There are now a lucky no. 13 players in the 2004 birth year that are committed to DI schools. Of these commits, 3 have been committed for a while, but the other 10 have all committed since August of this year. I have seen almost all of them play, and most on multiple occasions. All are playing U14 unless noted otherwise. Here is their position, college, current team, and my observations of them (or what I know about them from talking to others whose opinions I respect):
1. F, Minnesota, MN Gentry Galaxy 15’s — Word is he is an excellent playmaker with great skill. Has been playing up for a few years now with his brother the goal scorer, who was also committed to Minnesota at the same time. Package deal. Parents started the Gentry Galaxy Academy. U15 team is no. 1 ranked, but not national bound. Blown out weaker teams, much more competitive games against Detroit U15 teams and tied Rats U15 on east coast swing. NTDP prospect.
2. F, Wisconsin, Hill-Murray HS, MN (formerly with MN Fire/Blades) — Maybe the most talented 04 forward. Can skate by good players at the highest level and finish. Great hands and maneuverability. Not the tallest but very strong. Obviously highly skilled, but is it that he is just more physically mature than other kids at this age? Played in the Upper Midwest HS Elite League, which is basically the split season league for Minnesota HS, Shattuck and Team Wisconsin, and clearly showed he can make plays against much older players in a very strong league. Will play MN HS. NTDP prospect.
3. F, Michigan, St. George’s School (Vancouver) — Put up a ton of points last year in Bantam Varsity (and again this year in Bantam Prep), so much so that Michigan committed to him. A top WHL prospect, so strong possibility he could end up there.
4. D, BC, MFR — The player most have seen. First 04 D and first NE player to commit. Among strong D he stands out. Not surprised by his commitment at all. NTDP prospect.
5. F, Notre Dame, Honeybaked — No. 1 forward on best 04 team the past several years. Always dangerous with puck, can finish. NTDP prospect.
6. D, Michigan, Honeybaked — Honeybaked’s D was not considered as strong as its offense. Very solid, smart player, but is he elite? Dad sponsored Honeybaked and players leaving this season was somewhat of a revolt against him. To kid’s credit, he has played very well this season.
7. F, BU, NJ Avs U16 — Was only a matter of time for this commit. He has been 6 feet plus since peewee. Played U14 last year, U16 this year. Tremendous release. Was curious to see how he would do in U16 and whether he had enough grit. He does not look out of place and has clearly shown he belongs in U16. Would never know he is an 04 watching him. NTDP prospect.
8. F, Providence, NJ Avs – Top forward on team, smooth, skillful all-around player with game sense and decent size. Has 200 ft. game and good puck possession.
9. F, Penn State, Buffalo Jr. Sabres – Big, strong Canadian forward, used to play in Ontario. Other players catching up?
10. D, Colorado College, Buffalo Jr. Sabres – Big, strong, athletic D-man who played for Bandits last year and SSK in Q year. Strong upside, needs to continue working on skating.
11. D, Michigan, Compuware — D-man who has the skills of a forward at the rear guard. Used to play for Florida Alliance before moving to Detroit. NTDP prospect.
12. D, Notre Dame, Compuware U16 — Very skilled puck-moving D-man who played U14 last year and U16 this year. Can really carry the puck and distribute. Stands out as a U14 playing U16. NTDP prospect.
13. F, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh Penns Elite — Small, speedy forward. Just played in a tournament at Notre Dame, so must have played well. Not necessarily someone who would jump out as an early DI commit to a program like ND.
Of the 04 commits, 8 are F’s, and 5 are D’s.
Of the colleges who have offered these early commits, 9 are in the Big 10, with both ND and MI having 3 each. There are 3 commits from Hockey East schools. The remaining one is committed to an NCHC school.
With all the commits Hockey East schools already have to older players, I wonder if they are slowing down a bit and will miss out on some of the very strong 04’s around the country.
Potential NE Commits
The 2004 class nationally is very talented and very deep. There are still a lot of really strong, uncommitted 04’s around the country and in NE, including several standouts who are playing U16 in Detroit, NE and perhaps other areas. College coaches are definitely keeping a watchful eye and making inquiries as the 04’s develop. I think there are a number of NE 04 F and D who have the potential to be DI commits on MFR (multiple F and D), SSK (multiple F and D), Rats (one really strong and several good F), Seacoast (strong D and F, several other prospects), BA (one good F, a couple of other prospects), Wizards (several prospects), Cyclones (a couple with potential), etc. Clear NE defender DI prospects at Cushing, Northwood and Shattuck. Also some interesting F and a D playing U16 Bruins, and a couple of strong players on U16 NH Jr. Monarchs.
There are no doubt good players on other teams, and plenty who will develop over the next several years and become DI prospects.
Goaltenders are much tougher to evaluate at this age. There won’t be any 04 goalies committed for a while, as there are no 03 goalies currently committed, and only two 02 goalies committed, both of whom are with the NTDP (one from NE). Goalies are just later to develop and most are committed from juniors. New England has at least two 04's that stand out as a really strong combination of size, athleticism, and skill (MFR and U16 Islanders), and another who is huge, and has improved a lot in the last couple of years (CT Elite). Beyond that, there are a lot of good goaltenders, time will tell how they develop.
97's is one of the deepest and most talented age group in many years.