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June 22, 2019 PRINT

Fashion Bulldogs Nick Stitched Jersey College Black 27 Player Chubb

Current NCAA Players Who Deserve a Second Look

by Greg Cameron/CHN Reporter

Round 1 of this year's NHL Entry Draft came and went Friday with nine NCAA-bound players being selected, a solid number that was two short of the record. American Jack Hughes, as expected, was selected No. 1 overall by the New Jersey Devils.

Hughes, unlike brother Quinn, who played two seasons at Michigan, will bypass the NCAA. Quinn and Boston University’s Brady Tkachuk were drafted as freshmen in the first round last season, and while there will not be any players drafted directly from college on Friday this year, there will be a few taken in the later rounds.

Here, alphabetically, are 10 draft-eligible players who you saw suit up this past season in college hockey. Like the 10 to Watch published Wednesday, this is not a comprehensive list, just some names to keep an eye on.

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(Height, weight, midterm ranking and final ranking taken from NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings or team profiles.)

Wyatt Bongiovanni, F, Quinnipiac

6-foot, 190 pounds
Unranked by Central Scouting

Bongiovanni had his best chance yet at being drafted last year out of USHL Muskegon during his third junior season, but a shoulder injury in the second half of the season may have scared teams off. However, he proved that he still has similar value and that he could be a leader on a young, highly-ranked Quinnipiac team. Bongiovanni wasn’t shy about shooting the puck and netted 14 goals, which ranked third among the Bobcats and tied him for fourth among all freshmen. Six of his goals came on the power play, which was one of the team’s biggest areas of strengths, but Bongiovanni will look to increase that output as some of their other top catalysts on the man advantage have left for the NHL. He spent the season playing top line minutes on Odeen Tufto’s left wing, but shows the responsibility to play center regularly if needed. He’s almost always in the right spots at both ends of the ice, and both of his linemates will be returning next season.

Ben Brinkman, D, Minnesota

6-foot, 215 pounds
Midterm ranking: 79
Final ranking: 115

Perhaps the biggest reason Brinkman is on this list is his age: he turns 19 in October before his sophomore season starts, which makes him draft-eligible again next year. Brinkman led a middling Gophers team in plus-minus at plus-11 without logging a power-play point. His offensive abilities shone in his high school days at Edina, but he did not get the same opportunities in his first collegiate season, totaling just one goal and six assists. Brinkman is a strong defender who doesn’t overthink things with the puck. He didn’t help his stock, but he didn’t hurt it as much as the rankings slip might suggest. Minnesota had an effective power play, but its two biggest producers moved on to the professional ranks. If Brinkman is passed over, it might serve the Gophers well to reunite Brinkman with Edina teammates Sammy Walker and Clayton Phillips on a power-play unit and let him showcase his slapshot more, both to boost his draft stock and to keep their man advantage in good shape.

Ben Copeland, F, Colorado College

5-foot-11, 178 pounds
Unranked by Central Scouting

The speedy Copeland has been on Central Scouting’s radar since the 2016-17 season and was ranked 126th among North American skaters in last year’s final rankings, so he is a name that teams are familiar with despite not being listed again this year. Copeland played up and down the Tigers lineup, mostly at right wing but also as a center, and produced nine goals and 12 assists in 41 games. He has quick hands and a good shot, and is great at pressuring the puck. When Colorado College was knocking off ranked teams in February and March, you likely found Copeland on the score sheet. Entering his sophomore year, he will be the team’s top returning scorer up front and will likely be a top six fixture. Copeland attended development camp with the Vancouver Canucks last summer.

Marc Del Gaizo, D, Massachusetts

5-foot-10, 188 pounds
Midterm ranking: none
Final ranking: 134

Del Gaizo was already well on his way to making a name for himself in his freshman year, and then he blasted home the biggest goal in school history at the Frozen Four. Del Gaizo has great offensive instincts, makes good reads when starting or defending in transition, and boasts a booming one-timer. He can eat minutes and run an effective top power play unit, two things he did plenty of with USHL Muskegon and will likely do more of next season. His 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 41 games led all first-year defensemen and tied him for fifth among all freshmen. It's a disservice to Del Gaizo to define him as Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Cale Makar’s former defensive partner, but it's abundantly clear that their similar styles were what made them so potent. The New Jersey native is in a position to be a popular pick for the watchlist of that very award, and in the extreme event that teams pass on him this weekend, much like they may have last year because of an inch less of height or a few less pounds, then he will get to command a very crowded market at season’s end.

Filip Lindberg, G, Massachusetts

6-foot-1, 188 pounds
Unranked by Central Scouting

The arc of Lindberg’s freshman year perhaps defines him as a competitor and teammate, and it is one of the many admirable stories in the rise of the Minutemen. He was ranked 13th among European goaltenders in 2018’s final Central Scouting rankings, but was passed over at the draft. The UMass goaltending situation was a question mark at season’s start, but platoon-mate Matt Murray quickly commandeered the starting role as the Minutemen soared up the national rankings. With five starts under his belt before the holiday break and a 3-2 record with fairly great numbers (1.99 goals against average, .925 save percentage), Lindberg backed up Finland to World Junior gold, before returning to Amherst and again waiting his turn. He picked up three wins in three starts between January and the end of the regular season, including an easy shutout of Maine in March.

Then, Lindberg got his number called — he stepped in to Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals against New Hampshire with his team down 3-0 in the second, and UMass won in double overtime to turn the series around. Despite not winning the conference tournament, head coach Greg Carvel tapped Lindberg to start in the NCAAs, and it paid off. His March/April stats: 6-2, 1.19 GAA, .947 SV%, 10 goals allowed, and four shutouts. Lindberg and UMass took a chance on each other, and what became of it is exceptional. At most other schools, he’d likely be the bona fide starter. In an era where net timeshares have, intentionally or not, become an increasingly popular tactic, Lindberg is one of the goalies with the experience and polish to have made a great case for himself at the next level, and the drive and intangibles to keep that momentum moving forward.

Josh Maniscalco, D, Arizona State

6-foot-2, 205 pounds
Unranked by Central Scouting

Fashion Bulldogs Nick Stitched Jersey College Black 27 Player Maniscalco had already been through two high-profile programs in Shattuck St. Mary’s and the USNTDP before his lone year with USHL Dubuque, but it was that time as a Fighting Saint that solidified him as a mature, strong two-way defenseman. Playing on the top pairing and on both sides of special teams in Tempe, the righty is a great skater and an adept facilitator whose transition starts are crisp. His shot is good enough to lead the Sun Devils’ second power-play unit, but his playmaking ability appeared to suit him better on either half-wall. He’s a great possessor of the puck in all zones. Maniscalco is hard to muscle around and blocked the second-most shots on the team this season. Head coach Greg Powers and staff often did not get the credit they deserved for finding the best spots in the lineup for the team’s freshmen, and Maniscalco is a prime example, tying for second on the team with 16 assists and for first among ASU newcomers with 20 points. His build and skill set make him one of the most pro-ready players on this list.

Spencer Meier, D, St. Cloud State

6-foot-3, 193 pounds
Midterm ranking: none
Final ranking: 178

An unsung hero on the Huskies blue line, Meier worked his way onto the third pairing in just the second game of the season, and provided stability when the two other super-duos needed rest. Meier is only two years removed from high school hockey, but those two seasons leading up to his freshman year were notable: he tied for second in scoring as a captain at Sartell-St. Stephen High (15 goals, 27 assists in 25 games) and won a Clark Cup with USHL Fargo the following year, posting 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 59 regular season contests. He only notched one goal and ten assists in his first year of collegiate hockey, but has the most room to grow of the returning Huskies defenseman. One area in particular he and head coach Brett Larson know where there’s room for improvement: his skating. The right-shot Meier will get more opportunities on special teams next season, showcasing some of what made him special in Fargo. They say you can’t teach size, though, which is one of the reasons he landed on Central Scouting’s final rankings.

Adam Scheel, G, North Dakota

6-foot-3, 197 pounds
Unranked by Central Scouting

Like Maniscalco, Scheel needed to showcase his capabilities with a heavier workload outside of the NTDP, and did just that in BCHL Penticton (29-12-3, 2.08 GAA, .927 SV%). He won the starting job early in Grand Forks, jumped out to a 5-1-1 start through mid-November, and showed no intention of losing it until a knee injury sidelined him in February. Yes, he started that series at Canisius, but he was also the reason North Dakota was in a lot of games. He finished with a record of 13-10-2, a 2.07 GAA and a .910 SV%. Of those 10 losses, five were by one goal and two more had an empty-netter tacked on late to push the deficit to two. Whether or not he gets drafted will come down to the teams that have paid attention to him the longest and if they’re scared off by the injury.

Alex Steeves, F, Notre Dame

5-foot-11, 185 pounds
Midterm ranking: 124
Final ranking: 211

The reason for Steeves’ steep drop in the rankings from January’s midterms is pretty evident. In the first 20 games of the season, he totaled six goals and two assists, providing a spark in the Notre Dame bottom six. The rest of the season, he scored one goal in 19 games. Not ideal. Steeves plays a smart, fast game and is deceptively strong. He averaged over a point per game playing lots of top line minutes and on both sides of special teams in USHL Dubuque last season, when Central Scouting ranked him 67th and 86th in the midterm and final rankings, respectively. When he came to college, he played right wing on an all-freshman line, although he can play center, and all of his points came in even strength situations. Despite his usage and second-half struggles, Steeves has a nose for the net and was able to average a pretty decent two shots on goal per game, good for fifth among the Fighting Irish. It’s tough to envision him being picked this weekend, but there’s clearly something here, so don’t be surprised if Steeves steps his game up next season and begins to attract interest as an undrafted free agent.

Tyce Thompson, F, Providence

6-foot-1, 178 pounds
Midterm ranking: 123
Final ranking: 83

Much like his brother Tage, a UConn standout and first rounder, Tyce is a gamer. He was not the most heralded freshman in last summer’s incoming class, but he announced himself early and cemented his spot in the top six. That resulted in eight goals and 17 assists in 42 games, including the above power play tally that completed the team’s turnaround in the opening game of the East Regional. Like Del Gaizo, his size may have scared teams off in prior drafts. He’s a speedy, pass-first right winger with a big motor, though there’s a chance he could move to center and see the same success, if not more, in his sophomore season. He ranked second on the team with 10 power play assists, playing a big part in raising the team’s power play percentage from 18.1 last season (35th in the country) to 22.4 (12th). Five of the Friars’ eight 20-point scorers have turned pro, along with star goaltender Hayden Hawkey, meaning Thompson will be relied on to continue stuffing the stat sheet. He attended development camp with the New York Islanders last summer and the New York Rangers the year before. Thompson is easily the favorite to be drafted highest among all draft-eligibles from college, and should be considered a lock.

Honorable Mentions

Ethan De Jong, F, Quinnipiac
Drew DeRidder, G, Michigan State
Brannon McManus, F, Minnesota
Michael Pastujov, LW, Michigan
Bobby Trivigno, F, Massachusetts


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