NCAA Frozen Four 2012: NHL Prospects to Watch in the Tournament

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IApril 3, 2012

NCAA Frozen Four 2012: NHL Prospects to Watch in the Tournament

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    While the nation turns its attention to the NCAA's basketball championship on Monday night, the championship will be decided this weekend on the ice in Tampa, Fla., when Ferris State, Union, Minnesota and Boston College take part in the 2012 Frozen Four. 

    If you're looking for players that have been drafted, the weekend heavily favors Minnesota and Boston College. Both of those teams have a number of high draft picks taking the ice. But there's a reason Ferris St. and Union are still playing, and there will be scouts watching all four teams.

    What follows is a look at some players the scouts will be watching. Some have been drafted, and others are still waiting for a call. But these are some names to look for during the great games that are coming up.

Garrett Thompson, F, Ferris State

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    Drafted: N/A

    Thompson, 22, is one of the bigger players on Ferris State's roster (6'2" and 191 pounds) and he had a solid second season in the CCHA with 10 goals and 12 assists in 39 games. He wasn't drafted, but the Traverse City, Mich. native is someone that could catch a scout's eye with a strong performance this weekend.

Kevin Hayes, F, Boston College

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    Drafted: 2010—first round (No. 24) by Chicago

    Kevin, the younger brother of current Blackhawks forward Jimmy, scored six goals and added 20 assists in 42 games this year for Boston College while spending a good portion of the season as the center on the team's top line. Listed at 6'3" and 205 pounds, he doesn't turn 20 until late May but might get a call from Stan Bowman this summer.

John Gaudreau, F, Boston College

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    Drafted: 2011—fourth round (No. 104) by Calgary

    He isn't very big (5'7" and 141 pounds), but Gaudreau is a lot of fun to watch. As a 19-year-old, he was second on BC with 20 goals and 21 assists in 42 contests this year, and was one of the top freshman in Hockey East. The Flames will likely give him some time to grow into his game (and his body) at BC.

Parker Milner, G, Boston College

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    Drafted: N/A

    Milner will turn 22 in September, but there's a good chance the undrafted netminder will have a NHL contract in-hand before his birthday. After posting a 27-5-0 record with a stunning .935 save percentage for BC this year, he's been electric in the postseason and his phone will be busy once BC's season is over.

Chris Kreider, F, Boston College

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    Drafted: 2009—first round (No. 19) by NY Rangers

    Kreider had a huge season for Boston College, scoring 22 goals and adding 21 assists in 42 games. Once BC's season comes to an end, there's a good chance he gets a call from the Rangers.

Nate Schmidt, D, Minnesota

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    Drafted: N/A

    Schmidt, 20, put up big numbers for a defenseman this year for the Gophers, posting 41 points (three goals, 38 assists) in 42 games. He wasn't drafted, and might be back at Minnesota next year, but he has the size (5'11" and 200 pounds) to get the attention of a few scouts this weekend.

Erik Haula, F, Minnesota

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    Drafted: 2009—seventh round (No. 182) by NY Islanders*

    In 2009, the Wild made a draft day trade that acquired two kids that were headed to the U. of Minnesota. They eventually traded Nick Leddy, the first-round pick acquired in that deal, to Chicago, but have retained Haula's rights. He led the Gophers in scoring this year, posting 20 goals and adding 28 assists in 42 games. The Pori, Finland product turned 21 on March 23, and might get a call from the NHL this summer.

    The trade made during the 2009 draft between the Islanders and Wild sent the rights to Leddy, Haula and goalie Matt Hackett to Minnesota for the rights to defenseman Calvin deHaan.

Justin Holl, D, Minnesota

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    Drafted: 2010—second round (No. 54) by Chicago

    Holl is a big kid (6'2" and 180 pounds) who skates well and plays big minutes on special teams for Minnesota. He had just 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 42 games this year, and the organizational depth in Chicago will likely buy him another year (or two) with the Gophers.

Nick Bjugstad, F, Minnesota

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    Drafted: 2010—first round (No. 19) by Florida

    Selected five slots before BC's Kevin Hayes, Bjugstad shares his daunting size (6'4" and 204 pounds). But the 19-year-old put up numbers closer to Kreider, scoring 25 goals and adding 17 assists in 39 games for Minnesota this year. He plays as big as his size would indicate, and there will be some heavy hitting in the corners this weekend.

Jeremy Welsh, F, Union

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    Drafted: N/A

    Welsh, who will turn 24 at the end of April, is a big kid (6'3" and 200 pounds) who has been the most scouted player of the NCAA tournament. He scored 27 goals and added 16 assists in 39 games this year and has been a physical presence all over the ice for Union. He will likely have a couple NHL contract offers within hours of his season ending.