Recruiting Trail: Top 20 Defensemen
We're not ones to gloat, but we'd like to take
this opportunity to point out that the players who've topped
our list of incoming defensemen in each of the previous three
years have done pretty well. Ryan Suter, who sat atop the
2003 rankings, had a fairly productive year at Wisconsin prior
to turning pro at the end of the season. Alex Goligoski, who's
put up 59 points in 74 career games for Minnesota, was our
top-ranked freshman rearguard in 2004. Last season, Michigan's
Jack Johnson was the consensus choice as the No. 1 backliner.
Needless to say, when we sought input on this
year's crop of freshman defenseman, we started by asking who
our panelists felt was the second-best in the group. That's
because Minnesota's Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in
this year's NHL Entry Draft, was a no-brainer for the top
spot. The rundown of the top 20 defensemen is split fairly
evenly among three conferences: the WCHA (seven representatives)
and the CCHA and Hockey East (six each). The USHL (eight alums)
and the U.S. NTDP (seven) combined to produce three-fourths
of our list.
Inside College Hockey compiled its 2006 Recruiting
Rankings with extensive input from college and junior coaches,
as well as professional scouts. Participants were asked to
evaluate recruits based on their projected impact at the college
level, not on their professional hockey prospects.
Stay tuned in the coming days for our exclusive
ranking of the top goalies and incoming classes, and our annual
20 INCOMING DEFENSEMEN
What more can be said
about someone who scouts have compared to Chris Pronger?
Better yet, imagine what the hype for Johnson would've
been like if we weren't coming off two straight years
The adjectives used to
describe Strait – steady, smart, reliable –
make one wonder if he's a Honda Accord, not a hockey
player, but he'll be a perfect fit for the utilitarian
Terriers. He's also earned kudos for his leadership
He's not as much of a
sure thing as Strait, but he's got the tools to be
a gifted offensive defenseman for the Buckeyes.
A well-balanced defender,
Summers drew praise for helping out a depleted forward
corps for the U.S. entry in last spring's World Under-18
Championships by centering the team's third line.
Apple Valley (Minn.) H.S.
The NHL Central Scouting
Service gave him high marks for his dedication, work
ethic, leadership skills, quick hands and quick feet.
Just wait until he fills out his 6-3 frame.
Not as big as his older
brother, Chicago Blackhawk standout Brent Seabrook,
but at 6-foot and 200 pounds, he won't get knocked
around either. Played extremely well for Burnaby in
last season's BCHL playoffs.
His nose for offense and
puck-handling skills will come in handy as the Badgers
try to replace the blueline production that left when
Tom Gilbert graduated last spring.
Notre Dame (SJHL)
The former Athol Murray
College of Notre Dame standout was named the Saskatchewan
Junior Hockey League's top defenseman last season
after scoring 12 goals and 35 points for the Hounds.
Ratchuk boasts great wheels
and likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone
or join the offensive rush. Scouts question his attention
to detail in his own end and the high-risk, high-reward
Ed Del Grosso
In 124 games over two
seasons for the Indiana Ice, the 2006 All-USHL second
teamer scored 35 goals and 92 points.
Brainerd (Minn.) H.S.
Green Bay (USHL)
A poll compiled by Canadian
cable outlet Sportsnet prior to the 2006 NHL Draft
rated the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Gryba as one of the
top fighters in this year's draft crop. After racking
up 204 PIMs with Green Bay last season, we'll take
their word as bond.
The USHL's top defenseman
in 2005-06, Schaus scored nine goals and 53 points
in 60 games with Omaha. Fellow River Hawk freshman
Barry Goers was named the top blueliner in the Eastern
Junior Hockey League last season.
Green Mountain (EJHL)
Sioux City (USHL)
Cedar Rapids (USHL)
After averaging nearly
a point per game for Lincoln last season, Vlaisavljevich
(that's pronounced vlie-SAHV-la-vich) should combine
with veteran Lars Helminen to give the Huskies a one-two
scoring punch from the blue line.