This is my first NCAA ramblings of the year, I have not had an opportunity to take in too many games this season so far but I am looking forward to giving everyone the low down on the top prospects in the NCAA. My keeper league team is called Cawlidge Hawkey mostly as an ode to Jack O’Callahan and John Buccigross. However, I have always had an infinity to the NCAA and hope one day the access in Canada continues to grow, until then there will be some gems in your draft always available for those who don’t follow along… or read Dobber articles keeping you in the know.
Kent Johnson – C – Michigan Wolverines (Columbus Blue Jackets, 5th overall, 2021) & Michigan crew notes
The Michigan hockey team will be one of two things: either it will be an assembly of first-round talent on one NCAA team that rivals even the OHL’s London Knights or the USNDTP of 2019 or it will be a trend of recruiting in which we will see those choosing the NCAA route trying to recreate the same depth and development this team produces. Last year Kent Johnson was the last of the core four (also: Power, Beniers, Hughes) however Corey Pronman said recently on The Athletic Hockey Show that he is the line driver this year. Last year, in their draft year, it was Beniers that was the driver and he played at a level that had him drafted second overall. Johnson, to Pronman’s assessment, is the straw that stirs the drink this year. This is encouraging for those that read about or witnessed Johnson’s flashes of video game-like creativity and playmaking and drafted him in their keeper leagues. He is following up 27 points in 26 games with 14 in 10 games so far this season. He is a dynamic talent that should continue to impress the Wolverines this year and will have a chance to shine for Canada at the World Juniors.
I won’t write too much into detail on Michigan because Hadi wrote a great piece already and you should read it. I will however add this little tweet for you Owen Power doubters
Matthew Knies – C/LW – Minnesota Golden Gophers (Toronto Maple Leafs, 57th overall, 2021) – 10GP – 4G- 3A – 7P
Coming off a 44 point in 42 game campaign season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, Knies has made the jump to NCAA and his production has hardly faltered for it. He admitted to Josh Klokke of The Athletic that there was a noticeable difference in pace and intensity at the next level but with a two-goal debut he feels better about his ability to compete. Knies already carries a heavy shot and strong compete level that allows him to be effective on both sides of the puck. What I love about players like that is that they will do a lot for themselves and don’t rely on the work of teammates as much to create. Knies’ goals for the season is to lead his team in shots, be relied upon in every role and be a leader who is responsible and encouraging signs of a player understanding value and dedication to the development
Chaz Lucius – C – Minnesota Golden Gophers (Winnipeg Jets, 18th overall, 2021) 6GP – 1G – 2A- 3P
Lucius is following up 38 points split over 25 games between USNTDP and US national U18 team. Lucius is an effective distributor int he offensive zone who has been described as both a threat and high octane offensively. These are the types of notes that should raise an eyebrow and have you keeping an eye for fantasy. However Minnesota’s coach Billy Hengen told Scott Wheeler of The Athletic “I think he’s like God’s gift to the Earth. No bullshit, no coach speak, his mindset is on another planet. He’s not human. I’ve never seen it. He’s the Tom Brady of 17-year-olds,” Hengen said. “As a coach, you’re like ‘whoa, maybe I should be doing what he’s doing” which is unbelievable praise for a 17-year-old and when you see that type of mindset and prowess compared with superlatives like high octane the expectations should be high
Jake Sanderson – D – North Dakota Fighting Hawks (Ottawa Senators, 5th overall, 2020) 9GP- 3G-6A-9P
Sanderson is one who I thought might make the jump with fellow North Dakota player Shane Pinto. The Senators are claiming they are coming out of a rebuild so typically that isn’t when you audition rookie defence-man I guess but I would think playing Thomas Chabot close to 30 minutes a night surrounded by a periphery of average defence-man might not be a better solution. However Sanderson putting up a point per game with North Dakota and enjoying another year in the NCAA might be what’s best for his development. Sanderson should play in all situations and rival Chabot for a claim to top power-play minutes once he has made his claim to an NHL roster spot.
Justin Ertel – LW – Cornell Big Red (Dallas Stars, 79th overall, 2021) 3GP – 0G -0A – 0P
Ertel lit up St Andrew’s college and captained them in his final days there. He then scored 28 points in 18 games for Summerside Western of the MJAHL. When the Stars took him at 79th overall there was some positive reviews about his game with a solid frame on him for a 17 year old at 6’2 187 Ibs. He hasn’t exactly started with a splash so far at Cornell (ever heard of it?) with zero points in his first three games. Dallas is in no rush to move him up the ranks with a plethora of players in Texas who are developing towards making the jump to middle six roles. It will be interesting to see how he makes out for the remainder of the season but there’s no real sign of concern just yet when a third-round pick hasn’t blown the doors off after his first three games as a rookie in the NCAA.
Carter Savoie – LW – Denver Pioneers (Edmonton Oilers, 100th overall, 2020) 8GP -6G – 6A – 12P
Savoie was great value for the Oilers at 100th overall in 2020 considering his impressive scoring talent. He is considered undersized at 5’9, doesn’t play a premium position like Centre and had a unique development route of the CCSHL to the AJHL. All of these “knocks” against him have led to him falling to 100th overall and Denver landing him to help create a strong squad. In his first season with Denver, he scored 20 points in 24 games. He’s following that up this season with 12 points in eight games so far putting him on pace for over a point per game. He’s known for deception, skill and IQ to his game that are all translatable skills. With Ty Tullio in the fifth round and Dylan Holloway later in the first round, Edmonton has been finding great value in the draft
Bobby Brink – RW – Denver Pioneers (Philadelphia Flyers, 34th overall, 2019) 8GP – 3G – 6A – 9P
Brink became a bit more of a common name after a strong performance at the 2020 World Juniors helping a strong cast to upset Canada and win Gold for the United States. Brink reads the game very well and is a victim of a deep depth chart at forward in Philadelphia. He is in his third season in the NCAA and should be able to start cracking that lineup as early as next season. In the meantime seeing him piece together a truly dominant season with a good supporting cast in Denver would be an encouraging sign of someone who needs to be in the NHL. He reads the game well and plays a good periphery game that doesn’t always show up on the scoresheet but having him improve on 11 points in 15 games last season to over a point per game effort would be what we need to see to consider drafting him. Nine points in eight games this year is a good trend to doing so.
These are just a few of the great players in the NCAA this season, follow along as I update prospects who are lighting it up (or not) in the NCAA this season and let’s hope we all make out with a few gems in our drafts at the end of the year with some beauties from Cawlidge Hawkey.
@mikekosciesza on Twitter