With the U.S. collegiate season well underway, there are quite a few players to watch. However, figuring out standings within a conference or how player ranks within it may be a bit challenging in the new NCAA hockey landscape. Gone is the conference called the CCHA, whose teams have dispersed into either one of the NCAA’s previously existing Division I conferences or the two new ones, the Big Ten (which ironically contains six hockey teams) and the NCHC (National Collegiate Hockey Conference), which has eight teams.
In addition, several of the WCHA teams moved to either the Big Ten or the NCHC. In total, there are now six conferences in NCAA hockey: Atlantic Hockey, ECAC, Hockey East, Big Ten, WCHA, and NCHC. Atlantic Hockey and ECAC are unchanged; the four conferences that contain new teams for 2013-14 are as follows:
Hockey East: added Notre Dame, in addition to 2012-13 member schools Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts-Lowell, Massachusetts, Providence, Vermont, Maine, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern
Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State
WCHA: Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green, Alabama-Huntsville
NCHC: St. Cloud State, Denver, Miami, Western Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Colorado College
Going into this weekend’s games, the NCAA’s leading scorers are both from Miami University. Austin Czarnik, an undrafted junior forward, and Riley Barber, a Washington Capitals’ prospect have each posted 14 points in eight games. The freshman scoring leader is Northeastern’s Mike Szmatula (undrafted), who has recorded 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in eight games. Both Czarnik and Szmatula are smaller forwards who have recently caught the eyes of NHL scouts. Barber, who has been on NHL scouts’ radars for years, is one of our players to watch.
Riley Barber, RW, Miami (NCHC), sophomore
Draft Status: Washington (2012 sixth round, 167th overall)
The countrywide scoring co-leader after last weekend, Barber also had an outstanding freshman season for the Redhawks (39 points in 40 games). Barber plays in all situations and has shown he has a nose for the net in all of them (three PP and two SH goals thus far). In addition, he can be counted on when the game is on the line: he already has two game winners for Miami.
Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan (Big Ten), junior
Draft Status: Carolina (2012 second round, 38th overall)
A solid performer in his first two seasons as a Wolverine, Carolina will be looking for Di Giuseppe to dominate this year. Thus far, he has recorded seven points (three goals, four assists) in eight games in 2013-14, which is a very solid showing.
Jon Gillies, G, Providence (Hockey East), sophomore
Draft Status: Calgary (2012 third round, 75th overall)
Gillies had an outstanding freshman season in 2012-13 and looks like he is picking up right where he left off. In net for six of the Friars’ games thus far in 2013-14, Gillies has one shutout, a 1.97 GAA and a .938 save percentage. His work between the pipes has helped Providence move into the top 10 in the polls this week.
Kevin Hayes, C/LW, Boston College (Hockey East), senior
Draft Status: Chicago (2010 first round 24th overall)
One of three players to watch from Boston College, Hayes is the oldest and closest to his “day of reckoning” regarding an entry-level contract. He got off to a good start last year, but his season got cut short in February when he injured his left leg, leading to season-ending surgery. Hayes needs to make a strong impression this season to earn an ELC with Chicago, and he is off to a good start with nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games.
Nicolas Kerdiles, C, Wisconsin (Big Ten), sophomore
Draft Status: Anaheim (2012 second round, 36th overall)
Controversy marred Kerdiles’ 2012-13 season, due to a minor infraction that eventually kept him from the first 10 games of last year. He did not hesitate once he began the season, posting 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 32 games in 2012-13. A top prospect in the Anaheim organization, Kerdiles can play a tough game as well as a skill game. He has started this season where he left off last spring, with eight points (four goals, four assists) in six games.
Michael Matheson, D, Boston College (Hockey East), sophomore
Draft Status: Florida (2012 first round, 23rd overall)
An excellent two-way defenseman, Matheson had an outstanding freshman year as an Eagle, posting 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 36 games. Already off to a good start this season (five points in seven games), it is possible that this may be Matheson’s last at Boston College.
Jake McCabe, D, Wisconsin (Big Ten), junior
Draft Status: Buffalo (2012 second round, 44th overall)
McCabe is a very good two-way defenseman who has improved his positioning and offensive game in each of his collegiate years. This season, McCabe is off to a fantastic start, posting seven points (two goals, five assists) while playing in all situations in six contests.
Mike Reilly, D, Minnesota (Big Ten), sophomore
Draft Status: Columbus (fourth round, 98th overall 2011)
A good two-way defenseman with excellent hockey smarts, Reilly is expected to get much more ice time in his second year as a Gopher than he did in 2012-13, when he recorded three goals and 11 assists in 37 games. A member of the gold medal winningU-20 WJC team in Russia last year, Reilly is one of the best American blueliners playing in the NCAA this year.
Kevin Roy, C, Northeastern (Hockey East), sophomore
Draft Status: Anaheim (2012 fourth round, 97th overall)
First in points per game among freshmen during the 2012-13 season, Roy has started this season off quickly, too. Already posting 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in eight games, Roy has been critical to the Huskies early success.
Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College (NCHC), freshman
Draft Status: Carolina (2012 fourth round, 120th overall)
Slavin spent the last three years on the blueline of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, serving as team captain and showing himself to be one of the better offensive blueliners in the United States. Slavin has started his collegiate career on a very good note, posting four points (one goal, three assists) in six NCAA games.
Josh Archibald, LW/RW, Nebraska-Omaha, junior (Pittsburgh, sixth round 2011)
Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College, freshman (2014 draft eligible)
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Union, junior (Philadelphia, third round, 2012)
Rocco Grimaldi, C, North Dakota, junior (Florida, second round 2011)
Jordan Schmaltz, D, North Dakota, sophomore (St. Louis, first round, 2012)
Leslie Treff covers professional and amateur scouting for Hockey Prospectus.
Follow Leslie on Twitter at @HFNYRangers.