Getting To Know Some Impact Players from the NCAA Recruitment Period

Hadi Kalakeche

2022-08-10

As of August 1st, 2022 the NCAA recruitment window for the 2006 and late 2005 birth year opened up and programs have been duking it out looking to attract top talent to their schools. As we near closer and closer to the new season, coaches and scouts are looking further into the future in a bid to ensure the long term success of their programs.

Many of these kids just endured a long season and are now playing in showcases to kick off the new one, but NCAA schools are knocking and they are knocking loudly. The newest crop of NCAA Ice Hockey players is beginning to take shape and it’s time to take a deeper dive on some of the names that have been circulating around and learning about what has made them such coveted pieces of the puzzle to some of these programs.

Macklin Celebrini – F – Chicago Steel

There is no better place to start then at the very top — Macklin Celebrini is viewed as not only one of the top players in North America for his age group but as one the top selections in the 2024 NHL Draft. Celebrini followed his brother Aiden this week in committing to the Boston University Terriers for the 2024-2025 season.

The North Vancouver native brings everything you want out of a player to the ice, he excels in the faceoff circle, has great vision and playmaking skills, a lethal shot, and a work ethic to make everything tick. He has tallied 258 points in 102 games over the last two seasons with Shattuck-St. Mary’s playing at the 14U level and then 18U Prep level this year.

Celebrini’s elite skill offensively is undeniable, and certainly enviable, but it’s his ability to perform his defensive duties that really rounds out his game. He is often the first forward to track back and does so with purpose. His ability to anticipate play and proactively get involved makes him such an asset to have on the ice and he is capable of quickly wheeling away or stretching the ice with a tape to tape pass. Celebrini is an incredibly talented player who works as hard as anyone else on the ice; the Terriers are getting a real gem in him.

Sacha Boisvert – F – Muskegon Lumberjacks 

Another high end Canadian talent electing to take the NCAA route over the CHL is Sacha Boisvert. The 12th overall selection in the QMJHL draft signed a tender agreement with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL and has now committed to the University of North Dakota. Boisvert tallied 51 goals in 56 games this past season, demonstrating incredible finishing ability from all over the ice and an ability to play with some extremely talented linemates.

His ability on the puck to create space with creative dekes is one of his biggest strengths and he puts himself in positions to get by players and use his speed and size to ensure it. He is a confident puck carrier with a long reach and above average speed and agility that have allowed him to find success leading rushes up the ice. When possession in the offensive zone has been established he is able to slip away from defenses and find soft spots on the ice where he can receive the puck and utilize his powerful shot.

Boisvert’s impact isn’t just limited to point production as he is an effective forechecker that bears down on the puck carriers with his size and long reach and is capable of breaking up plays before they materialize. North Dakota is a perennial threat and their ability to bring in high end talent to their well respected program is the leading reason why, and securing Boisvert will only help them continue that tradition. 

John Whipple – D – USNTDP U17

The first of two future Golden Gophers that will be touched upon in this article, John Whipple is one of the premier defensemen in the 2006 age group. The Shattuck-St. Mary’s defenseman committed to the University of Minnesota last week and will almost certainly be a cornerstone piece for them during his time there. Whipple is an excellent player and the best thing you can probably pick out from his game is just how consistent he is game in and game out, rarely does he have an off day.

As far as skating ability goes in his age group, Whipple is up there among the best and his defensive mobility is a tough thing to crack as an oncoming attacker. His positional play paired with his skating ability, on ice awareness, and active defensive stick have all led to him being one of the toughest players to get by. Whipple can shut down the middle of the ice and force his man to the outside where he can keep up in a foot race or force them up against the boards and take the body, something that he is not afraid to do.

Whipple’s offensive appeal as a puck carrier and powerplay quarterback are something that the Golden Gophers will undoubtedly appreciate. His puck distribution is one of his many strengths and he has the ability to buy himself as much time as he needs on the puck with his puck handling and skating to evade forecheckers. Whipple dances on the blueline to stretch the defense as thin as possible before making an incisive pass that can hurt them before they have a chance to react. Whipple is a leader from the back end and Minnesota did an excellent job snatching him up as soon as they did. 

Matthew Frost – F – Waterloo Blackhawks

Another high profile name to have committed to a university already is the number one pick in Phase 1 of the USHL Draft, Matthew Frost. Originally from Moose Jaw, Boston College’s latest recruit played last year for South Kent Selects 16U putting up over a point per game. His game is well-rounded and built upon his understanding of what is needed from him at any given moment.

Frost is very aware of play developing around him and he is quick to predict where he needs to get to on the ice to allow play to continue to flow and for a scoring chance to find its way to his stick. He is an excellent skater with great edgework and is able to stop and start at the drop of a hat, he uses this well defensively as well but more so to shift his point of attack on offense. He does his best work down low and shines when he is driving the net off the puck looking to create problems, scoop up loose rebounds, or set up a screen out front.

He knows the limitations to his game and accentuates his strengths by primarily playing to them and allowing the rest to fall into place, a very self-aware thing for someone to be doing at his age. He is a cerebral player and one who knows what it takes from himself to succeed against the opposition, and the BC Eagles will surely be happy with his decision to play for them. 

Beckett Hendrickson – F – USNTDP U18

The second Golden Gopher to feature on the list, Beckett Hendrickson will follow in his father Darby Hendrickson’s footsteps and play for the University of Minnesota. Hendrickson did not have the most productive season with the NTDP U17’s after only racking up 20 points in 52 games, but the team as a whole struggled to produce points.

Hendrickson is a strong defensive presence on the team who excelled in forcing turnovers with his ability to read the offense and act accordingly to put puck carriers in positions where they would forfeit possession. Hendrickson is also a solid shooter that was able to cash in when he fired pucks on net, but he did not do it frequently enough.

He fluctuated between centering the top line and the third line throughout the season which likely played into his inconsistent production, but he showed a consistent ability to shut down the opposition and that’s where most of his value came from. His 200-foot game is his trademark and something that will certainly only grow after his learning experience with the NTDP this past season, and the Golden Gophers are getting a player whose game should translate really well to the NCAA level. 

Will Skahan – D – USNTDP U17

The future Wisconsin Badger defenseman capped off a strong season with St. Thomas Academy by being selected to the NTDP U17 team for the ‘22-’23 season. Will Skahan has been in the spotlight for years now after being part of that dominant 2006 group at Shattuck-St. Mary’s that won 14U Nationals, and even more so that his father is the strength and conditioning coach for the Minnesota Wild.

Skahan is a physically imposing defenseman standing at 6’3” 190lbs and he is willing to use it and throw his weight around to deliver some big checks and stop attacking moves right in their tracks. A steady stay at home defenseman, his stick work is impressive and he is constantly disrupting plays as the opposition attempts to work the puck around the offensive zone. His ability to see the ice so clearly enables him to communicate well with his team and be a vocal leader.

His passing ability is another aspect of his game that is a result of his vision on the ice, and he moves the puck with urgency instead of lingering in possession and providing the opposition with a chance to step in and make a play for the puck. Skahan started this season a little stagnated but made some adjustments and was able to rediscover the game that made him such a highly touted prospect in the first place. Wisconsin is getting a talented blue line anchor that will be able to log plenty of minutes and make a big impact on the ice. 

 

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