On Campus: Top NHL prospects playing NCAA hockey

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Four of the first five picks — all currently playing at the University of Michigan — and six of the first 12 selections are playing in the NCAA this season.

The spotlight is shining brightest on Michigan, but there are plenty of other top NHL prospects in the college game. In fact, a case can be made that the NCAA never has had such a deep reservoir of talent.

“It’s great for college hockey that Michigan had four of the top five picks, and they’re not the only team,” University of Denver coach David Carle said. “There’s a lot of very good prospects within the college game right now.”

University of North Dakota coach Brad Berry, whose program has sent a steady stream of players to pro hockey, also is bullish on the level of talent in the NCAA.

“It’s great to see,” he said. “You’re seeing the NHL get infused with college players and it’s become the way of life now.”

Here are the top 10 NHL prospects in college hockey (in alphabetical order):

Matty Beniers, F, University of Michigan

Beniers, (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) was selected by the Seattle Kraken with the No. 2 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old center projects as a top-of-the-lineup, 200-foot player in the NHL. Seth Appert, Beniers’ coach at USA Hockey’s United States National Team Development Program, called him a “puck-battle machine.”

The sophomore has scored four points (two goals, two assists) in six games.

Thomas Bordeleau, F, University of Michigan

Bordeleau (5-10, 175) was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the second round (No. 38) of the 2020 NHL Draft. Last season he scored 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 24 games last season and was named Big Ten Rookie of the Year.

While the 19-year-old sophomore might not have ideal size (5-10, 175), but there isn’t anything the center doesn’t do well. He has scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in six games.

Brendon Brisson, F, University of Michigan

Brisson (5-11, 179) was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round (No. 29) of the 2020 draft.

Not every goal Brisson scores is of the highlight-reel variety, but the center gets his share. The sophomore is tied for the NCAA lead with seven goals in six games, and his 11 points are tied for fifth.

Matt Coronato, F, Harvard University

Coronato (5-10, 183) was picked by the Calgary Flames with the No. 13 selection of the 2021 draft. He scored 85 points (48 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games for Chicago of the United States Hockey League last season, leading the league in goals and finishing second in points.

The 18-year-old should fit right in on an offensive-minded team that has 12 NHL draft picks on its roster and plays its opener at Dartmouth on Friday.

Luke Hughes, D, University of Michigan

Hughes (6-2, 184), the youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes, was selected by the Devils with the No. 4 pick of the 2021 draft.

Luke is an outstanding skater who is dynamic with the puck on his stick, and the 18-year-old has scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games as a freshman.

Kent Johnson, F, University of Michigan

Johnson (6-1, 167) was chosen by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the No. 5 pick of the 2021 draft, and his hands and creativity are considered next-level talents.

In seven games as a sophomore, the 19-year-old has scored seven points (two goals, five assists) six games.

Chaz Lucius, F, University of Minnesota

If not for a knee injury that limited him to 13 games with the NTDP last season, Lucius (6-1, 185) might not have been available for the Winnipeg Jets to select with the No. 18 pick of the 2021 draft.

The 18-year-old freshman forward has scored three points (one goal, two assists) in six games this season.

Owen Power, D, University of Michigan

Power, selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 1 pick of the 2021 draft, was described as a unicorn by an NHL scout who has watched Michigan extensively. Power’s combination of size (6-6, 213), hockey IQ and skating rarely is seen in a defenseman. As a freshman last season he scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games and helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

The 18-year-old opted to remain at Michigan and has scored six points (one goal, five assists) in six games as a sophomore this season.

Jake Sanderson, D, University of North Dakota

Sanderson (6-2, 185) was selected by the Ottawa Senators with the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft and the 19-year-old sophomore has scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in six games.

“He’s the best player in college hockey,” said Providence College coach Nate Leaman, who coached Sanderson with the United States team that won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Skating and smarts are what make Sanderson an elite prospect.

“I haven’t seen too many defensemen come through [Division I] hockey that make an impact like him as a young guy,” Berry said. “When you look at some of these kids he’s playing against, how hard and heavy they are, he plays like a veteran out there.”

Carter Savoie, F, University of Denver

Savoie (5-9, 192) was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round (No. 100) in the 2020 draft.

“He’s a one-shot scorer,” Carle said. “That’s his gift, and he does it at a very high level.”

The 19-year-old sophomore is tied for third among NCAA players with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in six games and likely has propelled himself into consideration to play for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

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