For the last 5 or 6 years, Boston College has had one of the most hyped recruiting classes in the nation pretty much every season. The last few summers have seen many BC recruits (or, at least, planned recruits) drafted in the first round; Colin White, Noah Hanifin, Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch, and Mike Matheson have all been first round picks since 2012.
This year was different.
The first BC name wasn’t called until the third round, when goalie Joe Woll was picked by Toronto. Casey Fitzgerald joined him as a third round pick, and Graham McPhee was selected at #149 by Edmonton. But that was it. The rest of BC’s massive recruiting crop is mostly undrafted (with the exception of David Cotton, who was picked in the 6th round in 2015).
So, what happened?
It’s not as though the BC staff has lost its ability to recruit. The 2017, 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes look to be loaded. Eeli Tolvanen, who BC recently landed for next fall, is probably one of the top 2-3 prospects coming to NCAA hockey in 2017-18. BC also has commitments from some of the very top forwards of the 2000 and (shudder) 2001 birth years.
The simple answer for this year is basically that BU got all of the star players. David Quinn has assembled perhaps the biggest collection of pro-prospect talent ever on a single college hockey team, with 5 guys taken in the first 45 selections this weekend. It stands to reason that once BU got a few of those guys, it created a snowball effect that led to other elite recruits from this year wanting to join in on what’s looking to be a super-team assembling down Comm. Ave.
BU recruits Clayton Keller, Keifer Bellows, Dante Fabbro and Chad Krys were all guys BC would have loved to have landed, but BU beat them to the punch. BC also made a push for Auston Matthews and Matt Tkachuk, though it was pretty clear neither was likely to go the NCAA route.
Of course, as any college hockey fan knows, the measure of the quality of a recruiting class can’t be measured simply by draft picks, otherwise Quinnipiac, Union and Ferris State wouldn’t be among the teams that have made deep runs in recent seasons.
After BC whiffed on those top targets, they seemed to recalibrate their strategy, bringing in some less-hyped players but ones who still have the pedigree that indicates they can be good college hockey players - including a few prospects that are 1-3 years past their draft-eligible year. For once, BC might actually not have the youngest team in the nation. It’s been a while since you could say that.
Whether it was intentional or not, York and the staff seem to have laid a pretty good groundwork here: of the 7 forwards and 4 defensemen coming in this fall, they all look likely to be at least 3 if not 4-year players at BC, and it’s reasonable to expect that a few of them will pan out to be very good players.
When you lay on top of this groundwork the high-end, NHL-prospect talent set to come to the Heights in 2017 and 2018, there could be, finally, some real balance to the roster, with upperclassman leadership complementing highly touted young talent.
It’s worth noting, of course, that even though BU ran rings around everyone on draft weekend, having three draft picks coming in is nothing to sneeze at. Providence, with selections in the 2nd, 4th, and two in the 7th, was the only other Hockey East school aside from BU to have more draftees this weekend. Northeastern and Notre Dame joined BC in having three draftees.
Whether BU can keep together their assembly of talent will now become the storyline of the summer, one which will repeat itself next year as well. If they are, they should probably win a whole bunch of trophies in the next few years, but the CHL and the NHL will surely be circling.