Over the weekend, we saw some promising New York Rangers prospects hitting the NCAA ice, and it was quite a show. The high-flying 2023 first-round pick, Gabe Perreault, and the 2023 third-round selection, Drew Fortescue, both from the Boston College Eagles, went head-to-head against another Rangers hopeful, Hugo Ollas, leading the charge for the Merrimack College Warriors in a thrilling Hockey East conference showdown.
The Merrimack College Warriors started strong with a two-goal lead in the first period at Lawler Rink in Massachusetts. Yet Gabe Perreault and Boston College responded.
He earned a primary assist on Boston's go-ahead power-play goal in the final minute of the second frame. He wasn't done, adding a secondary assist in the third as the Eagles soared with five straight goals, clinching a 6-4 victory.
Perreault's finished with two apples, one shot on goal, and a solid +1 rating. Meanwhile, defenseman Drew Fortescue didn't score but had a moment in the penalty box with a holding minor in the second period. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, and Perreault was back at it, capping off a three-goal first period for the Eagles with a slick backhander. The freshmen line struck again in the third, with Perreault bagging a secondary assist on Will Smith's goal.
Wrapping up the weekend with a 6-2 win, Perreault showcased his skills with two points in the game. Impressively, he's rocking more multi-point games (13) than single-point or scoreless ones this season. He's sitting at 7 goals and 34 points in 21 games. He's only 18 and sits at the top of the team's point leaderboard, tying for third overall among all NCAA players.
NHL analyst Dave Starman shared some exciting insights on Gabe Perreault, drawing a comparison to the talented Cole Caufield. Starman shared, "Perreault reminds me a little of Cole Caufield in that he's got the ability to creatively disappear... It's that hockey IQ of finding threatening open ice that sets guys like Perreault and Caufield apart. And make no mistake, Perreault has an excellent hockey IQ."
The Rangers must be thrilled with this comparison, especially considering Caufield's impressive track record with 20+ goals in his first two NHL seasons and 67 goals and 117 points in 167 games with the Montreal Canadiens.
Both Perreault and Caufield share a similar background – born in the United States,
USNTDP alumni, NCAA standouts, and contributors to the U.S. World Juniors gold-winning team. However, Perreault outshone Caufield in the recent World Juniors, tying for second in the United States and fourth overall in tournament scoring with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven games.
Starman highlighted Perreault's intelligence and ability to find open ice. According to Starman, "Here's where Perreault has an advantage over a lot of other younger players, it's how smart he is... That excellent hockey IQ is what sets him apart."
Further diving into Perreault's skill set, Starman noted, "He's got an excellent delivery to the net. He doesn't mind playing in hard areas... He's competitive. He's just a player... he's a skill guy that makes other players better. He's really comfortable being really good and he's also comfortable playing with players that are really good. That's not always the case."
At the other end of the ice was Rangers prospect Hugo Ollas.
After warming the bench on Friday night, the netminder took the spotlight as the starting goaltender for Merrimack on Sunday. It wasn't the smoothest ride, though, as he faced 41 shots, letting six goals slip through.
Ollas' season record took a hit, sliding to 4-7, and his goals-against average bumped up to 3.03 with a save percentage of .902. His biggest performance came on January 16th when he stood tall, stopping twenty-four out of twenty-five shots against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in a solid 4-1 win. Everyone has their off days; for Ollas, there's always the next game to bounce back.
Drew Fortescue's Rise:
Switching gears to Boston College defenseman Drew Fortescue, the Rangers' third-round pick, may not have lit up the scoreboard on Sunday but certainly left a positive impression. Finishing the game with a +1 rating, he caught the attention of Starman, who shared, "I like Fortescue. He strikes me as a really good second-pair guy."
According to Starman, Fortescue brings versatility to the table. "He can play with length. He can play with some bite in his game. He's got really good vision. I think he's got pretty good mobility. I just felt like when the U.S. needed a good solid shift, he gave them one. We didn't call his name a lot, for the right reasons. All the little things you don't hear about because they're not sexy, he can do. I think he's on the right track."
And there's more good news for Fortescue – he's under the guidance of Greg Brown, a coach renowned for developing defensemen. Starman added, "Best thing for Fortescue? He's got Greg Brown as his coach, and Greg Brown develops defensemen as well as anyone in the NCAA has in the past 20 years."
As for Boston College, they're cruising with a 16-4-1 record this season. The upcoming clash between the number two-ranked Boston College Eagles and the Boston University Terriers on January 26th and 27th, known as the Green Line Rivalry and Battle of Commonwealth Avenue, is generating quite the buzz. Brace yourselves for some intense matchups – these games are already sold out!
Talking about top-ranked Boston University, it was quite the show on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt. Lane Hutson was on fire, matching his career high with four assists. At the same time, Macklin Celebrini stepped up, scoring two goals and adding to the BU victory with a 5-1 win over Vermont.
Yet the goal-scoring party didn't stop there – Luke Tuch, Quinn Hutson, and Dylan Peterson joined in, lighting the lamp and contributing to the impressive win. Ryan Greene also played a crucial role, recording two assists. The Terriers proved they're ready for what the Eagles will throw at them.