Might the Gophers have a first-round selection among its recruits in the 2021 NHL draft? If the preliminary list of players to watch from the NHL's Central Scouting Service is an indication, it could happen.

Chaz Lucius, who verbally committed to the Gophers as a 14-year-old in 2017, received an 'A' rating, indicative of a first-round draft candidate, in the Central Scouting list. A center playing for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Mich., Lucius had 31 goals and 19 assists in 46 games for the U.S. National Under-17 Team in 2019-20. That followed his 39-goal, 23-assist season in only 13 games for the Gentry Academy Under-15 AAA team in 2018-19.

Lucius is one of four players committed to the Gophers on the watch list. Receiving 'B' ratings as potential second- or third-round candidates were center Tristan Broz (Blake, Fargo of the USHL), left winger Matthew Knies (Phoenix, Tri-City of the USHL) and defenseman Luke Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie). Rosemount's Jake Ratzlaff, who has committed to the Gophers in hockey but is considering playing football at either Minnesota or Wisconsin, received a 'C' rating as a possible fourth- through sixth-round pick.

Rosemount's Luke Levandowski, a Wisconsin commit, also received a 'B' rating.

Minnesotans receiving 'C' ratings were: Cade Ahrenholz, Lakeville South (Colorado College commit); Jackson Blake, Eden Prairie (North Dakota); Kyle Kukkonen, Maple Grove (Michigan Tech); Griffin Ludtke, Lakeville South (Nebraska Omaha); Henry Nelson, Maple Grove (Notre Dame); Joe Palodichuk, Hill-Murray (Wisconsin); Landon Parker, East Grand Forks; Jack Peart, Grand Rapids (St. Cloud State); Joey Pierce, Hermantown (Minnesota Duluth); Jack Reimann, Blaine; and Bennett Schimek, Gentry Academy (Providence).

Women's evaluation camp in Blaine

The National Sports Center in Blaine is playing host to 53 of the nation's best women's hockey players in the U.S Women's National Team Evaluation Camp, an event that will be used as part of the selection process for the U.S. team that will play in the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship from April 7-17 in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.

The camp, which began Monday and runs through Saturday, includes 18 players from Minnesota, 14 members of the 2018 Olympic gold medal-winning team and 17 players from the 2019 world champions. Minnesotans from the 2018 Olympic team include forwards Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranisi, defender Lee Stecklein and goalie Maddie Rooney.

Current Gophers at the camp are forwards Taylor Heise, Abbey Murphy and Grace Zumwinkle, and defenders Emily Brown, Maggie Nicholson, Grace Ostertag and Madeline Wethington.

Players have been broken up into three teams, captained by Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight and Kacey Bellamy.

Poll positioning

The initial U.S. College Hockey Online poll of the 2020-21 men's hockey season was released Monday, and if you had a feeling of déjà vu, you weren't alone.

The top five in the poll looked nearly identical to the final PairWise Ratings of the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season. North Dakota, two Minnesota teams and an Eastern squad occupied the top four, and Denver checked in at fifth.

The USCHO top five, with first-place votes in parentheses, is:

1. North Dakota (28)

2. Boston College (4)

3. Minnesota Duluth (3)

4. Minnesota State Mankato (1)

5. Denver

The only differences in the final PairWise were Minnesota State at No. 2, Cornell at No. 3 and Minnesota Duluth at No. 4. In addition, the entire top 10 has teams that were in the final PairWise top 10, just in different order.

The remainder of the USCHO poll:

6. Cornell

7. Massachusetts

8. Clarkson

9. Penn State

10. Ohio State

11. UMass Lowell

12. Michigan

13. Quinnipiac

14. Gophers

15. Arizona State

16. Bemidji State

17. Providence

18. Western Michigan

19. Northeastern

20. Notre Dame

The NCHC, which begins play Dec. 1 with East and West divisions in a pod in Omaha for three weeks, has three of the top five teams (North Dakota, UMD, Denver) in the poll, plus Western Michigan at No. 18. The Big Ten, which starts play Nov. 13, has five ranked teams, plus independent Arizona State, which is playing a 28-game season against all Big Ten teams and all on the road.

The WCHA landed Minnesota State and Bemidji State in the poll, marking the first time the Beavers have made the USCHO preseason Division I rankings.

The USCHO women's poll has yet to be released.

Saving the Seawolves

Alaska Anchorage announced in August that it will eliminate its men's hockey program after the 2020-21 season. Supporters of the team have launched a fundraising program called "Save Seawolf Hockey'' to keep the program. The group is trying to raise $3 million, with $1.5 million in donations for the 2021-22 season and $1.5 million in pledges for the 2022-23 season. The group's website is saveseawolfhockey.com.saveseawolfhockey.com