Hockey East Preview – University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

By: Matt MacCormack


Head Coach: Jeff Jackson (11th season)

Last Season: 18-19-5 (HE: 10-7-5), 5th place

Losses: D Robbie Russo (C), F Vince Hinostroza, F Peter Schneider, F Garret Peterson, F Joe Aiken, D Eric Johnson, F Austin Wuthrich

Newcomers: D Dennis Gilbert, F Jack Jenkins, D Bobby Nardella, F Dylan Malmquist, F Andrew Oglevie, F Joe Wegwerth

Despite their young roster, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish enjoyed a solid 2014-15 season under head coach Jeff Jackson. The South Bend puckheads finished 5th in Hockey East, and ultimately bowed out of the conference tournament in the quarterfinals at the hands of UMass-Lowell.

The Irish rode a potent offense to a fifth-place conference finish, tying for 3rd in Hockey East and 17th in the nation with a 3.00 goals per game clip. Sophomore F Vince Hinostroza led the way with 11 goals and 33 assists. Senior D Robbie Russo, who went on to achieve 2nd Team All-American honors, was an offensive force from behind the blue line, notching 15 goals and 26 assists. Standout freshman G Cal Petersen solidified himself as one of the best young net-minders in the country last season, allowing just 2.06 goals per contest, while boasting  a save percentage of 93.8%. Both marks were second in Hockey East.

The Irish bounced back from an awful November, in which they captured just one win in nine tries. In a six-game stretch from mid to late February, the blue and gold defeated eventual national champion Providence (then ranked 10th), 2nd ranked BU, and 9th ranked Boston College. The Irish slipped pass UMass Amherst in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs (playing the longest game in college hockey history in the process), before UMass-Lowell bested ND in the quarterfinals.

The Irish will be forced to replace tons of their point production from last year, as Russo graduated and Hinostroza signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason.Incoming freshman F Christian Fischer, the crown jewel of this year’s recruiting class, was supposed to play a big role in replacing that production. However, Fischer has since decided to also sign a deal with the team that picked him up in the NHL Draft, the Arizona Coyotes.

A trio of senior forwards will look to take on some of this year’s goal-scoring responsibilities. LW Mario Lucia led the team with 21 goals last season, and should once again be a focal point of the high-flying Irish attack. C Thomas DiPauli finished fourth on the team in points with 29 last season, and captain C Steven Fogarty is both a great play-maker (9 goals, 12 assists) and leader. A potential breakout candidate is sophomore LW Anders Bjork, who tallied 7 goals and 15 assists last season and is primed for a bigger role.

Senior Andy Ryan and 6’5″ sophomore Luke Ripley will help anchor the defense behind Petersen, who has a chance to solidify himself as one the country’s top goaltenders. Junior D Jordan Gross looks to do his best Russo impersonation this year as the team’s best offensive defenseman.

Bottom Line: Losing Russo and Hinostroza will be huge, but the Irish have an experienced core that seems ready to step up. Barring a sophomore slump, Cal Peterson should be a beast between the pipes once again, providing great stability for the Irish defense. After some impressive performances down the stretch last year, Notre Dame is primed to climb towards the top of Hockey East if the momentum keeps rolling this season.

Men’s Hockey: Northeastern Picked 7th in HEWBA Preseason Poll, Roy Named To All-Hockey East Team

By: Josh Brown

The Northeastern University men’s hockey team was picked to finish seventh in the annual Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association annual poll released just after midnight on Sunday. The seventh-place projection comes a year after the Huskies finished sixth in the conference last season, finishing with a 16-16-4 record (11-9-2 HE).

Boston College led the way atop the poll, receiving 20 of 35 possible first-place votes, trailed by last year’s Hockey East champion Boston University Terriers.

As most suspected, senior forward Kevin Roy was selected to the preseason All-Hockey East Team, joined by F Tyler Kelleher (New Hampshire), F Danny O’Regan (Boston University), F Alex Tuch (Boston College), D Matt Grzelcyk (Boston University), D Ian McCoshen (Boston College) and G Thatcher Demko (Boston College).

Full results:

WRBB’s ballots:

Hockey East Preview – University of Vermont Catamounts

By: Jeremy Leopold

0146985f69a40a2d4993aeea2b76e298-300x300Head Coach – Kevin Sneddon (13th season)

Last season – 22-15-4 (HE: 10-9-3), 7th place

Losses: F Colin Markison, F Jake Fallon, F Kyle Reynolds, D Nick Luukko, D Mike Paliotta, G Brody Hoffman

Newcomers: D Jake Kearley,D Mike Lee, F Liam Coughlin, F Brian Bowen, F Conor O’Neil, F Tyler Gernhofer, F Craig Puffer, F Drew Best, G Packy Munson

Sneddon’s squad got off to a blazing start last season, winning 15 of their first 19, but fizzled down the stretch leaving them just out of contention for a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Known for their defense, the Catamounts didn’t disappoint, finishing 4th in the conference in goals allowed per game. The offense, which shined early on, scored north of 3.5 goals per game in the first 19 contests, but struggled to finish the season with the same luster, scoring a hair over 2.1 goals per game in the next 23. Vermont did manage to rally in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, beating Boston College in the quarterfinals to advance to the semi’s, where UMass Lowell put a 4-1 beat down on Vermont to end their tournament hopes.

This year’s team still looks to be in pretty good shape despite key losses on both sides of the ice. The biggest loss comes along the blue line where Mike Paliotta played out his eligibility and took his team leading 37 points and +15 plus/minus to the NHL. On the offensive end, the graduation of Colin Markison and Jake Fallon will be tough because they were the fourth and sixth leading point scorers on the team respectively. Between the three of those players, a huge chunk of the playmaking duties are gone as they combined for 84 points last season.

The Catamounts still have some firepower, however, as they return a trio of dynamic rising juniors led by “Super” Mario Puskarich, who netted 11 goals last season on his way to a 24-point sophomore campaign. Joining Puskarich is Brady Shaw, who broke out last year with a 19-goal season, and Brendan Bradley, who will have to do even better than an impressive 17-assist season to fill the playmaking void left by the graduating class.

On the defensive side of the ice, Alexx Privitera will look to build on an excellent junior season in which he had 19 assists en route to 26 points. While Privitera is a skilled two-way defensive player, Yvan Pattyn will look to be a bruiser, a staple in Sneddon coached teams, after he had a disappointing junior year. Despite playing in all 41 games for the Catamounts last year, he finished with an even plus/minus rating despite Vermont outscoring opponents by 19 goals over the course of the season. He will need to play better for the Catamounts to have success on the defensive end.

Anchoring Vermont in net will be junior Mike Santaguida. With the departure of Brody Hoffman to the Minnesota Wild, the job should be Santaguida’s full time this season after playing well in part-time duties last year. His .910 save percentage ranked eighth in the conference out of 15 goalies that qualified, and his 2.17 goals against average was good for fourth in Hockey East. Look for Santiguida to have continued success this year especially now in a full time capacity.

Bottom Line: The loss of Paliotta is going to hurt a lot, but the Catamounts are still poised to compete with the big dogs in Hockey East. With Sneddon’s defensive mentality coupled with some firepower on offense, Vermont will look to be a top-five finisher in the conference this season.

Hockey East Preview – University of New Hampshire Wildcats

By: Kyle Williams

unh-logoCoach: Dick Umile (26th season)

Last Season: 19-19-2 (HE: 10-11-1); 8th place

Losses: F Grayson Downing, F Matt Willows, F Casey Thrush, F Jay Camper, D Ryan Randall

Newcomers: F Brendan van Riemsdyk, F Liam Blackburn, F Ara Nazarian, F Patrick Grasso, F Chris Miller, F Charlie Kelleher, D Joseph Masonius, D Nick Nonis

Last year’s UNH team should have been a disaster. They lost five of their top seven scorers from the year before, including three legitimate all-stars in Kevin Goumas, Eric Knodel, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Then, before the season started, they suspended goalie Casey DeSmith indefinitely. And yet somehow, behind Grayson Downing and the surprising emergence of freshman goalie Daniel Tirone, they managed to hold onto the last spot for a home game in the Hockey East tournament, and made it all the way to the semi-finals.

This will be another year of transition for the Wildcats. Downing is gone, along with fellow line mates Matt Willows and Casey Thrush, which represented three of last season’s top five point scorers. However, there is talent on this squad that will give fits to every team in the conference; Tyler Kelleher finished in the top ten in goals (18) and assists (24) last season, and Andrew Poturalski will look to build on a freshman campaign that saw him finish with twenty-nine points, good for fourth among all rookies. UNH will have continuity on the blue line, bringing back its top four defensemen in Matias Cleland, Brett Pesce, Harry Quast, and Cameron Marks. But by far, the biggest question mark facing this team is in goal: can Tirone come close to replicating his output from last season (2.14 GA/.924 SP), when he was a top five goalie in the conference? If he can, UNH will be a tough out come tournament time; they’re fast, their scorers are opportunistic, and the Olympic-sized ice gives them one of the best home ice advantages in the conference.

Bottom Line: This team feels like it has the highest variance of any team in Hockey East. In the best case scenario, Kelleher is an all-star, Poturalski takes a leap, Tirone is strong in goal, one or two rookies put in good minutes, and this team finds itself competing for a top four spot at the end of the season. However, if Tirone’s play drops off and Kelleher can’t find his scoring touch consistently, this team could easily finish in the bottom four. In reality, Tirone will drop off slightly, the first line will score goals at a good clip, they’ll pull off one or two upsets at the Whittemore Center, and finish somewhere in the middle of the conference standings.

CAA Preview – College of Charleston Cougars

By: Jeremy Leopold

8010_college_of_charleston__cougars-alternate-2013Head Coach: Earl Grant (2nd season)

Last Season: 9-24 (3-15 CAA) last place

Losses: F Adjehi Baru, F Glen Pierce Jr., G Pat Branin, G Anthony Sitt

Newcomers: F Jarrell Brantley, G Marquise Pointer, G Grant Riller


Things fell apart at the seams last season for College of Charleston. Starting with an off-season investigation into head coach Doug Wojcik for verbal abuse, the Cougars eventually hired Earl Grant and finished last in the conference in the process.

It’s tough to place blame for the way last season went for the Cougars after Grant inherited a team just a few months before the season with no chance to put his imprint on the squad. Already built as a defensive-minded team, they made a seamless transition to the rock fights of the CAA in 2013. The Cougars actually excelled again on defense despite the turmoil, finishing second in the CAA in scoring defense, giving up a stingy 64.6 points per game. The offense, however, was abysmal, finishing last in the conference and a full five points behind 8th place Towson with just 58.6 ppg. The Cougars did manage to beat a shorthanded Drexel squad in the CAA tournament before falling to UNCW in the second round.

With the loss of their defensive anchor Adjehi Baru, it’s hard to imagine Grant’s squad being as stingy on defense this season. Baru is taking with him a team leading 6.3 rebounds per game and a strong defensive presence in the paint, not to mention his offensive contribution of 7.4 ppg. Also graduating is Anthony Sitt, who fell out of favor as a regular starter for the Cougars last season, but chipped in everywhere with 8.2 ppg, 2.5 apg, and 2.5 rpg.

Known for his recruiting at previous jobs, Grant has a solid first recruiting class coming in. Newcomers Jarrell Brantley, Marquise Pointer, and Grant Riller should all make an impact this season, but Pointer is the most highly touted of the bunch as a three star recruit and the 35th ranked point guard by ESPN in the 2014 recruiting class. Pointer should see a lot of minutes beside Joe Chealey and Canyon Barry in the back court. Red shirt freshman Nick Harris could also have a big impact in the front court after sitting out last season.

For things to go right this season, Grant needs another big year from both Barry and Chealey who each averaged over 12 ppg last season as well as more scoring depth. The new guys in town may be best suited for that role with no returning player other than Barry and Chealey averaging more than 6.5 ppg last season. The defense will also have to find someone to fill the big shoes of Baru who was a stalwart on both ends of the floor for the Cougars.

Bottom line: Last season a lot went wrong before the first tip for the Cougars. This season they have some stability again with Grant at the helm and a strong freshman class that should contribute immediately. With that being said, a lot has to go right for the Cougars to even be average this year with the talent level they have. The defense will take a small step back without Baru but they should still be strong on that end. Barry and Chealey will have to carry the offense again with no proven scorers to help out, and again they should finish at or near the bottom of the conference on offense. Best case scenario is a middle of the pack finish with the freshman playing beyond their years. More likely, the Cougars are still one or two good recruiting classes from competing, and they finish near the bottom of the CAA for the second straight season.

Hockey East Preview – University of Connecticut Huskies

By: Dan McLoone


Head Coach: Mike Cavanaugh (3rd Season)

Last Season: 10-19-7 (HE: 7-11-4, 9th Place)

Departures: G Tom Comunale, F Trevor Gerling, F Brent Norris, D Jacob Poe, F Cody Sharib, F Brad Smith, F Ryan Tyson

Newcomers: G Tanner Creel, F Max Kalter, F Karl El-Mir, D Miles Gendron, F Maxim Letunov, D Joseph Masonius, F Marco Richter, F Tage Thompson

Head coach Mike Cavanaugh’s squad proved to be no pushover in their first year in Hockey East after moving over from the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Despite low expectations league-round, the Huskies managed to rack up several impressive wins, including big upsets over Boston College, UMass Lowell and Vermont early on in the season. Connecticut won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year, but they will still look to climb further up the Hockey East standings.

Key to an improvement for UConn will be the play of junior netminder Rob Nichols. Nichols logged 94 percent of the minutes in goal last season and is the only goalie on the roster with playing experience. Sophomores Steve Thulin and Tanner Creel round out the goalies, but it will be up to Nichols to man the pipes. His 2.73 goals against average and .918 save percentage were middle of the pack in Hockey East, but he logged more minutes in goal than anyone not named Thatcher Demko or Jon Gillies.

Defensively, Connecticut lost a key presence in Jacob Poe, a versatile player who also was the Huskies’ most offensive-minded defender. They return a few talented sophomores in Johnny Austin, Derek Pratt and Flyers draft pick David Drake. All three will be expected to take steps forward and help solidify a Husky defense that was near the bottom of the conference. Senior Kyle Huson will take on the leadership role defensively, while juniors Joona Kunnas and Penguins draft pick Ryan Segalla will see expanded minutes. Cavanaugh added two defenders in his 2019 recruiting class, both of whom come to Storrs with high expectations. Miles Gendron was a fourth round pick by the Senators in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and Joseph Masonius is a USA Hockey National Team Developmental standout.

The biggest bane for the Huskies last season, however, was their scoring. Despite pulling off some big wins, Cavanaugh’s team never quite figured out ways to consistently score, finishing last in Hockey East with just 66 goals scored and converting on a putrid 10.5 percent of power play opportunities. Senior Sean Pauly led the squad in scoring last season with his 20 points, but he will need to create even more opportunities this year if UConn is to improve. Three returning front liners had promising freshmen years, with Spencer Naas, Kasperi Ojantakanen and Corey Ronan scoring 17, 12 and 11 points, respectively. They will need to take a big step forward to bring Connecticut’s offense more scoring diversity. A talented group of freshmen newcomers looking to contribute include Tage Thompson and Max Kalter, but the prize recruit for UConn this year is Russian forward Maxim Letunov. Originally slated to go to Boston University and offered scholarships by many top programs as an elite prospect, complications with the BU admissions process prompted Letunov to attend Connecticut. He will have every opportunity to prove himself against tough Hockey East competition.

Bottom Line: Entering their second year in Hockey East, Cavanaugh and the Huskies have already accomplished more than they were expected to. The recruitment of Letunov shows that UConn may become a viable destination for top recruits. The Huskies enjoyed some early success last season, but some of that can probably be attributed to their Hockey East opponents being unfamiliar with them. Don’t expect to see UConn anywhere near the top of the standing, as a regression to 11th or 12th place is a more likely outcome.

Hockey East Preview – University of Maine Black Bears

By: Justin Littman

6108_maine_black_bears-secondary-1999Head Coach – Red Gendron (third season)

Last season – 14-22-3 (HE: 8-12-2), T-9th place

Losses: F Devin Shore, D Ben Hutton, D Jake Rutt, F Connor Leen, F Stu Higgins, F Andrew Cerratani

Newcomers: D Rob Michel, F Justin Rai, F Dane Gibson, D Keith Muehlbauer, D Stephen Cochrane, F Brendan Robbins, D Sam Becker, F Daniel Perez, G Rob McGovern

After a largely successful first season under Coach Red Gendron that saw Maine finish 6th in Hockey East, last year was a frustrating one for the Black Bears. For a young team looking to take another step forward, a tie for 9th place in the conference hardly offered much to be excited about. Sure, there were questions about the defense following the departure of senior goaltender Martin Ouellette, but Maine played through the season without finding much of a solution. Alternating time in net between freshman Sean Romeo and junior Matt Morris, the Black Bears allowed 3.26 goals per game; second worst in Hockey East.

This season figures to hold many of the same struggles for Maine. With the departure of defensemen Ben Hutton to the pros and Jake Rutt to graduation, the Black Bears will continue to rely on youth, including four incoming freshman, to hold down a weak defensive line. One to keep an eye out for is Sam Becker, who put up 8 goals and 40 assists for the Minnesota Magicians of the NAHL last season. In net, freshman goaltender Rob McGovern, who has excelled in the USPHL, will also be one to key in on, and figures to see time in net this season along with Romeo and Morris, as Gendron will search for answers.

On the offensive end, Maine goes forward without Devin Shore, their team leader in goals (14) and assists (21), who left for the pros. Still, this is a team that has other options. They will be led by upperclassmen Cam Brown, Steven Swavely, and Blaine Byron. They will need to perform well if Maine expects to be competitive this year. Additionally, the Black Bears hope that sophomore Nolan Vesey will take another big step forward this season, after scoring 10 goals and providing 13 assists as a freshman.

Bottom line: Offensively, the Black Bears have some established pieces that will be able to carry this team through the season. Still, Maine will continue to face growing pains this season on the defensive end that will struggle to hold up in the tough Hockey East. Coach Gendron has plenty of young options though, so look for this team to start to find its way as the season progresses.

From Section 44: NU receives commitment from Matt DeMelis

By: Mike Davis


Mike Davis is the leader of the Northeastern hockey student section known as “The Doghouse.” He will be a contributor to WRBB Sports throughout the coming season. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @spellinwithmike.

Jim Madigan secured a verbal commitment from one of the top uncommitted forwards in New England after ’99 F Matt DeMelis announced he has chosen to play college hockey at Northeastern. DeMelis is a rising junior at Hingham (MA) High School, where he recently won an MIAA Division 1 State Championship as a sophomore, and was also on the Boston Herald All-Scholastic Team. DeMelis was chosen in the seventh round of the 2015 USHL Futures Draft by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, the team that both incoming freshman Adam Gaudette and recruit Matt Filipe are affiliated with. A six-foot tall, left-shot forward, DeMelis produced a scoring line of 17-26-46 in 27 games for Hingham High.

Jeff Cox of SB Nation: College Hockey has watched DeMelis extensively while scouting local talent, and had the following to say about his play: “He has a very strong, long stride, but skates a little hunched over. He does a good job keeping the puck on his stick and is a possession-type forward. He has good hands and vision, can weave in and out of traffic, and he can create time and space because of his lateral mobility and stick-handling ability. He had interest from several Hockey East schools.” DeMelis ultimately chose Northeastern over national champion Providence College.

DeMelis will play this upcoming season for the Boston Advantage AAA Midget Team this upcoming season. Congratulations to Matt and his family! You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattDeMelis. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @NUDoghouse for the most up-to-date information about NU hockey this season.

Hockey East Preview – Merrimack Warriors

By: Sam Davidovich

merrimackHead Coach: Mark Dennehy (11th season)

Last season: 16-18-4 (HE: 5-14-3) (11th in conference)

Losses: D Dan Kolomatis, D Justin Mansfield, F Quinn Gould, F Clayton Jardine, G Kyle Singleton, G Joe Pantalone, G Rasmus Tirronen

Newcomers:  D Alex Carle, F Michael Babcock, F Matt Foget, F Ludvig Larsson, F Derek Petti, G Craig Pantano, G Drew Vogler

The Merrimack College Warriors will look to build upon their post-season momentum from last year when they begin their  season against Clarkson on October 16th. After finishing the 2014-15 season 16-18-4 (including a 9-4-2 record at Lawler Rink to post a top-four home record winning percentage, .667, in Hockey East), they entered the post-season as the 12th seed and swept Northeastern in the first round. The Warriors would then go on to lose to Boston University, the eventual Hockey East champions.

Led by two-time All-New England Coach of the Year Mark Dennehy (2009-10, 2010-11), Merrimack will try to emulate the start of last season, when they won 10 of their first 15 games. Their offense, despite the hot start, was lacking last season, averaging 2.13 goals per game on 27.9 attempts, the second worst mark in Hockey East while opponents scored an average of 2.45 goals per game on Merrimack’s defense. The Warriors fared even worse against other Hockey East teams, averaging 1.73 goals per game against an average opponent’s per game score of 2.69. The Warriors also converted only 14.8% of their power play opportunities, which is something the team will look to improve on next season.

On the other hand, there are some reasons for optimism heading into this season as well. The team will be retaining their top four scorers from last seasons: Brett Seney (26 points), Hampus Gustafsson (25), Brian Christie (23), and Jace Hennig (21). They are also retaining goalie Collin Delia, who will be entering his sophomore year and holds a save percentage of .937 in 9 games.

A player to watch for the Warriors this season will be incoming freshman Matt Foget. Originally scheduled to arrive on campus for the 2016-2017 season, the accelerated left-winger had a breakout season last year, potting 24 goals and 58 assists for the Gloucester Rangers of the CCHL, and will be looked upon to have an immediate contribution to the team.

Bottom Line: With Mark Dennehy behind the bench once again and some more experience under the belt’s of sophomores Delia and Seney, look for the Warriors to make some noise. However their chances of escaping the first round of the post-season may require another upset, as they have not improved their talent enough to compete with the powerhouses of the conference.

Men’s Hockey: New Huskies on Campus

With classes underway once again on Huntington Avenue, Ryan, Josh, and Mike sat down to talk about the arrival of the hockey recruits. Tune in to WRBB 104.9FM to hear all this and more at 7 PM on September 23rd, during the season premiere of Hockey East This Week.

Ryan Fallon: Let’s start with the most important component of the Huskies’ success this year: goaltending. Obviously NU has Derick Roy and Jake Theut returning, but Ryan Ruck is also coming into the fold from the USHL. I imagine goalie will be an open tryout, with Roy having the edge. What can Ruck bring to the table and can he push Roy?

Mike Davis: Ruck played for a below-average Des Moines team in the USHL and saw a very high amount of shots per game, one of the highest in the league. As such, his stats are a little below what you’d look for in a USHL incoming goalie. But he filled up the net well and has two years of starting under his belt, which will serve him well transitioning to Hockey East.

RF: As you said, Ruck only posted a .903 save percentage last year in Des Moines, but the year before he put up .918 mark. Even if he doesn’t grab the job from Roy this year, is he the goaltender of the future?

MD: Derick will finish his degree this year, so there is a real chance he leaves after the season. If that happens, Ruck will be the go-to guy for at least a couple of seasons. Cayden Primeau is NU’s “goalie of the future” but isn’t scheduled to arrive until 2017. So until then, Ruck is the man between the pipes

Josh Brown: Jon Barry, an incoming 6-foot-1 defenseman, is someone who might not be getting as much attention as some of the other recruits. He didn’t put up big numbers last year in the USPHL but the coaching staff seems to think highly of him. What do you think his role is going to be, and how do you see his transition to college going?

MD: Barry will be looked at to contribute immediately. He initially accepted a lacrosse scholarship to Providence, but ultimately chose to play hockey at NU. I would expect him to have above-average stick skills as the result of his lacrosse background. He is a solid 6-1, 200 lb physical presence and I expect him to make his presence felt immediately.

RF: The other blue liner coming in is even more intriguing, I think. Eric Williams was named CJHL Defenseman of the year last year while scoring 22 goals in 52 games. He might be the highest regarded defenseman to arrive on campus in my five years here. Is this an accurate take? Or are we reading too much into the CJHL award?

MD: Jim Madigan has already stated that Williams will have the best defenseman shot the second he steps on the ice for practice, so the coaches are expecting a lot from him too. The OJHL is known as a more offensive league, but that CJHL award encompasses all of Canadian Junior Hockey. Williams was a CJHL First Team All American as well. He is highly thought of, and is not short on size at 6’1”.

JB: A lot has been made of the arrival of Sam Kurker, the former Boston University Terrier. The junior didn’t put up earth-shattering stats by any stretch of the imagination over at BU. What do you think the thought process was for bringing him in and what do you think he can contribute this season?

MD: Similar to Barry, he is expected to play major minutes right off the bat. Making the jump from prep hockey to Hockey East is tough, and that may account for a number of Kurker’s struggles. He threatened decommitment when Jack Parker did not bring him right from prep, so he may have just not been ready yet. 1.5 seasons in the USHL did wonders for his growth. Scoring in the USHL usually carries over to the NCAA, and he put 22 pucks into the net last year. Kurker is projected as a top 6 forward and he knows what it takes to succeed in Hockey East. Kurker I personally project for 30 points this year, at 16-14-30

RF: I think Kurker’s going to be a major piece in the top 6 this year, really looking forward to seeing what he can do after some time in the USHL. Another guy who might end up there is Adam Gaudette. Also coming in from the USHL, where he posted 30 points a year ago, Gaudette seems to be the best-positioned freshman to contribute offensively. Are 10-15 goals from him realistic?

MD: 30 points in limited playing time, as he got hurt for a little bit. Gaudette I think will be this year’s top freshman. Maybe not 30-40 points like Szmatula and Roy put up their first year, but I think we can expect 12 goals from Adam. Drafted by the Canucks, and he was second in MA high schools in scoring 2 years ago, second to Ryan Donato (the 2nd rounder for Boston and attending Harvard this fall). Gaudette I have penciled into Szmatula’s old 2nd line center spot, so I think he will contribute immediately. He plays a great 2-way game, and can be used on the PK as well as the PP. He also gives some balance, being a righty. Same with Kurker. NU is so lefty heavy, including the whole top line. A righty on the PP will help balance the attack. I’m very high on Adam Gaudette this season

RF: He almost sounds like a Szmatula clone, with a little less scoring. Do you think the production of Gaudette and Kurker can approach or replace Szmatula & Snydeman’s?

MD: Absolutely. No disrespect to Torin, but he wasn’t really a true scorer. Kurker sliding into his spot should be an increase in production, and Gaudette should at least give 75% of what Szmatula gave the team last season. Assuming Aston-Reese grows more consistent, I can see that second line being the highest scoring line the Huskies have this season.

JB: The other three incoming forwards – Jason Cotton, Lincoln Griffin and Patrick Schule – will all look to not only fill the void left by Szmatula, but to also create a foundation for the inevitable loss of Kevin Roy and Mike McMurtry next season. Who do you see really stepping up this season and what do you see their ceiling’s being as they progress through their time on Huntington Ave?

MD: As for the other three: Jason Cotton was one of Jim Madigan’s first commits when he took over the job. Tall lanky kid from Texas, whose brother is a ’97 and BC hockey commit, he will probably start on the 4th line and fill the role Adam Reid had his last season. Grind on the boards, but I expect Cotton to have more of a scoring touch. He lit up the BCHL, where NU has had success recruiting in the past. Tough to project a stat line due to unclear minute projections, but he can score on the 4th line for sure.

MD: Schule is a late commit from the NJ Hitmen of the USPHL, which produced Trevor Owens last year. Paddy Schule will be seen more as a depth player this season, simply due to the numbers game, but could be the next man up if a player goes down or struggles. He has a great reputation as a leader (former assistant captain in the USPHL) and a tireless work ethic. He undoubtedly will make the players around him better.

MD: Lincoln Griffin in an interesting case. He played at Thayer High with Barry and Gaudette, and was actually accelerated to attend this year after Szmatula transferred. Griffin led MA HS players in scoring this past season, so he clearly has the ability to score goals. He is eligible for the 2016 NHL draft so scouts will have eyes on him. He currently projects as a 4th liner, simply due to age, but chemistry with Gaudette and strong performance could up his placement. Like I said about Kurker, the jump from prep to Hockey East is tough. But the coaches thought enough of Griffin to accelerate him, and expect him to be up to the challenge.

RF: So if there’s any sort of “sleeper” in this class, he’s the one to look out for?

MD: For sure. He should be in the lineup from the get go. He was on scouts’ radars last year, and this year, as his draft year, he’ll be motivated to show he deserves to hear his name called. Again, tough to forecast a stat line. But 10 points from him, his first year with the jump, I would be happy with. When looking at most younger players in Hockey East, there are far more years like Kurker and Brendan Collier had than there are Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin. It’s reasonable to keep expectations tempered with Griffin. But him breaking out and contributing should not be a shock if it happens.