FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — I jumped on a plane with College Hockey Inc., executive director Mike Snee this afternoon in Minneapolis and flew to Fort Lauderdale.
After exiting the secure area, the first person I saw standing on the other side was UND coach Brad Berry.
As the evening progressed, I also saw Minnesota Duluth coaches Scott Sandelin and Jason Herter, College Hockey Inc.’s Nate Ewell and Boston University sports info director Brian Kelley, among others.
Yes, there’s a pretty good college hockey contingency on hand for this weekend’s NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla. For good reason, too.
This could be a pretty strong overall draft for NCAA players. One of those guys is UND incoming freshman Brock Boeser, who one NHL person told me will definitely go in the first round.
Boeser arrived in South Florida earlier this week to get some final pre-draft interviews done.
If you haven’t read Michael Russo’s piece on Boeser in the Star Tribune, I’d highly recommend checking it out. He details some of the tough times that Boeser has gone through in his young life.
I added on to that with some scouting reports on Boeser and comments from Berry about his top incoming forward recruit. Read that here.
The second UND player off the board should be goalie recruit Matej Tomek. The Slovakian is in South Florida with his family and said he’s not going to stress out about the draft. He’s looking at it like a vacation.
After Tomek, there are six guys who appear to be on the radar of NHL scouts, though it’s highly unlikely that all six will get selected. Here’s a quick breakdown on all of UND’s draft hopefuls.
TOP 10 STORYLINES TO WATCH AT THE DRAFT
1. How high can Boeser go?
Boeser could go higher than 20, which would put him in elite company at UND. The other guys to go in the first round and higher than 20 have been Jonathan Toews, Drew Stafford, Zach Parise and Landon Wilson. Once next year starts, all will be 10-year NHL vets.
2. Can Tomek make history?
Scouts seem to have different opinions on Tomek, who had a great start to last season but a slow finish (he admitted so himself to me this week). UND has never had a goalie picked in the first, second or third round of the draft, so Tomek could be making history.
3. Wilkie’s re-do
UND recruit Chris Wilkie decided to go back to the USHL for one more season before coming to college and it has paid off big time. Wilkie tied Boeser for the USHL lead in goals and scouts started circling back to have a second look at the Omaha product. After going undrafted a year ago, he’s back on the radars this year.
4. Hakstol’s draft
Usually, head coaches aren’t super involved with drafts in the NHL. They are busy with the current teams and are not scouting draft-eligible players. Hakstol, however, will have a much different perspective than most head coaches as he has been watching these guys on the recruiting trail. How much say will he have at the draft table?
5. Any UND guys to Philly?
It also will be interesting to see if Hakstol and the Flyers take any UND-bound players. Philly picks at Nos. 7 and 29 in the first round, which isn’t exactly Boeser territory. He’s not expected to go in the top 10, but he probably won’t last until 29.
6. Oshie on the move?
The NHL Draft is known for being a hot trading day, and one former UND player could be on the go. There is speculation that the Blues are dangling T.J. Oshie as possible tradebait. Will he still be a Blue at the end of the weekend?
7. Will someone take the smaller-sized Keane?
UND commit Jackson Keane, who will play in Sioux City next season, is very small in stature at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds. But he has raised the attention levels of scouts with his play. And with his father being a longtime, respected NHLer who wore an ‘A’ on his jersey, teams may be more interested in Keane’s upside than concerned with his size.
8. The D-men
UND has recruited very well on the back end, but the three draft-eligible players this season are all borderline guys. I’m going to say Gabe Bast from Penticton is the most likely to get picked. Christian Evers has good size and Andrew Peski put up good numbers.
9. How many NCAA guys will go early?
Jack Eichel will be off the board early, several others will follow. College hockey could have as many as seven or eight guys selected in the first round.
10. Who may turn pro after the draft?
The top two candidates are from Boston — Eichel will likely sign with the Buffalo Sabres and Noah Hanifin, a Boston College defenseman, will certainly get some pressure from whoever picks him up.