Respected TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie, one of the most connected people in the business, has put out his latest list of top 30 prospects for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
While it's a major-junior dominated list, as expected, there are some names on it that college hockey fans will know.
One name in particular will be familiar to local hockey fans.
Duluth native Derek Forbort, who skipped his senior season at Duluth East to play for the U.S. Under 18 National Team (based in Ann Arbor, Mich.), is rated 18th by McKenzie, meaning he's a likely first-round pick this summer.
Forbort is headed to the University of North Dakota next year, and barring something unforeseen, he won't be a four-year guy there.
Other Minnesota-based players on the list include future Gopher Nick Bjugstad, a Blaine High School senior rated No. 14. Minnesota State freshman Tyler Pitlick, an impressive-looking young player who played his prep hockey at Centennial, comes in at No. 20. Warroad center Brock Nelson is 25th. He's a very impressive playmaker who will also play at North Dakota.
Obviously, there is going to be some tweaking done to these ratings. Not only that, but despite McKenzie's impressive pedigree and contacts, it's hardly gospel when it comes time for the draft.
However, it's obvious that plenty of Minnesota kids are impressing NHL scouts, and there is likely to be an increased number of college or college-bound players going in the first round this summer. That's good news for the NCAA as they try to defend their reputation as a developmental tool for young hockey players against the assault by major junior leagues in Canada.