This year in the NCAA we are seeing elite blueline production rivalling that of major NHL stars, a renaissance of the Big Ten with good performances from Notre Dame and Ohio State to rival the known strong teams and the making of a lot of good gems to keep your eye on. Here are a few notes from players across the league.
Owen Power – D – Michigan (Buffalo Sabres, 2021, round one, first overall)
The Wolverines are off to a 13-5 start due largely to the calmness Power displays as he dominates with elite awareness on both ends of the puck. He’s thinking the game ahead of his peers at a level that really makes you wonder where he could have been on a slightly overachieving Buffalo Sabres team. Don’t get me wrong this year is best for his development and well, our enjoyment as hockey fans getting to see how a team with seven first-round picks would make out in the NCAA this season. What is most impressive about Power is his skating, especially for a 6-6 player. His footwork and lateral skating as he gains zones with ease are impressive skills to have. Power is currently on an eight-game points streak is plus 13, boasts 23 points in 18 games and leads the team with 21 blocked shots. That screams multicat beast. Not only that but his D+1 is trending on a Superstar pace, especially when you consider Cale Makar was pacing 18 points in as many games in his Hobey Baker winning season.
Nathan Smith – C – Minnesota State (Winnipeg Jets, 2018, round three, 91st overall)
Smith is a really cool story, he’s a Tampa product who hones his skills playing roller hockey in Tampa, Florida and worked his way through the Tampa High School hockey, the USHL and finally top five in scoring in the NCAA as we speak. If I was born in Tampa, Florida I wouldn’t be in a hurry to get to Winnipeg, Manitoba but Smith is surely playing like he’s in a rush. 1.4 points per game as a Senior with 26 points in 18 games and he’s a hot week away from raising his NCAA career total to a point per game with 78 points in his 81 NCAA career games. Smith is a creative pivot with skill and clearly some offensive upside.
Jake Sanderson – D – North Dakota (Ottawa Senators, 2020, round one, fifth overall)
I’ll admit when the chatter around Sanderson or Jamie Drysdale going off the board first was a thing, I thought that it was a mistake to prefer Sanderson to Drysdale and I’m not nearly as confident in that logic now. Drysdale doesn’t have the benefit of tearing up the OHL as he could be right now, so it’s a bit of an unfair comparison as he has been thrown to the Wolves on a thin Anaheim Ducks team and it says something to have stepped into the NHL so young. The thing is, Sanderson is a lot more of a dynamic force on the blue line than I myself and a lot of the pundits would have given credit. Sanderson makes great decisions with the puck and is an efficient distributor because of it finding seams like you would want a fifth overall pick to do. I think Sanderson will be in the NHL next year and won’t look back. Sanderson has 19 points in 15 games this year and is the only defenceman in the top 25 in scoring other than Owen Power (and we know how elite his production is already). Buy stock now in Sanderson before it’s too late because after the World Juniors it might be too late.
Jack McBain – C – Boston College (Minnesota, 2018, third round 63rd overall)
McBain gives something that already has the attention of hockey operations staff across the NHL already, he’s 6’4 205 pounds up and down the middle of the ice every time he steps onto it. The key factor with McBain is if his skating will translate and turn him into a productive middle six Centre in the NHL to warrant a third-round pick. He has already matched last year’s total points through 24 games in the first 14 of this season with 19. McBain has the speed and playmaking skills to be productive and it’s encouraging to see him take another step. It would be good to see if he can keep it up and remain consistent so he can move onto the next challenge which will be the pace of professional hockey.
Josh Doan – RW – Arizona State (Arizona, 2021, second round, 37 overall)
Doan is obviously the son of Coyotes great Shane Doan, so it is easy and probably lazy to assume he didn’t warrant a second-round pick so early on the second day of the 2021 draft with players like Matthew Knies, Sasha Pastujov, Scott Morrow and Logan Stankoven on the board still. However, 18 points in 15 games as a freshman is one way to prove pops and company right. Doan has good height at 6’2 and will need to put on a bit of weight at 170 lbs but to see him finding ways to produce at such a young age and without the extra weight is encouraging for his game. With 32 PIMS already too you get the idea he doesn’t shy away and it raises an eyebrow for multicat leagues. His American World Junior invite was lost in the mail this year so it will be interesting to see if a chip on his shoulder develops or not. There’s a long way to go for a meaningful fantasy play here but it’s good to see development.
I thought it would be fun to note we have a “Michigan” this year already by Jami Kranilla of St Cloud State.
We’re right into the swing of things here and it’s fun to see no clear number one team. There are also a good amount of NCAA standouts highlighting the World Junior tournament, which isn’t exactly unique but it’s always good to see nonetheless because it’s the stage to bring a lot of the top non-CHL talent the chance to make a name. That’s all for this month, see you in the new year.