It is tough to rank college hockey recruiting classes because unlike football, the size of the classes vary so much. One thing is clear in this year's Hockey East recruiting. Boston College has far and away the best class. Head coach Jerry York brought in talented players at every position.
Boston University had a strong recruiting class as well. Northeastern coach Jim Madigan has five freshmen forwards who are exceptional recruits, but the Huskies lose some points for not addressing their goaltending position.
The classes outside of the top three might not have as many high-end players stepping on campus, but each team has at least one player that stands out. It was very hard to rank the classes after the top three.
1. Boston College
The freshman class BC coach Jerry York brought into Chestnut Hill is one of the best ever. It is simply loaded with high-end talent. Austin Cangelosi, Adam Gilmour, Ryan Fitzgerald, Chris Calnan and Evan Richardson are all absolute blue chippers up front. NHL Draft picks Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini highlight the incoming defensemen. Thatcher Demko from the US National Team Development Program is one of the top ranked goaltenders for the 2014 NHL Draft. As the phrase goes, the rich keep getting richer in Hockey East.
"[The large class] is something we needed with [Brian] Dumoulin and [Chris] Kreider leaving early. They would have been seniors plus we lost six seniors so we lost eight guys. I think this class has a chance to be very, very good," said York.
2. Boston University
The Terriers freshman class is very strong. Robbie Baillargeon, an Ottawa Senators prospect, had an extremely good season for Omaha in the USHL last year. The key commitment in this class might be former Maine recruit Nick Roberto who lit up the prep school ranks at Kimball Union last season. BU brings in three new defensemen who will have the luxury of working with new head coach David Quinn, a defensive guru.
Head coach Jim Madigan had a good recruiting class as well, but it lacks one urgent requirement that the Huskies needed to address. Northeastern has a very uncertain goaltending outlook, and no rookie was brought in to possibly stand between the pipes at Matthews Arena. However, Michael Szmatula, Zach Aston-Reese and Dalen Hedges are three forwards who could have an immediate impact in the scoring department.
"I saw Mike Szmatula all last year [in juniors]. Now watching him play on campus the last two weeks, there's a reason he was the leading goal scorer in the USHL. He plays the game fast, plays up-tempo, and he's good offensively. He's a heck of a player. I expect him to make an impact right away," said Madigan.
"I think we have four or five forwards that contribute to our team. Aston-Reese is a hard-nosed player," said Madigan. He also mentioned Hedges, John Stevens and Nathan Ferriero as players to watch.
The best part of the Friars recruiting class is in the defensive players coach Nate Leaman brought to Providence. Pomfret alum Nick Ellis who played in the USHL with Des Moines last season is a very good goalie who might have to wait his turn behind Jon Gillies, but down the road he'll be an integral part of the program. Defensemen Kyle McKenzie and Anthony Florentino are two excellent prospects that should help shore up the blue line for years to come. Kimball Union alum Niko Rufo is a player who could chip in offensively.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that freshman defenseman Michael Kapla might remind some UML fans of departed captain Chad Ruhwedel. Kapla is an undersized blueliner who can move the puck up ice. Three freshmen forwards, Evan Campbell, Joseph Gambardella and Chris Maniccia, all possess the ability to chip in offensively. The class is small, but it's one with talented players who will step right into Norm Bazin's system.
6. Notre Dame
Vince Hinostroza is the top player in the class for the Fighting Irish. The former Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) star is a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. Jeff Jackson only has five freshmen on the roster due to a large core group returning. Another player to keep an eye on is defenseman Justin Wade out of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
7. New Hampshire
Tyler Kelleher from the US National Team Development Program is the star of this year's class. He is offensively gifted yet very small (5'6"). Matias Cleland is an offensive defenseman while Dylan Maller is more of a stay-at-home type. The wildcard is Collin Bourque who put up huge numbers, but at a very low level last season.
The Black Bears class is remarkably good for all the turmoil that surrounded the Maine program last year. A coaching change followed a dismal season for Orono standards. Blaine Byron, Josh Henke and Brady Campbell could be offensive players to help put more pucks in the net this season. The best player in this class though looks to be defenseman Daniel Renouf.
UVM coach Kevin Sneddon has brought in a good class led by goaltender Michael Santaguida. The Mississauga, Ontario native played prep hockey at Avon Old Farms before heading to the BCHL. Brady Shaw and Mario Puskarich put up big numbers in the BCHL, but as older players. Local product Thomas Forgione could be the underrated player in this class. He had a nice year in Sioux Falls in the USHL last season.
"I think Santaguida can push [sophomore] Brody Hoffman right out of the gate. Santaguida is a smaller goalie in stature than Brody, but he's very technically sound and very competitive. I think we'll see the net shared by a freshman," said Sneddon.
The Warriors only lost two regulars from a team that was in first place as late as February, but fell down the stretch due to an inconsistent offense. The low ranking for this class has less to do with the four players brought in, but due to the coaching staff not bringing in any freshmen with the ability to help the offense immediately. Chris Leblanc, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, and Hampus Gustafsson are nice players, but fit the bill for second or third liners. Merrimack needed to go out and get a scoring threat to help Mike Collins. Defenseman Jonathan Lashyn of Saskatoon is a nice player in the mold of former Warrior Karl Stollery.
"[Leblanc and Gustafsson] are skilled and big-bodied guys. They can play the game. Hopefully they transition quickly. It takes a while to get acclimated to the college game, but hopefully it happens quickly," said Merrimack senior Mike Collins of the two rookie forwards.
Ray Pigozzi, a former Denver recruit, is the prized possession in John Micheletto's first full class as head coach of the Minutemen. Goaltender Alex Wakaluk was the SJHL Player of the Year last season. The Bellevue, Alberta native could come in and push Steven Mastalerz for the top job between the pipes. Brandon Wahlin is the first of two brothers to arrive in Amherst. Younger brother Jake will follow, and is the more highly sought recruit of the pair.
Top 12 Forwards
1. Austin Cangelosi, Boston College
2. Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College
3. Vince Hinostroza, Notre Dame
4. Chris Calnan, Boston College
5. Nick Roberto, Boston University
6. Michael Szmatula, Northeastern
7. Ray Pigozi, UMass-Amherst
8. Evan Richardson, Boston College
9. Robbie Baillargeon, Boston University
10. Tyler Kelleher, New Hampshire
11. Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern
12. Blaine Byron, Maine
Top 6 Defensemen
1. Ian McCoshen, Boston College
2. Steve Santini, Boston College
3. Matias Cleland, New Hampshire
4. Anthony Florentino, Providence
5. Daniel Renouf, Maine
6. Jonathan Lashyn, Merrimack
Top 3 Goaltenders
1. Thatcher Demko, Boston College
2. Nick Ellis, Providence
3. Michael Santaguida, Vermont
Remember these class and player rankings are solely based on college potential. It does not take into account NHL success down the road.
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.