Zac Dalpe, C — Ohio State University
6’1, 190 pounds
Acquired: 2nd round, 45th overall, 2008
Dalpe’s play as a freshman last season helped catapult the Buckeyes into the NCAA Tournament. Dalpe teamed with sophomores Peter Boyd, John Albert (ATL), Sergio Somma and Hunter Bishop to contribute more than 150 points to the OSU lineup, and with all five returning for 2009-10, Ohio State planned on a return to the postseason — and perhaps a trip to the Frozen Four.
Dalpe, one of four alternate captains on the team, has held up his end of the bargain, registering a team-high 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists in 24 games). But the Buckeyes have struggled immensely, averaging in the neighborhood of 2.5 goals per game en route to a 10-13-1 record on the season. Dalpe’s play has been a bright spot. The sophomore kicked off 2009-10 at the Hurricanes’ prospect conditioning camp this summer with improved strength and confidence and was the best forward on the ice during practices.
His goal of getting to the NHL as quickly as possible — he has mentioned that he will turn pro as soon as the organization thinks he’s ready — is looking more and more like it will come next season.
Brian Dumoulin, D — Boston College
6’4, 203 pounds
Acquired: 2nd round, 51st overall, 2009
Seeing Dumoulin on the ice, you’d never know the 6’4 defenseman didn’t even turn 18 until September. Still, his transition to college hockey at BC has gone as smoothly as he skates.
The freshman blueliner — who, like Dalpe, attended this summer’s camp in Raleigh — has been one of the Eagles most reliable defenders, ranking first in plus/minus and second in points among the defense with nine assists in 22 games (only Pittsburgh 2006 second-rounder Carl Sneep has more).
Dumoulin had the privilege of competing at Fenway Park a week after the NHL’s Winter Classic when the Eagles faced rival and defending NCAA champion Boston University outdoors in front of nearly 40,000 fans (BC’s rally from a 3-0 deficit fell short, and they lost 3-2).
Boston College in currently ranked 11th in the country by USCHO.com, and while the freshman has been good individually, he may be the only Carolina NCAA prospect with a chance at team success in 2009-10.
Justin Krueger, D — Cornell University
6’3, 217 pounds
Acquired: 7th round, 213th overall, 2006
Krueger, in his final season at Cornell, has continued to grow into a reliable defender. The 23-year-old has been arguably the Big Red’s best blueliner this season, leading the group with his steady play and standout penalty killing.
Krueger’s continued improvement has helped Cornell to a top-10 ranking, and while his future may not be as bright as the Canes’ other college prospects, he’s the son of a coach and his hockey smarts shines through.
Krueger has seven assists in 18 games this season, but his biggest contributions have come defensively, particularly on the penalty kill. Coach Mike Schafer has gone out of his way several times this season to praise Krueger’s work when down a man — and sometimes two.
Kyle Lawson, D — Notre Dame
5’11, 208 pounds
Acquired: 7th round, 198th overall, 2005
Most seventh-round picks become afterthoughts not long after being drafted. Lawson, however, has the makings of one of few late-round success stories. In his second season as an alternate captain with the Irish, Lawson is an anchor on the blue line.
Although Notre Dame is struggling just two years removed from playing for the national championship, Lawson continues to stand out on a defense made up of many high draft picks. While Ian Cole (STL) and Ted Ruth (CLB) get much of the ink, Lawson continues to produce. He is second on the team in scoring with 20 points in 28 games and has twice been named CCHA defenseman of the week this season, including in mid-January when he assisted on five of the Fighting Irish’s nine goals in a weekend series versus conference foe Michigan State. On occasion, Lawson has been asked to play forward as well, which helps to explain his high point totals.
Though undersized, Lawson’s ability to thrive in all three zones, play in every situation, and quickly and accurately distribute the puck have taken him from final-round long shot to potential future NHLer.