The NCAA Frozen Four Final will take place later today on ESPN at 7pm ET. The 2021 tournament has been full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns, and for the first time in three years, we will have a new national champion. While most experts had neither team slated for a Finals appearance, there is still a plethora of talent and players to keep an eye on.
D Zac Jones – UMass
Zac Jones was everywhere in the Minutemen’s victory on Thursday night. A prototypical modern-day defenseman, Jones is an elite skater and loves to carry the puck up the ice. Jones loves to accelerate through the neutral zone when the puck is on his stick and can be explosive. This helps UMass’ transition game immensely and will translate well to the NHL in the future. Jones, a New York Rangers third-round pick, has the highest ceiling of any prospect in this tournament. Jones finished seventh on my list of top New York Rangers prospects earlier this season. He is a player to keep an eye on in the Final today.
D Marc Del Gaizo – UMass
Like Jones, Del Gaizo is a small, skilled offensive-minded defenseman. The junior has been a staple for the Minutemen for a few seasons now, and while he is less flashy offensively than Jones, he is extremely well-rounded. Del Gaizo possesses an excellent first pass and used his speed and positioning well in the semi-final to break up plays defensively. Del Gaizo and Jones provide a one-two punch for the Minutemen and will be a formidable force from the backend to be reckoned with.
W Veeti Miettinen – St.Cloud State
A rather unheralded freshman from Finland, Miettinen took college hockey by storm early this season, posting 24 points in his first 27 games in the NCAA. The Toronto Maple Leafs sixth round pick is known for his quickness and agility. At 5’9”, Miettinen will never overpower anyone with his size and strength, but he is an incredibly talented and imaginative offensive talent. He was extremely quiet and looked overwhelmed during the semi-final. Look for a bit of a bounce back in the Finals later today.
D Nick Perbix – St.Cloud State
A Tampa Bay Lightning sixth round pick, junior Nick Perbix plays in all situations for St. Cloud. At 6’4”, Perbix is a tall, rangy blue-liner who can run a powerplay and also break up plays easily in the defensive zone. Perbix’s game isn’t flashy, but his game is well-rounded and he uses his reach well. He is a likely candidate to sign an NHL contract soon, though he is probably AHL bound to begin his pro career. A national championship victory would be icing on the cake for the consistent defender.
In conclusion, there are no first-round NHL picks nor potentials in NCAA Frozen Four Championship. That being said, there is still some potential NHL talent to keep an eye on. Continue to follow The Painted Lines in the days to come for coverage of the tournament.