NCAA Aug. 1 Names to Watch (Part II)

Starting Monday (Aug. 1) players who are about to enter their junior year of high school are eligible to receive scholarship offers and make verbal commitments to NCAA programs.

It’s a big day in college hockey, and in relation to college football, it’s as close to “signing day” as it gets.

Traditionally, there are a large number of commitments in the first week. Players haven’t been able to officially receive offers, but work has been done through advisors and many players have taken at least unofficial visits to schools that interest them.

Here are some of the names we’re going to be keeping an eye on next week.

We published Part I of this feature earlier this week. Click here to read Part I.

’06 (D) John Whipple (★★★★½) – Shattuck St. Mary’s 15U

Whipple was our No. 1 rated defenseman at the U.S. NTDP evaluation camp and he’s slated to play for the U.S. NTDP U17 team this upcoming season. In 54 games last year for Shattuck he finished with 55 points (18g, 37a) and 91 PIMs. Whipple is a Minn. native who has been with Shattuck for the last two seasons. At the NTDP camp, our scouts said that Whipple “was not only the best defenseman at the camp, he was the best overall player.”

NZ Scouts: “He’s an excellent skater, strong on his edges, balanced, agile, quick in all directions and has the speed and pivot to stay tight on any forward here, including the U17’s. He is aggressive in his gaps, he has a strong, active stick to knock pucks away and lift sticks around the net front to take away second chance opportunities. He broke up countless passes into the slot which was a result of his body positioning, his aggressive nature to jump plays before they start and his quickness to see it and immediately make a play to pick off the pass. Whipple is smooth in his puck play, he can hammer a guy into the boards, steal the puck and then immediately slow it down, create space with his skating ability and move pucks up ice.”

’06 (F) Kamil Bednarik (★★★★) – New Jersey Rockets, 16U AAA

Bednarik is another player who is headed to the NTDP U17 team. In 76 games last season for the Rockets he finished with 44 goals and 48 assists for 92 points. He’s an Illinois native who played for the Midwest Selects and Chicago Mission before moving over to the Rockets this past season.

NZ Scouts: “Bednarik was one of our highest rated forwards last summer in Buffalo at the Development Camp and followed that up with a stellar season playing up a year with the U16’s at NJ Rockets. He’s smooth skating, quick twitch forward with silky smooth mits and a quick, accurate release on his wrister and snap shot. He was able to rush wide on defenders with speed and put them on their heels and he would instinctually recognize if he had room to cut in or if he should curl back and wait for trailers or if he should just use his speed and go around them. His offense is versatile in that he doesn’t just rely on the rush; he can make plays from the corners and behind the net, he can play a skill game and pull away with his quickness or he can drop the shoulder and ride his edges to the net front.”

’06 F Kristian Epperson (★★★★½) – Shattuck St. Mary’s, 15U AAA

Epperson had a monster season for Shattuck last year, totaling 100 points (39g, 61a) in 56 games. He played in 50 games for the 14U team two years ago and totaled 87 points (37g, 50a) and he had seven goals at the Select 15 camp last summer (in 4 games). Epperson is a 5-foot-11 Wisconsin native.

NZ Scouts: “He’s got an excellent combination of power and skill; his edges are strong and balanced, his hands are soft and skilled and he creates offense every time he’s on the ice. He has a smooth release and can catch hard passes behind him and in front of him, settle it and release in one motion. Epperson piled on the points, he scored a catch and shoot in the slot on a bullet wrister stick side, he scored five-hole on a pull and shoot play where he changed the angle and tricked the goalie, he scored driving wide on the rush and snapping a shot off in stride.”

’06 F Trevor Connolly (★★★★¼) – Long Island Gulls, 16U AAA

Connolly is headed to the USHL next season and will play for the Tri-City Storm. He appeared in nine games for the Long Island Gulls this past season and finished with five goals and five assists. Last year he played in 20 games for the Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs and finished with 44 points (20g, 24a). In 2020 for the San Diego Saints 14U AAA team, he finished with 137 points (87g, 50a) in 67 games. He’s a 6-foot native of Tuscin, Calif.

NZ Scouts: “He is long, thin and explosive. The puck does not slow him down.  At 6’ his reach was an asset as he threaded pucks through opponents and protected when he was driving the net. He went end to end for one of his goals … he is extremely talented and one of the most gifted ’06s in the U.S.”

’05 F Danny Nelson (★★★★½) – Maple Grove HS, HS-MN

Nelson is a late ’05 who is already 6-foot-2. In his sophomore season at Maple Grove he posted 40 points (16g, 24a) and that was on top of 23 points in 20 games for Team Twin Cities Orthopedics in the UMHSEHL in the fall. He played 11 games for the NTDP U17 team and finished with 11 points and also appeared in five games for Green Bay in the USHL at the end of the year. Essentially, everywhere Nelson has gone, he has been able to produce points and he could be a first-round prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft.

NZ Scouts: “Danny has an enate ability to get shots through bodies and on net every time with a quick wrister, never winding up for a big blast. He is incredibly composed with the puck on his stick, never feeling the pressure but sensing it well to escape trafficked areas. Nelson can use his legs to escape with his long powerful stride and vision to find open ice and can also wire passes to his target. He uses his length to his advantage, keeping tighter gaps then the puck carrier expects giving no room to breath and poking pucks loose as well as slowing rushes down at his blue line. Danny is a big, powerful body that can push guys out of his net front and bumps guys off him when he has the puck.”

’05 F Gabe Perreault (★★★★½) – U.S. NTDP U17

Perreault is one of the few players on our list who already has NTDP experience having played for the U17 team last season as an ’05. In 98 total games he finished with 28 goals and 52 assists for 90 points. Originally from Hinsdale, Ill. he came up through the Chicago Mission program.

NZ Scouts: “Smaller forward who plays with good offensive skills and vision. Perreault has long legs but is a fairly balanced skater. He shows good vision and awareness with his playmaking ability. He sees the ice well which he uses to set up teammates. He hounds pucks on the offensive forecheck and uses a decent reach to attack the puck and take away passing lanes.”