This season, the ECAC features 23 NHL prospects. All member schools except St. Lawrence and Union College have at least one prospect on their roster. Harvard leads all conference schools with eight prospects, followed by Cornell with seven, and Clarkson and Colgate with five apiece.
The first installment looks at the six non-Ivy League schools.
Number of NHL prospects: 0
The reigning ECAC regular season champions will look to successfully defend their crown when they open their 2011-12 season on October 8th at Army.
Union College was one of the best stories coming out of ECAC last season. The Dutchmen captured their first-ever ECAC regular season title and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since becoming a D-I program in 1991. This season, Union College will look to build on last season’s success. But since their magical season ended, there have been some changes to the team.
One of the most notable is the departure of head coach Nate Leaman, who left the program to take over the head coaching duties at Providence College. The Dutchmen didn’t have to look far for Leaman’s successor. Associate head coach Rick Bennett has been promoted to head coach.
Union College lost nine players this offseason and nowhere will the losses be felt more than in goal. The team’s top two goaltenders are no longer with the program. The ECAC’s 2010-11 Ken Dryden Award recipient and All-American Keith Kinkaid opted to forego the remainder of his collegiate eligibility to sign with the New Jersey Devils, and backup Corey Millan has graduated.
Kincaid was the backbone of Union College’s stingy defense last season. The Dutchmen allowed 2.10 goals per game, which ranked second in the nation. The 84 total goals that the team allowed were the second fewest nationally. Whether the Dutchmen can match those numbers this season will depend largely on their goaltending.
The Union College goaltending trio will be both young and largely untested. The lone returning netminder is sophomore Troy Grosenick, who appeared in three games, posting one tie. He’ll be challenged by two newcomers in Dillon Pieri and Colin Stevens. As Bennett explains Grosenick may be the experienced one of the three, but the starting job will be wide open.
"I can say that we’re quite happy with these three goalies that we have. Troy hasn’t had a lot of game experience, but he does have a year under his belt, so he knows what is expected. Hopefully Troy will be able to play some games for us. We’re also looking at Dillon and Colin to kind of battle for game time themselves as well."
With the uncertainty in goal, Union College will be looking to their excellent defensive corps that returns nearly intact this season. The ECAC’s top Defensive Defenseman Brock Matheson, who has graduated, is the team’s only loss from the blue line.
Sophomore Mat Bodie returns as the Dutchmen’s top rearguard. The East St. Paul, MB native is coming off of an outstanding freshman year, leading all Union College defensemen in scoring with 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) playing in 40 games. Bodie, who attended the Chicago Blackhawks prospects camp this summer, led the conference with a plus-30 and was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team.
Union College was one of the nation’s most potent offensive teams last season, and nowhere was that more evident than on the man-advantage. The Dutchmen possessed the nation’s best power play that clicked at 29.5 percent. What is truly astounding is the fact that Union College posted at least one power play goal in 31 of their 40 games last season. Overall, the Dutchmen’s offense ranked seventh nationally, averaging 3.60 goals per game.
Despite graduating six forwards, Union College will have some tremendous depth upfront this season.
Among the players leading the Dutchmen’s offensive charge this season is junior Jeremy Welsh. The power forward from Bayfield, ONT finished second on the team with 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 40 games and earned a selection to the All-ECAC Third team. He centered Union College’s explosive top scoring line that also featured returning sophomores Daniel Carr and Josh Jooris. Welsh has attracted considerable NHL interest with his pro-style body (6’3, 215lbs) and exceedingly powerful shot. One team that has taken particular notice is the Chicago Blackhawks, whose prospects camp Welsh attended this past summer.
"Jeremy’s development was going from wing in his freshman year to center, and when you put a guy that is 6’3, 215 pounds at center, it becomes a force because it’s a tough matchup for a lot of teams," Bennett noted of Welsh. "I think that’s what Jeremy provides for us. His skating, which has gotten better with the work that he has done, will add to that. I think he needs to find more consistency. We’re just going to look for Jeremy to really dominate on a nightly basis and I think for him to take that next step that’s what he’s going to have to do."
Joining the returning Dutchmen this season are ten newcomers. As Bennett explains the freshmen will fill a variety of the team’s needs.
"I think we have a little bit of mix. We’re looking at who is going to separate themselves from the others. I think in looking at this class overall, we’re looking to replace what we lost last year and have them play valuable minutes for us."
Number of NHL prospects: 5
The Golden Knights open their 2011-12 season on October 7th facing off against host Alaska-Anchorage in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage.
Few teams in college hockey were as decimated by injuries as Clarkson was last season, so it should come as no surprise that the team struggled to a seventh place finish in the ECAC. The Golden Knights had just three players on their roster last season that played in all 36 games. But with a seemingly healthy and more experienced group returning this season, Clarkson will look to get things back on track.
And they’ll be doing it with a new man behind the bench too.
Casey Jones takes over the Golden Knights head coaching duties this season, replacing the departed George Roll. Jones comes to Clarkson after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Cornell, his alma mater. This will actually be Jones’ second stint with the team having previously served as an assistant coach from 1993-95. He takes over a Golden Knights team that hasn’t posted a winning record since the 2007-08 season.
One of the most pressing issues for Clarkson heading into the season is improving the team defense. The Golden Knights allowed an average of 3.25 goals per game last season, which ranked 44th in the nation. With just two upperclassmen patrolling the blue line this season, it could be quite a challenge.
Four of the seven players that Clarkson lost this offseason were defensemen. Stalwarts Bryan Rufenach, Tom Pizzo and Dan Reed have all graduated. Mark Borowiecki opted to forego his senior year to sign with the Ottawa Senators.
Juniors Nik Pokulok and Andrew Himelson anchor the defensive corps this season. Pokulok posted eight points (four goals, four assists) in 29 games last season. Himelson posted four points (two goals, two assists) in 19 games.
With a youthful blue line this season, the Golden Knights will be relying on their goaltenders to help stabilize things on the back end. Senior Paul Karpowich (STL) returns as Clarkson’s go-to guy between the pipes. The Thunder Bay, ONT native appeared in 35 games last season, posting a 15-18-2 record that included one shutout. Karpowich was one of the nation’s busiest netminders last season. He set a new school for saves in a single season with 1,053. Karpowich has also made great strides in development at Clarkson as well. One notable area is his improved play on his angles. He is much more square to shooters and incoming shots, which has also allowed him to better control his rebounds as well.
With Karpowich seeing the lion’s share of ice time last season, returning junior Cody Rosen (NYI) saw limited time in the backup role. The Kingston, ONT native appeared in three games, posting one loss. Rosen played a grand total of 92:43 minutes last season. Depending on how well Karpowich plays, Rosen may not see much more time this season.
Another area that the Golden Knights will be looking to improve is their offensive production. The team averaged 2.72 goals per game last season, which ranked 33rd nationally. Even worse was the team’s anemic power play, which ranked 55th in the nation, clicking at just 11.8 percent.
In order to improve those numbers this season, Clarkson will need to get a lot more production throughout their lineup. The three other players that the Golden Knights graduated were forwards, including their only ten-plus goal scorers in Brandon De Fazio and Scott Freeman.
One returning forward that Clarkson will look to is sophomore Ben Sexton (BOS). The Kanata, ONT native got off to a terrific start to his collegiate career before injuries took their toll last season, limiting him to just 12 games and eight points (five goals, three assists). If Sexton can stay healthy, he could be among the ECAC’s top point producers at season’s end.
Sexton, in his limited time last season, showed flashes of just how great he could be. He excelled on face-offs and simply made things happen whenever he was on the ice. If he wasn’t dishing a pass to a teammate, he was dishing out the hits to opposing players.
Another returning forward that Clarkson will look to for some added offensive depth is senior Julien Cayer (DET). Like Sexton, Cayer played in an injury-shortened season in 2010-11. The Longueuil, QC native played in 23 games last season, posting eight points (three goals, five assists). Cayer uses his large (6’4, 201lbs) frame along with his strength and reach quite effectively. If he can stay healthy, Cayer could provide not only some good offensive depth for Clarkson, but an excellent net-front presence for the Golden Knights as well.
Clarkson welcomes eight newcomers this season. One player to keep an eye on is defenseman Kevin Tansey. The Hammond, ONT native will be the youngest player on the Clarkson roster this season. He will add size (6’3, 207lbs), muscle, and an outstanding skill set to the Golden Knights blue line this season. Tansey, who was passed over in last June’s Draft, will be eligible again in 2012.
Number of NHL prospects: 5
The Raiders open their 2011-12 season on October 7th facing off against Robert Morris in the Mutual of Omaha Stampede in Omaha, NE.
After finishing the regular season in the conference basement, Colgate advanced to the ECAC tournament semi-finals before their 2010-11 season came to end. The Raiders played some of their best hockey late in the season and hope to build on that coming into this season.
The good news for Colgate coming into the season is that they lost just four players. So this year’s squad will be an experienced one.
Of the Raiders’ four losses, three were to their forward lines. Brian Day and last season’s leading scorer Francois Brisebois have both graduated. Rookie center Anthony Hamburg (MIN) left the team to return to the USHL and could potentially return to Colgate next fall.
Senior Austin Smith (DAL) returns this season as the Raiders’ top scorer. The Dallas, TX native finished second on the team with 31 points (ten goals, 21 assists) in 41 games. Smith was Colgate’s best and most consistent player last season, playing in all situations. He was also the Raiders’ top player on face-offs as well. Since arriving at Colgate, Smith has progressed quite nicely in his development too. His outstanding vision and reads on developing plays have allowed him to find open spaces and utilize them to his advantage. And that has created many scoring opportunities for both him and his teammates.
Smith leads a Raiders team that averaged just 2.39 goals per game last season, which ranked 39th in the nation. He is also one of just two returning players that posted ten or more goals as well. So increasing point production throughout their lineup will be vital to Colgate’s success this season.
Another returning player that the Raiders will look to for stepped up offensive production is sophomore Chris Wagner (ANA). The power forward from Walpole, MA led Colgate in rookie scoring last season with 19 points (nine goals, ten assists) in 41 games. Wagner brought a strong, physical presence to the team last season. And as he continues to add strength to his 6’1, 190 pound frame, he will become a more dominating player that will be tougher to go up against. One particular area where Wagner was quite effective last season was around the net.
The area where the Raiders struggled mightily last season was on the defensive side. Colgate’s defense ranked 46th in the nation last season, allowing an average of 3.38 goals per game. The 142 goals that they allowed were the most in the ECAC.
Equally poor was the Raiders penalty-killing, which ranked 49th in the nation with a 78.6 percent efficiency rating.
Those numbers should improve this season with the team’s defensive corps returning nearly intact and all of their netminders returning. The lone defensive lost was of defenseman Wade Poplawski, who graduated.
One of the players anchoring the Colgate defense this season is senior Corbin McPherson (NJ). The Folsom, CA native posted ten points (four goals, six assists) in 41 games last season. McPherson, who will serve as one of the team’s tri-captains this season, was a part of the Raiders’ outstanding defensive pairing that included returning junior Nathan Sinz. McPherson has made some good strides in development too. One notable area is his puck-handling. McPherson is showing more patience with the puck and making crisper passes. But one area that continues to be of concern is his footwork.
Junior Jeremy Price (VAN) returns as the Raiders’ top scoring rearguard. He led the team in defenseman scoring with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) playing in all 42 games. The Milton, ONT native has been a mainstay on the Colgate power play and it is one of the areas that he’s been the most effective and productive. While Price has developed well in a number of areas, the one that remains a concern is his decision-making in when to join the rush.
Colgate returns all three netminders from last season. After seeing spot duty in the first half, sophomore Eric Mihalik emerged as the go-to guy in the second half. The Avon Lake, OH native posted an 8-15-2 record in 25 games that included a .903 save percentage. This past summer, Mihalik attended the Philadelphia Flyers prospects camp.
The Raiders have five new additions to their squad this season and two to keep an eye on are John Lidgett and Joe Wilson. Lidgett is a 5’9, 180 pound winger noted for his great offensive instincts and quickness. Wilson is a 5’10, 185 pound winger noted for his excellent vision and scoring ability. Both players will some very good depth and can help boost the team’s offensive production as well.
Number of NHL prospects: 2
The Bobcats open their 2011-12 season on October 7th at Ohio State.
After an inconsistent first half last season, Quinnipiac really picked up their play in the latter half. The Bobcats finished the second half of the 2010-11 campaign going 6-6-7 in their last 19 games, advancing to the ECAC quarterfinals. This season, Quinnipiac will look to better that.
As good as the Bobcats were in the latter half of last season, they looked to be even better heading into this season. Quinnipiac graduated just four players and will return a squad that is very experienced.
One area that was a real problem for the Bobcats last season was offensive production. Quinnipiac averaged 2.44 goals per game, which ranked 46th in the nation. Their 95 total goals were the fewest among all the non-Ivy League teams in the ECAC. The Bobcats also struggled mightily on the power play, which ranked 50th in the nation clicking at just 14 percent.
This season, those numbers should significantly improve with the return all of their forwards, including senior captain Scott Zurevinski and sophomore Kellen Jones (EDM).
Zurevinski led Quinnipiac with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) playing in all 39 games last season. The Saskatoon, SK native played much of the season on the Bobcats’ dynamic top line that included returning sophomore twins Connor and Kellen Jones.
Zurevinski is a player to watch this season. He has size (6’3, 215lbs), excellent vision and thinks the game exceedingly well. He is also dangerous around the net. And it these attributes that have garnered Zurevinski a ton of NHL interest. At the end of last season, he was offered a contract by the Vancouver Canucks. Later in the summer, he attended the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ prospect camp. With the potential to be among the top scoring players in the ECAC this season, Zurevinski is almost certain to be one of the most highly-sought after collegiate free agents available come spring.
"We’ve got pro scouts at every game watching Scott," said head coach Rand Pecknold. "He’s a 6’3, 215 pound power forward that does a great job of finishing his checks. He has great net-front presence and is a well-rounded player. I think at times last year Scott struggled because he was putting so much pressure on himself and kind of got outside of his elements. We got him back to being what he is late in the year and he was just absolutely excellent. I know that he went to the Penguins camp and from what I’ve been told by some of their coaches and scouts, Scott had a great camp. They just loved him. I think Scott has all the tools to hopefully one day play in the NHL."
Zurevinski’s linemate, Kellen Jones made quite a splash as a freshman last season. The Montrose, BC native finished fourth on the team with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 38 games last season. He was especially good on the Bobcats power play. Of his eight goals, six came on the man-advantage, which led the team. This season, Quinnipiac is expecting bigger and better things from the talented young winger.
"Kellen has a great motor," Pecknold said of Jones. "He just goes and goes. His compete level is off the charts and his brother is the same way. I think Kellen and Connor both had great freshman years, but I think at times when they struggled a little bit, it was just a confidence issue. Kellen has gotten bigger, stronger and faster since he’s been here and has just become a much better athlete. I think Kellen as well as Connor are both poised to have great years for us."
One area where the Bobcats really excelled last season was on defense. Quinnipiac allowed an average of 2.62 goals per game, which ranked 20th in the nation. And with the Bobcats’ back end returning nearly intact this season, those number may get even better.
Quinnipiac returns two of their three netminders from last season, including junior Eric Hartzell. The White Bear Lake, MN native was excellent between the pipes, posting a 12-6-5 record that included three shutouts. His .927 save percentage ranked fifth in the nation, while his 2.22 goals against average ranked 15th.
Junior Loren Barron returns as the team’s top rearguard. The Glendora, CA native led all Bobcats defensemen with 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in 38 games last season. He also led the team with a plus-17.
Quinnipiac welcomes a small but an outstanding group of newcomers this season, led by Matthew Peca. Peca, a seventh round (201st overall) selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning, is noted for his speed and superb two-way play.
"I think Matt definitely has the potential to be a dynamic player in college hockey," said Pecknold. "He has high-end skating ability, great vision and skill. I think Matt has put on about 11 pounds of muscle in the first month that he’s been here. So he’s gotten a little bit stronger and bigger. Matt is going to get a lot of opportunities, and there won’t be as much pressure on him than there was on Kellen and Connor last year. I think Matt is going to be very good for us."
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Number of NHL prospects: 2
The Engineers open their 2011-12 season on October 7th hosting Minnesota State-Mankato.
RPI is coming off a stellar 2010-11 campaign that saw them advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. This season, the Engineers will look to continue the trend. But with their many key losses in the offseason, that’s going to be a challenging feat to accomplish.
One of RPI’s most significant losses was in goal. Starter Allen York opted to forego his senior year to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Wetaskiwin, AB native was sensational last season, posting an 18-10-3 record that included two shutouts. His 2.11 goals against average ranked ninth in the nation, while his .924 save percentage ranked tenth.
York was also the backbone of one of the country’s best defensive teams last season as well. The Engineers’ seventh-ranked defense allowed an average of 2.37 goals per game last season. The team’s 12th ranked penalty-kill ranked was almost as good with an 84.3 percent efficiency rating.
With the loss of York, junior Bryce Merriam is expected to take over the starting duties. However, a knee problem could keep him out of action to begin the season. He was rock solid as York’s backup last season, posting a 2-2-1 record in seven appearances. And he could potentially be much better in the starting role this season. If Merriam is unable to start the season, newcomer Scott Diebold could be pressed into action.
The other was returning senior Mike Bergin (DAL). The Ottawa, ONT native anchors an RPI blue line that is shaping up to be an excellent one this season. Bergin, who will serve as one of the team’s co-captains this season, finished second among all Engineers defensemen with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 32 games. Bergin was one of RPI’s top defensemen last season, playing in all situations and logged upwards of 25 minutes per game. His physical development since arriving at RPI has greatly enhanced his skating and balance. Bergin is more agile on his skates and his strides are noticeably more powerful.
Junior Nick Bailen returns as RPI’s top scoring defenseman after a fantastic sophomore campaign that saw him post 36 points (eight goals, 28 assists) playing in all 38 games. His 38 points ranked fifth nationally among all defensemen. Bailen capped his stellar sophomore year with a selection to the All-America East Second team and the All-ECAC First team. Since his arrival at RPI, Bailen has established himself as one of the top offensive defenseman in the nation, and that’s not likely to change this season.
Returning sophomore Patrick Koudys could see an expanded role with the Engineers this season. Koudys, a fifth round (147th overall) selection of the Washington Capitals this past June, posted three points (one goal, two assists) in 31 games last season.
Another area where the Engineers suffered some significant losses was to their forward lines. RPI graduated two of their top three scorers from last season, including ECAC Player of the Year Chase Polacek. The Edina, MN was among the nation’s top point producers last season. Polacek led the Engineers with 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) playing in all 38 games last season. His 48 points ranked tied for 15th nationally. Polacek was named a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and selected to the All-America East First team.
Sophomore Brock Higgs returns as the top scoring forward this season. The Kingston, ONT native led all RPI freshmen with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 33 games. He missed six games last season due to a life-threatening neck laceration that occurred back on Dec. 30 at Alabama-Huntsville. Higgs is a player well worth watching this season. He plays in all situations and established himself as a clutch scorer. Higgs was one of RPI’s best players on face-offs last season as well. He’s quick, sees the ice well and possesses some really hands too.
In addition to their returning veterans, the Engineers will have eight newcomers adding to the mix. Two players to keep an eye on are forward Zach Schroeder and defenseman Curtis Leonard.
Schroeder is the younger sibling of former University of Minnesota standout and current Vancouver Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder. The younger Schroeder is noted for his speed, vision and superb puck skills.
Leonard, who was ranked by Central Scouting for last year’s NHL Draft, is a 6’3, 180 pound rearguard that is noted for his toughness and shutdown ability. The Napanee, ONT was passed over in the 2011 Draft, but will be eligible again in 2012.
St. Lawrence University
Number of NHL prospects: 0
The Saints open their 2011-12 season on October 7th hosting Ferris State.
A predominately youthful lineup and lack of scoring depth were two factors that led to St. Lawrence’s 11th place finish in the ECAC in 2010-11. And while the Saints graduated six of their key players from last season, this season’s squad will be experienced and should be better.
Four of the six players that St. Lawrence lost were forwards, including two of their top goal scorers in Aaron Bogosian and Nick Pitsikoulis. But the Saints do return some excellent forwards.
Sophomore Greg Carey returns as St. Lawrence’s top point producer after a sensational freshman campaign leading the team with 40 points (23 goals, 17 assists) playing in all 40 games. His 40 points ranked fifth in the nation among all rookies. The Hamilton, ONT native was one of two freshmen in the ECAC (Princeton’s Andrew Calof was the other) that led their team in scoring last season. Where Carey proved to be especially dangerous was on the power play. Of his 23 goals, 11 came on the man-advantage. He capped the season with a selection on the ECAC All-Rookie team.
Carey played virtually all of last season with returning junior Kyle Flanagan. The local product led St. Lawrence with 23 assists and finished second on the team with 35 points in 39 games. Carey and Flanagan gave the Saints an excellent scoring tandem that leads the St. Lawrence offense this season.
But the Saints will need to get much more offensive production from forwards other than Carey and Flanagan. The two, along with graduates Bogosian and Pitsikoulis, accounted for 60 percent of the team’s goal scoring last season. Furthermore, St. Lawrence averaged 2.52 goals per game last season, which ranked 42nd in the nation. And because the team doesn’t possess many high-end point producers, scoring will have to come by committee if they are to be successful.
Defense looks to be the team’s strongest position heading into the season, despite having graduated Matt Raley and Bob Torney. The Saints defensive corps is led by junior George Hughes. The Westwood, MA native has begun to emerge as one of the best (and probably most underrated) rearguards coming out of the ECAC. He led St. Lawrence in defensemen scoring last season with 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 40 games. Hughes is a player to keep an eye on. He is a superb puck-moving defenseman with size (6’2, 180lbs) and a powerful shot. He also quarterbacks the Saints power play as well. After two outstanding, 20-plus point seasons, Hughes has also gotten some NHL interest as well. One team that has taken particular notice is the Dallas Stars, whose prospects camp Hughes has attended for the last two summers.
"I think having his brother here this year will help George," associate head coach Mike Hurlbut said of Hughes. "After the great freshman that he had, I think George took a little too much responsibility upon himself and put a lot of pressure on himself last year. The second half of the year was when he really starting playing like we expected him to. He does everything well. George will be a leader for us back there this year and we think that he’s going to be one of the best defenseman in our league."
Hughes leads a St. Lawrence defense that struggled last season. The Saints allowed an average of 3.10 goals per game, which ranked 41st in the nation. But with a more experienced group returning, that number should improve this season.
St. Lawrence returns all four of their netminders this season, including sophomore Matt Weninger. The Lethbridge, AB native was brilliant between the pipes last season. He appeared in 28 games, posting a 7-15-3 record that included two shutouts. He also posted a sparkling .913 save percentage as well.
One area where St. Lawrence really shined last season was on special teams. The Saints ranked in the top 20 nationally on both the power play and the penalty kill. Their power play ranked 16th, clicking at 19.9 percent. Their penalty-kill ranked eighth with an 85 percent efficiency rating.
Six newcomers make up St. Lawrence’s freshman class this season. One to keep an eye on is defenseman Nelson Armstrong. The lone new defensive addition for St. Lawrence, Armstrong is a 6’0, 200 pound offensive-minded defenseman that can add some scoring depth from the blue line. A December 1993-born player, Armstrong will also be the youngest player in the NCAA this season and is eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft.
"I think what’s most impressive about Nelson is the physical and mental maturity that he’s showing at such a young age," Hurlbut said of Armstrong. "He’s a great skater and he’s tough. Physically, Nelson looks about 21 or 22 instead of 17. And he’s a big kid too. He likes to join the rush and play physical in his own zone when he has to. Having played just one year of junior hockey, there will be an adjustment period for him, but we’re pretty sure that it’s going to be a short one. We feel that Nelson is going to be an excellent division one hockey player for us and we’re looking forward to watching him over the course of the season."