Minnesota currently has four prospects playing in the NCAA this season. Three of the four prospects are straddling the blue line for a team that sits in the nation’s top 10. The lone forward finds himself and his team ranked 15th.
Anthony Aiello, D
Boston College Eagles
Acquired: 5th round, 129th overall, 2005
After a solid junior season that saw Aiello finish with 13 points and a +14 rating, his numbers have been down this season. Aiello has only played 14 out of a possible 23 games for Boston College and seen his plus/minus sink to -1 this season. He has recently even been a healthy scratch. Aiello has halved his point production, going from to .30 points per game last season to .07 with only one assist in 14 games. Aiello will need to turn things around.
Aiello, along with three other Eagles defensemen, is in his senior year and was expected to be a steady presence on the point this season. But he brought his smooth skating ability, soft hands and 6’1, 195-pound frame to the wing for two games this season as well. Aiello didn’t produce any points while playing forward this season, but did show the diversity he has in his game.
Where Aiello heads after this season, his senior year, will depend greatly on him finding his game again. Aiello has only produced modest numbers at the college ranks; this is not the type of production scouts had anticipated from the offensive-minded defenseman.
Kyle Medvec, D
University of Vermont Catamounts
Acquired: 4th round, 102 overall, 2006
Medvec is one of the behemoths on the Catamounts blue line. The 6’6, 205-pound native of Westminster Colorado is in his second season with the Catamounts, and it’s going well, as the team sits seventh in the national standings.
Medvec is sitting between third and fifth on the depth chart and seeing more ice time because of it. Despite the increase in playing time and Medvec’s solid two-way ability, his offensive numbers have only improved modestly; last season he posted five points and is on pace to reach only about 10 this season, with four in 24 games currently. Medvec’s modest increase in offensive output shouldn’t be a cause of great concern; he, like all the Catamount defensemen, has seen very limited time the on power play since the Catamounts opted for a power play unit of all forwards. The five-forward power play has helped the Catamounts produce the nation’s fourth-best power-play percentage.
Medvec’s prospects for making the Wild someday are dependent on his ability to fill out his 6’6 frame and become a physical presence on the ice. He spent the majority of last summer working on his strength and conditioning, which has helped him become a more confident physical competitor, as is shown in his increase in penalty minutes.
A prospect with the excellent skating ability, two-way dependability and physical potential that Medvec has, certainly has the opportunity to make the NHL one day.
Sean Lorenz, D
University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Acquired: 4th round, 115 overall, 2008
A stay-at-homer who skates well and makes good passes out of his zone, this is the template of a typical Jacques Lemaire defenseman. Lorenz is a true freshman for a very strong Fighting Irish team who currently sit atop the national standings. Lorenz started the season as one of three freshmen fighting for a single spot in the Irish defense corps, but he won that battle and has played in all 27 games this season, posting three assists. He won’t be 19 until March.
Lorenz’s transition to the university ranks has been made much easier due to the excellent depth on the Irish blueline. Three Irish rear guards have posted double digits in points this season, and no player, forwards included, has a minus rating. Lorenz has a great opportunity to work on the little things that will help him develop into a complete two-way defenseman.
A number of the Irish regulars on the blueline may be in their final years with the team. Senior Luke Lucyk is in his final year of eligibility for college hockey; sophomore Ian Cole (STL) should be ready to make the jump to the pro ranks; and junior Kyle Lawson is inching his way up the Hurricanes prospect chart. Look for Lorenz to work hard to get rid of any kinks in his game this season, add more size in the off season and become the shut-down guy on the Irish blueline next season. Depending on how Lorenz handles the shutdown role in the university ranks, his presence in the pro ranks may come in the not too distant future.
Chris Hickey, F
University of Wisconsin Badgers
Acquired: 7th round, 190 overall, 2006
Hickey is fighting for ice time as one of four freshmen on the Badgers roster this season. But unlike the others, who are having successful seasons and seeing regular shifts, Hickey has not found himself a regular spot in the lineup.
Hickey has only suited up in eight of a possible 26 games this season; in those games, he has seen very little ice time. His stats show his lack of ice time; in his eight games played he has only managed one goal, a -2 rating and four penalty minutes.
Looking ahead to next season, life won’t be getting any easier. Out of the 16 forwards on the Badgers roster, 14 are eligible to return. Many of the players returning next season are of the core group that provides the offensive punch and defensive stability for the Badgers. Hickey will need to do everything he can during the remainder of this season and in camp next season to show he is the Badgers’ shut-down guy.
One positive that can salvage this season for Hickey is the 10 pounds he put on over the summer. Hickey is going to need to continue to grow faster and stronger to become an elite checking line forward. Checking will need to be Hickey’s forte as it was never envisioned that he would be a major contributor on offense.