Time flies for the college prospects of the New York Rangers and New York Islanders as college hockey is right around the corner. We are going to start with the first poll of the season and once again we will be using the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey poll as the official poll of Prospect Park.
While the Miami Redhawks are going to start the season as the number one team in college hockey, both the Islanders and Rangers will be on teams ranked in the top 5. Anders Lee (Islanders 2009 6th) and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish will open the season ranked 2nd in the USA with good reason.
Last year the Fighting Irish started 10 freshman on a team that made it to the Frozen Four before losing to eventual NCAA Champion Minnesota-Duluth. Lee and linemate T.J. Tynan are also members of the CCHA Pre-Season All-Conference teams which is not bad for a couple of sophomores.
Lee was one of our favorite players to watch as the 6'3 power forward was the leading goal scorer among freshman in the USA going 24-20-44. Lee may be big but he has small man's skills and we are expecting him to break 30 goals this season.
Next season Lee's good friend from his hometown in Edina Minnesota Steven Fogarty who was the Ranger's 3rd round pick in the 2011 NHL draft will be joining Notre Dame. 2 6'3 power forwards on the same line sounds like fun to watch and we can't wait.
This year though Robbie Russo who the Islanders used a 4th round pick in the 2011 draft will be joining Lee at Notre Dame. Russo is a great story as he decided at age 15 to attend Notre Dame. Russo is joining Notre Dame from the USNTDP where he got high marks for being a steady nothing every rattles him kind of defender.
Only 6' but it is hard to find people who do not like Russo as he is coming off a 3-17-20 season for USNTDP. Russo sounds ideal for Notre Dame as we want to see him show us more shots from the point this year as he will be getting plenty of chances to score.
Ranked 3rd in the opening poll is the University of North Dakota (AKA the school that JT Miller said no to) and despite the loss of prospect Miller as well as several other players remains a very talented team. The Fighting Sioux start with the Islander's second 2010 first round pick in center Brock Nelson.
Nelson who was also a part of the 2011 silver medal winning USA Under-20 team returns with a year under his belt and now he is going to be counted on to make up for some of the lost offense North Dakota will be missing.
Nelson got off to a slow start last season but down the stretch started to find his game as he played well in the NCAA tournament as North Dakota lost to Carl Hagelin and Michigan in the Frozen Four. That though was a game we are sure Nelson would rather forget about as he was taken off the ice on a stretcher in what was one of the more frightening sights of the 2010-2011 season.
We still are not 100% sold on Nelson as a full time center but if he added some weight to this 6'3 185lb frame that might change our mind. Nelson finished last season 8-13-21 and we think it is fair to expect him to double those numbers this year.
2011 2nd round pick Scott Mayfield joining them this season. Mayfield is a 6'4 defender who will have people taking notice as the very physical defensive minded defender is one very punishing player.
Denver is a very good place for Mayfield as they are an annual WCHA title contender and this year will be no different. We say that because we watched how fellow Islander prospect Matt Donovan polished his game up to go from simply known as just an offensive defender to a responsible 2 way defender.
We think we will see Mayfield improving his offensive game while polishing up the rough edges on the defensive side.
Coming in 5th will be Boston College led by the Ranger's 2009 first round pick Chris Kreider who said no to the Rangers in order to return for his junior season. It was in our eyes the right choice for Kreider to make in terms of his development.
People forget that Kreider is just 2 years removed from playing HS hockey in the Boston area and yes his numbers are not Christian Thomas like numbers either. Odds are they will not be earth shattering "I own you" like numbers mainly because Boston College plays a system game that put team before player.
Here is what we do want to see from Chris and that is more shots because we do not buy the garbage making the rounds that Kreider lacks good hockey sense. We want to see Chris firing at least 5 shots a game this season because the numbers do not lie when Kreider is shooting the puck he is scoring.
Yea Kreider is a dummy all right with 1 gold medal, a silver medal AND an NCAA championship on his resume along with 2 appearances on both the USA Under-20 and Senior teams in the same years.
Kreider is a whole lot smarter than some people give him credit for and write this down cause we will say it now; Chris Kreider is going to show his critics that he is for real this season.
Corey Trivino who plays for 6th ranked Boston University. Trivino who the Islander's selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft will be a senior this year for the Terriers.
We were not big fans of Trivino who despite being on the top lines for the Terriers was only 8-20-28 as a junior. Right now we would say he is on the outside looking in for a contract so he badly needs to put up some big numbers.
We have a couple of other college prospects starting with Islander 2010 3rd round pick Jason Clark of Wisconsin who we had been told was an offensive weapon in the mold of the Ranger's Derek Stepan. Well we saw nothing out of Clark to come close to being Stepan and it turns out he was hurt.
Chuck Schwartz who writes about Wisconsin Hockey at Bucky's 5th Quarter got an interview with Clark where Clark explains what went wrong as a freshman. Sounds strange but we are glad it was an injury not just playing terrible that was why Clark struggled.
Our last college prospect is a 2007 7th round pick of the Rangers named Danny Hobbs who plays at UMass/Amherst. It is funny how we have been watching Hobbs over the last few years while the Rangers has basically ignored him.
Hobbs did something this past off-season that we felt he should have been doing all along which was making an effort to attend the prospect camps in July. Hobbs was the leading scorer for the Minutemen with a career season of 12-16-28 but UMass was a terrible team last season.
This year Hobbs will be the captain and in all honesty we have no idea why the Rangers still view him as a legit prospect but after the comeback of Max Campbell then why not?
Just one prospect saw action on Tuesday night and we have to admit that Samuel Noreau is doing more and more with each passing game to raise his stock with us. Noreau had a secondary assist on the game's first goal and added a +3 to help his Baie-Comeau Drakkar to a 6-1 win over the Victoriaville Tigre.
Noreau a 6'5 225 defenseman showed us a pretty good game at Traverse City continued his play in his return to the Drakkar. Remember all that talk about how the Drakkar have been one of the worst teams in the QMJHL the last couple of years?
Well skip that as the Drakkar are currently the best team in the QMJHL with a 6-1 record on their 4th straight win. The team who's name in French means Viking ship is on fire and we hope to see them keep it up.
(Images: Lee/CCHA, Russo and Mayfield/New York Islanders, Nelson/USA Hockey, Trivino/Boston University, Kreider/Dennis Pause, Noreau/Baie-Comeau)
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