NHL Notebook: 16 players to watch in Hockey East this season

(Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

It remains to be seen when the NHL will be back on our TV screens, tablets and computers in 2021, but no need to fret. We're set to escape from the doldrums of a hockey-less winter in New England in less than a week — as Hockey East announced its full 2020-21 schedule for both men's and women's hockey on Wednesday.

Here are the full schedules for both seasons:

Men's Hockey Schedule
Women's Hockey Schedule

Games will begin on Nov. 20 for both leagues, with NESN carrying coverage of certain matchups through at least Jan. 1, while other games streamed through the conference's partnership with ViacomCBS Digital will be made free to fans throughout the season.

In total, each of 11 men’s teams will play 20 league games, while each of the 10 women’s teams will compete in 18 games. Both the men’s and women’s schedules primarily feature weekend home-and-home series and day-of-game travel — with the lone exceptions involving games a bit further north in Maine and Vermont.

Three of the final five weekends of regular-season play in each league have also been tabbed as "Flex Weekends" — in which games held during that stretch are currently listed as tentative and opponents may be adjusted. If any games are postponed due to outbreaks or other circumstances during the regular season, these "Flex Weekend" games will be rescheduled with those postponed matchups. Any games played during "Flex Weekends" will be designated as “non-conference” games and will not count toward the league's regular-season standings.

With college hockey in New England set to get underway shortly, we figured that we'd spend most of our weekend notebook focusing on the NCAA ranks, including a look at 16 players — eight men / eight women —  to keep tabs on this upcoming season.

Let's start with the men's circuit:

1. Alex Newhook, F — Boston College

The Avalanche are already a wagon of a team — and Joe Sakic managed to add more key pieces to the roster with the additions of Brandon Saad and Devon Toews this offseason. But then you take a quick glance over the next wave of talent rising through the Avs' system, and it seems like a given that Colorado should hoist at least a couple of Stanley Cups over the next decade.

And yes, a lot of Colorado's young talent lies on its blue line (Cale Makar, Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram), but there's good reason to believe Newhook can step in very quickly and be an impact forward up with the Avs as soon as this spring.

Colorado hit a home run by selecting Newhook with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, as the Newfoundland product established himself as the top freshman in the country with the Eagles last season — leading all NCAA freshmen in goals (19), game-winning goals (4) and shorthanded goals (3).

For his efforts, Newhook became the first Eagle to win the Tim Taylor Award as the NCAA Division I Rookie of the Year, and the ninth BC product to take home the Hockey East Rookie of the Year Award. Newhook's speed and motor is evident whenever he hops over the boards, but a strong shot and silky mitts make him far from just a high-energy forward in Jerry York's system — with the forward ranking fourth in Hockey East with 42 points in 34 games last year.

Frankly, we could fill this list with just BC players, as the 2020-21 Eagles are primed to be a juggernaut this season — with Newhook leading the charge (and racking up points while skating alongside plenty of top-flight talent) this season. Even as a sophomore, Newhook would be a prime candidate for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA, although he is expected to miss a number of weeks while attending Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Selection Camp. Still, expect the 19-year-old skater to pile on the points early and often when he does return to the college ranks.

Even a humble BU alum like yours truly can't help but be enthralled whenever Newhook is out on the ice. He's about as legit as they come in the NCAA.

And just wait until his younger sister, Abby, joins the Eagles in 2021. This entire family has some absurd hockey talent.

2. David Farrance, D — Boston University 

There are going to be a TON of NHL clubs keeping tabs on Farrance this season, as the playmaking maestro could be the top collegiate free agent on the market this spring if he opts to not sign with the team that originally drafted him (No. 92 overall, 2017) in the Predators.

An easy comparable to be found with an offensive defenseman like Farrance is Adam Fox — who dominated at Harvard and made it rather evident to his rights holders in the Carolina Hurricanes that he would not sign with them at the end of his college career. Fox's signing rights were promptly dealt to the Rangers, where Fox impressed in 2019-20 as a playmaking conduit on the blue line (42 points in 70 games).

As a senior, Farrance has even more sway over his path to the NHL, as he'd likely be in the middle of a serious bidding war if he opts to not sign with Nashville.

There's an awful lot to like about Farrance's game, especially in terms of his ability to stuff the stat sheet. In his junior campaign, Farrance led all NCAA defensemen in scoring (43 points), goals (14) and power-play goals (9) — and averaged 1.26 points per game, the highest average of any Hockey East defenseman in 25 years.

For his efforts, Farrance was named as a finalist for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award and took home First Team All-American honors before surprising many with his decision to return to the Terriers for a senior season. BU may not be a favorite to open the new season, but watching Farrance operate on the offensive blue line is something else — and the Terriers could make some noise if their promising newcomers (Jay O'BrienDrew Commesso, Luke TuchDylan Peterson) can step in and complement a young, but very talented roster on Comm Ave.