The 50 NCAA players you need to know this season

Ryan Kennedy
Vancouver pick Thatcher Demko (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

It’s gonna be a great year for college hockey. Not only will the usual array of prospects be on display as they build up their games at school, but there is a special bonus: The Fab Five Frosh.

A mixture of late birthdays, incredible skill and tantalizing opportunities have coalesced to produce a class of first-time draft eligible players rarely ever seen before. Who are these incredible teens? Check out the list below.

Along with the Fab Five, you will also find the most intriguing players for this year. My choices are largely based on NHL upside, so you won’t find a ton of upperclassmen, nor free agents. It was tough getting the roster down to 50, but here we go:

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Hockey News
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 51-24-7

Acquisitions: Steve Downie, Taylor Chorney, Christian Ehrhoff, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling

Departures: Lee Stempniak, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk, Matt Niskanen, Chris Conner, Brooks Orpik, Joe Vitale, Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, James Neal

Top five fantasy options: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Once again the Penguins are blessed with two of the best players in the world up front in centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In any given year, both are a threat for the Hart and Art Ross Trophies and provide matchup nightmares for opponents. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

The Hockey News
The Boston Bruins celebrate. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 54-19-9

Acquisitions: None

Departures: Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Andrej Meszaros, Jarome Iginla

Top five fantasy players: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: When you were the NHL’s best team last season and are bringing back every cornerstone of that team, you have every confidence you’re going to enjoy similar success when the next season begins. Read more

Top 10 Hart Trophy candidates for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are again leading candidates to win the Hart. (Getty Images)

The Hart Trophy debate is my favorite of the Great Hockey Debates, largely because nobody knows what the award truly means.

By definition, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for “the player judged to be most valuable to his team.” It’s debatable whether that happens. Last year, it’s safe to say the Penguins would’ve gone nowhere without Sidney Crosby. But was any player more valuable to his team the year before than John Tavares, who almost singlehandedly took the Islanders to the playoffs? He finished third in the vote, with the Hart going to the defensively deficient but offensively potent Alex Ovechkin.

More often that not, the Hart skews toward prolific point totals, so keep in mind that my top 10 Hart candidates for 2014-15 factor in that common bias. Sorry, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: St. Louis Blues

The Hockey News
Jay Bouwmeester, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes and Alex Steen. (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 52-23-7

Acquisitions: Colin Fraser, Peter Mueller, Jeremy Welsh, Nate Prosser, Chris Butler, Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Paul Stastny, Carl Gunnarsson

Departures: Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Taylor Chorney, Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller, Roman Polak, Keith Aucoin, Vladimir Sobotka

Top five fantasy players: Alex Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Blues are as talented and well rounded as any team in the NHL on paper. They roll an excellent top-nine forward group, with two lines good enough to be first lines, whatever combinations emerge between Alexander Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and freshly signed Paul Stastny. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Anaheim Ducks

The Hockey News
The Anaheim Ducks celebrate a goal. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 54-20-8

Acquisitions: Dany Heatley, Jason LaBarbera, Clayton Stoner, Nate Thompson, Ryan Kesler, Louis Leblanc

Departures: Daniel Winnik, Zack Stortini, Jonas Hiller, Mathieu Perreault, Stephane Robidas, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Teemu Selanne

Top five fantasy players: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano, Cam Fowler

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: If GM Bob Murray had to do the trade deadline all over again, he’d have a more secure Plan B in place when his quest for Ryan Kesler fell through. As it unfolded, Murray didn’t give his top two lines any kind of offensive boost. Meanwhile, the rival Los Angeles Kings added Marian Gaborik, who almost singlehandedly sunk the Ducks, with six goals and 10 points in their seven-game second-round series. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

The Hockey News
Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Jamie Sabau/National Hockey League)

2013-14 record: 43-32-7

Acquisitions: Brian Gibbons, Jarry D’Amigo, Scott Hartnell

Departures: Nick Schultz, Jack Skille, Blake Comeau, Matt Frattin, Derek MacKenzie, Nikita Nikitin, R.J. Umberger

Top five fantasy players: Ryan Johansen, Scott Hartnell, James Wisniewski, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Blue Jackets come into the season riding high after getting the franchise’s first playoff wins. Sure, they eventually fell to the Penguins in their first-round clash, but there was a real sense the series could have gone either way. That’s a confidence booster. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Hockey News
Steven Stamkos with Valtteri Filppula. (Photo by Rob Marczynski/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 46-27-9

Acquisitions: Brenden Morrow, Matt Corrente, Evgeni Nabokov, Brian Boyle, Mike Blunden, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison

Departures: Ryan Malone, Tom Pyatt, Cedrick Desjardins, Anders Lindback, Mike Kostka, Keith Aulie, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Nate Thompson, Teddy Purcell, B.J. Crombeen

Top five fantasy players: Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: For the first time since 2000, Martin St-Louis won’t be at a Tampa Bay Lightning training camp. But after an off-season that featured serious wheeling and dealing from GM Steve Yzerman, the Bolts aren’t missing their former captain. Read more