As the students arrive back at school, it is time to start the season previews here on the blog. I'll start with some quick, simple predictions for the season and will take BC out of the equations until the end where I make predictions for the postseason.
Best Opponent- Lowell. About 99 out of 100 times, the answer for this question would be a team other than Lowell but this year the Riverhawks return most of their star power up front and on defense. With reigning Hockey East Rookie of the Year (I know it's laughable) Scott Wilson and captain Riley Wetmore both returning for the Hawks along with star defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, the Riverhawks are primed to make a run for a Hockey East title and a second consecutive NCAA appearance.
Best Player- Joey Diamond (Maine). Diamond is the lone returning piece of Maine's "big three" from a season ago but can no doubt be as dominant as Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn evident by his team leading 25 goals from a season ago. Yes, many question whether Diamond can get it done without Flynn and Abbott but if some guys can step up around him, he should be a contender for Hockey East player of the year.
Best Returning Defenseman- Chad Ruhwedel (Lowell). With Tommy Cross, Brian Dumoulin, and Adam Clendening all gone from last season, Chad Ruhwedel is primed to become the top defenseman in Hockey East. Last season, Ruhwedel recorded a team high (for defenseman) 25 points and was also an anchor on defense for the Hawks. Look for Ruhwedel to have a big year for Norm Bazin's team.
Most Improved Team- Providence. With new coach Nate Lehman at the helm, the Friars hockey program seems to be back on the upswing as they bring in a top notch recruiting class this season along with returning some key players like Schaller and Brown. I look for the Friars to be competing for home ice, if not a regular season title, this season.
Team That Will Drop the Most- Boston University. Before last season the Terriers were predicted by some to be the best team in college hockey..well, look where they ended up. This year, BU loses a ton of star power in Chiasson, Clendening, and Connolly along with having to replace goalie Kieran Milan. While they have two good forwards in Megan and Nieto returning, they will need a lot of freshman to step up and be stars..doesn't work too often in this league.
Team that will be a tough out this year- Northeastern. Yes, the Huskies do lose a lot of good forwards and defenseman but they also return a good nucleus of players along with a solid recruiting class headed by Kevin Roy. The Eagles have to play two games at Matthews this season (including the season opener) and that is never an easy W.
Team that will struggle the most this season- Vermont. You have to feel for Kevin Sneddon and his staff. First, Sebastian Stalberg bolts Burlington, then highly touted recruit Zemgus Girgensons, and finally senior Matt Marshall bolts to Northeastern. Also, Sneddon lost his whole staff. Not shaping up to be a good year up in Burlington.
Team that Will Hold the Lamorilleo Trophy when it's all said and done- People will try to tell you why they won't win it and crap like that but let's face it...BC owns this league.
Hockey East teams that will make the NCAA's- BC, Lowell, and UNH.