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15 Need-To-Know College Hockey Names for the 2015 NHL Draft

The 2015 draft is supposed to be a good one. It’s heavily hyped up, because not only are 1 and 2 contested by North American prospects Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) and Jack Eichel (BU), but because there are two potentially generational talents on defense in Oliver Kylington (Färjestad) and Noah Hanifin (Boston College) that are themselves bolstered by a slew of talented ‘second tier’ forwards led by another Boston College recruit in Nobles product Colin White, who we suspect will end up as a prospect that could have gone in the top three or higher in this 2014 class. We’ll track how these prospects perform over the course of the year, but consider this our preliminary identification of the top NCAA talents for this coming draft.

1. 96 F Jack Eichel – Boston University

One of the most highly regarded American prospects in recent history and a potential franchise center at the NHL level, Eichel enters a draft year with more scrutiny than most NCAA prospects have ever seen before. Connor McDavid will likely further establish his dominance within the OHL and look to hit the century-mark point total in juniors, while being compared side-by-side to Eichel, skating in his first games as a Terrier before his 18th birthday.

2. 97 D Noah Hanifin – NTDP U18/Boston College

Player Feature – USA Hockey

The 6’2, 201 lb defender from Norwood, Mass, has been playing at an elite level for a long-time and this draft year is a big opportunity for Hanifin to further show and prove to the world what many in North America have been seeing for a while.

3. 97 F Colin White – NTDP U18 – Boston College

The latest professional prospect out of Dedham, Mass prep hockey power Noble and Greenough is a skilled forward threat, effective in all three zones and continues to exceed any and all offensive expectations set upon him.

4. 97 D Nick Boka – NTDP U18 – Michigan

The Michigan recruit has an aggressive, athletic upside that could come on very strong in his draft year. Wins battles in the tough areas of the ice and can provide puck support. We like Werenski’s total skillset more right now, but Boka could easily emerge as the best American talent on the blue line in this draft behind Hanifin.

5. 97 D Zach Werenski – Undecided

Well-framed, mobile defenseman takes care of the puck and stands his ground in his own end. One of the more well-rounded defense prospects to come out of the states in a while. Currently our top uncommitted prospect in North America.

6. 96 F Kyle Connor – Youngstown Phantoms – Michigan

Another late 1996 (December 9th), Connor came on thoroughly strong in the goal-scoring (31 in 56 games) department to pace the Phantoms, despite starting this season – his second in the USHL – as a 16-year-old. Joined the NTDP for parts and was very productive there as well. The Wolverine recruit also kept pace with Jack Eichel, Sonny Milano and top 2016 draft prospect Auston Matthews at U18s.

7. 97 F Jordan Greenway – NTDP U18 – Boston University

A Shattuck-St. Mary’s product by way of northern New York state, Greenway is a rising power forward threat with a major 6’4 frame and the skill to take over games when it’s combined with his top tier athleticism.

8. 96 F AJ Greer – Boston University

We can confirm the Quebec-born hockey star from Kimball Union will be making an appearance on BU’s roster this fall – and he could figure into a big way this season as he and Eichel will work to solidify their draft positions in the first round. An offense-driving power forward who gets dangerous pucks on net with alarming regularity – at 6’3 and well over 200 lbs, the Terriers get a younger player on campus in Greer, but they certainly won’t lack for size.

9. 97 F David Cotton – Cushing Academy – Boston College

A high-end, big bodied forward from Parker, Texas by way of the Colorado Thunderbirds program seemed like a natural NTDP target, in retrospect. He’ll return to Cushing this season for another year of prep hockey alongside his linemates, draft eligible Bailey Conger and Jake Simons.

10. 97 F Tom Novak – Waterloo Black Hawks – Minnesota

Brings elite poise to the ice when he takes command of the puck, and makes a lot of heady plays to keep the offense in motion. Has proven his goal-scorers pedigree but at times, defenders in Minnesota high school could seem borderline jaw-struck by his skill – the USHL transition will be a fundamental factor in his projection by NHL eyes. He’s proven he can come up big in pressure situations, but how often he thrives in tighter spaces may become more of a factor.

11. 95 F Tyler Sheehy – Waterloo Black Hawks – Minnesota

He was a man on the mission in the Elite League this fall and he took his tools to the USHL and produced majorly there, too. We’ve learned not to bet against Sheehy, who will return to the USHL and suspect he will garner a mid-to-high round draft selection in 2015 before heading back to his home state.

12. 96 F Cameron Hughes – Wisconsin

A lot of attention will be on Eichel and Greer on Commonwealth Ave, potentially Hanifin and Werenski in the NCAA as well – but Hughes, born in October of 1996, has been confirmed as a true freshman in Madison for quite a while now and his playmaking skills may experience a beneficial baptism by fire on a roster with some ice time to take advantage of.

13. 97 F Jeremy Bracco – NTDP U18 – Boston College

A shifty, highly-skilled forward with extremely refined puck abilities and vision. Will the NHL be able to look past the NTDP’s leading scorer’s (54 assists) diminutive frame for his creativity and dynamic, constantly-in-motion play? We think so, but we’re still not convinced on a pro upside regardless of production, so a mid-round pick seems in the cards early.

14. 97 F Wade Allison – Tri-City Storm – Western Michigan

Tendered to Tri-City of the USHL this fall, the Omaha U16 star (of Myrtle, Manitoba) could come on extremely strong in the league if he can find his way anywhere near the kind of totals he dropped in 2013-14: The Canadian forward tallied 75-77-152 in 77 games this season. If he does, we’d be surprised to see him available after the fourth round with the kind of athletic, offensive tools Allison will be working on over his NCAA career.

Allison celebrates one of his 70+ goals this season

15. 96 D Jack McNeely – Lakeville North HS – Nebraska-Omaha

If last year’s Minnesota draft surprise-riser was eventual NTDP U18 team invite Jack Dougherty, then McNeely, a 6’3, late-1996 born skater for the state high school finalists, is likely this year’s edition. McNeely too has quickly become a known commodity, committing after a very strong second half and the conclusion of his high school season – to Nebraska-Omaha – who have last year’s top MN high school hockey ‘D’ prospect in Luc Snuggerud on-board, as well as a number of other strong MN high school talents. In fact, past WHL-bound bruiser Nick Heid, and Edina talent Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Minnesota), this is a pretty thin year on the back-end for the state of hockey, so McNeely should attract a lot of eyes. 2016 – the 1998s – appears to be “the big year” at all positions for Minnesota.

Keep an eye out this week for our (pre) pre-season watchlist for the 2015 draft, past these 15.

Jasper Kozak-Miller

Jasper covers college hockey recruiting and directs scouting operations at OTB. He is also a columnist for Minnesota Hockey Magazine. You can find him on Twitter as @JasperKozak or @OTBPuckWatch.

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