On the first edition of the Beanpot Special, we took an in depth look at the top forward prospects that play college hockey. While there were plenty of forwards to choose from, there aren’t nearly as many top defenseman prospects in college. However, we did a little bit of searching and found a few guys who could very be the next big thing for their respective team.
Chad Krys is an American defenseman out of Connecticut. A native of Ridgefield, Krys played his minor hockey with the Connecticut Oilers. In his first year with the Oilers as a midget (16u and 18u), Chad played 49 games for the 16u team putting up 71 points and 20 goals from the blue line. He also played 18 games for the 18u Oilers in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects league, where he put up 27 points, good enough for 5th in the league and 1st among defensemen. After the 2012-13 season with Connecticut, Chad Krys was drafted 280th overall in the 19th round of the USHL Futures Draft by the Green Bay Gamblers. After the draft, Krys moved to New Jersey to play with the New Jersey Rockets 19 and Under team. He played 41 games with the Rockets with 45 points. Following his only season with New Jersey, Krys was selected 114th overall in the 7th round of the 2014 Quebec Major Junior League by the Moncton Wildcats. Instead of playing for the Gamblers or Wildcats, Krys joined future Boston University teammate Charlie Mcavoy at the United States National Team Development Program. With the USNDP, he played 53 games with 39 points during his 2 seasons in the United States Hockey League. During his 1st season in the USHL, he also played for the U17 team at the World Hockey Championships and the U18 team at the World Junior Championship. His 2nd season with Team USA was solid as he played only 18 games but still managed 13 points. Due to a standout performance in the USHL and 27 international games, Krys was ranked as #53 North American Skater by NHL Central Scouting. On Day 1 of the 2016 NHL Draft, The Chicago Blackhawks traded grinder Andrew Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens in return for the 39th and 45th overall picks. Selected 39th was Erie Otters standout Alex Debrincat, who now is a 1st liner for the Hawks. Picked 45th was Chad Krys, one of Debrincats teammates for Team USA throughout the previous few years. With that selection, Krys became 1 of 12 players drafted from the US National Development Program, not including alumni Auston Matthews. Krys seemed to be a huge pickup for a team who is drawing closer and closer to an advanced rebuild. The American defenseman didn’t sign with the Blackhawks and enrolled at Boston University. As a freshman, Krys was more of a depth D-man and saw limited ice time in his 39 games. In that season, he only posted 11 points, 5 of which were goals. In the summer of 2017, Krys attended the Blackhawks development camp and was a noticeable presence alongside Northeastern’s Dylan Sikura. The Blackhawks Defensive prospect was able to showcase his playmaking ability that drew a lot of press, reminding some of a mix between Erik Karlsson and Duncan Kieth. He ultimately didn’t sign again and returned to BU for his sophomore year. As a sophomore, Krys has solidified himself as a top defenseman in the Hockey East and the NCAA. The 2nd year Terrier is having a very strong season with 20 points in 26 games. While he is a key member of the Terriers, Krys was not selected for the US World Junior Team, which came as a big shock considering how well he is playing. Although he didn’t make Team USA, Krys continues to look forward and is a vital member of Boston University’s strong D-Core. He is just 1 member of a crucial Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool.
Cale Makar is a Canadian Offensive Defenseman from Calgary, Alberta. Makar played his youth hockey in Calgary for the Calgary Flames Midget AAA and the Northwest Calgary Athletic Association Bruins and NWCAA Stampeders. The earliest recorded season for Makar was in 2011-12 with the Bruins Bantam AA team of the Hockey Calgary Bantam AA division. In 28 games with the Bruins, Cale potted 4 goals and got put on the scoresheet a total of 20 times. In 2012-13, Makar played for the Calgary Flames Bantam AAA team in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League. Opposing players like Ducks prospect Sam Steel, Makar was able to put up 22 points in 33 games. After a decent season, Cale was selected in the 8th round at 164th overall in the WHL draft to the Medicine Hat Tigers. In the following year, he returned to the NWCAA and joined the Stampeders. Now in the Alberta Major MIDGET Hockey League, Makar put up 28 points in 36 games. Cale also played 6 games with the Calgary Flames Midget AAA team but only had 1 point. He rejoined the Flames Midget AAA in 2014-15. In his 34 games that year with the Flames, Makar had 23 points. This was also the year that Makar joined the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He helped the Bandits finish the regular season with 5 points in 3 games. He did however play 20 games in the Playoffs, this time putting up only 7 points. He went back to Brooks the following year over Medicine Hat of the WHL. He played 54 games in the 2015-16 season and had 55 points. He won the AJHL Championship and did it in only 13 games. He had 14 points in that span, doubling his total from the 20 games the season before. His terrific performance that season earned him the AJHL Rookie of the Year honor. That 2016 season got him selected 173rd overall in the 11th round of the USHL Futures Draft by the Fargo Force. Makar elected to forgo Fargo and once again returned to Brooks. Cale played 54 games but this time had 75 points instead of the 55 from the last year. He again played 13 playoff games and had 16 points to lead the Bandits to another AJHL Championship. Coming off of a stellar year in 2016-17, Makar won the following: The AJHL Most Outstanding Defenseman, Most Points by a Defenseman, AJHL Most Valuable Player, AJHL Playoff MVP, RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year, and the RBC Cup MVP. Now at 18 years old, Makar was eligible for the 2017 NHL draft. Once a decent prospect, Makar burst onto the scene and became the #9 ranked North American Skater. Now considered “one of the purest talents to ever crop up out of the AJHL”, Makar was selected by the Colorado Avalanches, who were coming off the worst season in franchise history, at 4th overall. Makar’s franchise defenseman potential didn’t sign and went to Massachusetts to play for UMass-Amherst. A can’t miss prospect, the upcoming freshman joined a good program at UMass and has played 26 games up to this point which he’s put up 16 points, 60th among D1 defenseman. Makar also did what many great prospects do and joined Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship. Cale Makar played all 7 games for Team Canada and led defenseman with 8 points. Team Canada won Gold and Makar was selected to the WJC All Star Team that consists of only 6 players from all 8 teams. The Avs who have bounced back into a playoff spot have high hopes for the 19 year old, who they expect to become a franchise dman and possibly Erik Karlsson 2.0.
Adam Fox is an American Defenseman currently at Harvard University. He is native of Jericho, New York, which sits on the North Shore of Long Island. Fox played his youth hockey in Long Island for Long Island Gulls. His first season with the Gulls was in 2012-13. As a part of their Bantam Major program, Fox strung together a great season in the AYBHL. In just 21 games, Adam was able to score 12 goals and 39 points. Those 21 games were good enough to get him drafted into the USHL where he went 303rd in the 21st round by the Des Moines Buccaneers. He decided against the USHL for now and moved up to the AYHL’s Long Island Gulls 16u team.
With the 16u team, Fox continued to show dominance with 51 points in 22 games. That breakout year led to him getting drafted by the Kitchener Rangers, 142nd overall in the 8th round of the OHL draft. This time around, Fox joined the USHL but not with the Buccaneers, the team that drafted him. The then 16 year old joined the US National Development Program’s USHL team. Alongside Chad Krys, Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, etc., Fox played 34 games and had 17 points. Adam returned the next season but only played 25 games with 22 points as he spent more time with the U18 USNDP team rather than the USHL team, something that is not uncommon as most guys play both.
His 59 point season with the u18 team gained him recognition as he was ranked 50th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He was picked by the Calgary Flames, 66th overall in the early 3rd round, of the 2016 NHL draft. The American Two-Way defenseman chose to attend Harvard, which is one of the best academic schools in the US but also has a terrific hockey program. Fox made an immediate impact with 40 points in 34 games as Freshman. He also joined Team USA at the 2017 World Juniors where he had 4 points in 7 games during the US’ run for Gold. He went back to Harvard for his sophomore year and has played 21 games but has 15 points. He once again joined Team USA in 2018 for the WJC and was named an Alternate Captain. He helped lead US to a Bronze Medal and had 5 points in 7 games. The now 19 year old is looking to pick up his game this next month and potentially join the contending Flames in 2018-19.
Ian Mitchell is one of the younger guys on this list. Born in 1999, Mitchell grew up in Calahoo, Alberta. He played a hefty majority of his youth hockey in Spruce Grove, about 7 miles west of Edmonton. His story starts with the PAC Saints Bantam AAA club in 2012-13. Mitchell played 2 years with the Saints in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League, playing against Cale Makar. He had a merely average year 1 with 11 points in 29 games. 2013-14 was a considerable improvement as he had 21 points in 24 games from the Saints blue line. Following his 2 year in Bantam, Mitchell was selected in the 2nd round with the 32nd pick of the WHL Bantam Draft by the Brandon Wheat Kings. Instead of playing for Brandon, Ian left the Saints to play for the St Albert Raiders, the minor affiliate of the QMJHL team. Mitchell had an okay year as a first year midget. He put up 11 points in 27 games. At the end of the 2015 season, Mitchell followed in his Uncle Roy’s footsteps and finished the year by playing 2 games with the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He failed to put up a point in those 2 games but hadn’t played much with the club. He played his first full AJHL season with the Saints in 2015-16. The Two-Way Defenseman put up 27 points in 54 games as a rookie. His consistent performance and skill managed to get Mitchell drafted in the 12th round, 189th overall, by the Fargo Force in the USHL draft. Another year came and Ian Mitchell stayed with Spruce Grove. This time around, 2016-17, he played 53 games and had 37 points. On November 11th, 2016, Ian Mitchell signed his Letter of Intent to play Division 1 Hockey for the Denver Pioneers. He also played 5 games for Team Canada in the U18 Division of the World Junior Championship and had 2 points. A strong showing in the Alberta Junior League was good enough to get the slightly undersized defenseman’s name out there. Ranked 35th among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Mitchell was selected by the draft host Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks called his name at 57th overall in the 2nd round, when he got a warm welcome from the Chicago crowd. Ian continued with his plan to attend the University of Denver and enrolled for the 2017-18 season. As a freshman for the reigning National Champs, Mitchell has been a huge impact player for the Pioneers who lost Hobey Baker winner, Will Butcher. In 28 games, the newly acquired defenseman has 2 goals, 22 total points, and sits on a +9 plus/minus. Many critics looked at the Blackhawks draft and thought of how weak it was. With the help of Henri Jokiharju, Mitchell has been proving the haters wrong and shown that Chicago has some impact defenseman in the system.
Dante Fabbro, “a dependable two-way defenseman with high offensive upside” (Curtis Joe), was born in New Westminster, British Columbia. A born leader, Fabbro captained the Burnaby Winter Club in 2012-13. Dante played 58 games and had 78 points for the Tier 1 Bantams. After the 2013 season, Fabbro went 8th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft to the Seattle Thunderbirds. The BC native played the 2013-14 season with the Vancouver NW Giants of the BCMML. Fabbro put up 22 goals and 61 points in 38 games. In the 2014 USHL draft, Fabbro went to the Central Illinois Flying Aces at 129th overall. Towards the end of the season, Fabbro played 2 games with no points for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL. Dante left the Rivermen after 2 games and joined the Penticton Vees. As a rookie, Fabbro posted 33 points in 44 games. He returned to the Vees in 2015-16 and played all 45 games. During that time, the defenseman showed his offensive prowess by putting up 67 points, most among BCHL defensemen. With those stats, Fabbro was given the honor of the BCHL’s Best Defenseman. His excellent performance in the BCHL made his presence shown during scouting as he was ranked 18th among North American Skaters. Fabbro was selected at 16th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2016 NHL draft. Now considered one of Nashvilles top prospects, Fabbro commited to Boston University and had 18 points in 36 games as a freshman. He also made an appearance in all 7 games for Team Canada in the 2017 WJC. He had a poor showing in the international showcase and returned to BU for his sophomore year. He broke out sophomore year with 24 points in 28 games up to this point. He once again made Team Canada and was named a Alternate Captain. His poor international showings continued as he failed to put up a single point in 7 games. It’s unsure if he’ll make the jump to the league next year but it’s certainly going to be a challenge with the amount of defensive depth the Preds have.
Casey was born in North Reading, Massachusetts. Fitz is the son of Tom Fitzgerald, who played 1000 NHL ganes, cousin of NHL great Keith Tkachuk, and 2nd cousin of former 6th overall pick and current Calgary Flame Matthew Tkachuk. He grew up in Massachusetts and played his youth hockey for Malden Catholic High in the USHS. He played 46 games in 2 years for Malden. He put up 41 points during his career. He also played 12 games with the Valley Jr. Warriors U16 in Year 2 in which he had 9 points. After turning 16, he made the jump to the USNTDP. He played 36 games in the USHL with USA and had 3 points. He also played 52 games with the U17 team and had only 11 points. After an okay performance in 2014, Fitzgerald was drafted in the 9th round of the 2014 QMJHL draft by the Sherbrooke Phoenix. He returned to the National Development program and played 22 games with 8 points. He was eligible for the 2015 draft but went Undrafted after being ranked 148th among North American Skaters. He committed to Boston College after an average USHL career and enrolled for the 2015-16 season. As a freshman, Casey blew up as a true impact defenseman and played 39 games while putting up 27 points. An excellent freshman year left him on NHL radars and he was drafted 86th overall by the Buffalo Sabres. After being drafted a year after he was eligible, Fitzgerald returned to BC and 37 games. He played 2 less games but 22 points this time around. He also played a big roll with Team USA while winning gold at the 2017 WJC. Now a junior with the Boston College, Fitzgerald is captaining the Eagles and had played 29 games but amassed only 16 points. He is considered to be a decent two-way defenseman and will likely be a fringe player for the Sabres.