By: Nathan Strauss | Follow him on Twitter @NathanPStrauss
One of the hallmarks of Don Sweeney’s tenure with the Bruins has been drafting players who end up playing at the NCAA level. While many teams still elect to prioritize those who go the Major Junior route, the Bruins have found success with NCAA players, including Boston University’s own Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelyck. This year, the B’s have eight prospects playing at the college level. Let’s check in on how they have performed so far!
Johnny Beecher is the lone NCAA first-rounder selected by the Bruins, and he’s made a splash so far this year. Despite being sidelined with a variety of injuries during his Michigan tenure, Beecher has two goals and two assists in his four games this year since returning to full fitness.
There were some question marks about Beecher’s selection in the first round, and already in his junior year, Beecher certainly has a point to prove to justify that early pick (Shane Pinto, Arthur Kaliyev, and Nils Hoglander were all drafted within the following ten selections). Michigan is a top-5 team that is loaded with talent, so Beecher should be able to put up some good numbers and possibly play his way into an ELC this coming spring.
The Bruins’ 2020 second rounder Mason Lohrei has impressed for Ohio State during his freshman campaign. A big, puck-moving D, he led all defensemen in points, assists, and game-winning goals in his overage year in the USHL last season, and he’s carried that confidence to the Buckeyes. At the time of writing, he’s on a three-game points streak and has two goals and six assists on the season. While Lohrei has plenty of room to grow, his early signs in a challenging conference are positive.
Playing in the rugged NCHC is the 2019 third-rounder Quinn Olson, plying his trade with the #4 ranked UMD Bulldogs. Olson put up 15 and 11 points in his first and second years, respectively, but is on pace to eclipse that mark with two goals and five assists through ten games. Most noticeable, though, is that Olson is shooting the puck far more than in either of his first two years. He had 73 shots through his first two seasons combined but is on pace for 82 shots this year alone. Olson is playing under the legendary Scott Sandelin, and his development has been encouraging.
Meanwhile, at Conte Forum, Trevor Kuntar has put up solid numbers for a struggling Boston College side. With four goals and four assists, the third-rounder is tied for fourth on the Eagles in points. BC has arguably been the biggest underperformer in the entire NCAA, but Kuntar looks to have improved on last year. He’s yet to take a penalty and has turned in big performances (like a six-shot game against UVM). With a number of promising wingers having come through Jerry York’s system in recent years, Kuntar should be able to work on his individual game even when the team results are not there.
Dustyn McFaul, the B’s 2018 6th rounder, has also quietly impressed this season. While McFaul is a stay-at-home defenseman by trade – he rarely shoots the puck, and point production is at a minimum – he has done well as a mainstay on the Clarkson second defensive pairing. After being named Clarkson’s rookie of the year two seasons ago, McFaul has been solid if unremarkable, which for a player of his style is nothing to scoff at.
Another sixth-rounder is Riley Duran, the former Lawrence Academy star. The ISL has produced a number of good players in recent years, including Miles Wood and lottery pick Matty Berniers, and Duran is hoping to be the next name to make the jump. Playing for Nate Leaman’s Providence Friars, Duran has two goals and four assists in his freshman campaign so far.
Providence scores a lot of their goals on the power play, but Duran rarely sees ice time on those units, often playing on the third line. For a late-round pick like Duran, the short-term expectations are limited, but learning the system from one of Hockey East’s best coaches while playing alongside seven other bonafide prospects will be good for the Woburn native.
The Bruins also have a trio of seventh-rounders skating at the NCAA level in Jack Becker and Jake Schmaltz, but because Becker was selected back in 2015, his rights will not be limited to Boston if he elects to turn professional. The 24-year old is in his fifth season of college hockey, playing at Arizona State after captaining Michigan last year. Schmaltz started off the season on fire, netting three times in his first two games, and while the point production has slowed, he has solidified his place as the first-line center for the Fighting Hawks.
Brad Berry has a good reputation for developing talent, meaning Schmaltz will be given plenty of time to hone his craft in Fargo. Meanwhile, the Bruins have had excellent luck with drafting Boston University defensemen in recent years, and 2021 7th rounder Ty Gallagher could be the next success story. Gallagher has stepped up with a number of Terriers out injured, scoring twice in the last two weeks. While BU has struggled this season, the former NTDP product should continue to see ice time in Hockey East play.