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College Hockey Recruiting Class Rankings

Well, the season is just over a month away and with that it’s time to release our College Hockey Recruiting Class Rankings. Like our Select 70, this list has been in the making all season long and weighs a number of factors. The list is just ten schools, but it’s a good amount of reading so I’ll keep the primer short.

The factors weighed were Collegiate Upside, which is fairly self-explanatory, alongside Four-Year Impact, or in other words, propensity to turn pro early. Lastly, but just as important, Positional Needs met or not met were a huge factor in differentiating some classes that would otherwise be too close to call. For example, if a team has one rising senior goaltender who played all the games and no potential starters sitting on the bench or coming the following year, the recruiting class takes a big hit if an adequate replacement isn’t in the class. For every class, I’ve also highlighted a Key Recruit. This is who has the chance to impact the class most with their play, be they inadequate or phenomenal.

Feel free to share your opinion about the rankings with us via Twitter. On with the rankings…

1. Boston College

Key Recruit: 95 G Thatcher Demko

Why: Demko has plenty of hype, but it’s easy to forget he accelerated high school and won’t turn 18 until half of the Eagles regular season is in the books. It’s a measured gamble for York and company, but most have learned not to doubt such highly regarded freshman goaltenders in Hockey East.

Forwards: Chris Calnan (CHI, 3rd rd, 2012), Ryan Fitzgerald (BOS, 4th rd, 2013), Austin Cangelosi, Adam Gilmour (MIN, 4th rd, 2012), Evan Richardson and Matt Gaudreau

Defense: Ian McCoshen (FLA, 2nd rd, 2013), Steve Santini (NJD, 2nd rd, 2013) and Scott Savage

Goaltending: Thatcher Demko (2014 draft eligible)

How scary is Boston College’s freshman class to the rest of college hockey? A potential franchise goaltender in Thatcher Demko to replace Parker Milner and the best incoming defensive defenseman in the NCAA in Steve Santini were a good start. But don’t forget about the four other freshman all drafted in the fourth round or above, nor the other four undrafted freshman, all of whom are premier recruits as well. While this class might have more future pro signings than four-year players, no one touches the Eagles in either depth, positional needs met, or pure talent level this year. It’s almost no contest.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

2. Minnesota

Key Recruit: 95 F Taylor Cammarata

Why: Cammarata’s play seems tailor-made for the college game, and even if he gets so much extra attention from opposing defenders that he can’t convert, the rest of the team (and this class) are more than prepared to be beneficiaries of the resulting negligence.

Forwards: Taylor Cammarata (NYI, 3rd rd, 2013), Justin Kloos, Gabe Guertler,  Hudson Fasching (LAK, 4th rd, 2013) and Vinni Lettieri

Defense: Tommy Vannelli (STL, 2nd rd, 2013), Mike Brodzinski (SJS, 5th rd, 2013), Jake Bischoff (NYI, 7th rd, 2012)

About that ‘no contest’ – the Gophers could give the Eagles a run for their money when you consider that it’s entirely plausible that this entire class will be in school for four years. A number of shifty, deceptive forwards with a knack for making a difference in the final third will make the Class of 2017 tricky to contain, and big man Hudson Fasching seems poised to only get better as his career wearing the ‘M’ goes on. As far as positional needs go, the Gophers were already strong at every position (even with a number of pro departures), so this looks more like adding ammunition than solving a particular weakness.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

3. North Dakota

Key Recruit: 94 F Adam Tambellini

Why: The case could be made for a number of North Dakota’s eight freshmen, but coach Dave Hakstol himself said the SSAC product and Rangers draft pick will have “the opportunity to step in and contribute with [the team] right away,”, so that’s always a good sign. Twenty-six points in sixteen games after a trade to Surrey at the midpoint of last season, followed by a 10-8-18 line in seventeen high-stakes BCHL playoff games showed everyone that the son of Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is more than ready to make an impact in Grand Forks.

Forwards: Adam Tambellini (NYR, 3rd rd, 2013), Luke Johnson (CHI, 5th rd, 2013) and Wade Murphy (NSH, 7th rd, 2013)

Defense: Keaton Thompson (ANA, 3rd rd, 2013), Gage Ausmus (SJS, 5th rd, 2013), Paul LaDue (LAK, 6th rd, 2012) and Troy Stecher

Goaltending: Matt Hrynkiw

This is just such a solid class from top to bottom. From high-end Anaheim prospect Keaton Thompson, to former Top Uncommitted Gage Ausmus (previously committed to Denver), to USHL All-Star Paul LaDue (who led the USHL in points from the blue line), this would be an intriguing group by itself. Then you add Penticton (BCHL) captain Troy Stecher, who nearly hit a point-per-game for the Vees on their blue, and this is going to be a fierce group of defensemen as upperclassmen indeed.

There are also three weapons up front in Adam Tambellini, Luke Johnson, and Wade Murphy, as well as an intriguing, talented goaltender in Matt Hrynkiw being added to an already deep (but soon to be less deep) crease. And in case you’re wondering, Coach Hakstol’s class next year is literally shaping up to be one of the best in college hockey. Ever. So there’s that.

4. Michigan

Key Recruit: 95 F JT Compher

Why: Talented, clever NTDP product with breakneck speed and hockey sense brings it all on every shift. Compher is about as close to a sure thing impact freshman as you can get. The only downside? The Sabres could come calling as soon as sophomore year.

Forwards: JT Compher (BUF, 2nd, 2013), Tyler Motte (CHI, 4th rd, 2013), Evan Allen, Alex Kile, Alex Talcott and Max Shuart

Defense: Michael Downing (FLA, 4th rd, 2013), Nolan De Jong (MIN, 7th rd, 2013), Spencer Hyman and Kevin Lohan

Goaltending: Zach Nagelvoort

Michigan’s class is good, for sure, but this is where it becomes much easier to debate teams up or down the list. Premier forward JT Compher is the equivalent of a ‘five-star’ commit, while NTDP teammate Tyler Motte is a deceptively quick forward who can contribute in every situation as well. Evan Allen and Alex Kile are terrific in-state prospects at forward as well.

Defenseman Michael Downing is a stellar skater and looks like he is going to be a great collegiate defenseman for potentially four years, considering how much his NHL-rights-holding Panthers have invested in college hockey prospects lately. Victoria Grizzlies defenseman Nolan De Jong is a six-foot-one, two-way defenseman out of the BCHL, formerly committed to Cornell, that THN Prospect Guru Ryan Kennedy dubbed a “Gentle Giant”.

5. Boston University

Key Recruit: 94 D Doyle Somerby

Why: The big (6’5, 225) defenseman coming straight out of high school will definitely be tested early, but looks to have the fortitude to make it through the early going and eventually become a dominant force on the back-end for the Terriers.

Forwards: Brendan Collier (CAR, 7th rd, 2012), Nick Roberto, Robbie Baillargeon (OTT, 5th rd, 2012), Kevin Duane and Tommy Kelley

Defense: Doyle Somerby (NYI, 5th rd, 2012), Dalton MacAfee and TJ Ryan

The youngest recruit here turns 19 in September, despite half of this class coming straight out of high school. That said, a big intangible here is that this class has a boatload of inherent chemistry from the past. Brendan Collier is a heart-and-soul forward who captained Malden Catholic (MA-HS) to back-to-back state titles, while Nick Roberto is an electric goal-scorer who put up 23 goals in just 29 games for KUA (NE-Prep) last season. Dalton MacAfee and Tommy Kelley are teammates from St. Seb’s (MA-HS), while Ottawa pick Robbie Baillargeon put on a clinic in prep school heading to the USHL for the past two seasons and produced quite a bit there as well, though his scoring did (predictably) drop off.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

6. Minnesota-Duluth

Key Recruit: 94 F Dom Toninato

Why: A natural leader and skilled pivot with a ton of offensive awareness, the Mr. Hockey finalist plays the game the right way and makes his teammates better. The hometown recruit led Duluth East (MN-HS) to a ton of success before a terrific year with Fargo this past season, where he broke the Force’s single-season scoring record.

Forwards: Dom Toninato (TOR, 5th rd, 2012), Alex Iafallo, Sammy Spurrell and Kyle Osterberg

Defense: Carson Soucy (MIN, 5th rd, 2013), Willie Raskob and Dan Molenaar

The Bulldogs class at the six spot almost feels like a slight for how strong this class is. From top to bottom, every player is a seasoned prospect who seems poised to really contribute at Amsoil Arena before they become upperclassmen. Alex Iafallo is another Fargo veteran who had a good year for the Force with Toninato, while Kyle Osterberg will help to push the pace for the Bulldogs. Carson Soucy is a huge defenseman with pro upside and Willie Raskob out of Faribault is a sharp defenseman with an elite skill-set who was born to run Coach Sandelin’s powerplay.

Of note, a thin prospect farm for the Maple Leafs has Toninato and current Bulldog star (sophomore) Tony Cameranesi near the top of the Leafs’ organizational depth chart at center. The better they play at Amsoil, the sooner they may be headed to the Great White North.

Ed. Note: I spent way too long trying to separate BU and UMD. The difference? Three goalies or not, only one on roster (Matt McNeely) has provided results (another is a senior) and what moved the Bulldogs down here is not addressing what I perceive to be a lack of depth in the crease. Otherwise, you can consider this a tie.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

7. Harvard University

Key Recruit: 95 F Sean Malone

Why: Forward with a high compete level and a developmental curve that has turned sharply north in the past few seasons, Malone went from ripping apart scoring sheets for Buffalo-area prep school Nichols to making a serious impact for the NTDP’s U18 squad in no time.

Forwards: Sean Malone (BUF, 6th rd, 2013), Alex Kerfoot (NJD, 5th rd, 2012), Phil Zielonka, Luke Esposito, Devin Tringale and Tyler Moy

Defense: Kevin Guiltinan, Clay Anderson, Alec McCrea and Victor Newell

Despite just a few (late-round) NHL draft picks, this is a pretty deep class for the Crimson. Sean Malone will have an immediate impact, while cerebral pivot Alex Kerfoot was having his way with the BCHL before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the year.

It would not be a surprise if prolific sniper Phil Zielonka were to score more goals than anyone on the Crimson roster did last season, as the Crimson’s new big gun already has serious chemistry with Kerfoot and Esposito from last season. Devin Tringale is an underrated talent up front who won a prep school championship with Lawrence Academy in 11-12, while big defenseman Kevin Guiltinan adds some snarl and raw ability to this class.

This class, too, is used to each other. While it’s tough to pinpoint an intangible such as how used to each other, last season alone Phil Zielonka alone spent time on rosters with Kerfoot, Esposito, Moy and Newell. Newell was later traded to Waterloo where he played with Alec McCrea. If anything, it’s noteworthy.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

8. Quinnipiac University

Key Recruit: 94 F Peter Quenneville

Why: Game-breaking forward will make a home for himself in the Bobcat’s offensive zone very quickly. Quenneville oozes (almost too much) confidence and has a knack for scoring timely goals. The only ‘downside’ is that the Quinnipiac coaching staff couldn’t commit Peter’s highly talented younger brother, David, who has signed with the WHL.

Forwards: Peter Quenneville (CBJ, 7th rd, 2013), Sam Anas, Tim Clifton, Jason Stephanik, and Tommy Schutt

Defense: Connor Clifton (PHX, 5th rd, 2013), Joe Fiala, Brayden Sherbinen, Devon Toews and Derek Smith

Goaltending: Brady Rouleau

From Quenneville to the Clifton brothers, who could make their presence known early and often, the top-end of this class is strong and it doesn’t drop off too much either. Undersized forward Sam Anas, who committed in 2010, has proved doubters wrong at every level and should continue to do so, while Jason Stephanik and most of the incoming defensemen look like potential core players as well.

9. Providence College

Key Recruit: 94 G Nick Ellis

Why: Heir apparent to future Calgary Flame Jon Gillies’ crease. Ellis will have some time to prepare as Nate Leaman’s recruiting efforts come to fruition before he has to produce any results on a regular basis, which is about as ideal as it can get for a goaltender. My only Honorable Mention of the day will be here: Anthony Florentino, who should be a staple on the Friars blue for years to come.

Forwards: Niko Rufo and Conor MacPhee

Defense: Anthony Florentino (BUF, 5th rd, 2013), Kyle McKenzie and Josh Monk

Goaltending: Nick Ellis and Tyler Kapp

The fact that Gillies basically landed gift-wrapped into the Friars’ lap last summer, now looks like a Coach Leaman master stroke, as incoming goaltender Nick Ellis and third netminder Tyler Kapp (recovering from a season lost to injury) will not have the pressure of having to providing results all year, though they will benefit from a D1 goaltending coach all season and be well prepared for the coming years. Forward Niko Rufo could be a collegiate star in the making, as is big blueliner Anthony Florentino.

For a more in-depth look at this class, check out our Recruiting Preview.

10. Northeastern University

Key Recruit: 92 F Mike Szmatula

Why: In June, it looked like Szmatula might be another in an alarmingly long list of recruits who abandoned their commitments to Jim Madigan’s Huskies, as the Dubuque stand-out attempted to follow his junior coach Jim Montgomery to Denver. Madigan stood firm on holding his players to their NLI this time, and it should pay dividends. Szmatula, a tough, tough (yes, twice) opportunistic forward with tenacity and skill plays a game that should translate terrifically to the collegiate level. Szmatula scored 44 goals in his first and only USHL season after spending a season in the relatively unheralded MHL (Maritimes Jr. A). No reason to think he won’t have a similar transition to Hockey East.

Forwards: Mike Szmatula, John Stevens, Zach Aston-Reese, Dalen Hedges, Nathan Ferriero, Mike Jamieson, Will Messa and Tanner Pond

Defense: Matt Benning (BOS, 6th, 2013), Gus Harms and Jake Schechter

Northeastern has quietly assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the country, and slides in at ten to complete a Beanpot sweep here. Matt Benning is a stand-out from the Alberta league who played for Dubuque this past season. A rugged, efficient defenseman, Benning should be a rock for the Huskie’s blue line in the coming four years, while big EJHL defenseman Gus Harms brings some offense and Jake Schechter could bring some as well. Both are one year departed from stellar prep school seasons and had very respectable outings in their brief junior careers.

John Stevens is a former Salisbury (NE-Prep) captain who had a great first-year (with Matt Benning) on Dubuque this past year, and Nathan Ferriero is a prep scorer straight from Governor’s (NE-Prep) and joins brother Cody Ferriero (a senior) on the ice at Matthews this year. Ed. note. Forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Dalen Hedges are also members of this class, Aston-Reese a big forward from the USHL via Staten Island, and Dalen Hedges a prolific, undersized scorer from the CCHL.

2014 Preview

A lot of reading led up to this, so I’m going to do my best to keep myself to two sentences per team. Compared to the effort put into the list above, this is basically an after-thought and not necessarily indicative of 2014’s eventual rankings.

1. North Dakota

Why: Most recruiting classes have one marquee recruit, maybe two. UND has six: Nick Schmaltz, Austin Poganski, Ryan Gropp, Shane Gersich, Ryan Mantha and Chris Wilkie. Trevor Olson and Winnipeg Jets draft pick Tucker Poolman are no slouches either. Suffice it to say the last thing UND is going to be thinking about next season is an identity crisis.

2. Notre Dame

Why: North Dakota might have ‘best class’ all but locked down, but humor me when I say Notre Dame is biting at their heels with blue chips Sonny Milano, Connor Hurley, Cal Petersen and NTDPers Nathan Billetier, Joe Wegwerth as well as a number of other commits.

3. Boston University

Why: Jack Eichel. Two sentences, right?

4. Boston College

Why: Tanner MacMaster, JD Dudek, Zach Sanford, and Alex Tuch are a strong nucleus of players but some of them may instead arrive in 2015 with a little known prospect named Noah Hanifin.

5. Harvard

Why: A number of strong forwards including Dexter (NE-Prep) star Trevor Fidler, and a talented trio of D in Brandon Fortunato, Adam Plant and Wiley Sherman will all finally matriculate in Cambridge this year as the Crimson resurgence hits full swing. Big goaltender Merrick Madsen’s development this year will be a big factor for this class.

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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