3 Red Wings Among THN’s 100 to Watch in NCAA

Robert Mastrosimone and Ethan Phillips Boston University practice
By Jeff Watters

November 18, 2020

With the NCAA hockey season finally underway, The Hockey News recently released their “Top 100 NCAA Players to Watch” for the 2020-21 season. Three Red Wings NCAA prospects made the cut, but one notable omission will leave many scratching their heads.

It seems like every other week a hockey league is either pausing indefinitely or returning to play. Last week was no different, with the return of (some) NCAA hockey. Red Wings fans will be keeping an eye on a number of teams this season, most notably a loaded Michigan team that features 2021 draft eligibles Owen Power, Kent Johnson, and Matty Beniers. 

While the Wolverines stole the show over the weekend with a couple of wins over Arizona State, the Sporting News released their 100 NCAA Players to Watch for the 2020-21 season. Among them were three Red Wings prospects: Boston University’s Robert Mastrosimone (#50) and Ethan Phillips (#73), and Quinnipiac’s Keith Petruzzelli (#96). 

The Teammates

Boston University will get their season underway on December 4th. By that time, Mastrosimone and Phillips will have both been practicing with the team for nearly three months. The Terriers have been running split-squad practices due to COVID-19, but the regular workouts have had to be good for team morale leading up to the start of the shortened season. The two Red Wings prospects hope to enjoy strong sophomore campaigns as both will be taking on larger roles with the team.

Mastrosimone, RWP’s 9th ranked prospect, had an excellent freshman campaign for Boston U. in 2019-20. He scored 7 goals and had 17 points in 34 games for the Terriers while fighting for ice time as a first-year player.

As previously mentioned, Mastrosimone will have a much larger role this season. The Terriers will be without three of their 2019-20 leading scorers as Patrick Curry, Patrick Harper, and Trever Zegras are no longer with the team. Mastrosimone was fifth in team scoring last season, so it will be an excellent opportunity for the Wings prospect to step up and fill the void left by the three centres.

Interestingly, Mastrosimone is listed as a centre by The Hockey News, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that. Mastrosimone does play a tenacious game at both ends of the ice. Surely the Red Wings would be ecstatic if he can establish himself as a centre.

Ethan Phillips, #73 on the Top 100, will be looking at an uptick in ice time for BU this season as well. The diminutive forward netted 2 goals and added 8 assists in a solid rookie season. This will be a big year for Phillips as he looks to prove he can play at a high level against bigger and faster competition. As a smaller player, Phillips is well aware of the importance of adding strength. With just a 20-game conference-only schedule he’ll have to come out of the gates strong to establish himself as a go-to player for Boston U.

The Senior

While Mastrosimone and Phillips battle their Hockey East competition, Keith Petruzzelli will be entering his senior season for Quinnipiac. 

Well, hopefully.

ECAC Hockey took a hit when all six Ivy League schools canceled their winter sports last week. As these schools make up half of the 12-team conference, this announcement dramatically changes the conference’s return to play initiative. Still, the hope is the remaining clubs can safely and responsibly get back in action as soon as possible.

Petruzzelli had a breakout season in 2019-20 as Quinnipiac’s MVP and will be looking to finish his collegiate career on a high note before turning pro next season. Petruzzelli had a 2.01 GAA and .920 SV% a season ago, and in 59 career games with Quinnipiac has compiled a 2.28 GAA and .912 SV%.

It goes without saying that this is an important season for Petruzzelli. In what will be a shortened season for the Bobcats, Petruzzelli will be playing for an entry-level contract. Only a meltdown should deter the Wings from offering him an entry-level deal before his rights expire this summer, but there are no givens with Detroit’s goaltending situation.

Petruzzelli is arguably the Wings’ best goaltending prospect. I don’t anticipate they would lose him for nothing, even after a sub-par shortened college season. The team will, however, be hoping to see him take further steps in his development in his final college season.

Who’s missing from the Top 100??

A few Red Wings prospects went unmentioned here. There are forwards Ryan O’Reilly (Arizona St.), Sam Stange (Univ. of Wisconsin), and Jack Adams (TBD). Then we have defensemen Seth Barton (UMass-Lowell), Patrick Holway (Merrimack College), and Cooper Moore (Univ. of North Dakota). One name, however, stood out as one you certainly would’ve expected to see on this list:

Antti Tuomisto.

Yes, the Red Wings 2nd round pick in 2019 is set to make his NCAA debut with the University of Denver. How a 2nd round pick and MVP of the top junior league in Finland failed to make a list of 100 players to watch in the NCAA is beyond me. Especially with fellow countrymen and freshman, Veeti Miettinen (6th round pick in 2020) cracking the list at #29.

But, to each their own. Writer Ryan Kennedy must be extremely low on Antti Tuomisto, who will be one of the more interesting Red Wings prospects to monitor this season. 

How will his game translate to the smaller North American ice? How big of a role will he get with a powerhouse Denver team that has produced NHLers like Paul Stasny, Tyler Bosak, and Jason Zucker? Tuomisto will have plenty to prove. 

Tuomisto racked up 15 goals and 49 points in 48 games last season for Ässät U20, putting himself on the map as a top 10 prospect for the Red Wings. The big Fin displayed more offense than many were anticipating, but ultimately did what he should have done: dominate his junior league. Tuomisto would have been better served to play against bigger, stronger, faster men in Liiga, but had to remain with the junior club in order to retain his NCAA eligibility. 

No one is expecting Tuomisto to step in and dominate the NCAA as he did in Finland, but it’ll be interesting to see if is able to become an impact player with the Pioneers as a 19-year-old freshman. Now listed at 6-5, 205 lbs, Tuomisto is one of Denver’s biggest defenders and should be given the opportunity to be a reliable, 2-way rearguard for the team.

Tuomisto and his teammates are scheduled to open their season on December 2nd vs. Minnesota Duluth.

Final Thoughts

With Mastrosimone, Phillips, Petruzzelli, and Tuomisto the Red Wings have a number of prospects looking to take steps towards their first pro contracts. These four are certainly all names to watch this season, and by the time the year is done many questions will be answered:

Will Mastrosimone be a go-to centre with Boston University? 

Can Ethan Phillips earn more minutes and become more effective as a sophomore? 

How will Keith Petruzzelli follow up his fantastic 2019-20 season, and will it be enough to earn him an entry-level contract? 

How will Tuomisto handle better competition and the smaller North American ice?

So far, the year has been filled with postponements and uncertainty, but if there’s one thing these players can control it’s how they use the time they’ve been given to ensure they’re ready to go when the puck finally drops.

Featured Image: Matt Wolverton, BU Athletics

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