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The top 50 NCAA players to watch this season

Ryan Kennedy
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Jimmy Vesey (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

The top 50 NCAA players to watch this season

Ryan Kennedy
By:

Sure, it's going to be a post-Jack Eichel season, but the men's college hockey ranks are still swelling with great NHL prospects. We count down the most intriguing for 2015-16, including some true freshman up for the draft.

I'm strongly considering going top 60 next year. This is the second time I've done a top 50 for the upcoming NCAA season and a lot of very good players didn't make the cut. Such is life, I suppose. What is left is a pretty hardcore collection of prospects from across the NCAA. Rankings and selections are skewed towards NHL potential and overall buzz, so don't be surprised to see more underclassmen than seniors. Let's get to the list, shall we?

1. Zach Werenski, D, Michigan – The Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder must continue his all-around, puck-moving brilliance with the Wolverines losing so much scoring up front.

2. Jimmy Vesey, LW, Harvard – Vesey is going to score a ton for the Crimson again. The Nashville pick will be a favorite for the Hobey Baker. A goal per game is not crazy.

3. Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College – The Eagles will be very good this season and Demko, the Vancouver second-rounder, could drive them to a title if he stays healthy.

4. Kyle Connor, C, Michigan – Speaking of scoring at Michigan, the Winnipeg first-rounder comes in with loads of talent and could really make a splash in Ann Arbor.

5. Alex Tuch, RW, Boston College – He's big, he's got a heavy shot and he's not fun to play against. The Minnesota first-rounder will be a driver for the Eagles.

6. Brock Boeser, RW, North Dakota – The Vancouver first-rounder boasts size, competitiveness and a wicked shot. The freshman will be a great addition in Grand Forks.

7. Kevin Roy, LW, Northeastern – If anyone can battle Vesey for a scoring crown, it's Roy. The Anaheim pick can both score and dish for the Huskies.

8. Colin White, C, Boston College – The Ottawa first-rounder has excellent speed and a tremendous two-way game that will shut down opposing scorers.

9. Nick Schmaltz, C, North Dakota – His brother Jordan is gone to the pros, but Chicago first-rounder Nick will keep the NoDak fans happy with his dazzling skills.

10. Jack Roslovic, RW, Miami – RedHawks fans will love this smart and skilled speedster, who was taken in the first round by Winnipeg this summer.

11. Brandon Hickey, D, Boston U. – The Calgary third-rounder got a lot stronger as a freshman, so look for a big sophomore campaign from the mobile D-man.

12. Danton Heinen, C, Denver – One of the biggest breakout players last year, the Pioneers will rely on the Bruins selection for offense again.

13. Jamie Phillips, G, Michigan Tech – The Huskies were great last year and Phillips, the Winnipeg pick, was a big reason. Big goalie had scintillating numbers.

14. Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston U. – A true freshman and potential 2016 first-rounder, McAvoy is a poised blueliner with great passing vision.

15. Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin – Another first-year draft hopeful, Kunin is an offensive dynamo who will play left wing; something the recovering Badgers sorely need.

16. Max Letunov, LW, UConn – Originally committed to B.U., the Russian Arizona Coyotes prospect is whip-smart and has excellent offensive skills.

17. Cal Petersen, G, Notre Dame – Petersen, the Buffalo prospect, had some monster games for the Irish last year and will be a pillar in South Bend once again.

18. Hudson Fasching, RW, Minnesota – The hulking power forward is now Sabres property after a trade with L.A. Look for big production this season.

19. Rob O'Gara, D, Yale – He won a national title with the Bulldogs in 2013 and now the big Boston pick is looking to end his college career on a similar high note.

20. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C, Boston U. – The freshman Bruins pick will get a top-six role to start and his two-way game ensures both responsibility and offense.

21. Ian McCoshen, D, Boston College – The Florida pick will be crucial with Noah Hanifin and Michael Matheson gone. McCoshen is smart and physical back there.

22. Jake Walman, D, Providence College – He helped the Friars to a title as a freshman, now the puckmover returns for more. Walman is a St. Louis pick.

23. J.T. Compher, LW, Michigan – The Colorado prospect (via Sabres trade) will be a leader for the Wolverines, who need that and his grit to get back to the national stage.

24. Taylor Cammarata, C, Minnesota – Small, but absolutely deadly as a playmaker for the Gophers, Cammarata is a New York Islanders pick with lots of skill.

25. Dakota Joshua, C, Ohio State – Tenacious, quick and skilled, the Toronto selection will be a key addition to an Ohio State team that needs an infusion of talent.

26. Erik Foley, LW, Providence College – I love Foley's motor and grit. Would have had the Winnipeg pick higher, but he starts the season on the shelf after a high hit in pre-season.

27. Ryan Collins, D, Minnesota – At 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, the Columbus pick will only get better as he matures and his all-around game really takes hold.

28. Jeremy Bracco, RW, Boston College – A dazzling offensive performer thanks to his hands and quickness, the Toronto pick will be a great addition to the Eagles.

29. A.J. Greer, LW, Boston U. – The power forward potential really came out in the Frozen Four, so look for more big growth from the Colorado pick in his sophomore campaign.

30. Ryan Donato, C, Harvard – Incredible hands and 1-on-1 skills are this Boston pick's calling cards. He'll play for his dad, Ted, with the Crimson.

31. Paul LaDue, D, North Dakota – The big, offense-leaning blueliner brings the most returning points to NoDak's blueline corps. He's a Los Angeles prospect.

32. Will Borgen, D, St. Cloud State – A gifted skater who also has some grit to his game, Borgen is a Buffalo selection and former Minnesota high school star.

33. Jordan Greenway, LW, Boston U. – The hulking power forward will likely be bottom-six as a frosh, but the Minnesota pick will not be fun to play against wherever he ends up.

34. John Hayden, C, Yale – The big, powerful Chicago prospect plays an aggressive game and gets his points on the regular.

35. Tage Thompson, C, UConn – A third true freshman who is up for the 2016 draft, Thompson is quick for a 6-foot-5 kid and has great anticipation.

36. Matheson Iacopelli, LW, Western Michigan – A great scorer in the USHL thanks to his size and shot, the Chicago pick now moves on to Kalamazoo.

37. William Lagesson, D, UMass – The Minutemen get a big, nasty Swedish defenseman in this Edmonton choice, who played at the world juniors last year.

38. Teddy Blueger, C, MSU-Mankato – The Mavs will be dangerous once again and Blueger, the toolsy Latvian and Pittsburgh selection, will play a big role.

39. Warren Foegele, C, New Hampshire – It was all about potential when Carolina took the big and fast kid; now the Wildcats need his offense to continue climbing.

40. Matej Tomek, G, North Dakota – The Philadelphia pick is battling a minor injury, but the Slovakian national will be key for UND once he gets into the lineup.

41. Blaine Byron, C, Maine – Already an offensive threat for the Black Bears, the Pittsburgh prospect must step up with Devin Shore and Ben Hutton gone.

42. Mackenzie MacEachern, LW, Michigan State – Great size and scoring prowess are the signatures of this St. Louis pick. He's the Spartans' top returning scorer.

43. Zach Nagelvoort, G, Michigan – It's pretty simple: if this Edmonton prospect doesn't recover from last year's drop in performance, the Wolverines will be sunk again.

44. Matt Jurusik, G, Wisconsin – The Badgers had to scramble when recruit Luke Opilka went to the OHL, so Jurusik, undrafted this summer, will be pressed into service.

45. Troy Josephs, C, Clarkson – A gritty two-way center who was drafted by Pittsburgh, Josephs had a big offensive jump last season. Can he continue the ascent?

46. Dennis Gilbert, D, Notre Dame – Big, mobile and capable of putting up numbers from the blueline, Gilbert is a Chicago prospect coming in to his freshman year.

47. Mark Friedman, D, Bowling Green – The offensively-inclined D-man came as advertised last season for a strong Falcons squad. He's a Philadelphia pick.

48. Sean Kuraly, C, Miami – The Boston prospect (via trade with San Jose) is a two-way forward who needs to up his production for the RedHawks.

49. Brett Seney, LW, Merrimack – Undersized but very dangerous in the offensive zone, the New Jersey selection led the Warriors in scoring as a freshman.

50. Teemu Kivihalme, D, Colorado College – The Tigers will likely struggle and need this offensive D-man even more with Jaccob Slavin gone. He's a Nashville pick.

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The top 50 NCAA players to watch this season