The CCHA, in its 35th season of play, announced begins the year with several changes made to its playoff format. In this new format, the opening round will feature the bottom eight seeds (based on regular season standings) playing against each other in a three-game series while the top four seeds will receive bys. After this initial elimination round, the remaining four teams (from the eight that played the first weekend) will advance to play the teams receiving bys. The four winners from these contests will once again meet at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to determine the CCHA conference championship via a single elimination tournament.
University of Michigan
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 9)
Last season saw the Wolverines defeat rival Ohio State in the CCHA Super Six finals. Michigan will again look to flex their muscle and retain their position as the top team in the CCHA
The Wolverines begin their 84th season of play with contests against Quinnipiac, Boston College and Merrimack before starting the CCHA regular season against Michigan State on October 22nd.
They are without several key players from last season, including goaltender Al Montoya (NYR) and forwards Eric Nystrom (CAL), Jeff Tambellini (LA) and Mike Brown (VAN), all of whom have signed professional contracts. Michigan will also be without scoring forward Milan Gajic due to graduation.
With 11 players signing letters of intent to play with the Wolverines in 2005-06, Michigan is poised once again for another run at both the CCHA and NCAA championship. Among the most notable of these 11 incoming freshman are defenseman Jack Johnson (CAR) and forward Andrew Cogliano (EDM), both of whom were taken in the first round of the 2005 NHL draft, with Johnson being the third pick overall.
Michigan’s offensive prowess should be able to cover for any potential goaltending inadequacies. Michigan’s offense, lead by T.J. Hensick’s (COL) 55 points in 39 games, features experience and scoring touch through all four lines and returns such players as Brandon Kaleniecki and captain Andrew Ebbett. Also joining the waves of Wolverine forwards will be freshman center Zac Macvoy. Michigan’s already stalwart defense should be bolstered by the arrival of Johnson. Matt Hunwick (BOS) will likely be the lynch pin on the blue line, while towering Tim Cook (OTT) will look to continue his solid play from last season. Swingman David Rohlfs (EDM) returns to the mix as do Chad Kolarik (PHO), Kevin Porter (PHO) and Jason Bailey (ANA).
There is no reason to believe that Michigan cannot repeat last season’s numbers where they ranked first in the CCHA for goals scored and fourth in goals against. Michigan’s goaltending, while of some concern, should not keep them from being atop the standings once again. Senior Noah Ruden will get a long look at tender as will junior Mike Mayhew and freshman Billy Sauer. If any of these players can fill even one of Montoya’s skates, it bodes well for fans of Michigan hockey.
Ohio State University
(Number of drafted NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 5)
The 2005-06 season brings to the table a chance for the Buckeyes to once again show why they made it all the way to the CCHA Super Six in 2005. Last season saw the Buckeyes lose to Michigan in the championship game of the CCHA Super Six, and OSU is still seething from the loss to their archrivals from Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes will open the season with a pair of games against Colorado College. These games will prepare the Buckeyes for their upcoming CCHA campaign, which sees the Bucks facing the BGSU Falcons in a home and home series on Oct. 20 and 21.
The Buckeyes will be without the services of JB Bittner (graduation) as well as Thomas Welsh and hulking forward Lee Spector.
Ohio State retains much of the core that lead them to the CCHA championship game in 2004-05. The team is centered around sophomore forward Tom Fritsche (COL) as well as goalies Dave Caruso and Ian Keserich (COL). Fritsche has garnered much praise, all while representing team USA in international action. Fritsche will be joined on offense by Rod Pelley, who was second on the team in points last season, standout sophmore Dominic Maiani and Matt McIlvane (OTT). Senior Nate Guenin (NYR) will look to bring his physical game to the defensive end again after posting 136 PIM last season. Also keep an eye on blueliner Tyson Strachan (CAR).
The Buckeyes appear to be set in goal, with senior Dave Caruso battling sophomore Ian Keserich (COL) for the meaningful minutes. Caruso’s CCHA and NCAA playoff performance last season will likely lead to his starting the season as the go-to netminder for the Buckeyes.
Much with Michigan, Ohio State once again begins the season with their eyes set on the CCHA championship. The Buckeyes are perennial contenders and this season should be no different for the team from Columbus.
Northern Michigan University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 11)
The Wildcats of Northern Michigan were a team that caught many others in the CCHA by surprise last season. They finished third in the conference and seemed to be a legitimate threat to win the CCHA championship, finishing the season with the fewest number of goals allowed.
The Wildcats hope to build upon the success of 2004-05 when they open the 2005-06 campaign against York University. The Wildcats open CCHA play against in-state rivals Lake Superior State on October 28th.
Perhaps the most glaring subtraction to the Wildcats’ roster is the loss of goalie Tuomas Tarkki. Tarkki was instrumental for NMU, leading the CCHA in GAA and in shutouts. While some portion of this can be attributed to NMU’s smothering defense, a good share of the accolades go to Tarkki himself. NMU will also be without the services of forwards Kevin Gardner and Alan Swanson.
The coaching staff at NMU also saw assistant coach Dave Shyiak leave to coach at Alaska-Anchorage. John Olver, formerly of the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL, was tabbed as a replacement for Shyiak.
The Wildcats return several players who shall help greatly with the continuity of the club. Forward Darin Olver (NYR), son of coach John, led the CCHA in assists last season and similar production will again be expected. Andrew Contois, Mike Santorelli (NSH) and Dirk Southern (ANA) should help shoulder the offensive load for NMU while Nathan Oystrick (ATL) will lead NMU’s staunch defensive unit.
Aiding these players will also be defensemen Geoff Waugh (DAL) Zach Tarkir (NJ) and Spencer Dillon (FLA) as well as forwards Patrick Murphy (EDM), Dusty Collins (TB), Andrew Sarauer (VAN) and Matt Siddall (ATL). While Northern does retain a large portion of their roster, which was so successful last season, there simply is no replacing Tuomas Tarkki. Bill Zaniboni is most likely to get the nod at goaltender, having played in eight games in 2004-05.
Northern, like many teams in the CCHA, will be searching for an identity in net. This identity will ultimately determine the success of the season for the Wildcats. Considering they have 11 NHL prospects to their roster, they should make the top four of the CCHA and receive a first round by in the tournament.
University of Nebraska-Omaha
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 2)
The 2004-05 season saw the Mavericks coming in a very respectable fourth in the CCHA standings. Their season ended on a sour note, a 5-0 thumping at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans in the CCHA Super Six.
The Mavs open the 2005-06 campaign by hosting the Army/Mutual of Omaha Stampede tournament. CCHA play begins against Miami (OH) on Oct. 21. UNO will start the season looking to make up for the loss against MSU and to once again be a force in the CCHA.
The Mavs will have to accomplish this feat without goaltender Chris Holt (NYR) who left the team to sign a contract with the Rangers. Holt was instrumental in helping UNO climb eight positions in the standings from the 2003-04 season, despite not having the numbers of some of his goaltending peers. The Mavs will also be without Dan Hacker, Brett Davisand Anthony Adams, all of whom graduated following the 2004-05 season.
Leading the charge offensively for the Mavs in 2005-06 will be juniors Kaleb Betts (NSH) and Scott Parse (LA) as well as sophomore Bill Thomas. Parse finished the 2004-05 season fourth in points, scoring 49 points (19 goals and 30 assists) in 39 games. Both players will be counted on to continue their successes of last season, and UNO’s season ultimately depends on their ability to provide the scoring punch. The goaltenders of the Mavericks are young and inexperienced, featuring sophomore Eric Aarnio and freshmen Jared Kauffmann and Greg Barrett.
The Maverick defense is more by committee than one that features many star players. UNO’s strength is clearly their offense, finishing second only to mighty Michigan in goals scored in 2004-05. On the other hand, UNO’s defense allowed the sixth-most goals in the entire CCHA, good for middle of the pack. If UNO is to again be successful this season, the entire team needs to commit to playing defense in front of whichever goaltender the Mavericks choose.
Bowling Green State University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 1)
The 2004-05 season was a tremendous time of ups and downs for a young Falcon team. The team was forced to come to grips with senior goaltender and tri-captain Jordan Sigalet (BOS) disclosure that he was suffering from MS as well as the early season suspension of several upperclassmen. Remarkably, the Falcons were able to play through this adversity and earn their first home playoff series in nearly ten years.
The summer before the 2005-06 season saw both the graduation of Jordan Sigalet but also the surprise signing of Sigalet’s younger brother, Jonathon Sigalet (BOS). Jonathon, a 2005 pick, was thought by many to not be ready for the jump to the pros, but it is apparent the Bruins thought otherwise.
Losing the two Sigalets means that Bowling Green lost arguably their two best players from 2004-05. Jordan Sigalet was once again near the top in all goaltending categories in the CCHA, despite playing for the modestly successful Falcons while his younger brother was easily Bowling Green’s most reliable defenseman.
Looking to pick up the slack will be sophomore forwards Jonathon Matsumoto and Alex Foster as well as freshman forwards Todd McIlrath and Brandon Svendsen. The Falcon’s offense runs through Matsumoto and he should once again be instrumental on the power play as he was in 2004-05. The Falcon defense, while talented, won’t overwhelm anyone with physical play, especially against CCHA teams who can boast a hoard of 6’0+ forwards.
The biggest question mark for the Falcons will be in net. Incumbent Jon Horrell appears to be tabbed for the backup role behind freshman Jimmy Spratt (CAL). Should Spratt falter, Horrell appears poised to take the reins as he had to do on occasion in 2004-05.
Like most teams in the CCHA, their success in 2005-06 depends heavily on their ability to make up for their lost players. BGSU should theoretically make the top-six in the CCHA, and appear to be at best a long shot for a top-four spot.
Michigan State University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 8)
The Michigan State Spartans had a disappointing 2004-05 season. The Spartans lost to UAF in the CCHA consolation game 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit after finishing fifth in the regular season. While fourth in the CCHA tournament is indeed respectable, the Spartans are a team that pride themselves on perpetually being on the top of the CCHA every season.
2005-06 offers the Spartans a chance to reassert themselves as a power in the CCHA. They will flex their muscles in the preseason Lefty McFadden Tournament in Dayton, OH. The Spartans play a game against North Dakota which should prove as a good measuring stick for the rest of the season for MSU. MSU plays their first CCHA game against archrival Michigan on Oct. 22.
The Spartans will be without the services of Jim Slater (ATL) who signed with the Thrashers over the summer. Slater’s departure leaves a massive void to fill as he was fifth in points in the CCHA. Luckily for the Spartans, they return several key players at forward. Among these players are Jim McKenzie (OTT), Colton Fretter (ATL), Drew Miller (ANA) and David Booth (FLA).
Among the fresh faces added to the Spartan lineup are a trio of highly-touted freshmen in forwards Justin Abdelkader (DET), Tim Crowder (PIT) and Tim Kennedy (BUF). These three freshmen will be looking to impress their respective teams while chipping in for the Spartan offence.
The Spartan defense should also be fairly strong in front of goaltender Dominic Vicari. Built around rangy senior defenseman Corey Potter (NYR) the Spartan defense is strong and powerful enough to keep the forwards of the CCHA away from the crease. Vicari is a more than capable goaltender, and the Spartan defense should aid his cause greatly. Also of note is freshman netminder Jeff Lerg, the top goalie in the USHL last season who should see some time in net this season.
Unlike many teams in the CCHA, the Spartans seem to have maintained a remarkable amount of continuity on their team while still adding to their talent. The Spartans will once again be in the CCHA tournament at the Joe and they should feel confident in their chances for a CCHA title.
Miami University (Ohio)
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 6)
In 2004-05 the Miami Red Hawks were once again victim to unpredictable world that is CCHA hockey. The Red Hawks finished the season in seventh position in the CCHA and were later bounced from the CCHA tournament by eventual fourth place finishers MSU.
Miami will play in the Lefty McFadden tournament (along CCHA foe Michigan State) in Dayton and will begin CCHA play on Oct. 21 when they journey to Omaha to take on the Mavericks of UNO.
Miami, despite not having any statistical leaders in the CCHA are a team to be reckoned with, especially in special teams situations. The Red Hawks were fourth in both power play percentage and penalty kill percentage. This speaks to the team game that the Red Hawks pride themselves on. The Hawks will have to continue on without goaltender Brandon Crawford-West (PIT), who left the team and is turning pro.
Although they play the consummate team game, the Red Hawks are not without their stars. Forwards Marty Guerin (LA) and Matt Christie (ANA) will again shoulder much of the offensive burden as they look to improve upon their point-per-game pace of 2004-05. They will be joined up front by forwards Joe Cooper (OTT), Ryan Jones (MIN), Nathan Davis (CHI) and Justin Mercier (COL), who will all see significant ice time for the Hawks in 2005-06.
The Red Hawk defense and goaltending situation is as set as any other CCHA team, although that isn’t saying much. The Red Hawks feature high-scoring defensemen Andy Greene and Matt Ganzak, who were first and sixth respectively in defensive scoring in the CCHA while still boasting a fair number of players to play the stay-at-home defensive game. Goaltending duties will likely fall on the shoulders of Charlie Effinger or freshman Jeff Zatkoff.
Miami remains a team with the ability to beat anyone on any given night. If given a shot to advance in the tournament, the Red Hawks are a dark horse candidate to pull off an upset. Their chance at a championship appears slim, but they cannot be overlooked as a potential Cinderella team.
University of Alaska-Fairbanks
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 1)
The Nanooks will open their 2005-06 regular season on Oct. 14 when they travel to Mariucci Arena to face off against host Minnesota. The meeting will feature former Nanooks head coach Don Lucia facing his former players who make up the current Alaska-Fairbanks coaching staff.
“I’m more excited than anything. It’s an opportunity for us coaches to play against someone who has coached all of us here at Alaska-Fairbanks as well as being able to play against one of, if not the top team in the country,” said head coach Tavis MacMillan in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future.
If there was one team that thrived with the exuberance of youth last season, it was Alaska-Fairbanks. The Nanooks became one of the best stories to emerge from the CCHA Super Six as the team capped their 2004-05 campaign with the best finish in the program’s history with a third place (post-season) finish in the CCHA. This season the still youthful Nanooks are hoping to pick up right where they left off. Twenty of Alaska-Fairbanks’ 26 players this season are underclassmen.
The biggest reason behind Alaska-Fairbanks success last season was the sensational performance of goaltender Wylie Rogers. The homegrown Rogers finished his outstanding rookie campaign with a 15-12-4 record that included three shutouts. He had backstopped the Nanooks to post-season wins over Bowling Green, Northern Michigan and Michigan State respectively. He earned numerous accolades including a selection to the CCHA Super Six All-Tournament team and the CCHA All-Rookie Team. He was also named the recipient of Alaska-Fairbanks’ Steve Moria Award as the Nanooks team MVP.
The Nanooks lost Ryan Comeau and Keith Bartusch this offseason. Comeau left Alaska-Fairbanks for the University of Alberta (CIS). Bartusch has graduated but hasn’t left Alaska-Fairbanks as he became the newest addition to the Nanooks coaching staff during the offseason. This season Alaska-Fairbanks welcomes two newcomers including Chad Johnson. The Calgary native comes to Alaska-Fairbanks from Brooks (AJHL), where he amassed a 25-16-2 record. He is likely to back up Rogers this season. Johnson brings some solid fundamentals and poise to his position.
In addition to the losses in goal, the Nanooks also lost quality three defensemen in Cramer Hickey, Corbin Schmidt and T. J. Petersson, but see the return of top-flight junior defenseman Jordan Hendry. Hendry’s season came to an abrupt end very early last year due to a knee injury. This season he returns to serve as one of the team’s tri-captains as well as bring some strong leadership and stability to the Nanooks defensive corps. “Jordan’s our best player and he’s a dynamite player. Having his presence around will be huge for our program,” said McMillan.
Along with Hendry and the other returning defensemen, the Nanooks welcome three newcomers to their defensive corps, most notably Tyler Eckford (NJ) and Steve Vanoosten. Eckford is a converted defenseman that was selected by the New Jersey Devils in 2004 (seventh round, 217th overall).
“Tyler is a very, very special player. He skates very well, can really move the puck and has good vision. He’s a kid that can really help us,” said MacMillan of Eckford.
The Langley, BC native comes to Alaska-Fairbanks from South Surrey (BCHL), where he led all BCHL defensemen in scoring with 65 points (22 goals, 43 assists) in 60 appearances. Vanoosten comes Alaska-Fairbanks from Williams Lake (BCHL), where he amassed 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) in 60 appearances. Both players bring two qualities that MacMillan seeks from his defensemen this season – mobility and the ability to the move with the puck.
Despite the loss of four solid players, including the always dependable team captain Jared Sylvestre, the Nanooks return a very formidable group up front this season led by the talented yet diverse quartet of senior Kelly Czuy, junior Curtis Fraser and sophomores Ryan MacLeod and Kyle Greentree.
The skilled Czuy, the lone senior on the team, finished last season third on the team with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) playing in all 37 games. Fraser, another of Alaska-Fairbanks’ tri-captains, has become one of the Nanooks most reliable players and a force on the team’s power play. He finished second on team with 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists). His 17 goals led the Nanooks. MacLeod and Greentree along with fellow sophomore Ryan Muspratt made up one of the CCHA’s most exciting line combinations to watch last season. The trio combined great offensive ability with some hard-hitting intensity. MacLeod finished fifth on the team in scoring with 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists). Greentree led Alaska-Fairbanks in scoring with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists).
Lake Superior State University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)
The Lakers finished the 2004-05 season ninth in the 12-team CCHA, racking up eight wins in 28 games played. LSSU fans saw the Lakers take UNO to overtime in the second game of the first round series against the Mavericks only to see the Lakers go on to lose 4-3 in overtime. The Lakers finished near the bottom in most statistical categories, including 11th in goals scored. The Lakers learned the tough way that a team cannot win when they cannot score. The most telling statistic perhaps is that the Lakers gave up the most shots in the entire CCHA, besting the second place team by nearly 60 shots.
The 2005-06 season will, once again, not be a walk in the park for Lake Superior. The Lakers begin the CCHA season against fellow cellar-dweller Ferris State on October 21st. The Lakers will hope that 2005-06 will be a season of more goals for and fewer goals against if they hope to be competitive.
The Lakers’ lone bright spot from last season, goaltender Jeff Jakaitis, will return for his junior year. Jakaitis was often the finger plugging the holes in a porous LSSU defense. His performance in last year’s CCHA playoffs was a testament to his confidence under fire.
The key to LSSU’s success (or failure) this season depends on their ability to play solid defense in front of Jakaitis. No player on LSSU scored more than 20 points in 2004-05, though Jon Booras will look to add to his modest totals of last year. Senior defensemen Eric Hill, Ren Fauci, and Alex Dunn will look to provide the blueline presence that LSSU so sorely lacked last year.
2005-06 looks to be another rough season for the Lakers. LSSU could potentially pull off an upset in a first round match, but this would require to Lakers to play both better defense and better offense, something they didn’t show the ability to do last season.
Ferris State University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 2)
Ferris State University finished the 2004-05 regular season with a paltry seven wins in 28 games. The Bulldogs seemed poised to atone for this when they took perennial powerhouse Ohio State to three games (including overtime in the deciding game) in the in opening round of the CCHA playoffs. If anything this demonstrates the potential for any team in the CCHA to beat any other team, and this should give Ferris reason to hope for 2005-06.
The Bulldogs will start the season for the preseason Army/Mutual of Omaha Stampede tournament, playing against New Hampshire. CCHA play for the Bulldogs begins on Oct. 21 as they travel to Sault St. Marie to take on the Lakers of Lake Superior State.
The Bulldogs glut at goaltender should be made clearer if sophomore goaltender Derek MacIntyre (SJ) plays well early in the season. He will be challenged for a starting spot by senior Tom Mueller and freshman Mitch O’Keefe.
The offense of the Bulldogs will be without 40-point scorers Derek Nesbitt and Jeff Legue. Their offensive flair will sorely be missed by Ferris, though FSU does still retain the ability to play with any team offensively in the CCHA.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will welcome towering Chris Zarb (PHI) into the fold. The 6’4 freshman, while still thin for his height, clearly possesses the imposing frame and ability that has made him appealing to the scouting staff of the Flyers. Zarb will likely see significant minutes on the blue line for the Bulldogs who are very aware that they have a very talented player on their hands.
Ferris should battle it out among the lower tier teams in the CCHA again in 2005-06, and a repeat performance of last year’s playoffs can very well be expected. Ferris made other teams take note in the playoffs last season and should again serve as a reminder that there are no free passes in the CCHA.
Western Michigan University
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 2)
The Broncos of Western Michigan finished the 2004-05 regular season tied with Ferris for 10th place in the CCHA. While clearly a disappointing season for the Bronco’s, perhaps the greatest disappointment came at the hands of Northern Michigan, who, despite being third overall in the CCHA allowed the Broncos to take them to a decisive game three in first round CCHA action.
Despite losing, their performance under the pressure of the playoffs should give the Broncos some hope for 2005-06. The Broncos begin the CCHA campaign against Ohio State on Oct. 28. This game should provide the Broncos with a measuring stick to see just how they stack up against a tough CCHA opponent.
The Broncos will feature center around Brent Walton, arguably one of the most exciting players in the CCHA. Walton racked up an impressive 50 points, good for third in the CCHA. Walton will again be playing up front with Minnesota transfer Mike Erickson (MIN) and incoming freshman Matt Clackson (PHI). Clackson, a seventh round pick in 2005, will be given a chance to show Philadelphia what he can do as Western again battles through the CCHA regular season.
Daniel Bellissimo will again see most of the time in net, having started 35 games as a freshman in 2004-05. Bellissimo was second in the CCHA in saves last season, though this was likely due to the nightly shelling he took as goalie for a bottom-feeding team.
Western is a team that seemingly has some tools in place to be a legitimate contender in the CCHA, though their defense is incredibly porous. No matter how many goals Walton and company score, Western will only go as far as their defensive game can take them.
University of Notre Dame
(Number of NHL drafted prospects on 2005-06 roster: 4)
2004-05 can only be described as embarrassing for the team from South Bend. The Irish finished with a whopping three wins in 28 games and finished dead last in the CCHA. To make matters worse, the Irish were throttled by the University of Michigan in two games that saw the Wolverines score 11 goals to Notre Dame’s one.
It doesn’t appear that it will be much easier for the beleaguered Irish. They open the season with two games in Colorado against Colorado College and the University of Denver. The Irish begin CCHA play against rival Michigan on Nov. 4.
The Irish bring in two new coaches in Paul Pooley and Andy Slaggert, hoping that some of the problems of 2004-05 can be rectified with fresh faces behind the bench.
The Irish will be without the services of goaltender Morgan Cey (TB) who graduated and moved on to sign a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Irish bring in a bevy of freshmen, hoping to improve their fortunes in the future. Among the players committed to the Irish are defensemen Kyle Lawson (CAR), who will begin play in 2006-07 and also a number of talented freshmen for the 2005-06 season, including forwards Erik Condra, Christian Hanson and Garret Regan. Joining the new faces up front is towering defenseman Jamie Silverson.
Up front, the Irish feature the duo of Mike Walsh (NYR) and Victor Oreskovich (COL). While it is always expected that players will continue their development and continue to improve, vast gains need to be made by both of these players for the Irish to be successful.
It is perhaps most telling of the Irish that defenseman Wes O’Neill (NYI) was the second highest scorer on the team. O’Neill will again be forced to try and do everything for the Irish who have little help for him on the blue line. O’Neill will look to turn more heads in the CCHA as he fills in his lanky frame and learns to play a two-way game at the college level.
It is likely that whoever starts in goal for the Irish will have a rough go of it, and at this point it seems the man tabbed for the job will be David Brown (PIT). Brown played in 15 games last season as a sophomore and will likely play near 30 in 2005-06.
Notre Dame does not appear to have made the necessary strides to change their fortunes of last season, and it seemingly will take a miracle for the Irish to advance any further than two games into the tournament.
The University of Alaska-Fairbanks preview was written by DJ Powers. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.