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UND HOCKEY PREVIEW: Who will be this year's Jack Eichel or Kyle Connor?

Kyle Connor led college hockey in scoring last season. He was a freshman. Brock Boeser finished third nationally in scoring a year ago. He was a freshman. Jack Eichel led college hockey in scoring two years ago. He was a freshman. The past two co...

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UND freshman Tyson Jost was picked No. 10 overall by Colorado.

Kyle Connor led college hockey in scoring last season.

He was a freshman.

Brock Boeser finished third nationally in scoring a year ago.

He was a freshman.

Jack Eichel led college hockey in scoring two years ago.

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He was a freshman.

The past two college hockey seasons have highlighted how high-end rookies are able to step into the NCAA game and not only contribute but contend for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation’s top player.

Eichel, who played at Boston University, won the Hobey in 2015. Connor, who played at Michigan, was a runner-up last season, though many felt he should have been the winner with significantly better statistics than Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey.

In fact, three of the top five point-getters in college hockey over the last two seasons have been freshmen.

And there’s no reason to believe that trend will stop in 2016-17.

There were 11 college hockey players drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft and eight of them will be freshmen this season. Here’s a look at four guys who will jump onto the scene as major impact players:

Clayton Keller, Boston University

Keller, who broke Phil Kessel’s all-time scoring record at the National Team Development Program, is the Patrick Kane of this year’s freshman class.

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He doesn’t have a lot of size at 5-foot-10, 164 pounds, but he has tremendous speed, a high skill level and exceptional creativity.

If he was a couple of inches taller, he would have been a contender to go No. 1 overall in the draft, but instead went No. 7 to the Arizona Coyotes.

Keller isn’t a shutdown defensive type of forward and doesn’t add a lot of physicality but can break a game open with his skillset -- much like Kane does for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tyson Jost, North Dakota

If Keller is the Patrick Kane of the rookie class, then North Dakota freshman Tyson Jost is the Jonathan Toews.

Jost probably won’t jump off the page at you with dazzling moves like Keller, but he does everything at a high level -- including defend.

Jost’s leadership qualities are so evident that he’ll have a shot at wearing a captain’s letter next season as a sophomore.

The opportunity should be right for Jost, too. He’s expected to open the season as the top-line center with Boeser on his wing. Anyone playing with Boeser should benefit in the stats column, including Jost.

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The Alberta native has the all-around, responsible game that should allow him to help the top line’s puck possession -- a key for the CBS Line a season ago.

Henrik Borgstrom, Denver

Another NCHC rookie who will get big minutes right away is Henrik Borgstrom on NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist Denver’s squad.

Borgstrom, of Finland, is a traditional skilled European player. He has great creativity and vision. He’ll get an opportunity to play on Denver’s top line and power-play unit with the early signings of Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore.

Borgstrom has never played in the United States -- he has played in his native Finland his whole life -- but the transition should be smooth for him.

Kieffer Bellows, Boston University

The son of former North Star Brian Bellows has a lot of things going for him.

No. 1: He has a cannon of a shot. If he is allowed to shoot the puck -- and he hits his spot -- it’s nearly impossible for a goalie to stop.

No. 2: He’ll be playing with Keller.

Keller is a fantastic set-up man and Bellows is the finisher. Not only that, they also have tremendous chemistry as they’ve played on the same line for each of the last two seasons at the National Team Development Program.

It will be an easy transition for the rookie duo at Boston University.

NCHC top 10 freshmen
1. Tyson Jost, F, North Dakota
2. Henrik Borgstrom, F, Denver
3. Jack Ahcan, D, St. Cloud State
4. Joey Anderson, F, Minnesota Duluth
5. Wade Allison, F, Western Michigan
6. Riley Tufte, F, Minnesota Duluth
7. Dennis Cholowski, D, St. Cloud State
8. Ben Blacker, G, Western Michigan
9. Ludvig Hoff, F, North Dakota
10. Hunter Miska, G, Minnesota Duluth

Related Topics: UND FIGHTING HAWKS HOCKEY
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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