Hockey East Preview – Boston University

By: Josh Brown

Head bost-14-mast-logo-bigCoach – David Quinn, 4th season

Last Season – 21-13-5 (12-6-4 in Hockey East, 5th); lost in NCAA Tournament first round

Losses – D Matt Grzelcyk, D Brandon Fortunato F Danny O’Regan, F Mike Moran, F Ahti Oksanen, F Matt Lane, F Erik Udahl, F Dillon Lawrence, F Robbie Baillargeon, G Sean Maguire

Newcomers – D Dante Fabbro, D Chad Krys, F Kieffer Bellows, F Gabriel Chabot, F Patrick Curry, F Patrick Harper, F Clayton Keller, F Johnny McDermott, G Jake Oettinger

Last season was the beginning of a new chapter for Boston University. In their first year PE (post-Eichel), the 2015 NCAA Tournament runner-ups had their ups and their downs, finishing fifth in league play before being bounced by Umass Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals and Denver in the first round of the national tournament. Take away a five game winning streak over Maine, Merrimack, Northeastern (Beanpot semifinals) and UMass that spanned from late January to early February, and BU was consistently inconsistent the rest of the season. Looking at the Terriers stats it’s not hard to see why. Although BU was ranked fourth in Hockey East in scoring offense (3.18 g/gm) and power play (21.1%), the Terriers were seventh in the conference in scoring defense (2.72 g/gm), seventh in penalty minutes (10.6 PIM/g) and clipped at a mediocre 81% on the penalty kill.

To make matters worse for BU they graduate their top-two leading scorers (and four of their top seven) in Danny O’Regan (17 g, 27 a) and Ahti Oksanen (15 g, 21 a), who combined for 80 points on the Terriers top two lines last season. To combat these loses the five-time NCAA champions will look to a trio of sophomores — assistant captain Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (10 g, 20 a), Jordan Greenway (5 g, 21 a) and Bobo Carpenter (12 g, 4 a) – to  help lead the offensive core. Defensively BU will head into the 2016-2017 season without their best defenseman in Boston Bruins draft pick Matt Grzelcyk, who put up 10 goals and 13 assists despite missing 12 games due to various injuries throughout the season. Brandon Fortunato, who had 40 career points over two seasons for the Terriers, also announced he was leaving the program in late July. After an impressive freshman season that culminated with him being selected 14th overall in the NHL draft by the Boston Bruins, Charlie McAvoy will fill in Grzelcky’s shoes as the unquestioned leader of the BU blue line joined by captain Doyle Somerby and assistant captain Nikolas Olsson.

But before you start feeling bad for BU, remember who you’re dealing with. Like they have a tendency to do, the Terriers will be bringing in what many are saying is the best recruiting class in not only Hockey East, but the whole nation. Five star recruits Clayton Keller and Kiefer Bellows, teammates in the National Development Program, will look to fill the scoring depth felt with the absence of O’Regan, Oksanen and Lane. Keller, an 18-year old center from Chesterfield, Missouri who was drafted seventh overall by the Arizona Coyotes this year, had a whopping 37 goals and 70 assists for the U.S. National U18 Team last season, passing Pittsburgh Penguin Phil Kessel as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Bellows, drafted shortly after Keller by the New York Islanders (19th overall), netted 50 goals and 31 assists in just 62 games with the national team. In addition to Keller and Bellows look to guys like USHL vet Patrick Curry, and prep school products Patrick Harper (Avon Old Farms) and Johnny McDermott (Westminster) to contribute immediately for the Terriers.

Joining McAvoy and company along the blue line is BCHL Defenseman of the Year Dante Fabbro. The 18-year old was drafted 17th overall by the Nashville Predators in this year’s NHL Draft after winning BCHL Defenseman of the Year honors for Penticton Vees. Fabbro will be joined by Chicago Blackhawks pick Chad Krys who has represented the United States in international play since the 2014-2015 season.

It’s not clear who will be the starting goalie for BU right off the bat with the returning Connor LaCouvee and freshman Jake Oettinger both vying for ice time. LaCouvee split time with (and was outshined) by Sean Maguire last season, appearing in 19 games, posting a 2.92 goals against average and .897 save percentage. Oettinger, you guessed it, another member of the U.S. National Team, appeared in four games in the 2016 World Junior Classic where he compiled a 1.50 goals against average and .934 save percentage.

Bottom Line: If the freshman play up to expectations, Boston University should have one of the best offenses in Hockey East this coming season. Although there are still some question marks defensively and in goal, if everything comes together we could see a repeat of the 2014-2015 team who steamrolled through league play, winning the Beanpot and taking home the Lamoriello Trophy. With that being said, BU has not exactly been a model of consistency over the past four seasons. If the freshman class has a longer adjustment period than David Quinn and staff hope, it could be another middle of the pack finish for the Terriers before what should be a monster 2017-2018 season.

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