October 8, 2008
Recruiting Trail: Top 20 Defensemen

The players who've topped our list of incoming defensemen in each of the previous five years have done pretty well in their rookie campaigns. Ryan Suter, who sat atop the 2003 rankings, had a fairly productive year at Wisconsin prior to turning pro at the end of the season. Alex Goligoski, who put up 98 points in 118 career games for Minnesota, was our top-ranked freshman rearguard in 2004. In 2005, Michigan's Jack Johnson was the consensus choice as the No. 1 backliner, and the honor went to Minnesota's Erik Johnson in 2006 — both played in the National Hockey League last season. Last year's honoree was Wisconsin's Ryan McDonagh, who had a solid, if unspectacular year for the Badgers, notching 12 points in 40 games.

This year's top incoming defenseman is Minnesota's Aaron Ness, though based on the comments we got from scouts and coaches, Ness and Boston University's David Warsofsky could be considered 1A and 1B. The rundown of the top 20 defensemen is led by the WCHA — it boasts seven representatives. Six USHL alums appear on the list, as do six representatives of U.S. prep school and high school programs.

Inside College Hockey compiled its 2008 Recruiting Rankings with extensive input from college coaches and professional scouts. Participants were asked to evaluate recruits based on their projected impact at the college level, not on their professional hockey prospects.




School Last Team


Aaron Ness

Minnesota Roseau (Minn.) H.S.

Yeah, he's small and his shot isn't the greatest. That said, he's a magician with the puck, and will be a playmaking blueliner in the Leopold-Martin-Goligoski mold.


David Warsofsky

Boston University U.S. NTDP

Warsofsky is not all that different from Ness in terms of puck-handling ability. He'll join senior Matt Gilroy and sophomores Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen on an impressive Terrier defensive corps.


Tommy Cross

Boston College Westminster (Conn.) Prep

At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and growing, Cross, Nick Petrecki (6-3, 220), and Carl Sneep (6-3, 212) form an imposing trio for the defending champs.


Brandon Burlon

Michigan St. Michael's (OPJHL)

Burlon missed about half of the OPJHL regular season in 2007-08 with a shoulder injury. He boasts NHL size (6-0, 190) and has the skills to be a shutdown defenseman in the college ranks.


Patrick Wiercioch

Denver Omaha (USHL)

Showed his mettle during Omaha's run to the USHL playoff championship last season by scoring 11 points in 14 playoff games, compared to 21 points in 40 regular-season games.


Blake Kessel

New Hampshire Waterloo (USHL)

Phil Kessel's younger brother elicited the widest variety of opinions from our panelists. He should get an opportunity to replace the graduated Brad Flaishans and Craig Switzer as the quarterbacks of the UNH power play.


Will Weber

Miami Chicago (USHL)

The consensus on Weber, who played high school hockey in Michigan before spending last season with the USHL's Chicago Steel, is that he's got all the tools, but lacks experience.


Jake Gardiner

Wisconsin Minnetonka (Minn.) H.S.

Wait a second, Badger fans will say ... Gardiner was a first-round choice in this year's NHL Draft. He should be higher. Perhaps, but those we surveyed feel Gardiner, who's only been playing defense for a couple years, will struggle mightily during his rookie campaign.


Mike Bergin

Rensselaer Smiths Falls (COJHL)

Dominated Ontario's Central Junior Hockey League, scoring 48 points for Smiths Falls last season. He was a three-time all-COJHL selection.


Derrick Pallis

Princeton Nobles (Mass.) Prep

He may not immediately step in and be as productive as Mike Moore was for the Tigers last season, but Pallis is similarly sized and has shown to be a effective playmaker from the point.


Matt Bartkowski

Ohio State Lincoln (USHL)


Matt Irwin

Massachusetts Nanaimo (BCHL)


Brady Lamb

Minnesota Duluth Calgary Royals (AJHL)


Corey Fienhage

North Dakota Apple Valley (Minn.)
Eastview H.S.


Ben Blood

North Dakota Indiana (USHL)


Sean Lorenz

Notre Dame U.S. NTDP


Mark Borowiecki

Clarkson Smiths Falls (COJHL)


Connor Goggin

Dartmouth Choate (Conn.) Prep


Karl Stollery

Merrimack Camrose (AJHL)


Eric Springer

Wisconsin Sioux City (USHL)