Ten NCAA draft eligibles for 2007

By DJ Powers

This year’s collegiate draft eligible class features some good talent, but few potential first rounders. While the forward and defense positions looks to have plenty of outstanding players available, the number of quality goaltenders eligible for the draft is quite small and none are standouts.

Hockey’s Future takes a sneak peek at 10 notable players (eight forwards and two defensemen) to keep an eye on as the NCAA season progresses. Note: this listing is not a ranking of players but rather a watch list. The players are listed in alphabetical order by last name and all statistics are current as of Dec. 11.

T.J. Galiardi, C
Freshman, Dartmouth College
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 172 Shot: L
DOB: 4/22/88
Hometown: Calgary, AB

In recent years, Dartmouth has seen a growing number of top-flight players coming into their program, with the latest being T.J. Galiardi. The Calgary native is considered one of the top draft-eligible players coming from the NCAA ranks. Galiardi combines size and strength with great vision and scoring ability. He currently leads all Big Green rookies in scoring with nine points (five goals, four assists). His three power-play goals also co-lead the team.

Dion Knelsen, C/LW
Freshman, University of Alaska
Ht: 5’9 Wt: 170 Shot: L
DOB: 1/4/89
Hometown: Three Hills, AB

It isn’t often that the Alaska Nanooks win a recruiting battle with a WHL team, but that’s what happened when they landed Dion Knelsen. What makes the Nanooks rookie one of the best NCAA draft eligible players are the way he thinks the game and his superb puck skills. Knelsen missed four games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury. He has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 12 games.

Ryan Lasch, RW
Freshman, St. Cloud State University
Ht: 5’9 Wt: 175 Shot: R
DOB: 1/22/87
Hometown: Lake Forest, CA

While much of the attention on St. Cloud State’s rookie class has centered on Andreas Nodl (PHI), Ryan Lasch has certainly turned more than a few heads with his outstanding early-season play. Lasch is a high-energy forward with natural scoring ability. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 19 points (nine goals, ten assists). Lasch’s 19 points also rank tied for sixth in the nation among rookies.

Alec Martinez, D
Sophomore, Miami (OH) University
Ht: 6’1 Wt: 205 Shot: L
DOB: 7/26/87
Hometown: Rochester, MI

As a freshman last season, Alec Martinez was quite impressive. This season, the sophomore blueliner has been nothing short of sensational. Martinez is a skilled offensive defenseman whose fluid skating is really something to marvel at. He leads all Miami defensemen with 18 points (eight goals, ten assists). Six of his eight goals have come on the power play. Martinez’s 18 points also ranks fourth in the nation in scoring among defensemen.

Brendan Nash, D
Freshman, Cornell University
Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Shot: L
DOB: 3/31/87
Hometown: Kamloops, BC

Brendan Nash is the latest addition to a long line of highly-skilled defensemen with size coming out of Cornell. The Kamloops, BC native has also demonstrated that he has an offensive upside as well. He has played in all 12 Cornell games thus far, playing alongside sophomore Jared Seminoff. Nash has seven points (one goal, six assists). His first and only goal of the season came on Oct. 28 versus RIT.

James O’Brien, C
Freshman, University of Minnesota
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 184 Shot: R
DOB: 1/29/89
Hometown: Maplewood, MN

James O’Brien is considered by many to be the top current collegian eligible for the 2007 draft and it isn’t hard to see why. His size and tremendous skating ability are some of the attributes that make him a potential first-round selection. O’Brien has three points (two goals, one assist), all of which came on Nov. 25 versus Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase. The performance also earned him the WCHA Rookie of the Week honor.

Ben Smith, C
Freshman, Boston College
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 195 Shot: R
DOB: 7/11/88
Hometown: Avon, CT

With just one point (a goal) on the season to date, Ben Smith isn’t exactly tearing things up statistically at Boston College, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t contributing. The Avon, CT native is a budding checking forward. Despite his small stature, Smith is a strong, aggressive presence on the ice. He has played in all 15 games this season. Smith’s only point came on Nov. 17 against Northeastern.

Bill Sweatt, LW
Freshman, Colorado College
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 180 Shot: L
DOB: 9/21/88
Hometown: Elburn, IL

A recent selection to Team USA’s WJC squad, Bill Sweatt is player who has already gotten the draft watchers buzzing. The Elburn, Ill. native is blazingly fast, but what sets him apart from most other rookies is his ability to make plays at high speeds. Sweatt currently co-leads all Tigers freshmen in scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists), despite missing five games earlier in the season due to a bout with mononucleosis.

Ryan Thang, RW
Freshman, University of Notre Dame
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 188 Shot: R
DOB: 5/11/87
Hometown: Edina, MN

Notre Dame has become of one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season and part of that can be attributed to Ryan Thang. The strong-skating two-way forward has developed a knack for scoring timely goals. Of his nine goals, three have come on the power play and one came short-handed. In addition, he leads the team with four game-winners. Thang currently has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists), which ranks fourth on the team.

Brock Trotter, C
Redshirt Freshman, University of Denver
Ht: 5’10 Wt: 170 Shot: R
DOB: 9/18/87
Hometown: Brandon, MB

Brock Trotter’s ‘first’ freshman season ended after just five games due to a severed Achilles tendon that forced him to take a medical redshirt. Now fully recovered, the speedy and instinctive Trotter simply picked up right from where he left off last season, becoming a force to be reckoned with. His 20 points (eight, goals, 13 assists) rank second on the Pioneers and sixth in the nation among rookies. His 13 assists also lead Denver.

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