NCAA: Several Top Names Commit on Day One of Junior Recruiting

Rising high school juniors were able to receive scholarship offers starting on Monday and make verbal commitments. As expected, there was a slew of activity as the market opened for these players. Several players we highlighted on our “names to watch” list are already off the board, with Boston University receiving two commitments from that list, Boston College picked up one and Minnesota added another.

Several other players from that list are expected to commit in the coming days.

Here’s a summary of some of the action from Monday:

’06 (C) Matthew Frost (★★★★) – Selects Academy, 16U

Frost was the No. 1 overall pick in the USHL Draft. In 58 games with the Selects Academy last season, Frost totaled 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points.

NZ Scouts: ” He processes the game quickly and makes split second decisions to either take ice or get pucks to teammates. He slips in-and-out of coverage in the offensive zone and gets to areas just before the puck does. He has a big release and a heavy shot that he gets on net quickly. He plays physical and uses his body well to protect the puck and create space.”

’06 (D) Cole Hutson (★★★★) – North Jersey Avalanche, AYHL

Hutson is another defenseman who is making the jump to the U.S. U17 team after a few seasons with the North Jersey Avalanche in the AYHL.

NZ Scouts: “Hutson is a quick, agile, crafty, high IQ, puck-moving defenseman out of NJ Avalanche. He is only 5’6” and 132lbs at this point so he struggled in his net-front defense and against bigger opponents below the dots but his gaps are tight, he’s quick to close and has strong anticipation skills to pick off passes in the neutral zone and around his net front.”

’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 (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.”


’05 (F) Cam Russo (★★★¾) – Governor’s Academy, NE Prep

Russo is from Middleton, Mass., and played at St. John’s Prep before moving to Governer’s Academy. He played for the Boston Jr. Eagles as a youth player. This past season he had 10 goals and six assists in 28 games and he also played for the Neponset Valley River Rats 16U team.

NZ Scouts: “He is a bigger body that is athletic and uses his speed to drive the puck wide. He has a long reach and a powerful lower half which lets him skate by defenders and thorough stick checks. He is tough to contain below the dots and was a force along the walls and in front of the net. Has a good first step to drive off-the-wall and get to the slot. He has a quick release and a heavy hard shot. He gets to the dirty areas and was a strong net-front presence.”


’05 (F) James Reeder (★★★¾) – Chicago Mission, 16U

Reeder is set to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL this upcoming season. In 28 combined games for the Mission last year Reeder had 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points. He’s coming off an excellent Select 17 camp, where he totaled 11 points (7g, 4a) in just four games.

NZ Scouts: “He was a dominant factor in every game for the Mission. He was the go-to guy for every situation, and he took full advantage of it. With the puck on his stick, Reeder could create magic in the blink of an eye. Defenders couldn’t get a body on him, and it was impossible for them to keep James in front of them. He uses deception and looks off passes to distribute the puck to high quality scoring areas. Even with a leaner frame, he can hold guys off while holding the puck out wide, then make escape turns to create separation. Reeder doesn’t need much time and space to make things happen, but he makes his own with his quickness and ability to find space.”

Michigan State

’06 (F) Lucas Van Vliet (★★★★) – Little Caesars, 15U AAA

New Michigan State head coach Adam Nightingale went local and grabbed a solid recruit in Van Vliet, who is from Livonia, Mich. The Little Caesars product is going to play for the U.S. NTDP next season.

NZ Scouts: “Van Vilet is a high skill playmaker out of Little Caesar’s who we just scouted a week prior at the MAHA state tournament where he helped lead his team to a state title. He has slick and poised hands, he can make defenders miss in open ice and can create space for himself with his ability to read space gaps and exploit the seams. He’s a heads up puck carrier, he shoots to score and has a quick and tricky release. He scored a nice goal on a one-touch at the backdoor but was more of a distributor here than a scorer.”


’05 (D) Owen Thomas (★★★¾) – Notre Dame Hounds, SMAAAHL

Thomas is a big body at 6-foot-4. The Chicago native appeared in 40 games last season for the Notre Dame Hounds U18 team and finished with 42 points (17g, 25a) from the back end.

NZ Scouts: “His work ethic is superb and he is a big boy at 6’1” or more. His stick was effective to defend and he hid his poke check. Like he made mistakes, he made several nice plays to start things up ice. He is not flashy but determined and willing to do whatever the team needs. He can hammer the puck from the blue line and did not get anything blocked when we watched.”

Michigan State

’06 (F) Austin Baker (★★★★) – Little Caesars, 15U AAA

Nightingale added Van Vliet’s teammate as well in Baker, a forward from White Lake, Mich. In 12 games last season he had 11 points (2g, 9a) for Little Caesars. He was ranked No. 42 in our 2006 National Rankings. Just like Van Vliet, Baker is headed to the U.S. NTDP next season.

NZ Scouts: “Baker is a strong, two-way forward out of Little Caesar’s who just captured the U15 State Championship a week prior. He is a balanced skater, strong on his edges and protects the puck well below the dots. He was able to drive wide on defenders and power his way to the net and create space for his teammates attacking the net. He showed some touch around the cage and was able to get his stick on loose pucks and bury it.”


’05 (D) Brian Lonergan (★★★¾) – Sioux Falls Power, 16U AAA

Despite the mystery surrounding the Michigan program, the Wolverines were able to commit Lonergan on the first day of his recruitment. In 35 games last season for Sioux Falls he had 18 points (2g, 16a). Lonergan also just wrapped up the Select 17 camp for USA Hockey.

NZ Scouts: “Lonergan is a hard-nosed, physical, all-around defenseman that plays an up-tempo style. He competes on pucks and everything that he does is hard and with effort. He has tremendous edgework and can escape pursuers with his quick feet and then extend separation with his long powerful stride. His passes are always on the money with a crisp, hard snap to it that is able to get through traffic. Brian is dangerous in the offensive zone as he caught his winger sleeping a few times and would creep down into the slot to present as an option and get a quality chance off. He walks the blue line with power and quickness, opening up pass and shot lanes. Brian runs the top of the first powerplay unit, distributing the puck well and firing laser beams from the point.”

Boston University

’06 (D) Owen Keefe (★★★★) – Malden Catholic, HS-MA

Keefe is the son of Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. He just finished his sophomore year at Malden Catholic where he led the team on the back end with 28 points (6g, 21a) in 21 games. Keefe came up through the Boston Jr. Eagles and will play in the USHL next season for Muskegon.

NZ Scouts: “Keefe is a strong, highly athletic, two-way defenseman out of Malden Catholic in Massachusetts HS. After a strong season he was invited to NTDP Evaluation Camp where he played well enough to make the team and soon after tendered with Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL. His mobility, smooth pivots and transitions and lateral movements made him a difficult defender to get around, not to mention his size, strength and edge control. He was physical in the corners and in front of his net and brought some jam to his game that we liked and was competitive, working hard to win puck battles and then break it out. Keefe has a firm first pass and can snap it off with ease and also possesses a heavy shot from the point including a powerful one-timer. Owen makes some difficult plays look easy which is the sign of a great player such as carrying the puck backwards away from pressure in the neutral zone and when the lane opens snapping a pass up the middle on the tape despite his momentum taking him the opposite direction.”