Teams loaded with young NHL-bound talent haven't won the NCAA title. Can Boston College buck the trend?

Apr. 12—ST. PAUL, Minn. — There have been 14 teams in college hockey history with four or more NHL first-round picks.

None, so far, have ever won an NCAA title.

Boston College can change that at 5 p.m. Saturday when it takes on the University of Denver in Xcel Energy Center for the NCAA national championship.

The Eagles have four NHL first-round picks on their roster.

Center Will Smith went No. 4 overall to the San Jose Sharks last summer. Center Cutter Gauthier went No. 5 overall to the Philadelphia Flyers (the Anaheim Ducks now own his rights) in 2022. Winger Ryan Leonard went No. 8 overall to the Washington Capitals and winger Gabe Perreault went No. 23 overall to the New York Rangers last summer.

All four of them have hit the 60-point mark this season and they've accounted for 10 of Boston College's 15 goals in the NCAA tournament.

They scored all four goals in Boston College's 4-0 win over Michigan in Thursday's NCAA Frozen Four semifinal.

"They have four elite, elite players, and their top guys scored four goals," Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said Thursday. "So there's no secret into how they won the game. Those guys broke the game open. What, did they have 20 shots?

"If you look at the high dangers, it's 6, 9, 6, 6, 9, 9, 34, 19. Those guys are studs. Studs. All credit to their team. It's not taking credit away from anybody else. Those guys are special, and they won that game. They broke it open."

Three of them are on the same line — Smith, Leonard and Perreault. All are freshmen, but they were linemates last year with the U.S. Under-18 Team.

"We didn't put them together the first two weeks of practice in September," Brown said. "We tried a whole different kind of combinations. One day, we did throw them together, and I was like, 'Whoa.'

"You don't know, one, how quickly they'll adjust to college hockey, or two, can three 18-year-old freshmen handle it? We knew they could generate offense. Defensively we weren't sure if they could handle it against bigger, stronger, older guys."

They've managed fine.

"The way they read each other offensively, they also have that same feel defensively," Brown said. "It may not look textbook defensively, but they understand what each other is doing and cover for each other in maybe not a traditional way. But they do a great job without the puck as well."

Boston College is the first NCAA team with four-plus NHL first-round picks to even reach the final.

Of the previous 13, four reached the NCAA Frozen Four and lost in the semifinals — 2005-06 UND, 2006-07 UND, 2021-22 Michigan and 2022-23 Michigan.

Six were knocked out in the NCAA regionals — 2006-07 Minnesota, 2006-07 Michigan, 2007-08 Minnesota, 2016-17 Boston University, 2017-18 Boston University and 2020-21 Michigan, which was disqualified.

Three missed the NCAA tournament — 2009-10 Minnesota, 2018-19 Boston University and 2019-20 Wisconsin.

"I think it was kind of what we dreamed of coming in," Perreault said of playing for the title. "That was the goal coming in. We knew we were going to have a good team. We had a pretty good season so far."

In the last six years, only one NHL first-round pick has won a national title — Minnesota Duluth's Riley Tufte, who went No. 25 overall.

The last top-15 pick to win an NCAA title was Colin Wilson with Boston University in 2009.

"That was our goal coming in here — to win," Smith said. "We have a shot at it. I think now we have the opportunity. We're going to give our best shot at it."

Denver doesn't have a current NHL first-round pick on its roster, though rookie defenseman Zeev Buium is expected to be a high pick this summer.

"Very competitive person," Denver coach David Carle said. "Wants to be on the ice in big moments. Wants to impact the game. Has an ability to play the game that's in front of him, which I think is really impressive. He can be a part of opening a game up, but he also can be a part of shutting plays down and play in the 2-1 games.

"To me it's hard to find a more impactful player — shift in, shift out, game in, game out — that's available in the draft."

Who: Denver vs. Boston College.

When: 5 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Xcel Energy Center.


2023 Quinnipiac — none

2022 Denver — none

2021 UMass — none

2019 Minnesota Duluth — Riley Tufte (No. 25)

2018 Minnesota Duluth — Riley Tufte (No. 25)

2017 Denver — Henrik Borgstrom (No. 23)

2016 North Dakota — Nick Schmaltz (No. 20) and Brock Boeser (No. 23)

2015 Providence — Mark Jankowski (No. 21)

2014 Union — none

2013 Yale — none

2012 Boston College — Chris Kreider (No. 19), Kevin Hayes (No. 24)

2011 Minnesota Duluth — none (Dylan Olsen left the team at semester)

2010 Boston College — Chris Kreider (No. 19)

2009 Boston University — Colin Wilson (No. 7), Kevin Shattenkirk (No. 14)