I'm not ready to give out some lineup predictions because I believe the staff is still trying to insert certain guys at different positions. I am however ready to start talking about expectations for the guys on this team. Remember, the team goals never change. 1. Beat BU 2. Win the Beanpot 3. Win a National Title but the goals for each member of the team changes from year to year. Let's take a look at some lineup talk.
Let me start out by saying that this could be, talent wise, the staff's best recruiting class and the nicest part about it is that all three guys are a little bit different. Zachary Sanford is the first big time recruit that they had play one extra year in the USHL, which allowed him to gain another year of experience, work on his skills, and most importantly, add some age to what will be a very young forward core. Alex Tuch is a 6'3 giant that is one of the smartest players, hockey IQ wise, the staff has brought in since, well, a long time. He will undoubtedly play a role on either one of the top two lines and the second power play unit (maybe first if he really stands out early). I don't need to talk about Noah Hanifin, you know how I feel about him.
If we are comparing this group of forwards to years past, especially 2010, 2011, or 2012, then of course, it is a very shallow group with not much veteran experience on the top end. On the other hand, the 2010 team had a couple of fourth line seniors that were the hardest working players on the ice game in and game out, making life miserable for an opponent's first line and power play units. I'm not expecting Quinn Smith, Danny Linell, and Mike Sit to go out and suddenly become Brian Gionta, Johnny G, and Nathan Gerbe overnight but there is no reason why they shouldn't contribute in a big way each and every way. When I say "big way" I don't necessarily mean averaging a goal per game (although it would be huge if they could find a way to score every 3.5/4 periods), I mean being one of the top penalty killing units in Hockey East and one of the toughest, grittiest lines that no one wants to play against. If the staff plays them against the Devin Shore's and Jack Eichel's of the world, they're going to give up some points but if they can make each shift the hardest shift of the game for the opposition's top guns, we got a shot.
Obviously the sophomore class is the big key up front. Who was the best player in that class last year (offensively)? Fitzgerald. Who was the most consistent player in that class last year(offensively)? First half it was Cangelosi, second half it was Gilmour. Who made the biggest jump from October to April? Calnan. As you can see, there are a lot of positives to take out of everyones season in 2013-14. It was the #1 ranked class in college hockey for two reasons. First, it was loaded with talent, second it was loaded with depth, something that this year's class doesn't have. A lot of people are betting on Ryan Fitzgerald as BC's "go to" guy this year. I don't think there will be any such thing. I expect Fitz, Gilmour, Cangelosi, and Tuch to be in the 35-40 point range but I don't expect any of them to go north of say, 66 points. I love the fact that no one is talking about Sanford because I think he's got a shot to sneak up and surprise a lot of us. I think it's going to take him a little bit of time to get used to the speed, such as it did in the USHL, but by Beanpot time, he's going to be big weapon.
I think this defense is as good as any defensive core we have seen, not just @ BC, but in college hockey over the past six or seven years (BU's 2009 D core was scary, unfortunately). Obviously, at certain points over his first two years @ BC, Mike Matheson wasn't exceptional in his own end but one of the reasons he wasn't so good in that area is because he isn't a "defensive" defenseman. Is he bad in his own end? No, not at all but he isn't McCoshen or certainly not Santini. That right there is why this team could be so good, each defenseman has qualities the other may not possess. In 2013, we needed Matheson out there literally every shift and in the end, he got tired and wore down. In 2014, McCoshen got banged up and wasn't playing at his highest level, forcing Matheson to play a lot of minutes in March and April, once again wearing him down.
Insert Noah Hanifin.
We've got two predominately offensive defensemen in Savage and Doherty, both of which are more than capable of playing second power play and possibly second penalty killing units, Santini and McCoshen (on a lesser extent) are two guys you can put out there against the best forwards in the country and expect to slow them down, Matheson is a tad bit better in the offensive end but isn't a liability in his own end, and Hanifin is basically a combination of everything you want in a defenseman, I'm not kidding. To be honest, I like Travis Jeke as the 8th guy because two years ago he had to play top five minutes in big times games such as the Hockey East playoffs and NCAA tournament and he basically wasn't ready. Fast forward two years and he's proven both in real games (Pittsburgh tournament) and practice that he can go out there and play minimal minutes.
I have to tell you, I like this team but then again, I like every BC Hockey team. Sure, the names on the back no longer read "Johnny G", "Hayes", or "Arnold" but the lettering on the front is the same as it was when those guys left. It doesn't matter if you're a walk on or a highly touted recruit, when you put on those colors, you're expected to contribute to this program both on the ice and off it. I'm telling you, it's going to be a little bit different, it's probably not going to be six or seven goals per game like we saw at times last year but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is what the scoreboard says. I think this club has a chance to win a lot of hockey games this season if they grow sooner rather than later.