September 12, 2006
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 all-name team.




School Last Team


Erik Johnson

Minnesota U.S. NTDP

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 of Kesselmania.


Brian Strait

Boston University U.S. NTDP

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 abilities.


Kevin Montgomery

Ohio State U.S. NTDP

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.


Chris Summers

Michigan U.S. NTDP

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.


David Fischer

Minnesota 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.


Keith Seabrook

Denver Burnaby (BCHL)

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.


Jamie McBain

Wisconsin U.S. NTDP

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.


Kris Fredheim

Colorado College 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.


Michael Ratchuk

Michigan State U.S. NTDP

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 rushes.


Ed Del Grosso

Nebraska-Omaha Indiana (USHL)

In 124 games over two seasons for the Indiana Ice, the 2006 All-USHL second teamer scored 35 goals and 92 points.


Carl Sneep

Boston College Brainerd (Minn.) H.S.


Eric Gryba

Boston University 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.


Nigel Williams Wisconsin U.S. NTDP


Kyle Lawson

Notre Dame Tri-City (USHL)


Nick Schaus

UMass Lowell Omaha (USHL)

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.


Alex Biega

Harvard Salisbury Prep


Barry Goers

UMass Lowell Green Mountain (EJHL)


Steve Kampfer

Michigan Sioux City (USHL)


Dave Strathman

Northeastern Cedar Rapids (USHL)


Eli Vlaisavljevich

Michigan Tech Lincoln (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.