2013-14 ECAC season preview, part 2: The Ivy League

By DJ Powers
Ken Agostino - Yale University

Photo: Yale forward and Calgary Flames prospect Ken Agostino celebrated a National Championship back in April. Yale will begin their title defense this evening as their 2013-14 season gets underway at the Liberty Hockey Invitational (courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

Part 2 of the Hockey’s Future ECAC season preview takes a look at the six Ivy League teams. This season, the Ivy League features 22 NHL prospects representing four of the six member schools. Harvard leads with nine prospects, followed by Cornell with seven. Dartmouth and Princeton are the two Ivy League teams that do not have a prospect on their roster this season.

Yale University
NHL prospects: 5

The reigning national champions will look to defend their crown when they open their 2013-14 season on Oct. 25th versus Brown in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

Yale was the best story coming out of the NCAA Tournament last spring. After nearly missing the tournament altogether, the Bulldogs made a successful run to capture their first-ever national championship. While Yale is poised to make a strong run for the ECAC title and returns most of last year’s team this season, they also lost some key players that have left some significant holes that will need to be filled.

The greatest loss is in goal. The Bulldogs graduated two of their three netminders in starter Jeff Malcolm as well as Nick Maricic. Junior Connor Wilson, the lone returning goaltender, appeared in just five games last season, posting an 0-3-0 record. Wilson will get some competition for the starting job this season from two talented newcomers in Alex Lyon and Patrick Spano.

With the uncertainty in goal to begin the season, Yale will be looking to their excellent veteran defensive corps to stabilize things on the back end. With the exception of graduate Colin Dueck, the Bulldogs return all of their top defensemen this season.

Leading the group are senior Gus Young (COL) and sophomore Rob O’Gara (BOS). The two defensive partners comprised one of the ECAC’s best blueline tandems last season. Young is coming off of an outstanding junior campaign where he posted nine points (two goals, seven assists) and co-led the Bulldogs with 58 penalty minutes. One notable area where Young has made great developmental strides has been on the offensive side. While he’ll likely never become a prolific point producer, Young has shown that he can chip in offensively. He possesses greater accuracy in his shots and can get pucks to the net more often.

O’Gara is coming off of a terrific freshman campaign where he posted seven points (all assists). The Nesconset, NY native uses his 6’4”, 205-pound frame and long reach very effectively in taking away time and space as well as being a physical presence on the blueline. And as he continues to add strength, those attributes will become more pronounced.  One notable area where O’Gara continually improved last season was in his smarter decisions with the puck.

Another area where Yale suffered some key losses was up front. The Bulldogs graduated two of their top scorers in Antoine Laganiere as well as All-American and Ivy League Player of the Year Andrew Miller. The two players signed with the Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers respectively this past spring. The losses of Laganiere and Miller will be especially felt on the power-play, where the duo combined for 13 of Yale’s 35 power-play tallies last season. While those losses along with that of graduate Josh Balch are significant, the Bulldogs forward lines are shaping up to be deep and very good this season.

Leading Yale’s offensive attack are seniors Kenny Agostino (CGY) and Jesse Root. Agostino was offered a pro contract in the offseason, but opted to return to New Haven, CT to finish out his collegiate career. The Flanders, NJ native returns as the Bulldogs top scorer after co-leading the team last season with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 37 games en route to earning spots on both the All-ECAC and All-Ivy League second teams. Agostino can simply make things happen whenever he’s on the ice, and nowhere is that more evident than his play in the dirty areas. Agostino does an outstanding job of using his strength effectively in both driving hard to the net and creating space for both himself and his teammates.

Root has emerged as one of Yale’s clutch scorers. The Pittsburgh, PA native is coming off of an excellent junior campaign where he posted 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 34 games. Where Root really made his mark last season was on the power-play. Of his 12 goals, half came on the man-advantage. Part of what has made Root such a valuable player for the Bulldogs is his ability to use his speed and tenacity around the net to create or capitalize on opportunities.

In addition to the returning veterans, Yale also welcomes eight newcomers this season. One that many will be watching is power forward John Hayden (CHI). The center from Greenwich, CT has size (6’3”, 210 lbs.) and is noted for his physicality and play in the dirty areas. Hayden could eventually fill Laganiere’s role for the Bulldogs as his collegiate career progresses.

Brown University
NHL prospects: 1

The Bears open their 2013-14 season on Oct. 25th versus Yale in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

After a slow start last season, Brown ended their 2012-13 campaign with a strong finish, reaching the ECAC Championship game before falling to Union College. The Bears are shaping up to be quite good and could be a strong contender for the ECAC title this season, but there are several issues that will need to be addressed first.

One of the most pressing is goaltending with starter Anthony Borelli having graduated. The Grand Island, NY native was the backbone of the Bears’ superb defense last season that finished tenth nationally, allowing just 85 total goals. Borelli finished his excellent final season with a 14-9-5 record that included four shutouts in 28 appearances. His performance earned him spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and the All-ECAC Third Team.

Senior Marco De Filippo, who served as Borelli’s backup last season, is the lone returning goaltender for Brown this season. The Auronzo Di Cadore, Italy native actually played quite well, despite posting a 2-5-1 record that included one shutout in 13 appearances. While De Filippo could be named the Bears starter this season, he will also get some competition for the job from two newcomers in Tim Ernst and Tyler Steel.

Defense is shaping up to be Brown’s strongest position this season and the defensive corps will be counted on to help stabilize things on the back end. With the exception of graduate Richie Crowley, the Bears return all of their top defensemen this season.

Anchoring Brown’s blueline this season is senior captain Dennis Robertson (TOR). The Fort St. John, BC native is coming off of a superb junior campaign where he led all Bears rearguards with 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in 36 games en route to earning a spot on the All-Ivy League First Team. Robertson also led the team with 69 penalty minutes and finished third with a +9 rating. One notable aspect in Robertson’s development is how effectively he is able to balance the various aspects of his game. He is equally good at both ends of the ice and combines that with toughness, making him a threat whenever he is on the ice.

Of Brown’s eight newcomers this season, two are defensemen. One to keep an eye on is Tyler Wood. The Manchester, MA native is the son of former NHL forward Randy Wood and older brother of New Jersey Devils prospect and Bears recruit, Miles Wood. Tyler Wood has size (6’3”, 190 lbs.) and is noted for his excellent skating and ability to play both ends of the ice equally well. Wood, who is a 1994-born defenseman, is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Despite graduating four key players up front, Brown’s forward lines are shaping up to be an outstanding group again this season. But, despite their strengths, the Bears will need to find a way to generate more offensive production throughout their lineup. Brown’s offense finished 40th nationally last season, averaging 2.50 goals per game. Furthermore, the Bears had just one player that netted 10 or more goals.

That player is returning top scoring junior, Matt Lorito. The Oakville, ON native is coming off of a sensational sophomore campaign where he more than doubled his point total from his freshman season two years ago. Lorito posted 37 points (22 goals, 15 assists) in 36 games en route to earning spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and the All-ECAC Second Team. Lorito was especially dangerous on special teams. Of his 22 goals, nine came on special teams – eight on the power-play and one shorthanded. Lorito is a dynamic winger who is quick and knows what to do with the puck when it’s on his stick. Not surprisingly, Lorito has also generated growing NHL interest. Among the teams having taken notice is the Chicago Blackhawks, whose prospect camp Lorito attended this summer.

Another Brown forward that has gotten a lot of NHL interest is returning senior and assistant captain Garnet Hathaway. The Kennebunkport, ME native is coming off of an outstanding junior campaign where he finished third on the team with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) playing in 33 games. Hathaway is a 6’2”, 211-pound power forward who is blossoming into one of Brown’s best defensive players. He plays a hard-nosed style and can be a difficult player to contain. Hathaway uses his size and strength very effectively in the tough areas and is a fierce competitor. Among the NHL teams that have taken notice of Hathaway are the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, whose prospect camps he attended over the summer.

Cornell University
NHL prospects: 7

The Big Red opens their 2013-14 season on Oct. 25th at Nebraska-Omaha.

Cornell struggled mightily in the middle of last season, which in large part led to their disappointing ninth place ECAC finish. While the Big Red are poised to be better this season, they will also have to fill the holes left by seven key graduates and address some issues.

Two of Cornell’s most significant losses were that of defensemen Nick D’Agostino (PIT) and Braden Birch. D’Agostino finished second on the team in defensive scoring with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 34 games. Birch posted four points (two goals, two assists) in 34 games. While D’Agostino and Birch will be missed, the Big Red’s blueline is shaping up to be quite good this season. It’s also going to be big, as well, with six of the nine defensemen being 6’0” or taller.

Among those anchoring Cornell’s defense this season are junior Joakim Ryan (SJS) and sophomore Reece Willcox (PHI). Ryan is coming off of an excellent season where he led the Big Red in defensive scoring with 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 34 games en route to earning a spot on the All-Ivy League Second Team. Ryan, who is an offensive defenseman, has made great strides in his development on the defensive side in areas such as better gap control and taking away lanes.

Willcox is coming off of an outstanding rookie campaign where he played in all 34 games and posted five points (all assists). At 6’4” and 193 pounds, he is one of the biggest rearguards on the Cornell roster. The Surrey, BC native plays a simple yet effective game primarily as a defensive defenseman. Willcox uses his size and long reach well in taking away time and space, and as he strengthens his large frame he’ll become a more dominant force in shutting down opposing players.

Senior assistant captain Andy Iles returns as the Big Red’s go-to guy between the pipes this season. He is also the lone returning netminder. The local product finished his junior campaign last season posting a 15-16-3 record that included two shutouts in 34 games. Iles was one of three ECAC netminders and the only one from the Ivy League that appeared in all of his team’s games. Competing with Iles for playing time this season are newcomers Ryan Coon and Mitch Gilliam.

Of the four forwards that Cornell graduated, the most notable was Greg Miller. The Toronto, ON native led the Big Red last season with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 33 games. Miller was among the nation’s best defensive forwards. Not surprisingly, he was named the ECAC’s top defensive forward last season. Miller also earned spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and the All-ECAC Third Team.

While Miller’s loss is significant, the Big Red’s forward lines are shaping up to be deep and very good this season. However, Cornell will also be looking to get increased offensive production throughout their forward lines. The Big Red’s offense finished 42nd nationally last season, averaging 2.44 goals per game.

Leading Cornell’s offensive attack this season are junior linemates Brian Ferlin (BOS) and Joel Lowry (LAK). The duo, along with Miller, comprised one of the ECAC’s best lines last season.

Ferlin returns as the Big Red’s top scorer after a terrific sophomore campaign where he posted 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 34 games. He also finished second on the Cornell roster with a +10. One notable aspect in Ferlin’s development last season was how he utilized his strengthened 6’2”, 201-pound frame. His play along the walls was stronger and he was able to gain and maintain better positioning around the net.

Lowry returns as the Big Red’s top goal scorer after finishing his excellent sophomore campaign with 12 goals and 23 points playing in 23 games. Where the Calgary, AB native really made his mark last season was on the power-play. Of his 12 goals, four came with the man-advantage. Like Ferlin, Lowry’s added strength has also enhanced parts of his game. One notable area has been in his skating. Lowry’s footwork has greatly improved and he has also added some quickness.

In addition to the returning veterans, Cornell also welcomes ten newcomers this season. One that many will be keeping an eye on is Matt Buckles. The Toronto, ON native is a 6’2”, 205-pound center noted for his pro shot, speed and goal-scoring ability. Buckles holds the distinction of being the first Cornellian to be selected by the Florida Panthers in the NHL Draft.

Dartmouth College
NHL prospects: 0

The Big Green opens their 2013-14 season on Oct. 25th versus Princeton in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

After a strong start last season, Dartmouth ended up finished tied for fifth in the ECAC. This season, Dartmouth is poised to make a strong push for the ECAC title with a veteran team returning and relatively few offseason losses.

Most of the losses that Dartmouth suffered were among their forwards, most notably Matt Lindblad and Dustin Walsh. Lindblad, who opted to forego his senior year to sign with the Boston Bruins, finished second on the team with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games. Walsh, a now-former Montreal Canadiens prospect, finished third with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 29 games. While the losses of Lindblad and Walsh are significant, the Big Green forward lines are shaping up to be even better and deeper this season, and should be one of the team’s strengths.

Leading the Big Green up front this season is junior captain Tyler Sikura. The Aurora, ON native is coming off of a terrific sophomore campaign where he led Dartmouth with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 34 games en route to earning a spot on the All-Ivy League First Team. Sikura is a smart 6’2”, 190-pound center who is equally adept at setting up and finishing plays. He possesses good speed and utilizes it exceedingly well in transition and in creating plays. Not surprisingly, Sikura has already caught the attention of several NHL teams, including the Winnipeg Jets, whose prospect camp he attended this summer. Barring any setbacks and given his size and superb skill package, Sikura could be among the most coveted free agents available at season’s end. As head coach Bob Gaudet explains, Sikura also embodies what Dartmouth hockey is all about.

“Tyler encompasses everything that we hold dear as a team in terms of standards,” said Gaudet. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. He’s very, very skilled and creative and he’s a selfless guy. Tyler is just the embodiment of what we want in our leadership. He’s a great representative of our program. Tyler is continually getting better. He plays in all situations and he’s our top-line center, so he takes lots of key draws. Above all, we can rely on Tyler. I think the best is ahead of him.”

Another key loss that Dartmouth suffered was on the blueline with the graduation of stalwart Mike Keenan. The Weymouth, MA was the Big Green’s best defenseman last season. He finished his final year leading all Dartmouth defensemen with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 34 games. His excellent season earned him numerous honors including spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and the All-ECAC Second Team.

Anchoring the Big Green’s defense this season is senior assistant captain Taylor Boldt. The Niwot, CO native is coming off of an excellent junior campaign where he posted five points (all assists) in 32 games. Boldt is a 5’11”, 190-pound defensive defenseman who is reliable and plays a smart game. There’s nothing flashy about his play and he’s a player that simply goes out and gets the job done. While Boldt isn’t big, he is strong and uses his strength exceedingly well in controlling his gaps and limiting available time and space.

In addition to the forward lines, another of Dartmouth’s strengths this season is in goal. The Big Green returns all three of their netminders in senior Cab Morris and sophomores Charles Grant and James Kruger. Morris and Grant split time in all of the games and played equally well. Morris posted an 8-7-3 record that included one shutout in 19 appearances, while Grant posted a 7-7-2 record that included one shutout in 16 appearances. Kruger appeared in one game in relief.

In addition to the returning veterans, Dartmouth also welcomes five newcomers this season. One to keep an eye on is 5’10”, 175-pound winger Troy Crema. The Toronto, ON native is noted for his superb point producing ability and will add depth to the Big Green’s already-deep forward lines. Crema, who is one of the youngest players in the NCAA this season, is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. Gaudet notes that Crema possesses many qualities that could make him very successful.

“I’ve been really impressed with Troy so far,” stated Gaudet. “He’s a smallish forward with really good hockey sense and speed that is also very tenacious.  And I like all of those elements. I think Troy is going to be one of the guys that will get after the puck and make some plays for us.”

Harvard University
NHL prospects: 9

The Crimson opens their 2013-14 season on Oct. 26th versus Bentley.

The 2012-13 campaign proved to be quite a difficult one for Harvard. The Crimson dealt with a myriad of injuries that was compounded by four players who were “removed” from the roster last December stemming from an academic scandal. In addition, the team struggled mightily at mid-season.

With a new season about to begin, Harvard is shaping up to be a much better team. The four players removed last season have all been reinstated and the team adds a superb incoming class, but there are still several issues and some significant holes to fill this season, as well.

The most significant losses were among their forward lines. Of the six players that the Crimson graduated, four were forwards in Alex Fallstrom (BOS), Luke Grenier, Marshall Everson and Conor Morrison. The quartet combined for 41% of the team’s goals and 32% of the team’s total points that will need to be replaced this season.

Leading Harvard’s offensive attack this season is sophomore Jimmy Vesey (NSH). The North Reading, MA native is coming off of a sensational freshman campaign where he co-led the Crimson with 11 goals and finished third with 18 points in 27 games last season. Vesey’s outstanding season earned him numerous honors including the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a selection to the ECAC All-Rookie Team. As head coach Ted Donato explains, Vesey is also developing into a more rounded player that can help the team in many ways.

“This summer, Jimmy put in a great deal off the ice,” said Donato. “We feel that he’s more physically and mentally ready now than he was coming into last year. The all-around commitment that Jimmy has shown to be able to be used in all situations is something he really developed last year. He has started to become a 200-foot player. Jimmy has a knack for scoring and that’s something we’re excited about, but we’re also excited about how he can help us in all facets of the game, too.”

Six of Harvard’s nine newcomers this season are forwards. One that many will be watching is Alex Kerfoot (NJD). The West Vancouver, BC native is one of two NHL-drafted freshmen on the Crimson’s roster this season. Donato notes that Kerfoot is a freshman who could become an immediate impact player for his team.

“Alex is a dynamic offensive player with great speed'” Donato said of his prized freshman. “He distributes the puck well and is a guy that can play in all situations. We feel that Alex has the chance to be a high impact player for us right away. Alex is a part of an offensive (incoming) group that we feel has a chance to be very special and be an essential part of our team.”

The other two players that Harvard graduated were defensemen, including Danny Biega (CAR). The Montreal, QC native led all Crimson rearguards with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 32 games last season and was the glue that held the Harvard defense together. While Biega’s loss is significant, the Crimson blueline is shaping up to be an outstanding one this season.

Among the returning veterans leading Harvard’s defensive corps is junior Patrick McNally (VAN). The Cumberland, ME native was one of the four players removed last season. Prior to his removal, McNally played in seven games and posted three points (one goal, two assists). Donato notes that his young defenseman could be among the nation’s best this season.

“Patrick had an outstanding freshman year and was off to a good start last year'” stated Donato. “I feel that he has improved greatly and will be a guy that will be one of the top ten defensemen in the country this year. We feel that Patrick is ready to step in and be a real impact player every night.”

The only position Harvard returns intact this season is in goal. Senior Raphael Girard is coming off of an outstanding junior campaign as the Crimson’s starter, posting an 8-18-3 record that included two shutouts. Reinstated junior Steve Michalek (MIN) and sophomore Peter Traber will be competing with Girard for the starting job that looks to be a fascinating competition to watch.

One of the main areas that the Crimson will look to better this season is their defense. Harvard finished 49th nationally last season, allowing an average of 3.16 goals per game. Even worse was the team’s penalty kill. Harvard finished 55th nationally and at the bottom of the ECAC with a penalty kill that clicked at just 12.5%.

Princeton University
NHL prospects: 0

The Tigers open their 2013-14 season on Oct. 25th versus Dartmouth in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

Princeton finished tied for seventh in the ECAC last season in large part due to the rash of injuries that plagued the team. The Tigers head into the season with many of their top players returning. But Princeton also suffered some key losses and has other issues that will need to be addressed if they hope to make a serious run for the ECAC title.

One position where the Tigers suffered two of their most notable losses was on the blueline with stalwart defensemen Michael Sdao (OTT) and Eric Meland having graduated. Sdao led the team in defensive scoring with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 31 games and earned a spot on the All-Ivy League First Team. Meland finished behind Sdao with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 25 games. Despite losing Sdao and Meland, Princeton’s blueline is shaping up to be quite good with a nice mix of veterans and some promising newcomers.

Among those anchoring the Tigers blueline this season is junior Tom Kroshus. The Calgary, AB native is coming off of an outstanding sophomore campaign where he posted nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 26 games. Kroshus is a 6’1”, 190-pound puck-moving defenseman who possesses a good stick and utilizes it effectively in stripping pucks from opposing players.

Of the eight newcomers on Princeton’s roster this season, four are defensemen. One intriguing rearguard to watch is Marlon Sabo. The Surrey, BC native brings size (6’4”, 210 lbs.) and toughness to the Tigers blueline. Sabo, a 1994-born defenseman, is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Another position where Princeton saw a significant loss was in goal with starter Mike Condon (MTL) having graduated. The Needham, MA native finished his outstanding final season with an 8-14-4 record that included two shutouts in 24 appearances. Condon also earned a spot on the All-Ivy League Second Team.

Condon’s potential successor this season is senior Sean Bonar. The Delta, BC native served as Condon’s backup last season, posting a 2-5-1 record in 11 appearances. Despite seeing limited time, Bonar actually played quite well. He’s a 6’1”, 175-pound butterfly-style goaltender with athleticism who does a very good job of controlling rebounds. Competing with Bonar for playing time this season are newcomer Colton Phinney and junior Ryan Benitez.

The forward lines are shaping up to be Princeton’s strength this season. While the Tigers graduated Rob Kleebaum, Will MacDonald and James Kerr, nearly all of their top forwards return this season. But Princeton will need to generate more offense, not only throughout their forward lines, but throughout their lineup as well.

The Tigers offense finished 49th nationally last season averaging 2.32 goals per game. The 72 total goals that Princeton scored were the fewest among all ECAC teams. Furthermore, the Tigers had just one player that posted 10 or more goals last season.

That player is returning top scoring senior, Andrew Calof. The Nepean, ON native led the Tigers in scoring for the third consecutive season. He finished his stellar junior campaign with 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 31 games. Calof is the motor that drives Princeton's offense. He’s dynamic, smart and can make his teammates better. What Calof lacks in size (5’10”, 175 lbs.), he makes up for with his speed, elusiveness and tenacity in battles for the puck. Although Calof didn’t attend any NHL prospect camps this summer, he is still very much on the NHL radar. And barring a significant setback, Calof could be among the most highly sought-after free agents available at season’s end.

One returning veteran poised to have an excellent season is sophomore Mike Ambrosia. The Chatham, NJ native is coming off of a terrific but injury-ravaged freshman campaign where he posted 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 21 games. Ambrosia is another of Princeton’s small (5’10”, 180 lbs.) yet speedy forwards. He made his mark last season on the power-play, where four of his six tallies were scored. Ambrosia had a strong showing at the New Jersey Devils prospect camp over the summer. That experience, along with staying healthy, could go a long way in helping not only his development but the success of the Tigers, as well.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF