Eight first-round NHL draft picks will be among the players taking part in the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, which starts March 24.
Among that group are four players from Boston University: center Clayton Keller, selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the No. 7 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft; defenseman Charles McAvoy (Boston Bruins, No. 14, 2016); defenseman Dante Fabbro (Nashville Predators, No. 17, 2016); and left wing Kieffer Bellows (New York Islanders, No. 19, 2016).
Boston University's starting goaltender is freshman Jake Oettinger, who is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American goalies for the 2017 NHL Draft. In 33 games he's 20-10-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and four shutouts.
The Terriers will play defending NCAA champion North Dakotain the West Regional semifinal at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota on March 24. Among North Dakota's top players are right wing Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks, No. 23, 2015) and center Tyson Jost (Colorado Avalanche, No. 10, 2016).
The winner of that game will play either No. 2 Minnesota Duluth or Ohio State in the regional final on March 25. Minnesota Duluth features left wing Riley Tufte (Dallas Stars, No. 25, 2016).
The No. 1 seed in the tournament is Denver, which is led by center Henrik Borgstrom (Florida Panthers, No. 23, 2016). Denver will play Michigan Tech in the Midwest Regional semifinal at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati on March 25.
The winner of that game will play either Union or Penn State in the regional final on March 26. Penn State won the Big 10 Tournament in its fifth year as a NCAA Division I program. Union is led by senior right wing Michael Vecchione and junior right wing Spencer Foo, two of the top undrafted free agents who could sign with NHL teams when their season ends.
In the Northeast Regional at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire on March 25, No. 4 seed Minnesota will play Notre Dame in one semifinal. Minnesota has 13 players drafted by NHL teams, most of any team in the tournament.
The winner of that game will play either UMass Lowell or Cornell in the regional final on March 26. Among the players to watch is UMass Lowell junior left wing C.J. Smith, an undrafted free agent who ranks in the top 11 in the NCAA with 22 goals and 50 points.
In one East Regional semifinal at Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 24, No. 3 seeded Harvard will play Providence in a game that will feature two members of the United States team that won the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, Harvard defenseman Adam Fox (Calgary Flames) and Providence left wing Erik Foley (Winnipeg Jets).
The winner will play Western Michigan or Air Force in the regional final on March 25. Western Michigan has six NHL-drafted players, as well as two prospects ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the 2017 draft, center Colt Conrad (No. 174) and defenseman Cameron Lee (No. 186).
Fans of all 30 NHL teams will have a chance to see the future of their franchises. All 16 teams will have at least one NHL prospect on its roster, topped by seven from the Chicago Blackhawks (Dennis Gilbert, defenseman, North Dakota; Blake Hillman, defenseman, Denver; Matheson Iacopelli, right wing, Western Michigan; Chad Krys, defenseman, Boston University; Jack Ramsey, right wing, Minnesota; Beau Starrett, center, Cornell; Matt Tomkins, G, Ohio State).
The Bruins, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins each will have six players.
The regional final winners will play at the Frozen Four at United Center in Chicago on April 6 and April 8.