Top 600 NCAA Eligible Prospects Born in 1997

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Neutral Zone is pleased to announce our Top 600 list for 1997 born NCAA Eligible prospects throughout North America. Each player on this list has been evaluated by regional scouts in their area and also cross referenced by other scouts on staff as well as the Director of Scouting. The players are evaluated from August-December and given a star rating. The Top 600 players are selected from a pool of over 1,000 NCAA prospects in a grueling process and evaluated against one another to come up with a 1-600 list. The star ratings are more indicative of future success than the difference between #205 and #250, but the rankings are used in the calculus of the NCAA Recruiting Class Rankings.

As part of our mission statement to use analytics to educate coaches, scouts, players and parents we have broken down our Top 600 rankings and provided viewers with several interesting statistics.

League Breakdown

League # of Players %
NAHL 139 23.2%
USHL 129 21.5%
BCHL 104 17.3%
AJHL 63 10.5%
OJHL 46 7.6%
CCHL 29 4.8%
USPHL 29 4.8%
SJHL 21 3.5%
MJHL 14 2.3%
GOJHL 11 1.8%
Other 6 1.0%
NE Prep 5 0.8%
EHL 4 0.6%

The purpose of showing the league breakdown is not to rank the strengh of the leagues, rather to show where these 600 players are coming from. With that being said we see that the double digit percentages are in the four top junior leagues in North America. Keep in mind that some leagues above only have 12 teams in them while other leagues have over 20 so it is not fair to say for example that the OJHL is a better league than the CCHL because it has 17 more players on the list because it has nearly double the amount of teams.

Position Breakdown

Position # of Players %
Forwards 369 61.5%
Defense 180 30.0%
Goalies 51 8.5%

Here we breakdown the 600 players on the list by position. Our list is consistent with the 60/30/10 percentage breakdown between forwards, defense and goaltenders on most NCAA teams.

Commitments

Status # of Players %
D1 Committed 177 29.5%
Uncommitted 423 70.5%

In look at the 1997 list we see that nearly 1/3 of the players are already committed to D1 programs. Some of these players have signed their letter of intent and are expected to matriculate next fall, others will play another year of junior hockey.

Top 600 Star Ratings

Rating # of Players %
4.75 1 0.2%
4.5 4 0.7%
4.25 6 1.0%
4 18 3.0%
3.75 87 14.5%
3.5 143 23.8%
3.25 111 18.5%
3 123 20.5%
2.75 107 17.8%

The Top 600 ranges in star ratings from 4.75-2.75. This chart looks at all 600 prospects and what star rating they have. The first thing that jumps out is how 4.0-4.75 star players only make up 5% of the total list. Then the list goes up to 14.5% for 3.75 star prospects and up again to 23.8% for 3.5 star prospects. The reason there are so few 4.0 stars is the mainly the age factor. Top prospects are typically playing college hockey at 18 or 19 so there are not a ton of 4 stars left in junior hockey at the older ages. Keep in mind Connor McDavid is a 1997 birth year…

NZ Historical Star Rating Breakdown

Rating D1 % D3 % CIS/Other %
5.0 100 0 0
4.75 100 0 0
4.5 100 0 0
4.25 100 0 0
4.0 98.8 0 1.2
3.75 97.7 0 2.3
3.5 95.5 0.4 4.1
3.25 13.3 74.4 12.3
3.0 4.5 85.6 9.9
2.75 0 96.7 3.3
2.5 0 97.4 2.6
2.25 0 91.2 8.8
2.0 0 67.8 22.2

This chart tracks the 2015-2016 Star Rating’s for 1998-1995’s. As you can see 3.5 star prospects and above have over 97% chance of playing D1 college hockey. This chart is made to give context to the star ratings in the Top 600. There are reasons for CIS/Other as some players we ranked last year had played CHL and were not NCAA eligible. We have now taken them out of the National Rankings to reduce that number. Also, with the US/CAN dollar exchange rate some of the Canadian prospects will not be able to afford D3 institutions. In the US, particularly in the midwest, some players simply stop playing or go the club route if they are not offered at a Division 1 school.

Top 600 NCAA Eligible 1997 Born Prospects in North America

Rank               Name               Team    Pos         Commit   Star
   1         Nick Swaney         Waterloo (USHL)      F     Minnesota Duluth 4.75
   2         Jordan Kawaguchi         Chilliwack (BCHL)      F      North Dakota 4.5
   3         Christian Evers         Lincoln (USHL)      D      North Dakota 4.5
   4         Blake Lizotte         Fargo (USHL)      F      St. Cloud 4.5
   5         Philip Nyberg         Madison (USHL)      D         UConn 4.5
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Against the Grain: Inside Mittelstadt’s decision to return to Eden Prairie

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  More than at any other point in history, the hockey landscape facing today’s generation of amateur players is defined by an ultra-competitive, accelerated, and stop-at-nothing culture where players and families are making incredible – and often senseless – sacrifices all for the “chance” at an NCAA scholarship or CHL contract. In today’s game, players …

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