Craig Needham, a center considered one of the best defensive forwards in his league by his head coach, has verbally committed to attend the University of Maine.

Needham, who plays for Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, would join the Black Bears for the 2018-2019 season.

The Medford, Massachusetts, native had 14 goals and 10 assists in 24 games for the Spartans this past season. He was a junior captain.

“He has a high ceiling,” said head coach Robbie Barker, a former University of New Hampshire defenseman.

Barker said Needham has an exceptional work ethic on and off the ice and plays in all situations.

“He’s a two-way center who is really defense-minded,” said assistant coach Tom O’Connor. “He is an excellent penalty-killer. He’s a very smart player. In addition to his defensive skills, he is a real good playmaker.”

O’Connor also called him a “coach’s dream.”

“He can play any role in your lineup,” said O’Connor. “He’s going to be a real good [college] player. He has plenty of room to fill out.”

Barker said Needham has all the qualities needed to be a productive hockey player.

“He has stick skills, a good shot, good on-ice vision and he’s intelligent. He has a knack for the net,” said Barker, who also considers Needham an exemplary leader. He takes ownership of the team and has been instrumental in the program’s turnaround.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Needham had 18 goals and 10 assists for the Spartans two years ago and will play for them again next season before spending a year playing Junior hockey, probably in the United States Hockey League.

Lawrence Academy plays in the Independent School League and the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council.

Needham’s participation at UMaine is dependent upon him being accepted by the school and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.