NHL Draft: Top goalie Michael Hrabal leads crop of UMass hockey prospects

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-27-2023 4:41 PM

Michael Hrabal stands comfortably taller than any other big time goalie prospect in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

The 6-foot, 6.2-inch UMass commit that will join the Minutemen this fall as the centerpiece and linchpin of a large and talented recruiting class. The Athletic’s Michael Pronman ranks him as the best available goalie prospect and projects he’ll go No. 26 to the San Jose Sharks. NHL Central Scouting rates the Czech Republic native as the No. 2 available North American goalie after a season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.

“He’s coming in a year earlier than we expected, but he had a pretty good year in the USHL and was outstanding at the World U18 tournament,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “With a change in the goaltending, everyone agreed we had a hole we needed to fill.”

Two-thirds of UMass’ goalie room left via the transfer portal after last season for Hockey East rivals. Luke Pavicich will be between the pipes at UMass Lowell, while Henry Graham transferred to Boston University.

Hrabal will work with Cole Brady, a former Arizona State transfer that appeared in 17 games last season.

“They’ll spend all day measuring who’s taller,” Carvel said. “They’re both tall drinks of water, but they’re both really good kids, and I see it as a good working relationship.”

Hrabal posted a 2.86 goals against average and a .908 save percentage with Omaha last season. He made 173 saves in five games at the U18 world championships and posted a .920 save percentage. 

UMass hasn’t had a first-round pick since Cale Makar in 2017 (No. 4 overall). The draft begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The second through seventh rounds will play out Thursdays beginning at 11 a.m.

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There could be “five or six” future Minutemen selected, Carvel said. While UMass became known for developing players into prospects over recent seasons, the program has elevated to the point where it’s both attracting current and future draft picks and alerting NHL teams to its players.

“A couple of those players, especially the European players, their advisers will deliver them to you. It’s been helpful that we are recognized as one of the top developmental programs so that narrows the list for a lot of kids and we get in on a lot of good players, and that does make a difference,” Carvel said. “Kids get drafted because teams say ‘he’s committed to UMass, he’s gonna go there and learn how to play the game the right way and develop well.’ That’s a big reason why our kids get drafted, as well.”

The other future and incoming Minutemen are more likely Day 2 picks led by incoming freshman forward Aydar Suniev and Culver Academy defenseman Larry Keenan, who is projected as part of next year’s commitment class.

Suniev, who was born in Russia, played with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Penticton Vees and was a first-team All-Star last season. He led the BCHL with 45 goals and was an all-rookie team selection, as well.

NHL Central Scouting ranks him as the No. 40 available skater, while Pronman projects him as a fourth-round pick.

Keenan is the No. 73 North American skater per NHL Central scouting but a projected third round pick by Pronman. He’ll join Penticton next season before coming to Amherst.

Both Class of 2023 forward Nicholas Vantassell and ’24 defenseman Francesco Dell’Elce are projected fifth-round picks.

Vantassell is ranked 164th among North American skaters. He played the last two seasons with Green Bay in the USHL and accounted for 19 goals and 18 assists last season.

“He’s got great size and ability, we just need to get him stronger and competing and using his size a little more,” Carvel said.

Dell’Elce is the No. 90 North American skater. He spent the past two seasons with St. Andrews College and will also be with Penticton this season.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>