Top 20 NCAA 2007 prospects

By DJ Powers

This year’s NCAA Top 20 eligible prospects for the NHL Entry Draft is comprised of 12 forwards, seven defensemen and one goaltender. The 20 players ranked represent 16 schools in four conferences. For the second consecutive year, the CCHA leads the way with seven, followed by the ECAC Hockey League and the WCHA with five apiece and three from Hockey East. The University of Minnesota and the University of Notre Dame each have more than one player in the Top 20. Players appearing on the NHL Central Scouting Service’s Final Rankings are so noted.

1. Bill Sweatt, LW

Freshman, Colorado College
6’0 186 lbs.
DOB: 9/21/88 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 27th among North American skaters

2006-07 season: Bill Sweatt finished his stellar freshman campaign leading all Tiger rookies in scoring with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) and earning Colorado College’s Bob Johnson Award as the team’s top rookie. Of Sweatt’s 26 points, 15 came in Colorado College’s final 17 games. He missed five early games due to a bout with mononucleosis. Sweatt also represented the United States at the 2007 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships in Sweden, helping the Americans win a bronze medal.

Talent Analysis: Sweatt has unbelievable speed, but what sets him apart from so many other collegiate speedsters, rookies or otherwise, is his ability to make plays at high speeds. He also has great acceleration. Sweatt possesses great hands and is smart in his decisions with the puck. Rarely can he be found turning the puck over. Sweatt’s superb defensive play and awareness is one area that has progressed quite nicely this season, and has made him an effective penalty killer. Sweatt also possesses excellent on-ice vision and has a keen sense of being able to find open spaces and knowing where the play is going to end up. While Sweatt has all of the necessary tools for future success, adding size and strength to his 6’0" frame will be essential to his pursuit of achieving that success.

Colorado College head coach Scott Owens’ comments on Sweatt: "We’ve been very impressed with Billy’s overall performance. His overall speed and ability to open things up were such that they were obvious from day one. Sometimes Billy goes so fast that it’s hard for guys to stay up with him. He has a very good team game concept and we feel confident with him in all areas. He’s been really good for us."

HF’s January feature on Sweatt.

2. Jim O’Brien, C
Freshman, University of Minnesota
6’2 189 lbs.
DOB: 1/29/89 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 38th among North American skaters

2006-07 season: Jim O’Brien was the youngest player in college hockey this season. The Maplewood, MN native capped a strong freshman year with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 43 games. In April, O’Brien participated in the IIHF U-18 World Championships in Finland, helping Team USA to capture the silver medal. He posted seven points (three goals, four assists) in the tournament.

Talent Analysis: His 6’2 frame, strength and his ability to use to them to great advantage are O’Brien’s strengths. While it is quite evident that he is still growing into his body, it’s the immense potential of what he can do with it when he does that has many scouts taking serious notice. As good as O’Brien has shown that he can be in offensive situations, he’s even better in defensive situations. He has the potential to become a very good defensive forward. His intelligence, willingness to block shots and the great care he takes in being responsible in his own end have helped make him an excellent penalty killer. He is also versatile in that he can play as a defenseman as well. O’Brien is an excellent skater combining powerful strides with deceptive speed. He isn’t one to shy away from the physical side of the game and can deliver some very solid checks. With further physical development, O’Brien will become a more effective and intimidating presence on the ice.

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia’s comment on O’Brien: "Jimmy, I think more than anything is extremely hard working, very dedicated and has high expectations for himself. You project players and where they are today but more importantly, where they can get to. Jimmy has a pretty good top-end where he can get to and I think he’s going to get there with his dedication, commitment and work ethic."

HF’s February feature on O’Brien.

3. T.J. Galiardi, C

Freshman, Dartmouth College
6’2 172 lbs.
DOB: 4/22/88 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 31st among North American skaters

2006-07 season: T.J. Galiardi capped his sensational season leading all Dartmouth rookies in scoring with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). His eight power play goals also led the team. The Calgary, AB native was named to the ECAC Hockey League’s All-Rookie Team as well as the recipient of Dartmouth’s Booma Award as the team’s top rookie.

In April, Galiardi left Dartmouth College due to academic reasons and his future status is unknown.

Talent Analysis: Galiardi is an instinctive playmaker with tremendous scoring capability. He is very smart, patient and creative with the puck. Those features along with his great on-ice vision help make him an efficient puck distributor who can easily find open teammates as well. One characteristic that makes Galiardi such an outstanding player is his ability to blend those brilliant puck skills with the mental side of the game. He can be deceptive and what the opposition is reading isn’t always what he is thinking. While Galiardi is a strong competitor and has the puck skills needed to be successful, being more aggressive more often in his puck pursuits would not only make him more difficult to play against but also make him a much more valuable asset to his team. Galiardi is also a superb skater, combining power and speed with immense fluidness in his long strides. As he continues to develop his size and strength, the power and quickness in those strides will become more pronounced.

Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet’s comments on Galiardi: "T.J. broke into the college ranks and developed very quickly. T.J. has got an offensive flare. The offensive side of the game appears to come very naturally to him as far as the understanding and hockey intellect side of it. When his body (development) catches up, T.J. is going to be even more dominant and really something special."

HF’s February feature on Galiardi.

4. Dion Knelsen, C/LW
Freshman, University of Alaska (Fairbanks)
5’9 180 lbs.
DOB: 1/4/89 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 201st among North American skaters

2006-07 season: As the youngest player to ever don an Alaska Nanooks jersey, Dion Knelsen enjoyed an outstanding freshman year that was capped with being named a CCHA All-Rookie Team honorable mention and receiving Alaska’s Doug Desorcie Award as the top rookie. The Three Hills, AB native led the Nanooks in rookie scoring with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists). In April, Knelsen participated in the IIHF U-18 World Championships in Finland as a member of Team Canada.

Talent Analysis: Knelsen is a highly intelligent player that sees, thinks and understands the game extremely well. However, what separates him from many other collegiate players is how well he knows the players he plays with and against.  What makes it even more remarkable is the fact that Knelsen is able to take that knowledge and use it to his benefit. One asset that immediately stands out about Knelsen are his superb hands. He has great poise and patience with the puck and moves extremely well with it. Knelsen also possesses excellent on-ice vision and as good as his sense of awareness is, his ability to exploit open spaces is even better. His low center of gravity combined with his quickness and mobility allows him to move efficiently through traffic, often making him a difficult player to contain. As Knelsen’s development progresses, so will the skills that he can bring to his team.

(Now former) Alaska head coach Tavis MacMillan’s comments on Knelsen: "Maturity-wise, Dion is way beyond his years. You can talk to him as a coach about coaching things because he understands and sees the game that well. Off the ice and in the classroom, Dion has been special. He’s one of those kids that you don’t have to tell him what to work on because he just does it. Dion will make it because he wants it and he knows how to get there."

HF’s January feature on Knelsen.

5. Ben Smith, C
Freshman, Boston College
5’11 195 lbs.
DOB: 7/11/88 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 133rd among North American skaters
2006-07 season: When Brian Boyle (LA) moved back to play defense this season, no Eagles player took more advantage of the situation than Ben Smith. As he earned his way up to the top line, his team reaped the benefits. The Avon, CT native led Boston College in rookie scoring with 18 points (ten goals, eight assists) playing in all 42 games this season. Of his ten goals, six came on the power play. Smith’s excellent season earned him Boston College’s Bernie Burke Award as the Most Outstanding Freshman.

Talent Analysis: Smith is a well-built, instinctive player who can adapt to just about any type of situation with ease. One attribute that sets Smith apart from many young collegians is his keen ability to assess situations to make the best possible plays both offensively and defensively. Smith has demonstrated that he can score from just about anywhere, but where he is particularly dangerous is in the slot area. He is quick, strong on his skates and transitions quite well. Though Smith made marked improvement in his overall speed, it’s an area that should continue to get even better with further development.

Boston College assistant coach Greg Brown’s comments on Smith: "When Ben came in the biggest hurdle was the adjustment to the speed of college hockey. He worked very hard at getting up to speed and he’s become fundamentally sound. Ben really understands the game and how things happen out there. We’re excited about the potential of what he’s going to be able to do for us next year."

6. Brendon Nash, D
Freshman, Cornell University
6’3 205 lbs.
DOB: 3/31/87 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 169th among North American skaters

2006-07 season: Nash became a main stay on the sizeable Cornell blueline, playing alongside sophomore Jared Seminoff on the team’s top defensive unit. The Kamloops, BC native posted 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 29 games. Seven of his 14 points, including both goals, came on the power play. Nash capped his outstanding freshman campaign with a selection to the ECAC Hockey League’s All-Rookie Team.

Talent Analysis: Nash is a smart, offensive-minded defenseman who possesses a nice combination of size, mobility and puck skills. He uses his 6’3 frame and long reach to great advantage, particularly in protecting or stripping the puck. He’s also not afraid to join the offensive play. Defensively, he is solid and keeps things pretty simple. Nash has great poise and patience with the puck, but what sets him apart from many young defensemen is in his timely passing ability, particularly on power plays. Though he skates quite well for a big man, Nash needs to work on having quicker feet. Developing speed and strength are two areas that will be paramount to his future success.

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer’s comments on Nash: "With Sasha Pokulok and Ryan O’Byrne signing pro contracts last summer, Brendon had a lot of responsibilities as a freshman and he did a tremendous job. He logged as much ice time as we could possibly give him and played in all situations. It’s just a matter of Brendon continuing to excel. We expect big things from him next year and I think he’ll be one of the top defensemen in our league."

7. Brock Trotter, C

Redshirted Freshman, University of Denver
5’10 170 lbs.
DOB: 9/18/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: A year after suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, Brock Trotter emerged as a better, wiser and more appreciative player. The Brandon, MB native led the Pioneers with 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) playing in all 40 games this season. His 24 assists also led the team. He was the first freshman to lead Denver in scoring in two decades. Trotter’s stellar season earned him the team’s Leading Scorer and "Star of the Year" awards.

Talent Analysis: Trotter is an instinctive, multi-dimensional player who is equally adept in both offensive and defensive situations. He possesses great vision, awareness and anticipation, and utilizes those attributes effectively regardless of where he is on the ice. While Trotter is not an overly physical player, he has the capability to deliver some pretty solid checks. One of Trotter’s greatest assets are his hands, whether it’s in making nice tape-to-tape passes or keeping the puck on his stick. Continuing to add size and strength should help to not only make Trotter tougher to play against but also add power to his quickness and speed.

Denver head coach George Gwozdecky’s comments on Trotter: "After sitting out a year, Brock was starting over again in many ways, especially in his timing and confidence. He is the kind of athlete, not only physically but also intelligence-wise, where he picked it up again pretty quickly. We’re very fortunate that Brock has the skills and the attitude that makes him as good in our own zone as he is the offensive zone and that’s kind of player that you can build around."

8. Jeremie Dupont, G

Freshman, University of Nebraska-Omaha
6’2 175 lbs.
DOB: 12/18/88 Catches: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 23rd among North American goaltenders

2006-07 season: Jeremie Dupont is the youngest player to ever play for Nebraska-Omaha. After a shaky start to his collegiate career, the Richmond, ONT native emerged as the Mavericks starter in goal. He played in 31 games this season, posting a 13-10-6 record that included one shutout. His outstanding freshman campaign earned him Nebraska-Omaha’s Newcomer of the Year Award and a CCHA All-Rookie Team honorable mention. Dupont is the son of former NHLer Jerome Dupont.

Talent Analysis: Dupont is a tall, thin butterfly style goaltender that possesses superb agility. His lateral movement was one noteworthy area that progressed quite nicely this season and should continue to improve with further development. He is positionally very sound and good on his angles. He does a good job of staying square to shooters and has shown a willingness to challenge them as well. Dupont is intelligent and remarkably mature for a player his age. While Dupont possesses a good glove, his proficiency with it was shown infrequently this year. Adding strength to his large frame will help to make Dupont even more impressive in the future.

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp’s comments on Dupont: "Jeremie is an extremely focused and intense young man. His level of maturity is incredible. I think what Jeremie has been able to do so far at 17 and 18 in the college game makes me really looking forward to seeing him when he’s 21 because he’s going to be a dominant type of player. Jeremie understands the game and he’s got that kind of bred instinct in him."

9. Justin Braun, D

Freshman, University of Massachusetts
6’1 180 lbs.
DOB: 2/10/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 209th among North American skaters

2006-07 season: Justin Braun enjoyed a stellar freshman season that was capped with being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and earning UMass’ Rookie of the Year honor. The Vadnais Heights, MN native logged extensive ice time and was a key cog in helping to lead the Minutemen to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth. Braun posted 14 points (four goals, ten assists) playing in all 38 games.

Talent Analysis: Braun is a steady, hard-working defensive defenseman with excellent stick work. Braun’s intelligence, superb on-ice vision and sense of anticipation allow him to effectively take away passing and shooting lanes, as well as aid in his ability to move the puck. He can also make good outlet passes as well. Though Braun is a very good skater and strong on his skates, he needs to develop some quickness. Defensively, Braun is fundamentally sound and is quite good in one-on-one situations. With further growth and development, most of Braun’s weight and strength issues should eventually resolve themselves.

UMass head coach Don Cahoon’s comments on Braun: "Justin has a very tenacious, competitiveness to him, where he just stays with battles. He has the great capacity to grind in an effort that just demands that mental toughness. Justin’s demonstrated that he’s been able to adjust to the level of speed of college hockey quite seamlessly. He has done a good job of working on staying in the present so hopefully we’ll be able to continue to develop him into a very good player."

10. Ryan Thang, LW

Freshman, University of Notre Dame
6’0 188 lbs.
DOB: 5/11/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Ryan Thang was a key component in Notre Dame’s successful season. The Edina, MN native led the team in goal scoring (20), power play goals (10) and game-winning goals (6). His 41 points led all Fighting Irish rookies. He was one of three Notre Dame players selected to the CCHA All-Rookie Team. He was also a finalist for the CCHA Rookie of the Year and was named Notre Dame’s Rookie of the Year.

Talent Analysis: Thang is a tough, two-way power forward. As good as he has been offensively this season, it almost never came at the expense of his defensive responsibilities. He is meticulous in his attention to the details of his game, especially in his positional play. Thang is an excellent skater who is strong on his skates. His great stick work combined with his quick hands makes him a very proficient puck handler. Thang has shown a willingness to drive hard to the net and pay a price to make the play. He also has a knack for scoring timely goals. With added size and strength, Thang will be a more formidable player to contend with.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson’s comments on Thang: "Ryan’s a good student and a quality young man. I think his greatest assets are his commitment and work ethic. He’s a very diligent athlete who works at his game and really wants to be a player. Ryan is accountable and he understands the game and that allows him to be a successful two-way player."

11. Brian Schack, D
Freshman, University of Minnesota
6’2 216 lbs.
DOB: 1/11/87 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 203rd among North American skaters

2006-07 season: Brian "the Diesel" Schack posted eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 28 games this season. His lone goal of the season came on Jan. 12 at Wisconsin and interestingly enough, when he was playing as a forward. The Lino Lakes, MN native, who came to Minnesota as a walk-on (non-scholarship) recruit, was rewarded for his hard work and first half progress with scholarship money for the second semester.  Schack is the oldest player on this list, having turned 20 in January.

Talent Analysis: Schack is an imposing, versatile defenseman. He plays a simple yet effective game and has demonstrated that he is quite adept at playing up front as well. Unlike most young players, Schack has tremendous natural physical strength. That and his enormous size are used advantageously, particularly in protecting the puck and moving opposing forwards off of it. Schack can also deliver some bone-crushing checks without being a liability to his team. He possesses good puck skills and can make nice outlet passes. Schack skates remarkably well for a big man with smooth, powerful strides but needs to add some foot speed.

Minnesota assistant coach Mike Guentzel’s comments on Schack: "We were looking to add some depth to our program with a big, physical, stay-at-home defenseman that could provide us with an element that we really didn’t have on our defensive corps. We felt that Brian would be able to give us that as well as be a penalty-killer and a role player. His personality and his character lent to him being that kind of player. As it turned out, he’s a real good fit for us."

12. Alec Martinez, D
Sophomore, Miami University
6’1 205 lbs.
DOB: 7/26/87 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: When Andy Greene (NJ) graduated last spring, the RedHawks were left to fill a big hole on their blueline and one player who stepped up was Alec Martinez. The Rochester, MI native helped guide Miami to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists). Most recently, Martinez was one of eight Miami athletes (and the only hockey player) to be named a Strength and Conditioning All-American.  Having completed his sophomore season already, Martinez will be 20 in July.

Talent Analysis: The growth and maturity of Martinez from his freshman to sophomore year has allowed many aspects of his game, including his ability to make his defensive partners better, to give glimpses of the tremendous potential that he has. Martinez’s increased mass and strength have added power to his skating without impeding the fluidity in his strides or his foot speed. His willingness to shoot more and patience with the puck have helped increase scoring from the blueline. Two of Martinez’s biggest improvements have been in his confidence and consistency.

Miami head coach Enrico Blasi’s comments on Martinez: "Alec was asked to help fill the void of Andy Greene and he did that very well this year. We wanted him to grow and mature in a way that was beneficial to both him and our program. He’s taken on new responsibilities and his attitude has been great. Alec is one of those kids that’s smart and listens, and I see him growing even more going into next year."

13. Chad Morin, D

Freshman, Harvard University
6’0 210 lbs.
DOB: 4/15/88 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Chad Morin was a much-anticipated player when he arrived at Harvard. The Auburn, NY native played in 29 games, registering nine points (two goals, seven assists). He also led the Crimson with 49 penalty minutes. Morin’s most memorable performance came back on Feb. 23 versus Colgate on a game-tying tally that was one of Harvard’s best highlight reel goals of the season. Despite not appearing on Central Scouting’s Final Rankings, Morin has generated considerable interest from various NHL teams this season.

Talent Analysis: Morin is a strong, highly-skilled two-way defenseman. He’s an excellent skater, combining power with almost effortless strides and nice edges. He also transitions remarkably well. One of Morin’s greatest assets is his stick work, whether it’s in stripping an opposing player of the puck or taking away a shooting lane. Morin possesses a fairly accurate shot but what sets him apart from many other freshman blueliners is his ability to pick his spots when he shoots. Defensively, he is very sound and makes good decisions. Morin has vast potential for future success and a lot of it will depend on his maturity and development.

Harvard assistant coach Bobby Jay’s comments on Morin: "Chad has always been a high-end player and we’re lucky to have him here at Harvard. He has all the tools you look for in a future pro. He’s incredibly committed to becoming a hockey player. The thing with Chad is that we know what we’re going to get out of him every night and that’s kind of nice to have."

14. Kevin Deeth, C

Freshman, University of Notre Dame
5’7 161 lbs.
DOB: 5/26/87 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A
2006-07 season: Kevin Deeth was instrumental in Notre Dame’s run to their second NCAA Tournament appearance this year. The Gig Harbor, WA native registered 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) playing in all 42 games. His 22 assists and plus-28 both ranked tied for second on the team. Deeth was one of three Fighting Irish players named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team.

Talent Analysis: Deeth is an extremely quick and highly intelligent playmaker who plays a lot bigger than his listed 5’7. He may be small, but his game certainly is not. Deeth possesses a wonderful combination of durability, determination, and creativity that make him both difficult to figure out and to play against. He is a superb skater that can change directions quickly and effortlessly. One of Deeth’s best attributes is his ability to find open spaces and teammates. He has also excelled on faceoffs this season, winning 55 percent of his draws. Adding strength to his frame will be crucial to Deeth’s future success.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson’s comments on Deeth: "Kevin may be small in stature but he plays with a lot of heart. I don’t see him playing small because he’s willing to play in a big man’s area. I think what really makes Kevin a special player is that he will get into those areas that sometimes players with skill and mental abilities that he has won’t get into. I think because he competes so hard and he’s so intelligent that Kevin will have a future in the game."

15. Steven Kampfer, D
Freshman, University of Michigan
5’11 197 lbs.
DOB: 9/24/88 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: For Steven Kampfer, his rookie season was certainly a lesson in perseverance. The Jackson, MI native he battled through two separate injuries this year. Despite his setbacks, Kampfer made steady progress, playing in 35 games and posting four points (one goal, three assists). His first and only collegiate goal came in Michigan’s regular season opener versus non-conference foe Alabama-Huntsville back on Oct. 13.

Talent Analysis: Kampfer is a sturdy, mobile defenseman who can also play at the forward position. A standout quality about Kampfer is that his lack of size doesn’t hinder his effectiveness to play his position. One reason is his skating ability. Kampfer has good speed, fluidness in his stride and can skate with many collegiate forwards. He also brings some intensity to his game and is not one to shy away from delivering hard checks. He possesses great poise with the puck and has a strong shot with a quick release. As Kampfer and his game continue to grow and mature, he has the potential to blossom into a rock-solid two-way player.

Michigan head coach Red Berenson’s comments on Kampfer: "We were happy with Steven’s progress because I see him as a player that will continue to improve each year. I think he has a lot of the intangibles that make a hockey player a lot more than what you see. Steven’s determination, grit and his overall attitude are terrific and I think those are things that you don’t always see on the ice. I can guarantee that Steven will just continue to get better."

16. Ryan Lasch, RW
Freshman, St. Cloud State University
5’9 175 lbs.
DOB: 1/22/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Though he may not have gotten quite as much attention as freshman teammate Andreas Nodl (PHI) did, Ryan Lasch proved that he’s pretty special in his own right. The Lake Forest, CA native racked up 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists) playing in all 40 games this season. His 39 points ranked third on the Huskies team. Lasch concluded his stellar freshman year with a selection to the WCHA All-Rookie Team.  Lasch is one of the oldest players on this list, having turned 20 in January.

Talent Analysis: Lasch is a durable, little ball of energy with great offensive prowess and playmaking ability. He’s a player who uses his size at 5’9 and low center of gravity to great advantage, especially when moving through traffic. His quickness and outstanding vision allows him to utilize open spaces quite effectively. One area where Lasch thrives is in tight situations, particularly around the net. His scrappy, unrelenting style is a thorn in the opposition’s side. Lasch has good foot speed, but he is also remarkably strong on his skates. As he develops more strength, Lasch will add power to an already resilient body.

St. Cloud State assistant coach Fred Harbinson’s comments on Lasch: "We knew when Ryan committed to us that we had a good player but we honestly didn’t realize that until maybe into the second month of the season just how great he really is. He finds a way to slow the game down and make good plays. He has a huge heart and passion for the game. Ryan is definitely a fun player to watch and he helps get our team going every night."

17. Peter Merth, D

Freshman, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
6’3 225 lbs.
DOB: 6/19/87 Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Peter Merth was the first recruit of the Seth Appert-era at RPI, anchoring a very young Engineers defensive corps this season. He was one of only four players as well as the only freshman to play in all 36 games. The New Westminster, BC native notched ten points (all assists) and led RPI with 65 penalty minutes this season. Merth capped his stellar rookie campaign with being named RPI’s Most Outstanding Freshman and Best Defensive Player of the Year.

Talent Analysis: Merth is a defensive defenseman who is all about size, strength and power. These attributes also make him very tough for the opposition to play against and get around. He can also deliver very bone-jarring checks. Though Merth will likely never score many goals, he is remarkably good with the puck, demonstrating both poise and patience. Two of Merth’s best assets are his hockey sense and tremendous defensive awareness. Rarely will he be found making many mistakes in his own zone. While Merth is a very good skater, he’ll need to work on his foot speed to be successful at the next level.

RPI head coach Seth Appert’s comments on Merth: "Peter was probably our best defender. He was called upon to play against the other team’s top line and play 25-plus minutes every night. He is one of the most intelligent defensemen that I’ve had the opportunity to coach. It’s funny because after about maybe halfway into the season, I called Coach Gwozdecky and I apologized to him for not recruiting Peter to Denver."

18. Mark Arcobello, C
Freshman, Yale University
5’9 170 lbs.
DOB: 8/12/88 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Mark Arcobello, along with linemate Sean Backman, gave the Elis one of the most dynamic and promising young duos to come out of the ECAC Hockey League this season. The Milford, CT native posted 24 points (ten goals, 14 assists) in 29 games. His 14 assists and three game-winners both led Yale. Arcobello capped his stellar rookie season with an honorable mention to the All-Ivy League Team.

Talent Analysis: Arcobello is a small, shifty forward blessed with great puck skills. His quickness and ability to dart through traffic makes him a difficult player to contain. One area where Arcobello excels is around the net. He’s not afraid to drive to the net and is willing to take the punishment if it means making the play. If Arcobello isn’t making the play himself then chances are he is setting it up for a teammate. His great vision and ability to distribute the puck makes him an outstanding playmaker. Though he can score goals and has a very good shot, Arcobello could stand to be a bit more selfish with the puck and shoot more often.

Yale associate head coach C.J. Marottolo’s comments on Arcobello: "It took Mark about four or five games to figure out the college game and make the transition. Once he did, he became an offensive go-to guy for us. We feel pretty good when he’s got the puck on his stick as far making the right decision with it. Looking to the future, we expect Mark to be one of our cornerstone players in all situations."

19. Kai Kantola, C
Freshman, Bowling Green State University
6’1 1/2 172 lbs.
DOB: 9/11/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Kai Kantola is of Finnish descent, was born in Canada and calls Raleigh, NC home. However, his hockey skills and style of play are as equally noteworthy as his background. Kantola posted 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 36 games. He was originally selected to play for Finland at the IIHF WJC in December but was ruled ineligible because he had not played two consecutive years with Finland’s national team (Kantola did play one year at the U-16 level).

Talent Analysis: Kantola is an aggressive power forward who can inject some energy into a team. At almost 6’2, he has a good frame but clearly needs to add size and strength to it. Where Kantola thrives are in the physical game and in tight situations. He can deliver some punishing checks and doesn’t shy away from confrontations, especially when battling for puck possession. While Kantola isn’t afraid to mix things up, he rarely does so at the expense of his team. His play in the corners and along the boards is quite good. Kantola skates with long, smooth, yet powerful strides but needs to develop a quicker first step.

Bowling Green head coach Scott Paluch’s comments on Kantola: "We’ve always had Kai as a real good combination player. We think that he’s going to be a pretty productive player as his career goes on with his skill package and size. Kai loves to compete and he brings an enthusiasm level that’s contagious as well as a lot of intangibles and characteristics that coaches love."

20. Bobby Butler, RW
Freshman, University of New Hampshire
6’0 180 lbs.
DOB: 4/26/87 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: N/A

2006-07 season: Bobby Butler may be the best Wildcats player that almost no one talked about this season. His contributions and ability to "fill some holes" on the New Hampshire roster throughout the year have helped the team earn another trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Marlboro, MA native registered 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in 38 games this season. His most memorable game came on Mar. 16 in the Hockey East semi-final thriller versus UMass. In that contest, Butler tallied the game-winner in double overtime.

Talent Analysis: Butler is budding two-way power forward with great hands and a powerful shot. One of his strongest assets is his playmaking ability, whether it’s setting up a potential goal or making a nice outlet pass from the defensive zone. He makes very good decisions with the puck and also has the ability to make those around him better. As good as Butler is offensively, he is almost equally as good defensively, particularly on the penalty kill. Though he is strong on his skates and moves well, Butler is neither the prettiest nor quickest skater out there. That should improve over time.

New Hampshire associate head coach Scott Borek’s comments on Butler: "I would say that most people had underestimated Bobby. We thought that it would take him longer than it did to make an impact. He had a very good season this year, particularly given the roles that we had him in. We were really excited about the year that Bobby had and we’re even more excited about his future."

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