By: Mike Davis
The Northeastern hockey team ended the first half of the season with a big win over Michigan State as part of the ‘Winter Showdown’ weekend, and over the final two months of the season the Huskies received verbal commitments from three junior hockey players. In addition, multiple recruits signed their National Letter of Intent (NLI), committing themselves officially to joining the Huntington Hounds next season.
The first commitment was in November from Brandon Schultz, a ’96 F playing for the Waterloo Blackhawks in the United States Hockey League. Schultz clocks in at 5’8” and 165 pounds, clearly on the smaller side for a forward. His stat line reflects his play making tendencies, as he currently has a 4-14-18 line in 24 games for Waterloo, to go along with 26 penalty minutes. Previously, Schultz played for the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League, where he broke out in 2014-15, tallying 28 goals and 30 assists for 58 points in 56 games. That season led Schultz to be selected in Phase II of the USHL draft by Waterloo, who cited his junior hockey experience with a winning club as an attractive feature.
The second commitment came from a local product, John Picking out of the Junior Bruins program in the United States Premier Hockey League. Picking, a 5’10”, 170 pound ’95 birth year from nearby Wellesley, Massachusetts, is having the best season of his juniors career as an ‘over-ager’ (older than the average age of the league’s players), coming in at 13-25-38 in 24 games. He has been in the Junior Bruins system his whole career, dating back to their U16 team beginning in 2010-11. Picking was a part of the Junior Bruins Tier III National Championship during the 2013-14 season.
The final commitment will be a large presence on the team even if he does not skate in a single game: Curtis Frye, a ’95, 6’4” goalie out of the Philadelphia Flyers Elite program in the same USPHL that Picking hails from. Another ‘over-ager’, Frye currently sits on a 3.14 goals against average and a .908 save percentage, a year after posting a 2.96 GAA and .914 SV% in the same league, however Frye only played 16 games, a mark he has already eclipsed as 2016 begins. Frye is no stranger to the junior hockey circuit- he was named to the 2012-13 US National Team Development Program, playing for the U17 team and was chosen for the U18 team, but a tear of his meniscus caused him to miss the entire season. Hockey East players Thatcher Demko (BC), Steve Santini (BC), Scott Savage (BC), Tyler Kelleher (UNH) and Shane Eiserman (UNH) were all a part of that U18 team. After the US team, Frye played for the PAL Junior Islanders and New Jersey Hitmen in the USPHL before finding a home in Philadelphia.
Frye has long been in the eyes of scouts. The Goalie Guild offered this scouting report on Frye in 2013, praising his recovery from his knee injury. Parts of their scouting report include: “Quality athleticism for his 6’4” frame, he fills the net extremely well. Tracks well on his skates,” and “does a good job of getting into an athletic crouch before dropping to make a save. He has good posture for a bigger goalie and does not appear too hunched over, which helps maintain good upright balance.” Brian Daccord, head of Stop It Goaltending, praised Frye on and off the ice for his “Ivy-League caliber grades” and his “combination of size and athleticism.” Frye was also called the best goalie USHR saw at the 2014 Road to College Showcase at Babson College, and has attended camp with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL in 2015, though he left early to preserve his NCAA eligibility. Frye will enroll with Picking for the 2016-17 season.
In addition to securing verbal commitments, multiple Northeastern recruits finalized their commitment to Jim Madigan’s program for next season. Forward recruits Bobby Hampton and Grant Jozafek, in addition to defenseman Ryan Shea and Jeremy Davies, have all signed their allegiance to the red and black for next season. These high-profile recruits promise to have an immediate impact when they reach Matthews Arena. With only 5 current Huskies slated to graduate, playing time will be at premium next season, barring any unforeseen early departures.