Tyler Ruegsegger, C, University of Denver
Drafted: Sixth round, 166th overall in 2006
Since he was drafted, the Colorado product playing in his home state has become one of the most electrifying players in the NCAA. After a freshman season in which he put up 15 goals and 34 points in 40 games, Ruegsegger picked up where he left off and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior squad that finished fourth this year in the Czech Republic. He finished the tournament with two goals and two assists in six games. Possessing enviable one-on-one skills, the 5’11 195-pound center can dangle with the best of them but is also accountable in his own end. In 26 games this season, Ruegsegger has 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points. He has missed a significant chunk of time this season with a groin/abdominal injury. Blessed with terrific hockey sense and a hockey IQ off the charts, Ruegsegger has added some strength to his frame since arriving in Denver and has continued to work on his skating. Terrific shiftiness and lateral movement make up for the lack of an extra gear. While already an assistant captain as a sophomore, he will be expected to take on even more responsibility as a junior.
Chad Rau, C, Colorado College
Drafted: Seventh round, 228th overall in 2005
At another Colorado school, Minnesota native Chad Rau is having his finest offensive season yet of an already productive college career. After putting up 30 and 31 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, Rau has lit it up this season with a career-best 27 goals and 13 assists for 37 points in 35 games to date. Likened to Kyle Wellwood after taking only 12 minutes in penalties during his first two seasons, Rau has shown a penchant to shoot the puck – averaging three shots a game this year. Much like other talented NCAA prospects that have slipped in various NHL drafts, Rau’s biggest knocks are his size and skating ability. But much like other NCAA prospects who have made names for themselves at the next level, he has shown the ability to make up for his shortcomings with hockey sense and positioning. Listed at 5’11 and 195 pounds, Rau has shown an innate ability to be where he needs to be to make an offensive play. The right-shooting center has led Colorado College to first place in the tough WCHA.
Matt Frattin, RW, University of North Dakota
Drafted: Fourth round, 99th overall in 2007
Frattin lit up the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season to the tune of 49 goals and 83 points in 58 games in his first year with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders. The success has not come as easily in his first collegiate season with the University of North Dakota. Frattin has posted three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 35 games this season while finding himself playing third and fourth line minutes. He registered career-high three assists in a 5-3 win over Minnesota State in January, but the highlights have been few and far between for the freshman. Frattin possesses good speed off the wing, accompanied by a good shot. He also has a scorer’s mentality, which is exactly what he will be expected to do in the future. At 5’11 and 185 pounds, Frattin needs to improve his strength and work in his own end before transitioning to the next level. He was drafted with the mindset of needing three or four years of college hockey to fully develop. UND finished in second place in the WCHA and should go pretty deep into the playoffs.
Ben Winnett, LW, University of Michigan
Drafted: Fourth round, 104th overall in 2007
Winnett, chosen five picks after Frattin in the 2007 draft, is another Western Canadian Leafs’ project with a few more years of college hockey ahead of him. After scoring 27 goals and 57 points for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League, Winnett has found himself fighting for minutes with the Michigan Wolverines in his first NCAA season. As one of the youngest players on a very young Wolverine squad, his numbers of five goals and five assists in 34 games this season have to be taken with a grain of salt. One of the best skaters in the BCHL last season, speed and scoring ability is the name of Winnett’s game. Like many young players, adding size and strength to his slight 5’11, 175-pound frame is key for the New Westminster, BC, native. Once he gets adjusted to the collegiate level, Winnett should score, and score a lot.
Alex Berry, RW, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Drafted: Fifth round, 153rd overall in 2005
Berry’s 2007-08 season is a mirror image of this previous season with the University of Umass-Amherst. In 32 games this year, Berry has scored nine goals and seven assists for 16 points, three above he posted in the 2006-07 in 29 games. Playing on a team devoid of much offensive creativity, Berry leads the team in penalty minutes by far with 63. Standing 6’2 and 195 pounds, Berry looks the part of power forward but whether he has the skill to be anything more than a fourth line grinder is in question. The Massachusetts native could have a game that translates better to the pro style but improvement is needed across the board for Berry to make the jump to pro hockey.
Viktor Stalberg, LW, University of Vermont
Drafted: Sixth round, 161st overall in 2006
The big Swede who decided to play college hockey in the States has made great strides in his sophomore season at the University of Vermont. After scoring seven goals and adding eight assists for 15 points during 39 games last season, Stalberg leads the team in goals this season with 10 and has added 12 assists in 34 games. Standing 6’3 and 195 pounds, Stalberg’s greatest asset is his speed and scoring ability. While he has shown flashes of what he is capable of, there is no doubt he has underachieved up to this point in his career. Despite his frame, Stalberg shies away from the physical play and could aptly be compared to a young Fredrik Modin. While playing for Vermont, he has not had the luxury of playing with top-flight linemates, but that has been offset by the fact that top six minutes and all the power play time he can handle aren’t an issue. Stalberg will continue to develop at Vermont.
Pierce Norton, RW, Providence College
Drafted: Ninth round, 285th overall in 2004
A native of South Boston, Norton has found his game in his junior campaign at Providence College. The well-built 6’2, 200-pound winger registered 14 points in his 66 NCAA games before this season. After bursting out of the gates last fall, Norton has compiled 14 goals and 10 assists in 34 games, while also leading the team with 47 minutes in penalties. One of the last picks of the 2004 draft (23 picks behind Montreal’s Mark Streit) Norton was a project from the get-go. The big, physical winger has turned himself into a legitimate prospect after two years of frustrating results. Norton will finish up his senior season next year and could have a shot at a third line role in the organization.