First Wave of College Commits

Aug 4, 2022 | Michael Caples

Photo by Michael Caples | Take Your Shot Photography
Photo by Michael Caples | Take Your Shot Photography

Aug. 1 marked the start of verbal announcements for the 2006 birth year; Here’s who’s committed already

For most NCAA sports, student-athletes play for their high school, then they go play for a college.

Hockey, of course, is a little different.

With junior leagues and competing against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) for players, the Division-I college hockey recruiting landscape needed some administrative help.

In 2019, hockey-specific recruiting rules were put in place to slow things down — a rare instance where the NCAA acknowledged that hockey can’t always be under the same recruiting guidance and rules of the other major sports.

If you’re looking for examples of how things were getting out of hand, just Google Oliver Wahlstrom and read about how he committed to Maine at 13 years old. He never ended up playing for the Black Bears, but at least his story isn’t a tragic tale; the No. 11 overall pick in 2018 played for Boston College for a year before turning pro, and he just wrapped up his first full NHL season with the New York Islanders.

Still, 13-year-olds committing wasn’t going to work long-term. The NCAA now has hockey-specific rules in place for the recruiting timelines of each birth year.

For those really plugged in, a wave of college commitments came in over the wire on Monday, Aug. 1. That’s because on the first day of August leading into a player’s junior year of high school — 16U for most hockey folks — schools are allowed to extend verbal offers to prospects.

It’s an important date in the recruiting timeline, but it’s not the first, nor the last key date on the calendar. Here’s a full look at what the 2006 birth-year — players just now able to make verbal commitments as of Monday — is moving through on their way to college hockey.

  • January 1 of 10th grade – Recruiting conversations are allowed to begin between coaches and prospective student-athletes. That means that there is supposed to be no communication between NCAA programs and players until the middle of their 15O season. 
  • Aug. 1 before 11th grade – Verbal offers are permitted, as discussed above. Also, players are allowed to make official visits to schools. We should note, of course, that verbal offers and commitments are not binding for either party. 
  • Middle of November in 12th grade – Skipping forward a year, there is a specified date each November when high school seniors can put pen to paper on National Letters of Intent, which are binding agreements between player and school. This year, Signing Day is November 9.

While the second date on the NLI info page is the final day to sign for the upcoming season – Aug. 1, 2023 for this year – the important thing to remember about college hockey is that players can continue pursuing college hockey opportunities well after they finish high school. In fact, College Hockey, Inc., is quick to remind people that the average age of a player when they commit to a college is 19, not 16.

The players already making commitments this week are outliers, not the norm. Typically, they are the most sought-after prospects in their birth year, but they don’t always end up staying with that particular school, nor do all of them end up being the best in their birth year a few years down the road.

It is a massive achievement to make a verbal pledge to a college hockey program in the first week it’s possible, of course. It is an evolving list, changing in real-time, but here are some of the highlights of early commitments this week:

  • Sacha Boisvert, a Quebec native who impressed with Mount St. Charles 15O this year and signed a USHL tender with Muskegon this spring, has committed to North Dakota.
  • Minnesota high school hockey products Adam Kleber and Max Plante have both committed to Minnesota-Duluth. Kleber was the No. 11 overall pick in the USHL Draft by Lincoln, while Plante made the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) Under-17 Team for the fall.
  • Speaking of NTDP players, incoming U17 Team defenseman Will Skahan committed to Wisconsin, while fellow blueliner Cole Hutson will join his brother Lane at Boston University after his time in Plymouth. 
  • Michigan State received a pair of commitments from Little Caesars 15O forwards in Lucas Van Vliet and Austin Baker — they are both on their way to the NTDP in the fall, as well.
  • Quebec area native and Blizzard M18 AAA product Xavier Veilleux pledged to Harvard.
  • Boston University also picked up big-time commitments in incoming NTDP forward and Illinois native Kamil Bednarik and Muskegon Lumberjacks tender Owen Keefe
  • John Whipple, an expected star defenseman for the NTDP in the fall, committed to Minnesota after spending the last two seasons in the state with Shattuck-St. Mary’s
  • Matthew Frost, the No. 1 pick in the USHL Draft, committed to Boston College as one of the first announcements on Aug. 1. Frost is a native of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, who has been playing state-side with Team Maryland and then South Kent Selects Academy this past season.  
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