The Journey: NCAA Hockey Championships 2016
The Journey looks into the top NCAA prospects you should be watching over the next couple weeks.
Brock Boeser, Drake Caggiula & Nick Schmaltz – University of North Dakota
Known affectionately as the “CBS” line, Boeser (VAN, 23rd Overall – 2015) Schmaltz (CHI, 20th Overall – 2015) and Caggiula (UDFA) have scored 38% of North Dakota’s goals on the season, and have accounted for 36% of the team points.
Boeser is second among NCAA freshman in scoring behind only Michigan star Kyle Connor (more on him later), leading the Fighting Hawks in scoring with 51 points in 38 games. Schmaltz, one of the top prospects in the Blackhawks system, has followed up on his solid freshman season with an even better sophomore campaign. He has 32 assists on the season acting as the playmaker on the line. Caggiula will be one of the most sought after undrafted free agents once North Dakota’s season is complete. He has increased his point total in each of his four seasons in Grand Forks.
Kyle Connor, J.T. Compher & Tyler Motte – University of Michigan
The Wolverines are a team that boasts 12 drafted players. Three of those players make up the “CCM” line that has posted a whopping 183 points in 36 games. Led by Connor, the NCAA’s leading scorer, Michigan averages 4.89 goals per game, and scored an NCAA most 176 goals this season.
Connor will likely be a one and done, and could push for an NHL roster spot next year with Winnipeg. Compher, a junior has nothing left to prove in college hockey outside of an NCAA Championship, and no one would be surprised to see him start his professional career in the Avalanche organization after this year. Motte, although less highly touted then his linemates, has had a great season with 54 points in 36 games, and will need to make a decision on whether to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season.
Anders Bjork – University of Notre Dame
Of the six teams from Hockey East that made the NCAA Hockey Championships, the Fighting Irish were the lowest scoring. Bjork was one the teams two leading scorers, who along with Montreal prospect Jake Evans put up 33 points on the year. The former fifth round pick averaged near a point per game, with a third of those points coming on the power-play. On a team who only scored 113 goals, Bjork was a plus-27 on the season. The Fighting Irish are a team to watch for next season, as six of their top 10 scorers are either freshmen or sophomores.
Mark Jankowski & John Gilmour – Providence College
Both Calgary Flames draftees, Jankowski and Gilmour will be two of the most important players if Providence is to repeat in 2016. Jankowski is the Friars leading scorer, leading the team in both goals (15) and assists (25). The All-Hockey East First Team selection is a rare first round pick that decided to play out his full four-year college career.
Gilmour has been a valuable cog in the Providence blueline all season, but his importance to the team has been ramped up after the news of Jake Walman being shut down for the season. Gilmour’s 23 points were second to only Walman over the course of the season, and his 16 power-play points lead the team.
Andy Welinski – University of Minnesota Duluth
The Bulldogs are an upperclassmen laden team and could be a tough out as a four seed. As one of the lowest scoring teams in the NCAA Championships, UMD will rely on their defense if they are going to advance past their first game with Providence. A 2011 third round draft pick of Anaheim, Welinski has been the senior leader on a stout blueline this season. He has played in all 38 games, scoring six goals and adding 13 assists.
*Update – Duluth did indeed rely on their defense on Friday night, defeating Providence 2-1 in double overtime*
Thatcher Demko & Colin White – Boston College
Demko and White, both top-40 draft picks in their respective draft years, must play their best hockey in order for the Eagles to win their sixth NCAA Championship. Demko (VAN, 36th Overall – 2014) has had a terrific season, with 25 wins, a 1.87 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Harvard presents a tough challenge, as a veteran team scoring an average of 3.48 goals per game.
White (OTT, 21st Overall – 2015) led the Eagles in points per game at 1.21, and was the team’s second leading scorer behind Boston draftee Ryan Fitzgerald as a freshman. He could be the breakout offensive star that the Eagles were lacking with their regional exit last season.
Jimmy Vesey – Harvard University
Vesey, a Massachusetts native, has had a phenomenal three-year career for the Crimson with 144 points in 127 games. The Nashville third round draft pick in 2012 has been named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the NCAA’s Top Collegiate player the last two seasons. Depending how long Harvard lasts in the tournament, Vesey could be a player who could help the Predators scoring depth down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Sam Anas – Quinnipiac University
An undersized, junior forward with loads of offensive skill, Anas has lead the Bobcats in scoring for all three of his seasons at Quinnipiac. With the recent NHL success of undersized, offensively talented forwards, the Maryland native will have many suitors after this season looking to sign the undrafted free agent. Anas was the team leader in most offensive categories this season, including goals (23), assists (25), points (48) and power-play points (23). The Bulldogs will be reliant on the juniors scoring to reach the Frozen Four.
Joe Snively & Alex Lyon – Yale University
Yale has made their second straight NCAA Championship on the back of Alex Lyon, who has put together back to back stellar seasons for the Bulldogs. Improving on his 1.61 GAA last season with a 1.59 GAA this campaign, Lyon leads the NCAA’s in GAA and SV% (.938%). As Lyon goes, so go the Yale Bulldogs.
Snively, an undrafted forward who delayed enrolling at Yale for an extra season in the USHL has been worth the wait. The 20 year-old freshman led the Bulldogs with 28 points in 31 games, and had a hand in a third of the goals that the team scored this season.
Kalle Kossila – St. Cloud State University
Yet another undrafted free agent that will be a sought after commodity once St. Cloud’s season is complete. Kossila is a French-born Finnish prospect that could be a steal for whatever NHL team can get his signature. A solid two-way forward, Kossila is a playmaker first and has the unique ability to make his linemates better. St. Cloud State had the second most potent offense among NCAA teams this season, scoring 171 goals, and the creative pivot has been a big reason why. Kossila has had his best season as a senior, putting up 52 points in 40 games.
Will Butcher – Denver University
A junior defenseman and 2013 fifth round draft pick of Colorado, Will Butcher has had a breakout campaign for Denver University this year. Increasing his previous career high point total (18) by 11 points this season, the 5’10” blueliner finished with 29 points in 36 games, good for a tie for fourth among NCAA defensemen. Butcher also led the Pioneers with a plus-22 rating.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – Boston University
Nicknamed “JFK,” Karlsson was a second round pick of the Boston Bruins last season. He has had a successful freshman season tallying 29 points in 38 games. The Swedish center is the Terriers top faceoff man, winning nearly 60% of his 888 draws as a 19 year-old. As he continues to gain more offensive responsibility in the coming seasons, Karlsson’s numbers should continue to grow. If he remains in college, he could be one of the NCAA’s top forwards in the next couple years.
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