2022 Minnesota Duluth vs Minnesota State - Men's

Logan Cooley, Luke Hughes Lead 25 NHL Prospects To Watch In College Hockey

Logan Cooley, Luke Hughes Lead 25 NHL Prospects To Watch In College Hockey

College hockey is full of NHL prospects, but these 25 are of particular interest this season.

Oct 4, 2022 by Chris Peters
Logan Cooley, Luke Hughes Lead 25 NHL Prospects To Watch In College Hockey

Men's college hockey has always been a haven for high-level NHL prospects. In recent years, that's only become more true as more and more high draft picks have chosen college hockey as their preferred route to the big leagues.

This season, there is no shortage of future NHL talent across the college ranks with 37 players selected among the first two rounds in recent NHL Drafts, including 12 first-round picks. As the NCAA season is just getting underway, FloHockey is putting a spotlight on 25 notable NHL prospects across the college hockey landscape, including some you'll be able to see right here on FloHockey at various points this season.

A lot of the top prospects are bunched up among a few teams, but that's been the nature of college hockey. The teams with the best NHL prospects don't always end up having the most success in terms of hardware, but the continued proliferation of star-caliber players throughout the NCAA is good for the college game.

Here's a look at 25 prospects you should know about this season. And if you missed it, be sure to check out our look at the four best draft-eligible players in college hockey who may be joining this list in 2023-24.

Luke Hughes, D, Michigan (New Jersey Devils)

An elite-level defenseman who scored 17 goals last season, showcasing deceptive skating and natural offensive ability, Hughes is one of the highest-drafted players in college hockey as a fourth overall pick. He's viewed as a contender for the Hobey Baker this season after finishing in the top 10 last year and could be a major key to Michigan staying competitive after reaching the Men's Frozen Four last season.

Logan Cooley, C, Minnesota (Arizona Coyotes)

One of the most dynamic players in college hockey, the Gopher freshman has a lot of flash in his game, but also competes at an exceptionally high level. He’s got a large bag of tricks, can make a lot of plays and has speed to get behind defenses. In his first collegiate weekend, he put up four points.

Matt Knies, LW, Minnesota (Toronto Maple Leafs)

A power forward with tremendous scoring ability, Knies has a chance to be one of those unicorn type players that has brute physicality to go along with massive production. Players like him don’t come around often and certainly not often in Toronto. He’s already put up two goals to start the season and has been a force at the net-front.

Cutter Gauthier, C/W, Boston College (Philadelphia Flyers)

After spending much of last season on the wing, Gauthier will move to the middle and look to become the power center BC and the Flyers hope he can be. Gauthier has a high-end shot and good physical strength to fit the bill as a power forward with the ability to play down the middle.

Matt Coronato, RW, Harvard (Calgary Flames)

This season could be a big breakout for Coronato who has some natural goal-scoring abilities and does, not the least of which is getting himself to the net front an awful lot. Coronato has good skill to make defenders miss, but it’s his offensive instincts that lead to a lot of his points.

Brock Faber, D, Minnesota (Minnesota Wild)

A high-end skater who is among the best overall defenders in college hockey, Faber can log major minutes and play in a variety of roles. I expect his production to trend up this season, but he impacts the game in so many different ways whether or not he’s on the score sheet. I think he’ll be a top-four defenseman in the NHL when he reaches his ceiling.

Frank Nazar, C, Michigan (Chicago Blackhawks)

Quick and shifty, Nazar has a lot of the dynamic skills that can lead to offense and limit questions about his size. Nazar’s competitive drive is another reason he’s able to play bigger than he is. Surrounded by talent in Ann Arbor, it’s all about finding ways to stand out.

Corson Ceulemans, D, Wisconsin (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Upside remains very high with Ceulemans, who was selected 25th overall by Columbus in 2021. The offensive-minded defenseman should be a year stronger and a year wiser, which is going to be critical for Wisconsin as they look to stop a bit of a backslide. Ceulemans has good size and mobility to go with his offensive prowess and should be an integral part of the Badgers roster at both ends of the ice this season.

Rutger McGroarty, LW, Michigan (Winnipeg Jets)

A rugged forward who thrives at the net-front, McGroarty appears poised to be a top-six winger for the Wolverines this season. His focus has to be on continuing to build strength and finding ways to improve quickness as that is one of the biggest areas with room to improve.

Isaac Howard, LW, Minnesota Duluth (Tampa Bay Lightning)

A dynamic, creative forward with loads of skill, Howard is a high-volume shooter who can absolutely score. The Bulldogs should benefit from his creativity and scoring ability as UMD has not had a player quite like Howard. How he fits into the way they play remains one of the more fascinating things I’ll be watching this season. 

Mackie Samoskevich, RW, Michigan (Florida Panthers)

An absolute speedster with a nose for the net, I’m going to be watching very closely how well Samoskevich adjusts to being a more central figure to Michigan’s offensive attack this season. He didn’t have to be the guy when Kent Johnson, Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson were around, but now Samoskevich is the veteran and will need to take charge.

Devon Levi, G, Northeastern (Buffalo Sabres)

After posting the second-highest save percentage in a single season in NCAA history, Levi’s going to be challenged to live up to the impossibly high bar he set in his sophomore season. The Huskies netminder does not have prototypical NHL size for a goalie, but he thinks the game at a high level and makes a lot of the saves he makes look effortless.

Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, Minnesota (St. Louis Blues)

A power winger with good two-way value, the Blues got a player that looks to be a stylistic fit for how they want to play. Snuggerud has the chance to make his own mark at Minnesota after following in dad Dave’s footsteps to his alma mater. Snuggerud might not have the big numbers this year, but he’s going to play a substantial role as the Gophers contend.

Carter Mazur, LW, Denver (Detroit Red Wings)

A two-way force with a competitive edge and sneaky skill, Mazur really broke out last season in helping DU win the national championship. This year, he’s got to be one of the team’s go-to scorers and build off a season that saw him win NCHC rookie of the year honors. If his performance at the summer World Juniors is any indication, Mazur’s due for a big year.

Scott Morrow, D, UMass (Carolina Hurricanes)

Of the players drafted in 2021, there are few that I think took a bigger step forward year over year than Morrow. He had an All-American season as a freshman with 33 points in just 37 games. I still think he needs to improve some of his defensive elements, but I continue to marvel at the skill he has as a 6-2, nearly 200-pound right-shot defenseman. 

Drew Commesso, G, Boston University (Chicago Blackhawks)

One of the more technically-sound, confident young goaltenders you’ll see, Commesso had a whirlwind 2021-22 season that saw him play in the World Juniors and the Olympics. I don’t think he always gets a ton of help in front of him, or at least hasn’t in the last few years at BU, but he has the ability to win games on his own at times.

Lane Hutson, D, Boston University (Montreal Canadiens)

It’s impossible to miss Hutson because he’s always making incredible plays. With some excellent puck skills and vision, he makes those around him better. In his first NCAA game, he had three assists for the Terriers and I think that’s only the beginning. He needs to get stronger and perhaps gain a step in his skating, but Hutson is one of the more unique talents in college hockey.

Sean Behrens, D, Denver (Colorado Avalanche)

Behrens is such a smooth operator on the back end and showed that he could take over shifts from time to time. When he’s on the top of his game, he’s able to get pucks up ice quickly and maximize DU’s forwards. He also can navigate the offensive zone well. Behrens should see a ton of minutes on Denver’s blue line once again this season.

Sean Farrell, C, Harvard (Montreal Canadiens)

A quick, cerebral center who makes plays every time he hits the ice it seems, Farrell would certainly be more highly regarded if he was bigger. But there’s a lot of will in addition to the skill. Farrell’s motor is a key element to why he’s been so productive over the last few years.

Wyatt Kaiser, D, Minnesota Duluth (Chicago Blackhawks)

Kaiser can really move, which is why he’s really shot up in recent years. I think he’s got some things to figure out yet when it comes to the offensive elements of his game, but Kaiser can play big time minutes and will for the Bulldogs. If he can put up bigger numbers this year, I think we’ll start hearing a lot more Kaiser buzz as a result.

Aidan McDonough, LW, Northeastern (Vancouver Canucks)

Every year, McDonough gets a little better and last season, he really broke out. Scoring 25 goals put him among the best in the nation and earned him first-team All-America honors. Now the expectations are only ramped up as he enters his senior season. McDonough has the size and the shot that so many teams would have interest in, which is why he’s got a big decision to make after the season given his ability to become an unrestricted free agent if he chooses not to sign with Vancouver.

Michael Benning, D, Denver (Florida Panthers)

I don’t think enough of us fully appreciated how good Benning was last season with 38 points in 41 games for the champion Pioneers. He is such a skilled, creative blueliner who can walk the line and skate pucks out of trouble with minimal effort. Another season like last year from him and you’d have to think Florida wants him under contract quickly.

Erik Portillo, G, Michigan (Buffalo Sabres)

Portillo has the size that NHL teams crave in goaltenders, but he’s also been backing it up with outstanding performances over the last two seasons. Portillo appeared in 42 games last year, winning 31 of them while posting a .926 save percentage. He is going to be tested more this year with the younger Wolverines, but if he stays on trend, his profile will only continue to skyrocket. Portillo will have the option after this season to go to free agency, too, if he does not sign with Buffalo.

Jakub Dobes, G, Ohio State University (Montreal Canadiens)

After producing a .934 save percentage for Ohio State as a freshman last season, Dobes is firmly on the radar of NHL fans as another potential goalie of the future. Selected in the fifth round in 2020, the Czech native has only looked more impressive with each passing year. He's central to Ohio State's ability to compete this season and if he has another year like his rookie campaign, he's going to make the Buckeyes a threat.

Jackson LaCombe, D, Minnesota (Anaheim Ducks)

Deciding to return for his senior season, LaCombe is going to be a big part of the Gophers' bid for a national title. Few players are as good at spotting plays up ice, which allows him to stretch opposing defenses. LaCombe might be the best stretch-passing defenseman in all of college hockey, which forces opposing teams to always be aware of him. Defensively, he has steadily improved and looks poised to have his best season yet.