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Prospects Eichel, Hanifin set for 'Green Line Rivalry'

by Mike G. Morreale

Long before freshman center Jack Eichel entered Boston University, he was actually a big fan of Boston College.

Jack Eichel (Noah Buchanan/BU Athletics)

"I wanted to go to BC when I was younger," the native of Chelmsford, Mass., said. "If you were to go into my room, you would've seen BC posters everywhere. But as I got older, it ended up that Boston University was a better fit.

"At the end of the day, I just saw myself more as a Terrier than an Eagle."

Eichel, 18, will look to defend that choice when Boston University pays a visit to Conte Forum on the campus of Boston College on Friday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the first game of the season between the Hockey East rivals.

What will make the matchup this season that much more intense, however, is the potential battle the sellout crowd will be in for when Eichel goes head-to-head with Boston College freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin. Eichel and Hanifin, both A-rated skaters on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2015 NHL Draft, are potential top-three picks in the draft.

Eichel was named Hockey East Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Month for October; he leads the conference with seven points (three goals, four points) in league play.

The Eagles (4-3-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation, are smarting a bit following a 1-0 loss to the University of Connecticut (2-4-2) on Wednesday in Hartford. The Huskies will now look to upset the No. 5-ranked Terriers (4-1-0) when they visit Boston University on Saturday at Agganis Arena.

"It's been a long time since there's been this type of hype to a college hockey game, so this will be fun," Central Scouting's David Gregory said of the Boston University-Boston College matchup.

"Let's just say there are going to be a lot of people without seats," Boston College assistant director of athletic communications Mark Majewski said. "The place is going to be jammed; The Globe, The Herald, RDS (French ESPN), U.S. College Hockey Online … everyone. It's going to be epic."

Hanifin, who played with Eichel on the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team last season, has one goal, three points and a plus-2 rating in seven games for the Eagles.

"There isn't a 17-year-old I've seen that understands and plays defense the way [Hanifin] does," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "Everybody looks at him and says he's a gifted offensive player and he is, but what makes him so special is he gets that you have to play defense first and the offense will come."

Eichel is on a five-game point streak to begin the season for the Terriers, producing four goals and nine points over that stretch.

The teams have met at least three times a year since 1949 and have played 265 times. The Terriers have won the past three games and hold a 129-119-17 lead in the all-time series. Boston University has won 29 Beanpot titles and Boston College has 19, including the past five tournament crowns.

"We're really looking forward to this game with BC and hoping to change our previous luck the past few years and get a couple of points," Eichel told NHL Live.

The regular-season rematch will be Jan. 16 at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University.

"We're good friends," Hanifin said. "We're both competitive kids, but we're really good friends. I wish him the best. We're both trying to help our teams so it's not about us. It's just about the teams we're playing for."

Don Granato, who coached Eichel and Hanifin on the U.S. U-18 NTDP in 2013-14, is excited to see two American-born players gaining so much attention.

"Noah plays hungry; he's very active like a Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty," Granato said. "Noah can assess the situation right away and immediately figure out how to blow by a guy, even if he's 15 feet away."

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