Hockey East Preview: Northeastern Huskies

huskies

Head Coach: Jim Madigan (8th season)

Last Season: 23-10-5 (15-6-3 in Conference, 2nd) Lost Conference semifinal to Providence; Lost in NCAA first round to Michigan

Losses: F Adam Gaudette, F Nolan Stevens, F Dylan Sikura, G Jake Theut, D Trevor Owens, D Garrett Cecere, G Patrick Jordan

Additions: D Jordan Harris, D Julian Kislin, F Tyler Madden, F Matt Thompson, D AJ Villella

Projected Finish: 4th

by Joe Barbito

The 2017-18 season for the Northeastern Huskies will forever be remembered as the year the Beanpot drought came to an end. 30 years after their last Beanpot championship, the Huskies handily defeated Boston University at TD Garden to take the coveted trophy back to Huntington Avenue.

The other notable memory from last season will also be Adam Gaudette’s Hobey Baker award, the first in program history. The Braintree native earned multiple other honors including First Team All-American, Hockey East Player of the Year, the Beanpot MVP, and the Water Brown Award. Gaudette paced the nation in goals (60), points per game (1.58) and goals (30).

Gaudette was part of one of the best lines in the country playing alongside Nolan Stevens and Dylan Sikura. The “Big Three” as they began to be known were on the ice for what felt like every major goal and moment for the Huskies last season. In the end, the Huskies’ reliance on their top line may have been their undoing. In the conference semifinal against Providence, the Friars were able to launch a balanced attack that lead to an overtime victory, eliminating Northeastern from the conference playoffs. Similarly, Michigan was able to use a similar strategy to end the Huskies’ season in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Worcester.

The team assembled by coach Madigan last season was easily one of the best in program history, setting numerous records and climbing the polls every week. Despite the lack of a Lou Lamoriello trophy or a Frozen Four appearance, this was one of the most fun seasons for Northeastern fans to watch in quite some time.

The 2018-19 Huskies will look entirely different than their previous season’s iteration. Whereas the Gaudette Huskies were a run-and-gun high scoring team, the defense and goaltending look to be the best parts of this years’ group. Sophomore goalie Cayden Primeau looks like one of the best goalies in the nation. Jeremy Davies was one of the best defensemen in the conference and probably the country last year and will lead a group consisting of Ryan Shea, Eric Williams, and newcomers Jordan Harris, Julian Kislin and AJ Villella. Harris was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens and will add a solid scoring touch from the blue-line to compliment the more veteran members of this team. Kislin lacks the point production of Harris, but at 6’2” he has a bit of size Husky defensemen have lacked in years prior.

Tyler Madden is the most notable forward addition to this team. Drafted in the 3rd round by the Vancouver Canucks, Madden scored 34 points in 50 games split between Central Illinois and Tri-City in the USHL. Given the nebulous state of the Northeastern top six, he may find himself playing a lot of minutes early in the season as coach Madigan tries to find a new recipe for success.

Bottom Line: Northeastern has the unfortunate task of replacing the production of three of the best forwards in the country. Last year may have appeared to be a “win now” year for the Huskies, but there is hope for this year. If the team pivots to a more defensively minded system and compliments their good blue-line play with a scoring by committee strategy (Providence, anyone?) they could find themselves back at TD Garden for a shot at the Hockey East title. The expectations are nowhere near as lofty as they may have been a few months ago, but this is a team that needs to compete and has some of the pieces necessary to do so.

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