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Evan Marinofsky | NCAA.com | September 28, 2021

Here are the 7 men's ice hockey players to watch in the 2021-22 season

The 7 men's ice hockey players to watch in the 2021-22 season

This winter, college hockey fans will enjoy heading back to arenas around the country to watch their favorite teams in person for the first time since March 2020. 

That's a good thing for all. But what will be even better for onlookers is the sheer amount of talent across the college hockey landscape. 

Here are the seven players you should absolutely keep an eye on this winter. 

Owen Power was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

Owen Power, Michigan 

Let’s be real. Who else did you expect to see lead this list?

Most draft experts and scouts had Owen Power going No. 1 in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. It didn’t surprise anyone when the Buffalo Sabres pulled the trigger and selected the big, left-shot defenseman first overall. 

At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, Power has a dazzling combination of size and speed that’s sure to impress onlookers and make opponents wince. He moves the puck at a high-level for a big man and he’s never afraid to break the puck out of his own end himself and jump into the rush. He’s also stout defensively, using his big stick to shut down opposing scoring chances. He showcased all of this in his freshman season. 

If hockey ops departments could create a two-way defender in a lab, it would be Power. 

He put up three goals and 16 points in 26 games during Year 1 at Michigan. He also made the Big Ten All-Freshman team and was a finalist for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. 

STAYING IN SCHOOL: Why Owen Power decided to stay at Michigan and wait on the Buffalo Sabres

The expectation is for Power to increase production in his sophomore year. Don’t be surprised when that happens. 

Jake Sanderson is primed for a big jump in 2021-22

Jake Sanderson, North Dakota 

When Jake Sanderson is on the ice, there’s no doubt you’ll notice him. 

The 6-foot, 183-pound defenseman was selected fifth overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He’s flat-out one of the most offensively gifted defensemen in the NCAA with creativity that never goes unnoticed. The label fits when its widened to NHL prospects as well. His skating ability matched with his solid defensive play makes him a dream for North Dakota. 

At the World Junior Summer Showcase, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman dubbed Sanderson “the best defenseman in the tournament and it wasn’t even that close between any of the other participants.” It’s clear his talent is only increasing.  

Sanderson’s freshman campaign was a strong one. The first-year put up two goals and 15 points with a plus-20 rating — good for best on the Fighting Hawk blue line. He was named to the All-NCHC rookie team. 

Like Power, Sanderson will be looked to for an increase in production and responsibility. It’s never a good idea to judge a defenseman on goals, but both of Sanderson’s came on the power play last season. Expect his even-strength goal total to be a lot more in 2021-22. 

Matty Beniers was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft

Matt Beniers, Michigan 

Yes, Michigan is going to be really good this year and no, this isn’t the last Wolverine on this list. 

Matty Beniers is certainly deserving of the spot on here. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound center went one spot after Power in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, going second overall to the Seattle Kraken. 

The Hingham, Massachusetts native is known for his tremendous speed, edge work and shiftiness. On any given one of his shifts, it’s not uncommon to see him effortlessly carry the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, sifting through and around opponents. His creativity in the offensive zone is also something to note. 

PRESEASON RANKS: Check out the first poll of the 2021-22 college hockey season

Beniers put up an impressive 10 goals and 24 points in 24 games during his freshman year. Those numbers earned him a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team, as well as an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten. 

On a Michigan team full of NHL draft picks, Beniers is sure to be one who stands out. 

Dryden McKay enters his senior year at Minnesota State

Dryden McKay, Minnesota State 

There’s only one goalie on this list, and it’s fitting that Dryden McKay takes that spot. 

McKay was lights out last season, finishing the season with an astounding 1.54 goals-against average over 26 starts, which was good for second in the nation. His winning percentage of .840 and 10 shutouts — yes, 10 times he blanked the opposition — both led college hockey. 

His efforts last season got him to be a runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award. Those same efforts helped propel Minnesota State into the Frozen Four. 

For McKay’s senior season, the expectation remains the same: Stop a lot of pucks and win a lot of games. The Mavericks have a solid defensive core returning, so not much should change in front of McKay heading into the 2021-22 season. 

Bobby Trivigno enters his senior season at UMass

Bobby Trivigno, UMass 

This list wouldn’t be complete without a player from last season’s national champion UMass team. So let’s go with the heart and soul of the Minutemen. 

Trivigno is listed at 5-foot-8 and 162 pounds. His play is not equivalent to his size. The ferocious left winger is constantly involved in battles down in the corners and in front of the opposing net. He has no problems going to the dirty areas for goals. While he struggled with crossing the line in his freshman and sophomore years, his junior campaign saw him curb his trips to the sin bin. 

After two seasons of playing sideshow to now-San Jose Sharks forward John Leonard’s goal-scoring prowess, Bobby Trivigno proved he could be “the guy” in 2020-21, posting a team-high 34 points. His play earned him CCM/AHCA Hockey First Team All-America honors, as well as a spot on the Hockey East All-Star First Team. He also won the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born DI men’s hockey player in New England. 

All of this earned Trivigno the “C” for UMass prior to the 2021-22 season. 

RUNNING IT BACK: UMass head coach Greg Carvel explains his desires to repeat in 2021-22

The expectations for Trivigno will be interesting in his senior year. The obvious reason for him wanting to maintain his high level of production is to help UMass repeat as champs in 2022. But another huge motivation will be his hockey career post-gradation and proving his size can work at the NHL level.

Thomas Bordeleau was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

Thomas Bordeleau, Michigan 

As we said, Michigan is stacked this year. All seven slots on here could’ve been Wolverines, but that wouldn’t be any fun. So we’ll stick with three and Thomas Bordeleau’s past performances and current trajectory give him a comfy spot on this list. 

Bordeleau was taken 38th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Even though he’s only 5-foot-9, he uses that to his advantage, utilizing his speed, elusiveness and ability to protect the puck to evade defenders. His best stuff comes waiting for passing lanes to open up, as was evident with 22 of his 30 points last year coming by way of assist. 

His play last season earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and Second Team All-Big Ten. He also led the nation in freshman scoring. 

With reports out of August’s World Junior Summer Showcase that the Michigan product stood out, all signs point to Bordeleau taking a big leap in his sophomore year. He’s sure to post as many or more assists than he did in his freshman season given the depth in talent around him. 

Two things to keep an eye on: How much faster he can get and his work in his own zone. 

Veeti Miettinen is poised for a big second season at St. Cloud State

Veeti Miettinen, St. Cloud State 

While Veeti Miettinen may not have the name recognition some of the previous names do, he’s one of the more interesting players to watch in college hockey. 

The Espoo, Finland native was selected 168th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound winger has a good shot with solid playmaking abilities in the offensive zone. His speed is extremely underrated. 

LIGHTING IT UP: Here are the 10 best former college hockey players in the NHL right now

Miettinen burst onto the scene last season, posting 10 goals and 22 points — good for first on the Huskies and fifth in the NCHC. Those numbers earned him NCHC rookie of the year honors. His efforts helped get St. Cloud State to the national title game. 

All signs point to Miettinen becoming even more of a force in his sophomore campaign. 

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