Future Nuts: Checking in on Buckeye Hockey Recruiting

By Aubrey Nelson on December 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm
Buckeye coaches Steve Rohlik and Nadine Muzerall have secured commitments from some exciting young players.

Twitter/@OhioStateMHKY and @OhioStateWHKY

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Hello, puckheads! It’s a rare open week for the Buckeye hockey programs. The women have a bye this week (allowing ample time to celebrate Jincy Dunne’s WCHA Defender of the Month honors) and the men’s team is already into its midseason break. With no games on the schedule, it’s time for a deep dive into Ohio State’s commit list.

These players have all made at least a public, verbal commitment to play their college hockey at OSU. The current recruiting rundown was obtained from Hockey Tech’s college commit list and checked for recent swaps and decommitments as those verbal commitments are in no way binding. To the best of my knowledge, these are your future Buckeyes. 

Men's Commits

Coming in 2019-20

Ohio State’s projected 2019-20 class is a blend of size, speed, and work ethic which has potential to be the program’s best NHL-drafted class in 18 years. It is headlined by B-rated prospects Layton Ahac and Arlo Merritt. Central Scouting’s B rating surmises these guys will be second or third round selections.

The Buckeyes haven’t had two incoming players chosen before the fourth round in the same draft since RJ Umberger and Dave Steckel were both first round picks in 2001. No incoming Buckeye has been selected before the fifth round since Zac Dalpe was a second-round choice in 2008.

Ahac impressed in his debut BCHL season last year and earned a spot on the league’s All-Rookie team. The 6’3” (“and growing”) defenseman drew interest from (according to Ahac) “roughly half” of the NCAA’s D-I teams before choosing Ohio State. Glowing reviews of his game emphasize his smart decision-making and “exceptional skating stride that rarely left him out of position” last year.  

Merritt, the Bucks’ other B-rated commit, is also a big guy at 6’2” or 6’3” (reports vary). Rave scouting reports praise the forward’s size, speed, skating, and offensive instincts. Jeff Cox of SBN College Hockey called him a “high end talent.” Both Merritt and Ahac spent part of their summer at Team Canada’s U17 development camp.

The projected 2019-20 class includes two more towering youths, forward Aaron Grounds and goalie Ryan Snowden. Grounds, who models his game after the Montreal Canadiens’ Andrew Shaw, drew notice for his compete level and physicality. Says Touros assistant GM Chris Lonke, “He has an edge to his game.”

Snowden, noted for his work ethic and commitment to the game, is currently one of the top netminders in the USHL. He ranks seventh in GAA (2.93) and No. 4 in save percentage (.908) playing for the 11-11-2 Central Illinois Flying Aces. Snowden and Grounds were both C-rated prospects on last year’s CSS’s Players to Watch list but ultimately went undrafted.

Smaller, but speedier are forwards Michael Gildon and Caleb Rule. Gildon is a C-rated skater this year. He ranked No. 58 on New York Hockey Journal’s list of American prospects for the 2019 NHL draft. He won gold with Team USA’s U17 squad and has 13 points though 20 games with this season’s U18 team.

Rule wrapped up a productive career at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (214 career points) and joined the USHL ranks. He owns eight goals and three assists in 20 games this year with the Lincoln Stars. Rule also has experience with USA Hockey, skating at both the Select 16 and Select 17 camps.

OSU’s most recent commit, Tate Singleton is another prolific scorer. He posted 121 points in 92 career games for Proctor Academy and 47 points in 56 career games with the New Jersey Jr. Titans. The “high speed” playmaker with a “quick release” and “fearless” puck pursuit was a first round pick, No. 13 overall, in the USHL Draft. He has 16 points through 23 games with Lincoln this year.

Waterloo (USHL) defenseman James Marooney (younger brother of Minnesota junior Joey Marooney) and seasoned BCHL blueliner Austin Chorney round out the Bucks’ projected freshman class of 2019-20.

Coming in 2020-21

This class is less definite than the previous one. The farther away a college debut is, the greater the opportunity for a player to jump ship for another school or the Canadian major junior leagues. (See: ex-OSU commits the Dhooghe brothers, the Caufield brothers, and Marcus Gretz.) But, if it does arrive intact, this class again features more size, some speed, and a healthy dose of competitiveness and work ethic.

The size comes from defensemen John Larkin (6’2”) and Mason Lohrei (6’3”). Both are veterans of USA Hockey’s Select 15-17 development camps. Although not rated by the CSS, Lohrei ranks No. 56 on the aforementioned New York Hockey Journal list of 65 American prospects for the 2019 NHL draft.   

Larkin, a Lansing native who chose Ohio State over Michigan, prides himself on playing a two-way game. He is described as “versatile,” “physical,” and “everything you want in a defenseman.” His impressed coach Brad Patterson at Youngstown with his silky smooth transition from U16 hockey to the USHL.

On the offensive end, OSU’s projected 2020-21 rookies include Cam Thiesing, Elan Bar-Lev-Wise, Alex Servagno, and Alex Trombley. Thiesing came through the same Chicago Mission program that churns out stars like Tanner Laczynski and Notre Dame’s Bobby Nardella. Those who have seen him in action, like SBN’s Cox, noted his skating prowess.

I swear I read that the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers were blown away by Bar-Lev-Wise’s competitiveness and tremendous skill set, although I can no longer find that article online. According to Amateur Hockey Report the “very active” Servagno “plays with a bunch of energy.” And Trombley has the Scouting News rethinking its rating, “the more you watch [Trombley] compete shift in and shift out, the more you begin to question whether...he’s one of the most undervalued assets on our projected top 300 [list].”

Farther Out

The Buckeyes also have long-range verbal commitments from three talented skaters. Defenseman DJ Hart (2021-22) is a “tough-minded”, “physical” “combination of strength and speed” who plays a “mature and complete two-way game.” He was selected in the first round of this summer’s inaugural QMJHL Americans draft. Despite the early selection, there is no indication at present that he intends to go the major junior route.

Tanner Dickinson (2021-22) has been a big contributor at USA Hockey Select camps. The Perrysburg, Ohio forward posted six points in three games with the Select 15 squad and nine points in five games at the Select 16 camp. He skated with Team USA at the most recent U17 Five Nations tournament.  

Davis Burnside (2022-23) is another highly-regarded Chicago Mission product. The Scouting News says he “checks off all the boxes when it comes to character, consistency, effort, leadership, and two-way play.” As you might expect “one of the best two-way performers in the country” is already on USA Hockey’s radar. Burnside notched two points in four games at the Team USA’s Select 15 development camp.

Women's Commits

Coming in 2019-20

Seven players recently inked NLI’s with Ohio State. Preliminary info is much harder to come by in girls’ hockey but from what I can glean from the internets, the next crop of Buckeye women seems to be a good one. The group includes defender Maddie Babnik, who led her high school team to a state championship and skates for a Chicago Mission program which churns out star power (such as current leading goal scorer Tatum Skaggs).

Forward Ramsey Parent signed her letter of intent too. You might remember as the long-time commit as the eighth-grader who made her school’s varsity squad. Parent attended USA Hockey’s development camp over the summer. She was joined there by forward Brooke Bink, out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, who also signed on with Ohio State.

Canadian forward Jennifer Gardiner spent time with her national team development camp as well. Gardiner boasts 137 career points through three seasons with the Greater Vancouver Comets.

Goaltender Quinn Kuntz went 15-2-0 last season with a 0.77 GAA and .960 save percentage. She looks to be even more impenetrable this year, backing Warroad (MN-HS) to a 7-0-0 start with a 0.43 GAA, .978 save percentage, and six shutouts.

Defenders Teghan Inglis (Pursuit of Excellence) and Addi Scribner (East Ridge, MN HS) round out next season’s rookie class.

Coming in 2020-21

Gardiner’s teammate, Jenna Buglioni, has also verbally committed to Ohio State. The Vancouver Comets forward is second in team scoring to Gardiner. She garnered an invite to Canada’s development camp this summer.

Buglioni is one of four players committed to the Buckeyes for the 2020-21 season. She is joined by Shani Rossignol, a forward from the same Ontario Hockey Academy that produced former Buckeye sniper Julia McKinnon. Swedish forward Sofie Lundin and goaltender Amanda Thiele have also made verbal commitment to Ohio State. 

Excitement!

If you've made it this far, I commend you on your hockey obsession. Which recruits are you most excited to see don the scarlet and gray? For me, Merritt is the single most interesting prospect. A lot of people - ones who don't stand to gain or lose anything by Merritt's success - have a lot of good things to say about him. (Unfortunately, they aren't all quotable.) 

Mostly, though, I'm impressed by the overall boost in raw talent for the men's team. Rohlik has developed some under-the-radar players into major college contributors. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a higher caliber set of recruits.

And of course it's nice to see Muzerall getting ready to reload. On the women's side, I think Parent and Kuntz in particular have the potential to be impact players for the Buckeyes, as well as the Canadian duo of Gardiner and Buglioni.

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