Thursday, October 1, 2015

Season Preview Part II: The Forwards

A couple nights ago, we began our season previews by looking at BC's defensive core. Tonight, we will look at the forward corps. I will be splitting this into two sections of it's own for time's sake.

The 2015-16 edition of the Eagles will feature, in my opinion, the best forward grouping of the Coach York era. Led by returnees Alex Tuch, Adam Gilmour, Zach Sanford, and a terrific freshmen class, BC will look to rebuild an offense that took a step back last season after the departures of G, Kevin Hayes, and Bill Arnold the year before. Boston College returns 6 of it's top 7 seven scorers from a season ago and they will lead college hockey with 10 NHL draft picks on the front end. A year ago, BC was a whopping 7th in Hockey East when it came to goals per game (2.82) but I would be shocked if they didn't increase that number by a full point over the course of the 2015-16 season.

Alex Tuch- I almost fell off the roof of my house when I saw that College Hockey News did not have Tuch on either their first or second team. Outside of NU's Kevin Roy, there may be no one more talented in the entire league when it comes to pure puck skills. I expect the staff to match Tuch with freshman Jeremy Bracco and Zach Sanford which is as deadly a combination as you can possibly get in the college game these days. #12 will obviously see time on the first power play unit, it just remains to be seen who joins him there. The staff used him to kill penalties at times last year but I don't expect that to be the case all that often this year because three of the four freshmen will probably get more PK time than expected. Obviously I am biased, but I think the Baldwinsville, New York native has a shot to bring home the Hobey Baker award, especially considering the amount of skill he will have surrounding him.

Zach Sanford- Before his arrival, the Pinkerton, New Hampshire native was expected to come in and hopefully contribute offensively but nobody thought he would have the season he had in 14-15. Like his classmate Tuch, I think Sanford will benefit greatly from a deeper lineup with more skill to help offset everyones strengths and weaknesses. We know how good Sanford and Jeremy Bracco are with the puck on their sticks and if you mix that in with Tuch's shot, the results could be devastating. I could tell that the enormous amount of minutes Zach was getting took a toll in the Vermont series and subsequent Denver game. Teams went after him all the time. This year, he doesn't have to go up against opponents' top defensive pairing every single shift because the staff can just throw out one of BC's other top lines.  I think #24 will be on the first power play unit along with being one of the top penalty killers on the squad. A tall task? Sure, but after the surprise he pulled a season ago, I would not be surprised to see Zach as one of the top scorers in college hockey.

Jeremy Bracco- As far as I am concerned, no forward has arrived at BC with as much hype surrounding him as Bracco has. When a kid goes out and breaks NTDP records set by Pat Kane and Phil Kessel, you know he has got to be pretty, pretty good. My expectation is that the Long Island native will come in and play top minutes right off the bat, something that is very rare at BC. How many freshmen have come in here and played first line right away? Tuch and Gionta are the only two I can think of. Kreider didn't, G didn't, Hayes didn't. Anyways, I think Bracco is basically going to run the power play. He might set the BC record for assists in a season along the way. In fact, he was my pick to win Hockey East player of the year. Not one other media type had him on there. Ridiculous.

Ryan Fitzgerald- A fourth round draft pick of his hometown Bruins, Fitzgerald is coming off a season is which he recorded a team high 17 goals. With the infusion of the freshmen class, one would expect Fitz's role to be slightly reduced but he will certainly be cornerstone of BC's second power play unit and perhaps their top penalty killing team. I think he will play second line with Gilmour and White to start things off. Honestly, I think a lot of fans, including myself, are underrating Fitz because he has been the top player out of that junior class throughout his first two years yet not many think he will be a major player in terms of league scoring. This time around, he won't need to carry the load which could be a blessing in disguise for one of BC's best two way forwards.

Colin White- I always get a lot of heat from people who read this thing because supposedly I don't talk enough White compared to his fellow NTDP alum Bracco. The first round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators could very well be a fixture on BC's second power play unit but even if that is not the case, he will get a lot of time on the penalty kill. The Hanover native and Nobles product will be one of the Eagles' top two way players. With all the weapons up front, maybe it will take some time for Colin to get used to playing a bit of a secondary role but after a few months, he will be one of the top players on this club.

Austin Cangelosi- In hockey, it is hard to pick out "key players" on any team but for me, Cangelosi is the X factor this year's BC team. I believe he was dragged down by having to play with slower players a season ago because he might be the fastest guy in the entire league. Pair him up with a guy like Miles Wood who can also fly, then you've got two players that could really compliment each other. I read some of these message boards and see that fans are ready to give up on #26, who at the time, was a huge commitment for the staff. I am not one of those people. I think the Estero, Florida native will be the biggest surprise out of anybody in that locker room. Cango just needs to be with guys that can put the puck in the net and keep up with his speed. With the addition of the new freshmen class, that is a distinct possibility.

Miles Wood- The only freshman in the entire country to make the US World Jr team a season ago comes to the Heights after a terrific stint at Nobles. I've always thought he plays a lot like Chris Kreider, he's big, he's got a terrific stride, possesses a shot could kill somebody, and sometimes gets a bit fired up and takes a few penalties here and there. I think the staff should put him on the point on the first power play unit, something he did during his time at Nobles, but the odds of that happening are slim. Of course, the biggest question mark for me is how will he make the adjustment from playing against high schoolers to top level division one players? Guys like Bracco, White, Casey Fitz, and Brown have all played against older kids in the USHL but Miles never got a chance to do that, in fact he was the oldest guy in the ISL. Personally, I don't think he will have any issues adjusting after a few games but who knows what will happen.

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