Hockey: Top 50(!) Recruits Nationwide
Some guidelines: this is '05 college hockey recruits only. You don't have to be draft eligible. You can't be an '06 recruit. Players are ranked based on projected college hockey performance, not their NHL prospects. The upshot of that is that tiny fast guys who figure to score in bunches in college but get drafted in the 5th round by the NHL rate higher here than in NHL draft lists. I didn't attempt to rank goalies.
Check out a team and league breakdown of the list here.
A disclaimer: I have seen the NDTP guys a few times. I have not seen anyone else, except Brian Lee very briefly at the WJC. I am trying to bring together information from outside sources into a coherent whole. IANAS. (I Am Not A Scout.)
Factors considered: scouting reports from Kyle Woodlief, ISS, and USHR (the free variety of all). Message board flaming from USCHO. Scouting reports from knowledgeable people on Hockey's Future's forums. Personal observation of the NTDP. Bob Miller's opinion (tbarr on The Wolverine). Statistics. Quality of the league those statistics are garnered in. OHL draft position if available. NHL draft projections (CSB idiocy excepted). Relative youth of the participants... younger is always better. Chris Heisenberg's approximate ratings. How hot and heavy big-time schools were after a recruit. WesternCollegeHockey's lists for WCHA and CCHA schools. And, finally, how funny someone's name is.
One final note: the relative lack of information about junior hockey players and the near-futility of comparing players across vastly different leagues makes it very difficult to precisely rank players past about the top twenty. As such, the players ranked from 31-50 are placed in three bands of ten.
Feedback is welcome... this is most definitely a work in progress.
List update: Added Mason Raymond (31-40 range) and Chris Butler (21-30 range). Moved Andrew Kozek to 20. Flipped Chad Rau and Justin Abdelkader (11 and 12). Bumped Mike Karowksi and Jimmy Fraser out of the list. Bumped a few players down to make room, most prominently Swystun from 20 to the 31-40 range. Added Troy Schwab to the 41-50 range, replacing Chris Hahn after an LSSU fan convinced me he was the superior SJHL prospect.
1. F Phil Kessel - USNTDP - Minnesota
Why? Kessel is the most hyped American prospect since Mike Modano, and with good reason. At 17, he was the USA's best player at the World Junior Championships. He averaged almost two points a game with the NTDP. He's the odds on favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. Beware of Gopher.
Could be lower because... he's not a four year player. There's no other argument against him. Okay, maybe he doesn't play much defense. But who cares?
2. D Jack Johnson - USNTDP - Michigan
Why? Johnson is a cross between Rob Blake and a PCP-crazed Godzilla, equally adept with and without the puck and liable to crush an opponent to tiny bits at any time. He may go #2 behind superphenom Sydney Crosby in this year's draft.
Could be higher because... Johnson will have more impact on both ends of the ice than Kessel.
Could be lower because... he will have to adjust to the higher quality of his opponents and rein in his headhunting a bit. Right now he's a little too much of a wildman.
3. F Jonathan Toews - Shattuck-St. Mary's - North Dakota
Why? Toews was the first pick in the '04 WHL draft and is projected to be a top-ten selection in the '06 NHL draft. He led uber-prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's in scoring as an early '88. Toews will have an immediate impact on the Sioux.
Could be higher because... there isn't really a good reason. Nothing against Toews, that's just how good Johnson and Kessel are.
Could be lower because... Cogliano's wheels may make him a better collegian. No one else can make a case for #3, though.
4. F Andrew Cogliano - St. Michael's Buzzers (OPJHL) - Michigan
Why? Cogliano's been destroying overmatched competition in Ontario Junior B for the last two years, patiently waiting to get to Michigan where he can do likewise to equally overmatched CCHA competition. Cogs recieved some early hype as a potential top-10 selection himself, despite being well under six feet tall, and has settled in as a likely late first rounder. Cogliano has speed to burn, "Bure-like" speed according to one knowledgeable scout, and hands to match.
Could be higher because... he is the best skater of anyone entering college this year by a wide margin. He'll be an immediate hit in Red Berenson's wide open attack.
Could be lower because... the OPJHL is not nearly as tough as the USHL or the schedule the NTDP tackles. Cogliano will be making a bigger leap from juniors to college than anyone else in the top ten.
5. F Jack Skille - USNTDP - Wisconsin
Why? Skille is a rare combination of size, ornery disposition, and sugar-sweet hands. He averaged almost a point per game with the NTDP this year and will be off the board at the NHL draft by the mid first round.
Could be higher because... Skille's a more physical player than any of the forwards in front of him. If he can score at a similar rate, his off-the-puck contributions would make him a better player.
Could be lower because... impact players in the WCHA are usually little offensive dynamos (or, in the case of Thomas Vanek, big offensive dynamos who play little). If the NCAA continues its crackdown on interference Skille may find himself in the penalty box more often than Wisconsin would like.
6. F Brock Bradford - Omaha Lancers (USHL) - Boston College
Why? Bradford is a diminutive scoring machine out of Western Canada headed to BC next year who looks to be a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick despite his size. Dan Bertram is his friend and apparent clone. Bertram, if you didn't notice, did all right at BC this year at exactly the same age as Bradford (i.e., young).
Could be higher because... has played out of his mind in short bursts, particularly upon his arrival in the USHL. Even though the USHL is a much tougher league than his previous home, the BCHL, Bradford burst out of the gates with 19 points in his first twelve games.
Could be lower because... Bradford's USHL resume is only fractionally more impressive than Wheeler's and he tailed off after that absolutely scorching start to the season.
7. F Blake Wheeler - Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) - Minnesota
Why? Wayne Gretzky shocked just about everybody when he made Wheeler the 5th selection of the 2004 NHL draft. Wheeler was regarded as an early second round pick, maybe a late-first, but the fact that he is 6'4" and not an idiot with the puck on his stick sold Wayne. Wheel
er was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey in 2004 before heading over to the USHL last year, where he peformed well enough.
Could be higher because... he is 6'4". And Wayne Gretzky reportedly knows something about hockey. Wheeler's top end is as high as anyone entering college hockey this year and he has a better chance of sticking around for four years to realize it than many of the players in front of him.
Could be lower because... Wheeler did not dominate the USHL, ending up tied for 21st in scoring and posting a minus seven. Gretzky reaching for Wheeler may have inflated expectations for him.
8. D Brian Lee - Moorhead HS - North Dakota
Why? Lee may have been added to the WJC team because of politics, but that wasn't the only reason. An NHL team will take him in the first round because his two-way potential is very good. Minnesota's Mr. Hockey usually ends up making noise in college.
Could be higher because... Lee will probably see more icetime from day one with a needy North Dakota squad than most of the forwards in front of him.
Could be lower because... Lee will be making a huge jump from Minnesota high schools to the WCHA. He may need some time to get acclimated.
9. D Brett Motherwell - Omaha (USHL) - BC
Why? Motherwell was named the best defenseman in the best league that acts as an NCAA feeder. He is ready to step in to a collegiate defense right now and capably run a powerplay. He finished second in points by a defenseman in the USHL. His NHL draft stock is hurt by his relative lack of size but that won't be nearly as much of a factor in college.
Could be higher because... Motherwell is as proven as any player in this class after two stellar years in the USHL. His bust factor is almost nil.
Could be lower because... He won't bash anyone's head in and lacks the size to truly dominate in his own end of the rink.
10. D Mark Mitera - USNTDP - Michigan
Why? No college-bound defenseman has improved as much as Mitera has over the past year. Mitera isn't a forward-crushing offensive dynamo like Johnson, but he is huge, mobile, and disciplined.
Could be higher because... Mitera's ceiling is extremely high (he is young enough to be eligible for the 2006 draft), and if he develops at the same pace he has over the past year he will be the second best defenseman in this class.
Could be lower because... Mitera could just be on a temporary streak of good play. He probably isn't better than Niskanen or Fast right now.
|11.||F||Chad Rau||Des Moines (USHL)||Colorado College|
|12.||F||Justin Abdelkader||Cedar Rapids (USHL)||Michigan State|
|13.||D||Matt Niskanen||Virginia HS||MinnesotaDuluth|
|16.||D||Keith Yandle||Cushing Prep||UNH|
|17.||F||Dan Reidel||Lincoln(USHL)||Ferris State|
|18.||D||Zach Jones||USNTDP||North Dakota|
|20.||F||Andrew Kozek||Surrey (BCHL)||North Dakota|
|D||Taylor Chorney||Shattuck St. Mary's||North Dakota|
|F||Brock Trotter||Lincoln (USHL)||Denver|
|F||Tom Gorowsky||Sioux Falls(USHL)||Wisconsin|
|D||Tim Kunes||NE Junior Falcons(EJHL)||BC|
|D||Chris Butler||Sioux City(USHL)||Denver|
|F||Ryan Bellows||Ft Erie (GHJHL)||Dartmouth|
|D||RJ Anderson||Centennial (MNHS)||Minnesota|
|F||Michael Gergen||Shattuck St. Mary's||UMD|
|D||Chris Zarb||Tri City(USHL)||Ferris State|
|F||Tim Kennedy||Sioux City(USHL)||Michigan State|
|F||Matt Watkins||Vernon(BCHL)||North Dakota|
|F||Tyler Swystun||Camrose (AJHL)||Michigan|
|F||Todd McIlrath||Indiana(USHL)||Bowling Green|
|F||Andreas Vlassopoulos||USNTDP||Colorado College|
|F||Benn Ferrerio||Gov. Drummer(NEHS)||BC|
|D||Brandon Gentile||USNTDP||Michigan State|
|F||Jerry Pollastrone||Salisbury Prep(NEHS)||UNH|
|F||Justin Bostrom||Sioux City(USHL)||Minnesota|
|D||Julian Marcuzzi||Salmon Arm(BCHL)||Denver|
|F||Troy Schwab||Kindersly(SJHL)||Lake Superior|
|F||Ryan Angelow||Oakville(OPJHL)||Michigan Tech|