The IIHF calendar churns along in relative obscurity during the NHL playoffs; in addition to the upcoming World Championships, the U18 Worlds get underway today in Finland, and they will be of particular interest to BC fans. Much of the focus is on BU's Savior Jack Eichel, who will suit up for the U18s just a few months after starring for the US U20 team at the World Junior Championships.
But the real story from a BC perspective is the inclusion of three incoming Eagles on the US roster: Noah Hanifin, Sonny Milano, and Alex Tuch.
From United States of Hockey:
Noah Hanifin (Boston College) - Norwood, Mass. - Hanifin may be the most-watched defenseman on this unit. He was called up to the U18 squad from the U17 team and has stepped right into an important role for this team. At 6-2, 200 pounds he's got a pro frame, but he also has high-end hockey sense. Hanifin is poised with the puck on his stick and skates extremely well. Since his call-up, he's had eight points in six games including seven assists. Prior to joining the U18s, Hanifin posted 32 points in 45 games with the U17s. At this point, Hanifin is one of, if not the best defenseman heading into the 2015 NHL Draft. He is a high-end talent and should be a major factor in this tournament despite his youth and the talent surrounding him. Draft eligible in 2015
Sonny Milano (Boston College) - Massapequa, N.Y. - One of my favorite prospects coming into this NHL Draft, I think Milano was getting overlooked a lot because of Eichel, but you can't ignore what he's done this season and how he's developed in the last two years. Milano has some explosiveness to him in terms of puck skills and skating. He also got physically stronger which makes him so much harder to take the puck from on top of his ability to handle the puck as well as he does. Offense really seems to come naturally to him. He put up 76 points, which puts him right with Eichel and among some impressive names on the NTDP's single season list. He led the club with 50 assists as well, which would have tied the single-season record had U17 forward Jeremy Bracco not posted 58 assists this year to shatter the previous mark co-held by Andy Hilbert and Patrick Kane. Milano isn't getting overlooked anymore and he certainly won't be when he's on the ice in Finland. He has the potential to be deadly, often playing on Eichel's wing. He and Eichel very well could be the best 1-2 punch the U.S. has had in this tournament in a long, long time. NHL CSS Ranking: 16
Alex Tuch (Boston College) - Baldwinsville, N.Y. - If you've been following the draft a lot lately, Tuch's name is one you've heard rather often. He was the top American ranked by Central Scouting at No. 12, which has helped increase his buzz in a big way. It's all warranted, too. At 6-3, 215, he has a pro frame already and teams love the size. What makes teams get really excited, however, is the fact that Tuch has some really solid puck skills (and not just for a player at his size). He has make-em-miss abilities at times, though can overuse his skill every now and again. Tuch skates pretty well and drives the net. You can find him playing with Eichel and Milano a lot, which almost doesn't seem fair when they're on the ice together. He was third on the team with 61 points, which included 29 goals in 54 games. Tuch has the toughness you want in a big man, but his ability to make things happen offensively is why he's going to be one of the most watched prospects in this tournament. NHL CSS Ranking: 12
Also worth keeping an eye on:is Brandon Fortunato, a defenseman who recently decommitted from Harvard. BC is rumored to be in on him, along with other prominent college programs; if Matheson leaves early, expect that pursuit to pick up steam.
Two Notre Dame prospects, two BU prospects (including Eichel) and a Northeastern commit round out the Hockey East stake in the roster.
The team's schedule, with all games being streamed live on FASTHockey.com:
Thursday, April 17 - USA vs. Switzerland - 8 a.m.
Saturday, April 19 - USA vs. Czech Republic - 8 a.m.
Sunday, April 20 - USA vs. Denmark - 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, April 22 - USA vs. Finland - 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, April 24 - Quarterfinals - if necessary
Saturday, April 26 - Semifinals - if necessary
Sunday, April 27 - Bronze-medal Game - if necessary