6. Northeastern Huskies
Top Returnees- Vinny Saponari, Garrett Vermeersch, and Ludwig Karlsson
Key Losses- Steve Quailer, Anthony Bitetto, and Justin Daniels.
In his second year behind the bench, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan brings back a wealth of solid forwards, a group that some would argue is as deep as any team in the league. Last year, the Huskies had some great wins over teams like Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Boston University but were not able to play well down the stretch and ended up missing the Hockey East playoffs. With 5 star recruit Kevin Roy headed to NU this season, I think he will add even more skill and talent to an already deep front twelve. However, bad goaltending and inexperienced D could and probably will cost NU a chance at home ice and the NCAA tournament.
7. Massachusetts Minutemen
Top Returnees- Conor Sheary, Mike Pereira, and Joel Hanley
Key Losses- TJ Syner and Danny Hobbs
New coach John Micheletto will learn a lot about his team in a very short amount of time as UMass opens the season with games vs BC, BU, and UNH in the first four weeks of the year. Losing their two best offensive players from a year ago will hurt and the goaltending is still up in the air but if guys like Carzo, Power, and Kiely can step up and score goals, UMass should be headed back to the Hockey East playoffs. I don't see them going much further than that because it's not easy to adjust to a new coach and a new system in this league.
8. Maine Black Bears
Top Returnees- Joey Diamond, Kyle Beattie, and Adam Shemansky.
Key Losses- Spencer Abbott, Matt Flynn, Will O'Neil, and Matt Mangene.
After making it back to the NCAA's a season ago, things are looking bleak this season up in Orono after the Black Bears lost four of their top five scorers (two being defenseman). Joey Diamond was a scoring machine last year but I don't think he will be able to carry this team alone without the help of Abbott and Flynn, both of whom graduated last spring. On defense, Nick Pryor and Mark Nemec will lead an experienced group but up front, freshman Will Merchant and Devin Shore are going to need to step up and score goals immediately in order for this team to have any success.
9. Merrimack College Warriors
Top Returnees- Mike Collins, Jordan Heywood, and Kyle Bigos
Key Losses- Ryan Flanigan, Joe Cannata, and Jesse Todd
No team loses three of their top four scorers, a Hobey Baker type goalie, and doesn't go through a rough patch (unless of course you're BC). The Warriors will struggle to put pucks in the net this season as no one emerges as a "go to guy" that can score on a consistant basis for this team. An experienced defense could help fill the hole left void by Joe Cannata in net but I don't expect the scoring and goaltending to be good enough for the Warriors to make it back to the playoffs.
10. Vermont Catamounts
Top Returnees- Connor Brickley, Kyle Reynolds, and Nick Bruneteau.
Key Losses- Sebastian Stalberg, Drew MacKenzie, and Rob Madore.
Last season was a terrible one to say the least for Kevin Sneddon and his staff. Things were looking a little bit better this season with a strong recruiting class coming in but once Zemgus Girgensons decided against going to UVM, things once again look grim in Catamount Country. If the freshman can step up and guys like Reynolds and Brickley put together stellar seasons, I could see this team making the playoffs but I wouldn't count on it.
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow night.
Hitting the Links-
Until next time,
GO EAGLES !