Future Stars Take NCAA Stage
The next Boeser, McAvoy and Donato begin chase for a national title Friday.

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Los Angeles Kings rookie Alex Iafallo ranked third in the 2017 NCAA Tournament with six points.

When Ryan Donato took the ice with the Boston Bruins Monday night and promptly recorded his first three NHL points, it was easy to forget that he was just days removed from wearing a Harvard sweater.

Donato joined a group of 20 players to play in the NHL less than a year from their appearances in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Among those are standout NHL rookies Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy, Will Butcher and Clayton Keller.

NCAA Tournament Storylines - How to Watch

When the puck drops Friday another batch of future NHL stars will begin their pursuit of the NCAA championship. Among them are draft picks, draft eligibles and undrafted free agents, many of whom will find a home in the NHL in the next year and beyond.

Twenty-nine of the 31 NHL teams have drafted prospects, with Calgary and Vegas as the lone exceptions. Thirty-five more draft-eligible prospects are in the tournament, including likely first-round picks Brady Tkachuk (Boston University) and Quinn Hughes (Michigan).

Fourteen of the 16 teams in the field have draft picks on their roster. Air Force does not – Falcon graduates are committed to serve in the military after graduation – and neither does Princeton, though the Tigers boast some of the more intriguing undrafted prospects.

The Athletic’s Corey Pronman highlighted Princeton’s Max Véronneau among 15 NHL free agents (or potential free agents) who could soon make an NHL impact. Other tournament participants Pronman featured are Daniel Brickley and C.J. Suess (Minnesota State), Bobo Carpenter (Boston University), Mason Jobst (Ohio State), Jimmy Schuldt (St. Cloud State), Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens (Northeastern), Jake Evans (Notre Dame) and Brian Pinho (Providence).

Some of those listed are among the 78 draft picks in the tournament, but could eventually become free agents. That group of 78 includes seven first-round selections:

Dante Fabbro, Boston University (17th, Nashville)
Josh Norris, Michigan (19th, San Jose)
Henrik Borgström, Denver (23rd, Florida)
Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (25th, Montreal)
Riley Tufte, Minnesota Duluth (25th, Dallas)
Jake Oettinger, Boston University (26th, Dallas)
Shane Bowers, Boston University (28th, Ottawa)

Those could be among the players who would make an immediate impact in the NHL, but that’s hardly a comprehensive list. Butcher (fifth round), Donato (second round) and Alexander Kerfoot (fifth round) were all taken after the first round, for example. Of the 20 players from last year’s tournament to already appear in the NHL, only four were first-round picks.

Some of the draft picks taken outside of the top 30 in their respective drafts who will play this weekend include:

Joey Anderson, Minnesota Duluth (second round, New Jersey)
Anthony Angello, Cornell (fifth round, Pittsburgh)
Jacob Bryson, Providence (fourth round, Buffalo)
Jeremy Davies, Northeastern (seventh round, New Jersey)
Mikey Eyssimont, St. Cloud State (fifth round, Los Angeles)
Dylan Gambrell, Denver (second round, San Jose)
Adam Gaudette, Northeastern (fifth round, Vancouver)
Tanner Laczynski, Ohio State (sixth round, Philadelphia)
Cooper Marody, Michigan (sixth round, Edmonton)
Denis Smirnov, Penn State (sixth round, Colorado)
Kelly Summers, Clarkson (seventh round, Ottawa)
Troy Terry, Denver (fifth round, Anaheim)

The names above are just a partial list of the players who could eventually reach the NHL. If the past year is any guide, you can expect around 20 of them to do so in the next 51 weeks, with many more to follow after that.