of the lunch pail variety.

This year will be tough sledding for the Black Bears, but the team should be better defensively. Maine is bringing in four rookie blue liners who average 6'2.5". Rob Michel and Sam Becker are '94s with plenty of experience while Keith Muehlbauer is straight out of Minnesota high school. Stephen Cochrane comes to Orono from Bay State in the USPHL after prep hockey with Thayer.

Dan Perez, Justin Rai, Dane Gibson and Brendan Robbins are '95s and '94s that the staff are hoping can develop late and have a positive impact. Gibson was named a First Team All-Star in the BCHL last season.

Impact Player: Cochrane is a big-bodied blue liner who is working on improving his footwork, which has admittedly gotten better. He'll never be known for being smooth of foot, but he should bring some much needed physicality and toughness to the Maine defense. The Black Bears have had some good offensive defensemen the past few years, but have been missing an intimidating presence.

Sleeper: Goaltender Rob McGovern also comes to Orono from Bay State in the USPHL after a stellar career at Thayer. He was once considered a prospect to get drafted, but he had his ups and downs and went undrafted. He's big and covers a lot of net. If he plays to the level some thought he could a few years ago, he could make a world of difference.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.