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Top NHL prospects in 2021 NCAA hockey tournament

Canadiens forward Caufield, Panthers goalie Knight among those in spotlight

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

There are plenty of NHL prospects playing key roles at the NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament, which began Friday with teams divided into four regional brackets.

The regional winners advance to the 2021 Frozen Four, scheduled for April 8 and April 10 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

The University of Michigan will not be one of those teams. They were removed from the tournament because of COVID-19 protocol. Among their top players are forwards Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks) and Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights) and defenseman Cameron York (Philadelphia Flyers).

Here are some other NHL-drafted players to watch when the tournament opens with regional games in Fargo, North Dakota; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Loveland, Colorado; and Albany, New York (players listed alphabetically):

Matthew Boldy, F, Boston College (Minnesota Wild)

The sophomore, selected with the No. 12 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, leads Hockey East players with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 21 games and is tied for the NCAA lead with three shorthanded goals. Boldy scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Cole Caufield, F, Wisconsin (Montreal Canadiens)

The Big Ten Player of the Year, Caufield leads the NCAA with 49 points (28 goals, 21 assists) and 1.63 points per game in 30 games. Chosen No. 15 in the 2019 draft, the sophomore also leads the NCAA in power-play goals (10) and shots on goal (152), and is tied for first in power-play points (22) and hat tricks (two).

David Farrance, D, Boston University (Nashville Predators)

A third-round pick (No. 92) in the 2017 NHL Draft, Farrance has scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 10 games as a senior alternate captain and was named a Hockey East First-Team All-Star for the second straight season.

Drew Helleson, D, Boston College (Colorado Avalanche)

The right-shot sophomore, selected in the second round (No. 47) of the 2019 draft, is third in the NCAA with a plus-24 rating. He has scored 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) and has 32 blocked shots in 21 games.

Dylan Holloway, F, Wisconsin (Edmonton Oilers)

An All-Big Ten First-Team selection, Holloway is tied for fourth in the NCAA with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 22 games. Chosen No. 14 in the 2020 NHL Draft, the sophomore also has scored three game-winning goals and is fourth in the NCAA with 16 power-play points (four goals, 12 assists).

Spencer Knight, G, Boston College (Florida Panthers)

The sophomore is 16-3 with one tie, a 2.13 goals-against average and three shutouts in 20 games, and his .933 save percentage is fifth among NCAA goalies. Selected with the No. 13 pick of the 2019 draft, Knight was named Hockey East Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year. He was 5-1 with a 1.63 GAA, three shutouts and .940 save percentage in six games to help the United States win the 2021 WJC.

Jackson LaCombe, D, Minnesota (Anaheim Ducks)

The sophomore, selected in the second round (No. 39) of the 2019 draft, is tied for fifth among NCAA defensemen with 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) and is plus-18 in 26 games. He leads NCAA defensemen with two shorthanded goals.

Alex Newhook, F, Boston College (Colorado Avalanche)

Newhook, the No. 16 pick in the 2019 draft, was limited to 11 games because of time away playing for Canada at the WJC and a shoulder injury, but scored 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and leads Boston College with four power-play goals. He also scored six points (three goals, three assists) in six games to help Canada finish second at the WJC. Last season, he scored 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) in 34 games and won the Tim Taylor Award as the top NCAA collegiate rookie.

Keith Petruzzelli, G, Quinnipiac (Detroit Red Wings)

Selected in the third round (No. 88) of the 2017 draft, the senior is sixth among NCAA goalies with a 1.82 GAA while starting all 28 games for Quinnipiac. He is 17-7 with four ties, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts He's started 53 straight games the past two seasons.

Shane Pinto, F, North Dakota (Ottawa Senators)

The sophomore, chosen in the second round (No. 32) of the 2019 draft, was named National Collegiate Hockey Conference Player of the Year after ranking third among NCHC players with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games. He has scored seven power-play goals and is seventh among NCAA players with a 61.8 percent face-off winning percentage.

Sampo Ranta, F, Minnesota (Colorado Avalanche)

The junior is tied for 14th in the NCAA with 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists), has 101 shots on goal and is plus-18 in 29 games for the Big Ten champion. He was selected in the third round (No. 78) of the 2018 NHL Draft.

Jake Sanderson, D, North Dakota (Ottawa Senators)

The No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft, Sanderson was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. He has scored 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and seven power-play points (two goals, five assists), is averaging 2.35 shots on goal per game and has 21 blocked shots in 20 games.

Ty Smilanic, F, Quinnipiac (Florida Panthers)

Smilanic, a third-round pick (No. 74) in the 2020 draft, has scored 21 points (14 goals, seven assists), four game-winning goals and six power-play goals, and has 74 shots on goal in 28 games. He was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team.

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