This week the Preseason USCHO’s Division I Men’s College Hockey Poll was released. With the college hockey regular season starting in full force on October 1st, I figured now was a good time to dig a little deeper into the Top 20 and provide some veterans to watch and some incoming freshmen to keep a closer eye on. I will break up the Top 20 into two parts, starting from 20th, and finishing with the number one team ranked.
Rankings can be found here: http://www.uscho.com/rankings/d-i-mens-poll/
20. Ferris State
4th Place in WCHA in 2015-16 – Record: 20-15-6 (Lost in West Regional Finals to Denver)
Fresh off a fourth place conference finish and a West Regional upset of #1 seed St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs should again be an upper-half WCHA team with tournament aspirations.
Senior Gerald Mayhew returns, after leading the WCHA in scoring in the 2015-16 season, and was picked as Preseason WCHA Player of the Year by both the WCHA coaches and media. Forwards Chad McDonald, Corey Mackin and Drew Dorantes were all 20-plus point scorers for Ferris State last season, and will help Mayhew shoulder the offensive load.
Cam Clarke, the 136th overall selection by the Boston Bruins in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will be a big piece for the Bulldogs this season. He brings good offensive ability from the blueline.
19. Minnesota State
T-1st in WCHA in 2015-16 – Record: 21-13-7
After losing in the WCHA Tournament Finals to Ferris State, the Mavericks look to rebound in 2016-17. Their top two scorers from a year ago Teddy Blueger and Bryce Gervais have graduated, meaning that more responsibility will be placed on Junior C.J. Franklin (WPG, 2014 – 129th). Cole Huggins returns for his senior season in net after posting a 1.84 goals against average and a .917 save percentage in 26 games.
Two German-born freshmen from the USHL in Parker Tuomie and Marc Michaelis are a pair to keep an eye on that could chip-in with depth scoring this season.
2nd Place in ECAC in 2015-16 – Record 19-9-4 (Lost in East Regional Semi-Final to UMass-Lowell)
Yale was picked to finish 5th in the ECAC coaches poll this season, garnering a first place vote. Star goaltender Alex Lyon was signed as a free agent this offseason by the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Bulldogs return a decent amount of the balanced scoring that they relied upon last year. Perhaps most importantly, top scorer Joe Snively returns for his sophomore season after being named the ECAC Rookie of the Year in 2015-16, posting 28 points in 32 games.
Carolina Hurricanes draftee Luke Stevens (2015, 126th) starts his Yale career this fall with a 6’5”, 200-pound frame that should help him fit in pretty quickly. Fellow freshman Mitchell Smith was a 40-point scorer for Dubuque (USHL) last season.
17. Michigan Tech
T-1st in WCHA in 2015-16 – Record: 23-9-5
The highest scoring team in the WCHA last season returns a good amount of their offensive firepower, but has a question mark in net after the graduation of goaltender Jamie Phillips who played in nearly 100 games during his career. Tyler Heinonen and Joel L’Esperance return, and were responsible for 11 of the teams 26 power-play goals a year ago and seven of the teams 23 game winners.
Incoming freshman goaltender Angus Redmond is an intriguing prospect out of the BCHL, especially with the team’s situation in between the pipes.
16. St. Lawrence
4th in ECAC in 2015-16 – Record: 19-16-4
The Saints return seven of their ten top scorers from a year ago, including top scorer Gavin Bayreuther who paced the team with 29 points in 37 games from the blueline. The teams best playmaker, Drew Smolcynski is back as a senior, looking to build on his nine goals and 19 assists from a year ago.
Ben Finkelstein, an undersized, offensively gifted freshman defenseman for the Saints will have a good mentor to learn from in Bayreuther. Finkelstein was a Florida Panthers draft pick in the seventh round of this years entry draft (195th overall).
6th in Hockey East in 2015-16 – Record: 22-14-5 (Lost in Midwest Regional Semi-Final to North Dakota)
Despite finishing in sixth place in Hockey East last season, Northeastern won the Hockey East Championship and earned a postseason birth. The Huskies were picked by Hockey East coaches to finish second in the league this season, likely due to returning seven of their ten top scorers.
Zach Aston-Reese, Nolan Stevens, John Stevens, Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura each were 25-point scorers for Northeastern last year, helping them finish with Hockey East’s second most goals scored. 2016 NHL Draftees Matt Filipe (CAR, 67th), Ryan Shea (CHI, 121st) and Jeremy Davies (NJD, 192nd) headline the Huskies freshman class.
14. Bowling Green
3rd in WCHA in 2015-16 – Record: 22-14-6
The Falcons return almost all of their most important players from a team that lost in the WCHA Semi-Final to Minnesota State last year. They were picked by the WCHA coaches to finish first in the conference this season, after receiving a league-high eight first place votes.
Bowling Green enters 2016-17 with a group of now seniors in Matt Pohlkamp, Sean Walker, Kevin Dufour and Pierre Luc-Mercier all of whom have appeared in more then 110 games for the Falcons. They also will ride goaltender Chris Nell who had a stellar sophomore campaign.
Incoming freshman defenseman Alec Rauhauser put up back-to-back 37-point seasons for Des Moines (USHL) and is one to watch for the future.
1st in the Big Ten in 2015-16 – Record: 20-17-0
Although they won the Big Ten regular season, the Gophers lost to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game and failed to reach the postseason. Losing Hudson Fasching to an entry-level contract isn’t ideal, but sophomore Tommy Novak (NAS, 2015, 85th) should take a step forward.
Joining Novak are captain and top scorer Justin Kloos, point-per-game performer Leon Bristedt, top-scoring blueliner Michael Brodzinski (SJS, 2013, 131st) and starting goaltender Eric Schierhorn.
As usual, the Gophers have a solid incoming class with the likes of Ryan Lindgren (BOS, 2016, 49th), Rem Pitlick (NAS, 2016, 76th) and Ryan Zuhlsdorf (TB, 2015, 150th) starting their careers in Minneapolis.
3rd in ECAC in 2015-16 – Record: 19-11-4 (Lost in Northeast Regional Semi-Final to Boston College)
Losing the Hobey Baker Award winner is never easy, but the Crimson will look to build off of last year’s momentum and postseason birth. Ryan Donato (BOS, 2014, 56th) will build on his 13 goals and 21 points of a year ago, and Harvard will again use its depth scoring to compete in the ECAC.
Freshman defensemen Adam Fox (CGY, 2016, 66th) and John Marino (EDM, 2015, 154th) start their Harvard careers together this fall. Both are solid all-around blueliners that should blossom with the Crimson.
2nd in the Big Ten in 2015-16 – Record: 25-8-5 (Lost in Midwest Regional Final to North Dakota)
Much like Harvard, Michigan looks for answers after losing Kyle Connor, JT Compher, Tyler Motte, Zach Werenski and Boo Nieves to professional hockey. Rather then rebuild, the Wolverines will reload in 2016-17 with their next wave of stars and a stout incoming recruiting class.
Sophomore’s Cooper Marody (PHI, 2015, 158th) and Brendan Warren (ARI, 2015, 81st) will increase their roles and incoming freshmen Luke Martin (2017 Eligible), William Lockwood (VAN, 2016, 64th) and Jack Lafontaine (CAR, 2016, 75th) could be counted on to produce right when they step on campus.
Be on the lookout for Part Two of this series where we will dig deeper into teams ten through one.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.