TORONTO, Ont. -- While the summer months are often quiet on the hockey front, July saw the recruiting trail really start to heat up on the NCAA front as 2001 birth year players are starting to come off the board at a rapid pace. In addition to several American players outside of the OHL Draft area, six players who do fall within the territory made NCAA commitments during the month.
Leading the way was Alex Turcotte, a former Chicago Young Americans forward who will be joining a loaded Chicago Mission U16 squad for the upcoming season. Turcotte is a big-time addition for the Badgers as he projects to be firmly in the NTDP mix at this point and definitely has the potential to develop into a quality pro down the road. Our viewings of Turcotte last season were limited due to an injury, but if the US Select 15 camp is any indication, there's little doubt that he's going to be primed for a big season.
Turcotte's commitment was sandwiched between two other Wisconsin commitments who will also be part of that Mission U16 team; TJ Koufis and Owen Lindmark. With Tony Granato's head coaching regime set to begin this fall, it's clear that the Badgers are wasting little time getting out ahead of the curve on the recruiting trail. They've even dipped into the '02 age group as well in July with a verbal commitment from Meijer's Tanner Latsch.
Another blue-chip prospect off the board in July is Trevor Zegras, who announced his commitment to Boston University. The Avon Old Farms centre's addition to the Terriers only solidifes what was already shaping up to be the best recruiting class in the '01 age group. From the OHL Draft area alone, his addition comes alongside previous commitments from Robert Mastrosimone and Case McCarthy, a trio that would all be surefire first round picks in the OHL Draft should they pursue that route. While Zegras still needs to put on some considerable strength to his lanky frame, there's few in the age group with a more natural propensity to create offense, with his skill-level and vision both being high-end tools at this point.
Miami-Ohio made an in-state splash as they added Spencer Cox from the Ohio Blue Jackets, a cerebral all-around defenseman who should develop into a very nice top-4 defenseman at the NCAA level. While Cox doesn't have ideal size at this point, he's emerging as a quality skater and has natural instincts for the game that can't be taught. He may not be a high-end prospect at this point, but he's a nice addition for the RedHawks.
Before the month could come to an end, Michigan State joined the action and made Josh Nodler the second Michigan-resident to secure a commitment - with Michael Mancinelli's commitment to North Dakota leading off. Nodler may not grow too much beyond his current level around the 6-foot mark, but he already possesses a wide frame with strength throughout that makes him a very difficult player to contain. Playing on a subpar Honeybaked team last year, Nodler may have been a bit under the radar, but that should change this season as the Honeybaked U16 team should shape up to be far better.
With the clock now reading August, don't be surprised to see a rash of commitments come in before the start of the season, either. With the US Select 15 camp fresh in the minds of NCAA programs, schools will be looking to lock down their top targets sooner than later. While the development curve still has no shortage of time left in it - and there's little doubt that players will go on to emerge at 16, 17, 18, and beyond - there is still no shortage of precedent that many highly coveted players often do hold their value into the future. With a finite number of those players available, the clock is ticking.