The field is set! Sixteen teams will vie for a trip to the 2019 Men’s Frozen Four in Buffalo, including first-timers Arizona State and American International.
The big story might actually be who isn’t here. The bluest of college hockey blue bloods are all at home. The top three teams in the tournament are from the state of Minnesota, but none is the University of Minnesota. Massachusetts has three teams in the tournament, but none is Boston College or Boston University. Also absent are North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The growing parity across college hockey is going to make for a very unpredictable, exciting run to the Frozen Four. Here’s how we tier each team’s chance to become national champion on April 13.
Jump to: Frozen Four predictions
St. Cloud State
Top NHL prospect: Ryan Poehling, C, Montreal Canadians
The most complete team in college hockey this season was ranked No. 1 in the polls for much of the season and had a fairly dominant run in the nation’s toughest conference. The Huskies are looking for their first Division I national title, even though they dropped the NCHC championship game. New coach Brett Larson has two Hobey Baker candidates in defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and forward Patrick Newell, but the big question right now is the status of Poehling, as he was injured in the NCHC semifinals and did not play in the championship game.
LEGIT TITLE THREATS
The defending national champions are very much in the mix for a repeat bid, thanks to their depth and talent on the blue line. Then the Bulldogs have Hunter Shepard’s ability to steal games in goal when he’s at his best; he stood out during his MVP showing in the NCHC tournament. UMD can score but not always at a consistent enough clip, putting more pressure on the defensive play. But there’s enough talent to make up for it.
Top NHL prospect: Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche
History was made when this UMass squad won its first Hockey East regular-season title. Led by Makar, the Hobey Baker favorite, and a tremendously fast forward group, this team can absolutely score, even though it stumbled in the Hockey East semis. One of the big remaining questions heading into the regional is who starts in net, but Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg are both good options.
Top NHL prospect: Tanner Laczynski, RW, Philadelphia Flyers
A Frozen Four team last season, Ohio State looks poised to make a comeback because it’s largely the same team and plays largely the same way. Led by Hobey Baker finalist and senior captain Mason Jobst and Flyers prospect Laczynski, the Buckeyes have some legit weapons. Their strength comes from solid goaltending, sound team defense and opportunism on offense.
THE DARK HORSE
Top NHL prospect: Jack Dugan, C, Vegas Golden Knights
The Friars kind of backed into the NCAA tournament with an at-large berth after getting bounced in the Hockey East playoffs by Boston College just two weeks ago. Despite the late-season stumble, Providence is a very strong team that mixes physicality and strong defensive play with a group of sneaky-skilled forwards. With a solid veteran goalie in Hayden Hawkey and an older D corps, the younger forwards can really push the pace and create offense.
THE DEFINITELY MAYBES
Top NHL prospect: Chase Priskie, D, Washington Capitals
A top-five team in both goals-for and goals-against, Quinnipiac gets the job done at both ends of the ice. With Hobey hopeful Priskie and sophomore sensation Odeen Tufto, the Bobcats play a solid all-around game and have balance throughout their lineup. But one of the biggest factors in Quinnipiac’s success has been goaltender Andrew Shortridge, who has a ridiculous .941 save percentage in 25 appearances.
Top NHL prospect: Connor Mackey, D, FA
The Mavericks have been a national tournament staple under Mike Hastings, reaching the dance in five of the past seven seasons. They’re always defensively responsible, which shows in the NCAA-leading 1.71 goals-against per game, and they play a very strong, physical team game. Minnesota State also has a pair of go-to scorers in German imports Marc Michaelis and Parker Tuomie.
Top NHL prospect: Cayden Primeau, G, Montreal Canadiens
The Huskies were supposed to take a step back this season after losing key players from last year’s team, but they now have a Beanpot and Hockey East championship in the trophy case for 2018-19. Primeau is a rock between the pipes, with a .936 save percentage and MVP awards from the Beanpot and Hockey East tournaments. Northeastern has some serious skill in the lineup, too, with offensive-minded defenseman Jeremy Davies and freshman standout Tyler Madden.
Top NHL prospect: Ian Mitchell, D, Chicago Blackhawks
David Carle, the youngest coach in college hockey at age 29, has made it a seamless transition since Jim Montgomery jumped from DU to the Dallas Stars. The Pioneers have a good amount of skill up front, but they’re a bit shallow on the back end, despite the presence of the reliable and productive Mitchell. Denver might be young, but it has enough players left from its 2017 national championship and an especially solid goaltending tandem in Filip Larsson and Devin Cooley to make an honest run.
Top NHL prospect: Nico Sturm, C, FA
After winning their first ECAC tournament title since 1995, the Golden Knights are freshly battle-tested. Led by a stellar junior class that includes Hobey Baker finalist Sturm and one of the nation’s top goaltenders in Jake Kielly, Clarkson has a lot of older, experienced players to rely on. It won’t out-skill a lot of teams in the field, but you can count on Clarkson to work.
Top NHL prospect: Morgan Barron, LW, New York Rangers
Following an emotional ECAC championship game loss to Clarkson, the status of star goaltender Matthew Galajda is up in the air after he was injured during the overtime period. Without Galajda, Cornell faces an uphill battle but plays a style that wears on its opponents no matter who is in net. Led by Barron up front, this Cornell squad has some skill to go with its trademark grit.
Top NHL prospect: Adam Fox, D, Carolina Hurricanes
This has been a tough team to gauge due to some issues with consistency, but there’s no question that Harvard has a number of weapons in its lineup. Perhaps the most dangerous is Hobey hopeful Fox, who has been one of the most productive defensemen in college hockey in the past two decades. Harvard gets production from its defense and has decent secondary scoring among forwards while also owning the nation’s deadliest power play with a 28.8 percent success rate.
Top NHL prospect: Andrew Peeke, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Returning to the national tournament after a runner-up finish in the 2018 Frozen Four, the Irish don’t have the depth they boasted a year ago. What they do have, however, is one of the elite goalies in the country in Cale Morris, who has posted a .931 save percentage and was the standout performer in the Big Ten championship that got Notre Dame here. Seniors Bobby Nardella and Dylan Malmquist have paced a somewhat muted Notre Dame offensive attack, but a lot of players gained valuable experience last season, and that counts this time of year.
Top NHL prospect: Brandon Kruse, LW, Vegas Golden Knights
The Falcons have been trending up in recent years, but this is going to be their first tournament appearance since 1990, when Rob Blake and Dan Bylsma skated for legendary coach Jerry York. Now under Chris Bergeron, BGSU earned an at-large bid with the nation’s second-best penalty kill, the second-lowest goals-against per game and a top-10 scoring attack.
Top NHL prospect: Joey Daccord, G, Ottawa Senators
The Cinderella story of the season, the Sun Devils are in just their fourth year with a Division I hockey team and are the first independent team to reach the dance since 1992. Bolstered by sensational goaltending from junior Daccord and the nation’s second-leading goal scorer, Johnny Walker, Arizona State has enough to keep teams honest. The concerns for ASU, however, are the 3-6-1 record against fellow tournament teams and the fact that without a conference tournament to compete in, the team hasn’t played a game in four weeks. No matter what happens, this is a program-defining season that deserves mountains of praise.
Top NHL prospect: Tobias Fladeby, RW, FA
This team won just eight games two seasons ago, had a losing record last season and now owns a 22-16-1 record after winning the Atlantic Hockey regular-season and playoff championships. Head coach Eric Lang has earned massive respect in getting AIC to its first tournament in program history. This puts them on the map in a big way.