Lightning NCAA prospects season review

By DJ Powers

P.J. Atherton, D
Junior, University of Minnesota

The Golden Gophers’ stay-at-home junior defenseman became one of Minnesota’s best comeback stories this year. After academic eligibility issues forced him to miss nearly the entire first half of the season, Atherton came back with a renewed sense of hope and direction both on the ice and more importantly off the ice. Atherton’s greatest challenge, which actually began last spring, took place off the ice when he was forced to face his mother’s battle with cancer. When he returned to the Golden Gophers lineup in December, Atherton made his impact immediate and noticeable. He notched an assist and was a +2 in his first game of the season back on December 22nd versus Merrimack in the Dodge Holiday Classic. Atherton finished the season with four points (two goals, two assists) playing in 17 games. His best outing of the season came back on January 14th versus Minnesota State-Mankato, where he tallied a goal in the Golden Gophers’ wild 9-6 win over the Mavericks.

The greatest improvement to Atherton’s game this season has been his tireless work ethic and tremendous focus both on the ice and in the classroom. Despite playing in a shortened season, Atherton added solid depth to an already outstanding Minnesota defensive corps.

Dusty Collins, RW
Sophomore, Northern Michigan University

The imposing sophomore forward saw limited playing time for much of the first half of the season. It was in the latter half of the season when Collins made his impact felt. He finished the season with three points (two goals, one assist) in 25 appearances. All of his points came in the final two weekends of the regular season. Collins’ best outing came back on March 4th versus Lake Superior State where he notched a goal and tallied four shots. He saw much of his playing time this season on the Wildcats’ fourth line with junior Matt Ciancio and freshman Clayton Lainsbury.

While Collins has yet to significantly show his offensive abilities at Northern Michigan, he has continued his development as a hard-working, hard-hitting forward. Barring injury, Collins could see more ice time and an expanded role on the team this fall.

Art Femenella, D
Sophomore, University of Vermont

The towering sophomore made his presence felt on the ice in the 21 games that he played in for Vermont, despite not registering a single point. Femenella’s versatility enabled the Catamounts to use him both as a forward and as a defenseman this season. As a forward, the 6’7 Femenella was utilized on Vermont’s imposing checking line playing alongside the 6’5 Matt Syroczynski and 6’0 Chris Smart. He is a player who uses his enormous size to great advantage, particularly in the area of physical play.

Femenella enjoyed his best performances during the first half of the season. Inconsistency plagued much of his second half appearances. If Femenella can improve in that area, he can become a more effective (and intimidating) player for the Vermont Catamounts when they move to the Hockey East conference this fall.

Brady Greco, D
Junior, Colorado College

The talented two-way junior defenseman enjoyed a very good yet shortened season for Colorado College this year, helping the Tigers to reach the Frozen Four. Like the 2003-04 season, Greco had injury issues to contend with in 2004-05. He suffered a hip pointer back on December 5th versus Minnesota that forced him out of the lineup for seven games. His superb offensive skills coupled with a rash of injuries that hit the team’s forwards saw Greco also spend time at the left wing position back in late January.

Greco finished the season with six points (four goals, two assists) playing in 25 games. One of Greco’s most memorable outings of the season came back on February 19th where he notched the game-winner in Colorado College’s crucial 2-1 win over Wisconsin.

Mike Lundin, D
Sophomore, University of Maine

The fluid-skating sophomore continues to be one of Maine’s most reliable defensemen. One interesting note about Lundin this season is the fact that he was one of the least penalized players in the NCAA. He notched a grand total of two penalty minutes in 40 games this season. He was one of only three Black Bears players to have played in every game this season. In addition, Lundin is also one of Maine’s “iron men”, having appeared in 84 consecutive games since his collegiate career began last season.

Lundin finished his sophomore campaign with 14 points (1 goal, 13 assists). His best performance of the season came back on October 16th versus non-conference rival Niagara, where he notched three assists to help lead Maine to a 6-2 victory. His lone goal of the season came back on January 28th in Maine’s 1-0 victory over conference rival Northeastern.

Jay Rosehill, D
Freshman, University of Minnesota-Duluth

The strapping freshman defenseman enjoyed an outstanding rookie season with Minnesota-Duluth by being arguably the team’s most intimidating presence. Rosehill finished the season with five points (all assists) playing in 34 games for the Bulldogs. Not surprisingly, he led the team in penalty minutes with 103. He notched his first career point back on October 8th versus Notre Dame.

Rosehill’s greatest assets are his size, strength and punishing physical style. He is never one to back down from challenge and delivers bone-jarring hits as often as the opportunities present themselves. He’s a solid defensive defenseman that progressed quite nicely over the course of his freshman campaign. Rosehill’s season performance was recently recognized when he, along with fellow freshman defenseman and NHL prospect Travis Gawryletz (PHI), became the co-recipients of Minnesota-Duluth’s Most Improved Player Award.

Matt Smaby, D
Sophomore, University of North Dakota

The bruising defenseman had a rather uneventful start to his sophomore campaign, but as the season went on his overall play improved dramatically. Smaby’s improved play, particularly in the second half of the season was key in helping to lead the North Dakota Fighting Sioux all the way to the NCAA National Championship game. Smaby appeared in 44 of 45 games for UND this season, posting three points (one goal, three assists) and ranks second on the team in penalty minutes with 86. The lone game he missed this season was back on January 14th versus Colorado College. Smaby’s best outing of the season came back on October 22nd versus Minnesota, where he tallied two assists and was a +2 in North Dakota’s 4-2 victory. His lone goal of the season came back on November 26th versus Michigan Tech.

While Smaby isn’t likely to become much of an offensive threat, he is a constant defensive threat, shutting down opposing players with solid positional play and hard-hitting style. There has been some speculation that Tampa Bay could sign the sophomore defenseman before the start of the 2005-06 season.

John Toffey, C
Junior, University of Massachusetts

The UMass Minutemen utilized the athletically gifted junior forward as a support player this season. Toffey played in 20 games and notched one assist this season, seeing ice time primarily on the Minutemen’s fourth line. His lone point of the season came back on November 14th in the Minutemen’s 6-1 win over non-conference rival Mercyhurst. Toffey, who is also an accomplished football and baseball player (he was also drafted by the Colorado Rockies back in 2001) has good size and uses his body quite well along the boards. While he’s not known to be overly physical, Toffey can finish his checks and is not afraid to mix it up with opposing players.

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