NHL Scouting: The Top 13 Prospects in College Hockey Right Now

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2011

NHL Scouting: The Top 13 Prospects in College Hockey Right Now

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    The 2011 NHL draft confirmed what has been a growing trend in the league's scouting process: College hockey is not the pipeline to the NHL. Young and talented players, whether American, Canadian or European, are bolting to the Canadian Junior Leagues the first chance that they get. The competition is better, the coaching is better and the school portion of the exchange is not present.

    The NCAA is still churning out some successful NHL players, though. The Brett Hulls of the old days are no longer coming out of the collegiate ranks in waves, but James Van Riemsdyk, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Miller were all the big man on campus before becoming staples of NHL rosters.

    So, who's next? Typically, college hockey players take a bit longer to develop, and tons of success in the NCAA does not always translate to the NHL. College hockey boasts a handful of high upside prospects that are either returning to school or arriving this fall.

    Check out the biggest men on campus for the upcoming college hockey season. 

13. T.J. Tynan, University of Notre Dame, RW

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    T.J. Tynan, University of Notre Dame, RW

    Drafted By: Columbus Blue Jackets (2011, third round)

    T.J. Tynan was eligible for the 2010 NHL draft but managed to go undrafted. Apparently, the NHL didn't do their homework. Tynan responded to being snubbed by hitting the Notre Dame campus hard as a freshman. Tynan ranked seventh in the country with 54 points, which was more than any other freshman.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets saw enough to draft Tynan in the third round of the 2011 NHL draft during the Illinois native's second year of eligibility.

12. Anders Lee, University of Notre Dame, C

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    Anders Lee, University of Notre Dame, C

    Drafted By: New York Islanders (2009, sixth round)

    Anders Lee is going to make a phenomenal bottom-six center in the NHL someday. At 6'3'', 213 pounds, Anders Lee has ideal size for the center position in the NHL, and he uses it in conjunction with his outstanding strength to grind opponents in the corners.

    Lee has blossomed since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL draft. As a freshman, he scored 44 points this season at a point per game clip. I'm expecting another huge jump forward from Anders Lee in his second season with the Irish.

11. Matthew Nieto, Boston University, LW

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    Matthew Nieto, Boston University, LW

    Drafted By: San Jose Sharks (2011, second round)

    The San Jose Sharks just love the Hockey East. First they pluck the Ferriero brothers out of Massachusetts and now Boston Terrier Matthew Nieto is a member of the organization, too.

    Nieto has a different skill set than the Ferrieros, who rely on their size and strength. Nieto is small but extremely quick and shifty. He has tons of offensive tools that are sometimes masked by the overly defensive game that is played in college.

10. Reilly Smith, Miami University, RW

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    Reilly Smith, Miami University, RW

    Drafted By: Dallas Stars (2009, third round)

    Reilly Smith had a breakout campaign for the Miami RedHawks this season. The sophomore forward scored 28 and goals and had 54 points, despite only playing in 38 games this year.

    Smith grades out well in terms of offensive instincts and ability. His size and strength is a lingering concern. Next season will be a big one for Smith, who will be asked to play a much bigger role for Miami.

9. Scott Mayfield, University of Denver, D

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    Scott Mayfield, University of Denver, D

    Drafted By: New York Islanders (2011, second round)

    College hockey is going to do wonders for Scotty Mayfield. The 6'4'' defenseman has all of the raw skills to become a top-four rearguard at the NHL level. Mayfield needs to add bulk to his frame and refine his game a bit, as he has been able to roam free in the USHL. The potential is there for Mayfield to be a stud. We'll see how his development progresses.

8. Drew Shore, University of Denver, C

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    Drew Shore, University of Denver, C

    Drafted By: Florida Panthers (2009, second round)

    The Florida Panthers are going to have to wait one more season before unveiling their 2009 second-round pick. Drew Shore has opted to spend another season with the University of Denver. Shore has not often flashed elite upside during his college career, but his progression has been consistent and steady, making him a safe bet to contribute at the NHL level. Shore put up a respectable 46 points for the Pioneers last year.

7. Rocco Grimaldi, University of North Dakota, C

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    Rocco Grimaldi, University of North Dakota, C

    Drafted By: Florida Panthers (2011, second round)

    Rocco Grimaldi is a highly-underrated prospect because of the fact that he stands at just 5'6'' tall. Despite his size, there is hardly anything that this guy cannot do on the ice. Rocco will bring his energy on the forecheck and tremendous offensive skill set to North Dakota in the fall.

6. Nick Bjugstad, University of Minnesota, C

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    Nick Bjugstad, University of Minnesota, C

    Drafted By: Florida Panthers (2010, first round)

    Nick Bjugstad projects as a top-six forward for the Florida Panthers. He makes a living on his defensive play but has the offensive skills to make the opposition pay. His 6'5'' frame is ideal for the defensive zone, but Bjugstad was utilized by the Golden Gophers in virtually all situations in his freshman season. Bjugstad will be back for his sophomore campaign, which is likely to be his last before heading to the NHL.

5. Tyler Biggs, Miami University, RW

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    Tyler Biggs, Miami University, RW

    Drafted By: Toronto Maple Leafs (2011, first round)

    Tyler Biggs is a legitimate power forward with his 6'2'', 210-pound frame and his physical playing style. Biggs figures to transition well to the college game, considering he is big and strong enough to take a beating from the older competition. It will be interesting to see how much his offensive ability shines through in his first season with Miami.

4. Jon Merrill, University of Michigan, D

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    Jon Merrill, University of Michigan, D

    Drafted By: New Jersey Devils (2010, second round)

    Jon Merrill is one of the more well-rounded defenseman prospects in hockey. His experience at Michigan has made him incredibly poised on the blue line, and the 6'3'' rearguard is not afraid to bring the puck up ice and create some offense.

    It's scary to think about Merrill playing alongside Adam Larsson in three years. Those two will form a hell of a tandem.

3. Chris Kreider, Boston College, LW

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    Chris Kreider, Boston College, LW

    Drafted By: New York Rangers (2009, first round)

    Chris Kreider is one of the most well-known prospects currently in the NCAA ranks. His spectacular performances in junior tournaments and in the Frozen Four earned him first-round draft status. His offensive tools are incredible and the upside is definitely there.

    The Eagles are glad that Kreider will be back for another season, but it could be his last at BC because the Rangers are eager to get their hands on their prized prospect.

2. Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College, C

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    Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College, C

    Drafted By: St. Louis Blues (2010, first round)

    Jaden Schwartz is a rare Canadian among college hockey's elite. Schwartz is the best playmaker in the nation. He has outstanding vision and his passes are always delivered right on the money. The rest of his offensive game could use a bit of work, but when a player can pass like Schwartz can, there is a spot for him in the NHL. 

1. Charlie Coyle, Boston University, RW

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    Charlie Coyle, Boston University, RW

    Drafted By: San Jose Sharks, Traded to Minnesota Wild (2010, first round)

    Charlie Coyle was a big chip in the trade that brought Brent Burns to San Jose, which should shed some light on the value Coyle has. He is a big kid who is very strong on his skates. Coyle has the ability to muscle his opponents around and handle the puck very well as a result. He was solid all season with BU and even managed a point per game in the World Junior Classic. The Wild got a good one.