Top 10 Incoming Freshman Classes in College Hockey for 2012

By Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)

The first weekend of college football has just wrapped up which can only mean one thing for hockey fans, the start of the college hockey season is right around the corner. Time to get out your jerseys and find help with choosing a goalie mask to wear. Programs have holding captains practices since players got onto campus and the first official day of practices is less than a month away.

Now that players have followed through on their college commitments and are at their respective schools, it is time to look at which schools have the best incoming freshmen for the 2012-13 season. At practices, many of these freshmen have already begun to make an impact at their new school. Traditional powers like Michigan and Boston College reload after successful 2011-12 seasons while schools such as Nebraska-Omaha and Providence are set to bounce back after losing seasons with a talented incoming class.

When I set out to rank the top 10 incoming classes in college hockey this season, I had no idea it would be as difficult as it was. The first problem I faced was how to rank the classes. For instance, should I rank them by how successful the players at each school will be down the road or should I rank them by what they have done already? This was just one of the many questions I had to debate before I even began the hard part in ranking the programs.

I chose to rank the programs by looking at freshman class as a whole, not just who had the top two or so players. More importantly, I also weighed potential impact very heavily in the rankings. For instance, an undrafted 21-year-old who led his junior team in points last season will likely have more of an impact than a true 18-year-old freshman who was a middle round pick at this past June’s draft.

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Maybe you disagree with my logic in ranking these programs or maybe you agree with my logic and flat out disagree how one program is higher than another. Maybe you disagree with both. Let me know about it (@WeissFC).

Regardless, I hope this helps you begin to put you in hockey season mode because before we know it the puck will be dropped at the Ice Breaker Tournament to open the college hockey season.

#1 Notre Dame (2011-12 Record: 19-18-3)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 19

Five Freshmen Notables: Mario Lucia (F), Steven Fogarty (F), Thomas DiPauli (F), Sam Herr (F), Andy Ryan (D)

Notre Dame brings in a class with just one 1994 birth year, Thomas DiPauli, and tons of junior hockey experience. Penticton (BCHL) teammates Mario Lucia and Steven Fogarty combined for 75 goals last season and will be expected bring their offensive potency to South Bend. The class did take a hit with Lucia now expected to miss the first three months of this season. Lucia should not miss a beat when he returns from injury in December. The class also brings a winning attitude with them as four the five freshmen ended their season with a championship.

#2 Nebraska-Omaha (14-18-6)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: NR

Five Freshmen Notables: Anthony Stolarz (G), Brian Cooper (D), Nick Seeler (D), Tanner Lane (F), Aaron Pearce (F)

UNO head coach Dean Blais has been busy building in Omaha and the hard work is beginning to piece together a real winner. Anthony Stolarz was a late addition for Blais committing in December and should contend for the starting job from day one. Brian Cooper and Nick Seeler both played well defensively in the USHL last season and should transition nicely to the college game. It also should be noted had forward Alex Broadhurst not decommitted due to academic reasons, UNO would hail atop all of college hockey’s incoming classes.

#3 Michigan (24-13-4)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 7

Five Freshmen Notables: Jacob Trouba (D), Boo Nieves (F), Jared Rutledge (G), Justin Selman (F), Daniel Milne (F)

After a wild summer, Jacob Trouba stayed true to his word and remains in Ann Arbor for another season. No one is sure how long Trouba will stay at Michigan, but Jon Merrill and Trouba could create the best defensive pairing in all of college hockey during their time together. After two years of decommitments, Michigan finally got a NTDP goalie in Jared Rutledge. Look for Boo Nieves to have an immediate impact despite the Wolverines losing just two forwards from last year’s team. Justin Selman is very underrated and led Sioux Falls (USHL) in points as an 18-year-old.

#4 Boston University (23-15-1)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 11

Five Freshmen Notables: Sam Kurker (F), Matt Grzelcyk (D), Danny O’Regan (D), Matt Lane (F), Sean Maguire (G)

Boston brings in a very young class this year but also a very good and deep one. The 2012 has four true freshmen who are all 94 birth years. Sam Kurker, who is one of them, had a very good season last year at the Massachusetts prep level and was a second round pick by St. Louis last June. Matt Grzelcyk, Danny O’Regan, and Matt Lane all played for the National Team Development Program last season and come in ready for the college game. Coach Parker also brings in Sean Maguire who could very easily be the Terriers’ starter from day one after the departures of two senior goaltenders.

#5 Miami (24-15-2)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 8

Five Freshmen Notables: Sean Kuraly (F), Riley Barber (F), Ryan McKay (G), Matt Caito (D), Jay Williams (G)

Miami will have a new look this season with head coach Enrico Blasi bringing in 11 freshmen due to departures and graduation. After seeing the duo of Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard graduat, Miami

will find the new duo of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams between the pipes. The pair combined to play 79 games in the USHL last season. At this point, McKay is the better goaltender of the two and will likely see the majority of the action early on. Sean Kuraly continues to improve every season and was arguably the best player at the USA’s World Junior Evaluation Camp in early August. Riley Barber and Matt Caito both played important roles on their respective USHL team last season and should have an impact this season.

#6 Providence (14-20-4)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: T-28

Five Freshman Notables: Mark Jankowski (F), Jon Gillies (G), Thomas Parisi (D), Nick Saracino (F), John Gilmour (D)

In May, Providence had a typical recruiting class for the upcoming season. With Jon Gillies deciding on Providence and destined to be the starter from day one and Mark Jankowski deciding to forgo a season in the USHL, the Friars have put together one of the best incoming classes for 2012. Gillies is one of the best true freshmen goaltenders in the nation and will likely start for the team this season. Jankowski, another true freshman, is a very raw talent, but should also contribute as a top six forward from day one. Thomas Parisi looked solid in his time with the NTDP and should be a four year player at the school. John Gilmour had a very good season in Cedar Rapids (USHL) and fellow teammate Nick Saracino led the team in points.

#7 Boston College (33-10-1)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 1

Five Freshman Notables: Michael Matheson (D), Colin Sullivan (D), Frank Vatrano (F), Brendan Silk (F), Ted Doherty (D)

Boston College reloads after winning the National Championship last season with a very well rounded 2012 class. Michael Matheson improved mightily throughout last season and is good enough to make a huge impact for BC this season. Joining Matheson on the blue line will be 2011 seventh round pick Colin Sullivan and Ted Doherty. The two should see a steady dose of ice time with the Eagles losing three defensemen from last season. Frank Vatrano is very underrated and will enters this season with a chip on his shoulder after being passed on at the 2012 NHL Draft.

#8 North Dakota (26-13-3)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 5

Five Freshman Notables: Jordan Schmaltz (D), Zane Gothberg (G), Bryn Chyzyk (F), Drake Caggiula (F), Coltyn Sanderson (F)

Ever since Jordan Schmaltz committed to North Dakota two years ago, there was always speculation the defenseman would not step foot on campus. Proving those people wrong, Schmaltz kept his commitment and will join the Sioux as a true freshman. Joining him is USHL 2011-12 co-Goaltender of

the Year Zane Gothberg, who like many freshman goaltenders on this list, will have the chance to start this season. Bryn Chyzyk comes to North Dakota after finishing second in points down the road in Fargo (USHL) last season. Drake Caggiula and Coltyn Sanderson both put up impressive numbers in their respective Canadian Junior A league last season. North Dakota returns a majority of their forwards from last season, so the three may have a limited role their freshman year.

#9 Minnesota (28-14-1)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 4

Five Freshman Notables: Brady Skjei (D), Mike Reilly (D), AJ Michaelson (F), Connor Reilly (F), Christian Horn (F)

Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly both join the Gophers as true freshman to create the best defense in the nation for the upcoming season. Minnesota did not lose a defenseman from last year’s Frozen Four team, but both are talented enough they should play immediately. AJ Michaelson struggled last season in Waterloo (USHL), but if he can return to his old form will provide scoring depth. Connor Reilly and Christian Horn both come in with goal scoring capabilities, but will both see bottom six minutes most of this season when they dress.

#10 Ohio State (15-15-5)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 23

Five Freshman Notables: Sam Jardine (D), Collin Olson (G), Anthony Greco (F), Craig Dalrymple (D), Tyler Lundey (F)

Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki does not have any big names in the 2012 class, but the class is filled with experience. 19-year-old Sam Jardine was one of the best defensemen in the AJHL last season and should have an impact this season. Anthony Greco also had an impressive last season, leading Des Moines (USHL) in points as an 18-year-old. Forward Tyler Lundey and big defenseman Craig Dalrymple both come to Columbus as 21-year-olds and bring lots of junior hockey experience with them. Collin Olson, who is the only true freshman in this class, will be the Buckeyes’ goaltender of the future as he will likely be a three to four year player.

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2012 Classes Receiving Consideration

Minnesota-Duluth (25-10-6)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 6

Five Freshman Notables: Andy Welinski (D), Tony Cameranesi (F), Austin Farley (F), Matt McNeely (G), Austyn Young (F)

The Skinny: Andy Welinski should be one of the best freshmen defensemen in the WCHA this season.

Harvard (13-10-11)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 18

Five Freshman Notables: Jimmy Vesey (F), Brian Hart (F), Greg Gozzo (F), Desmond Bergin (D), Kyle Criscuolo (F)

The Skinny: 2012 NHL Draft picks Jimmy Vesey and Brian Hart are the highest two draft picks to play for Harvard since Louis LeBlanc joined the team in 2009. Both will jell nicely on a team that should do big things in the ECAC this fall.

Denver (25-14-3)

USCHO.com Final Ranking: 12

Five Freshman Notables: Dakota Mermis (D), Quentin Shore (F), Nolan Zajac (D), Gabe Levin (F), Grant Arnold (F)

The Skinny: A very strong class that should see most, if not all, stay for four seasons.

A Look Into The Top Five Classes of 2013-14

A lot could change between now and next August when the 2013 class makes their way to their respective college campuses. Three of the teams from 2012’s top 10 lost top recruits after they signed with CHL teams. Losses are not the only aspect that will affect the 2013 rankings as NHL Draft eligible Ian McCoshen has yet to decide between Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, and Nebraska-Omaha. Below is an all too early look at the top recruiting classes of 2013.

#1 Boston College

Five Freshman Notables: Steve Santini (D), Adam Gilmour (F), Chris Calnan (F), Ryan Fitzgerald (F), Austin Cangelosi (F)

The Skinny: Three of the five notables have already been drafted and two more could very easily be drafted in 2013.

#2 Michigan

Five Freshman Notables: J.T. Compher (F), Tyler Motte (F), Michael Downing (D), Evan Allen (F), Alex Kile (F)

The Skinny: Four commits could be first or second round picks at the 2013 NHL Draft, those same four all were selected in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

#3 Minnesota

Five Freshman Notables: Hudson Fasching (F), Taylor Cammarata (F), Gabe Guertler (F), Vinni Letteri (F), Louie Nanne (F)

The Skinny: All five will likely join the Gophers with their rights owned by an NHL team. All five will also join the team as true freshmen.

#4 Northeastern

Five Freshman Notables: Ross Olsson (F), Zach Aston-Reese (F), Garret Cockerill (D), Nathan Ferriero (F), John Stevens (F)

The Skinny: Head coach Jim Madigan has begun to resurrect a program that fell apart after the 2010-11 season. This incoming class is a great start.

#5 Denver

Five Freshman Notables: Will Butcher (D), Trevor Moore (F), Connor Chatham (F), Landon Smith (F), Ray Pigozzi (F)

The Skinny: Will Butcher is the National Team Development Program’s best defensemen this season and could very easily be a first round pick at June’s NHL Draft. All five should have a large impact for their respective USHL team this season.

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