2012-13 ECAC season preview, part 2

By DJ Powers

Joel Lowry - Cornell University

Photo: Cornell forward and Los Angeles Kings prospect Joel Lowry turned in a productive freshman season for the Big Red in 2011-12 (courtesy of Patrick S Blood/Icon SMI)

In the final NCAA 2012-13 preview installment, Hockey’s Future takes a look at the Ivy League. This season, the Ivy League features 25 NHL prospects representing all six-member schools. Harvard leads with nine prospects, followed by Cornell with eight, and Yale with four.

Cornell University
NHL prospects: 8

The defending Ivy League champions open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 26 hosting Colorado College.

After failing to reach the NCAA Tournament two years ago, Cornell returned to that elite group last season, falling just short of a trip to the Frozen Four. And as good as the Big Red were last season, they could potentially be even better this season.

One reason is the fact that they suffered few off-season losses, although the departures are significant and their roles will need to be filled this season.

Two of the most notable losses were upfront with the graduation of Sean Collins and Locke Jillson. Collins, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, finished second on the team with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) playing in all 35 games. Jillson posted ten points (seven goals, three assists) in 30 games.

Among those leading the Big Red’s offensive attack this season are two 6’2” sophomores in Brian Ferlin (BOS) and Joel Lowry (LAK).

Ferlin, the ECAC and Ivy League Rookie of the Year, enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign despite being limited to 26 games due to injuries. The Jacksonville, FL native posted 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) last season. Ferlin is a winger blessed with terrific puck and stick skills that really excels around the net. He is coming off of a strong showing at the Boston Bruins prospect camp over the summer.

Lowry was another impact rookie for Cornell last season. The Calgary, AB native led the Big Red in rookie scoring with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) playing in all 35 games. Lowry is a winger that thrives in the physical game and has the ability to really wear down opposing defenders. He uses his size and strength quite effectively along the boards and around the net. And as Lowry continues to add to his already-strong 6’2”, 185-pound frame, he will become that much more of a difficult player to contain and defend against.

A strong, talented defense has always been a hallmark of Cornell and this season will be no different. While the Big Red lost stalwarts Sean Whitney and Keir Ross to graduation and underclassman Mathieu Brisson to the QMJHL, they return a back end unit that is among the best in the NCAA.

And it all starts with junior Andy Iles between the pipes.

The Ithaca, NY native was the only netminder in the NCAA last season that played every minute of every game for his team. The 2179:51 minutes Iles played led the Ivy League and were the second most in the ECAC. He finished his sophomore campaign with a 19-9-7 record that included six shutouts. Iles was one of the nation’s most consistent goaltenders last season. What he lacks in size (5’9”, 180 lbs.), Iles makes up for with his tremendous composure and superb athleticism. This summer, he attended the Carolina Hurricanes' prospect camp. Cornell head coach Mike Shafer notes that he is confident that Iles will have no problem carrying the same type of workload this season that he did last season.

“I don’t think that Andy will have any problem handling it again this year. He’s managed the rigors of doing it all by himself last year. He’s just a really committed kid and comes back here in tremendous shape. So we have no question that Andy can handle it both physically and mentally.”

In addition to stellar goaltending, Cornell will also feature an NHL prospect-laden defensive corps this season. Among those anchoring the Big Red’s blueline are seniors Nick D’Agostino (PIT) and Braden Birch (CHI).

D’Agostino has emerged as one of the nation’s top offensive defensemen. The Bolton, ON native led Cornell in defensive scoring last season with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 34 games. Where D’Agostino really made his mark as a junior was on the power-play. Of his eight goals, six came on the man advantage, which also led the team. While D’Agostino is noted for his offensive prowess, it is his much-improved defensive side that is most notable here. His ability to separate opposing players from the puck and his quicker decisions in the defensive zone have made him a more effective defender and a difficult player to play against.

“I thought Nick had a really good year last year, but his offensive production kind of tailed off near the end there” Shafer said of D’Agostino. “He continues to create that transitional offense for us. We’re hoping that Nick can continue that kind of (offensive) production throughout the course of the season.”

Birch could be considered as one of the ECAC’s most underrated defensemen. The Hamilton, ON native posted seven points (one goal, six assists) in 32 games last season. Birch is a defensive defenseman that has begun to really put all of his tools together. The most notable improvement in his development has been in his poise and confidence with the puck. While Birch isn’t likely to become a prolific point producer, he has consistently improved his shooting accuracy and ability to create offensive opportunities.

“I think Braden was one of the top defensive defenseman in our league last year,” Shafer said of Birch. “We’re expecting him to continue to be the steady defenseman that he is who moves pucks quickly. So we’re expecting Braden to have (another) solid campaign for us.”

Another rearguard well worth keeping an eye on this season is Reece Willcox (PHI). The Surrey, BC native is part of Cornell’s excellent five-member freshman class. Willcox has size (6’4”, 193 lbs.) and is noted for his strong two-way play and puck-moving ability.

Brown University
NHL prospects: 1

The Bears open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 26 hosting Princeton in the Ivy Shootout.

Injuries, illnesses, and a predominately young squad were some of the reasons behind Brown’s demise last season as they finished in the ECAC basement. But with a more experienced team returning and few off-season losses, the Bears are poised to be a much-improved team this season.

Brown has several issues to address heading into the season, however, most notably their offense. The Bears averaged just 2.34 goals per game last season, which ranked 49th nationally. The 75 total goals that the team scored were the fewest of any ECAC team. The challenge to boost those numbers this season is compounded by the fact that Brown lost top recruit Kevin Roy (ANA) to Northeastern and graduated two of their top three scorers from last season in Jack MacIellan (NSH) and Bobby Farnham. The duo accounted for 31 percent of the team’s goals.

MacIellan, who signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators, led the Bears in nearly every category. He finished with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 30 games and earned a spot on the All-Ivy League First Team.

Farnham finished third on the team with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 31 games last season. He was named the 2012 recipient of the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, which recognizes the nation’s consummate team player and team builder.

Sophomores Ryan Jacobson and Matt Lorito return as Brown’s top two scorers. Jacobson finished second on the team with 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 32 games. The Greenwood Village, CO native is also the lone returning player that posted ten or more goals last season. Furthermore, he was one of only four players to play in all 32 games. Jacobson, who originally committed to Air Force, is a 6’0”, 188-pound winger that possesses speed and has a real nose for the net.

Lorito is a player that is well worth watching this season. The Oakville, ON native was limited to just 24 games and 17 points (four goals, 12 assists) due to a wrist injury last season. The best way to describe Lorito is as a little ball of energy that is really fun to watch. What he lacks in size (5’9”, 170 lbs.), Lorito makes up for with his tenacity, quickness and slick puck skills. He isn’t afraid to go into and battle in the difficult areas, either. Lorito attended the Chicago Blackhawks' prospect camp this summer.

Another issue that Brown will need to address this season is their goaltending after having lost starter Mike Clemente to graduation. The Great Falls, VA native posted an 8-15-3 record in 27 appearances last season.

Junior Marco De Filippo returns as the only goaltender that played last season. The Auronzo Di Cadore, Italy native appeared in seven games, posting a 1-3-2 record. The other returning neminder, senior Anthony Borelli, did not play last season. Brown has also added practice goaltender Joseph Mello to the roster this season. The biggest thing that the team will be looking for in goal is more consistency throughout the season.

With the uncertainty in goal heading into the season, the Bears will be relying on a very good but predominately young defensive corps to stabilize things on the back end.

Among those leading Brown’s defensive corps are junior Dennis Robertson (TOR) and senior Richie Crowley.

Robertson led Brown in scoring among defensemen last season with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) playing in all 32 games. He also led the team with 72 penalty minutes. Robertson, who will serve as team captain this season, is the lone NHL-drafted player on the Bears roster. Robertson has blossomed into one of the ECAC’s top defensemen and he continues to make great strides in his development. One notable area is how effectively he uses his strengthened 6’1”, 210-pound frame. This is evident in his improved defensive zone positioning and ability to separate the puck from opposing players. Robertson’s noticeably improved defensive side hasn’t come at the expense of his superb offensive abilities, either.

Crowley returns after a rock solid junior campaign, finishing with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 29 games last season. The Canton, MA native is a 6’1”, 195-pound defenseman that plays a simple yet effective defensive game. He also possesses some very good puck-moving ability and is an outstanding skater. Crowley has developed into one of the Bears’ most reliable defensemen that can play in just about any situation.

In addition to the returning veterans, Brown also welcomes six new skaters to the team this season. One player to keep an eye on is forward Joe Prescott. The Norwell, MA native is a 6’2”, 195-pound center that is noted for his great hockey sense and playmaking ability. Prescott, a 1993-born player, is also eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.

Dartmouth College
NHL prospects: 2

The Big Green open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 26 versus Yale in the Ivy Shootout.

Injuries took a heavy toll on Dartmouth last season with only six players playing in all 33 games. But even with their rash of injuries, the Big Green still managed to finish third in the ECAC last season. This season, Dartmouth faces a new challenge with a much younger (and noticeably bigger) squad and the task of filling many holes left by ten graduates.

Two of their losses were in goal with the departures of their top two netminders, James Mello and Jody O’Neill. Mello posted a 6-8-1 record in 17 games, while O’Neill finished with a 4-6-2 record in 13 games. The lone returning netminder, junior Cab Morris, played in six games and finished with a 3-2-1 record. Competing against Morris will be two newcomers in Charles Grant and James Kruger. With all of their netminders standing 6’2” or taller, the Big Green will feature the ECAC’s biggest goaltending unit this season.

Another area where Dartmouth was hit hard by departures was on the blueline. The Big Green graduated four defensemen, including top scoring rearguard Connor Goggin. The Glen Ellyn, IL native posted 17 points (seven goals, ten assists) in 32 games and led the team with 55 penalty minutes last season.

Among those anchoring Dartmouth’s defense this season is junior Taylor Boldt. The Niwot, CO native posted four assists playing in all 33 games last season. Boldt is a player that is well worth watching. Although he’s small (5’11”, 185 lbs.), Boldt’s play isn’t. He’s a player that is always involved and pays great attention to detail. He is an excellent skater that can also move the puck. While Boldt won’t likely produce many points, he does have some offensive ability. Much of what Boldt has achieved has come from hard work and his high compete level. An area where he really excelled last season was on the penalty kill and he has become one of Dartmouth’s best shot-blockers, as well. As head coach Bob Gaudet explains, Boldt is a player that doesn’t always get the credit that he deserves for what he contributes to the team.

“Taylor is a guy that is just a very steady defenseman. He’s smart and seems to make the right play all the time. Taylor is solid defensively and has that ability to make the good first pass. He’s in great physical condition and competes fiercely game in and game out. Taylor does all of those little things that make a huge difference. He’s just one of those unsung, unheralded guys on our team.”

Last season, Dartmouth possessed great depth upfront. And despite having graduated four forwards, the Big Green look to have great depth there again this season.

One returning veteran expected to play a crucial role this season is senior alternate captain Dustin Walsh (MTL). The Shannonville, ON native is probably the nation’s best player, particularly among upperclassmen, whose potential has yet to be fully realized. Throughout his collegiate career thus far, Walsh has been hampered by injuries and last season was no different. He was limited to just eight games and ten points (three goals, seven assists). Walsh possesses many of the attributes that NHL teams look for including size (6’4”, 195 lbs.), great hockey sense and elite level offensive skills. If he can stay healthy, Walsh could potentially be one of the most dominant players not only in the ECAC but in the nation, as well.

“I definitely think Dustin can be one of the best players in college hockey this year if he can stay healthy,” Gaudet said of Walsh. “It’s been a while since he’s been in the rigor of playing games, but he’s healthy now and looks really good. We’re hoping that Dustin will be in our lineup regularly this season and that he can stay healthy. When Dustin played last year, he was really, really good and when wasn’t in our lineup, it did impact our team. He was and still is very reliable, too. He’s one of those guys where the puck just seems to follow him around. He’s got great vision and just a pure offensive mind. Dustin’s been a real plus for us and I think he’s a great prospect for the Montreal Canadiens, too.”

Another veteran to watch this season is junior and alternate captain Eric Robinson. The Foxborough, MA native is coming off of an outstanding sophomore campaign, posting 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) playing in all 33 games. Robinson is a 6’2”, 200-pound power forward that was one of Dartmouth’s most consistent players last season. He thrives in the physical game and can finish his checks. Two of Robinson’s other notable attributes are his strong play along the boards and in the corners, and his ability to cycle the puck. This summer, Robinson attended the Calgary Flames' prospect camp.

In addition to the returning players, the Big Green also welcomes a ten-member freshman class this season. One player to keep an eye on is Nick Bligh. The Milton, MA is among the players that appear on Central Scouting’s Preliminary Watch List for the 2013 NHL Draft. Bligh is a 6’0”, 180-pound center noted for his great hockey sense and tremendous offensive skills. This summer, he attended the Winnipeg Jets' prospect camp. As Gaudet explains, Bligh is a player that can make an immediate impact as a freshman this season.

“We think that Nick is a really good prospect and player that can make an impact for us. He’ll be playing on one of our top two or three lines and see some time on our power-play. Nick looks like the complete package. He’s a kid that’s very competitive and really smart offensively. He’s also got that extra gear in his skating, too. I just think that Nick will add a lot to our team and will be a very good player here at Dartmouth.”

Harvard University
NHL prospects: 9

The Crimson open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 27 hosting Bentley.

Harvard was a team that was literally fit to be tied last season. The Crimson set a new NCAA single-season record with 11 ties. Harvard went on to reach the ECAC Championship game. This season, the Crimson will look to go further in hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season. In order to do so, they will have some holes to fill.

The most notable hole is the loss of top scorer Alex Killorn. The Montreal, QC native, who graduated and has signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, was one of the nation’s most dominant players last season. He led Harvard with 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists), which included a team-high nine power-play tallies playing in all 34 games. Killorn’s stellar season earned him numerous honors including a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy League First Team and being named to the All-America East First Team.

While the loss of Killorn is significant, the Crimson have wonderful depth in their forward lines that could pick up the slack. Among the returning group that Harvard will be relying on is sophomore Colin Blackwell (SJS).

Blackwell is coming off of a terrific freshman campaign, finishing with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) playing in all 34 games. The North Andover, MA native’s tenacity and use of his tremendous speed served the Crimson quite well last season. His ability to get under the skin of the opposition made him quite effective in frustrating opponents, too. As head coach Ted Donato explains, there’s more great things to come from Blackwell this season.

“We’re expecting big things out of Colin this year. He was able to have an impact each and every night last year with his tenacity, speed and just his overall compete level. Colin created a lot out there for us both offensively and defensively. He was able to play his best in the biggest moments of the biggest games for us. I think he had a better season than maybe his numbers might suggest. We expect that Colin will be able to finish off more plays this year being a year older and stronger. He’s only going to improve on where he was at last year and he’s a key for us. So we’re excited about what Colin will be able to do this year.”

One newcomer to watch this season is the highly touted Jimmy Vesey (NSH). The North Reading, MA native is part of Harvard’s stellar freshman class that ranks among the best in the NCAA this season. Vesey is a 6’1”, 195-pound winger noted for his superb skating and great hands. Donato notes that Vesey is a player that could make an immediate impact for his team.

“We think that Jimmy will be able have an important impact for us this year. He’s got great hockey sense and a great set of hands. He’s got a goal-scorer’s release on his shot and is one of those guys that can make a lot of plays whether it’s scoring goals or making passes. What we’ve been impressed with so far is Jimmy’s overall compete level, skill set, and his ability to immediately become comfortable offensively with making plays. So that’s something that we’re excited about.”

Last season, the Crimson featured one of the best offensive duos at defense in the nation in returning senior Danny Biega (CAR) and sophomore Patrick McNally (VAN). And where the pair really made their mark was on Harvard’s nation-leading power-play that clicked at 27.3 percent last season.

Biega has emerged into one of the nation’s best and most complete defensemen. And from a developmental standpoint, he might be the most NHL-ready defenseman playing in the NCAA this season, as well. The Montreal, QC native led Harvard with a plus-14 and 25 assists, and led all Crimson defensemen in scoring with 35 points playing in all 34 games last season. His 35 points also ranked fourth nationally among all defensemen. Biega’s excellent season earned him numerous honors including the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman of the Year honor and a selection to the All-America East First Team. Part of what makes Biega such a great defenseman is his ability to balance great offensive skill with very sound defensive play and toughness. As team captain this season, Biega will also provide Harvard with great leadership. Donato notes that as good as Biega was last season, he could potentially be even better this season.

“I do think that Danny could be better this year. His overall game has improved greatly and I think he’s our best defenseman at both ends of the ice. He leads by example in how he carries himself on and off the ice and in how he prepares. We feel that we have a deeper group of offensive forwards this year and I think that’s going to benefit Danny’s potential to be even more dangerous five-on-five. Danny’s offensive numbers are impressive, but the true appreciation comes in his overall game.”

Biega’s power-play defensive partner McNally enjoyed a sensational freshman campaign, finishing with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 34 games. He capped the year with a spot on the ECAC All-Rookie Team. The Glen Head, NY native displayed some dazzling puck-moving ability and his excellent skating also made him quite good in Harvard’s transition game. Those attributes will be evident again this season as McNally looks to take the next step in his development. Donato notes that one area that will help his young defenseman get there is the added size and strength to his 6’2” frame.

“I think Pat’s outstanding freshman year was very important to us. He played a lot of minutes in all situations for us. I think one of the areas that could be improved on is his overall size and strength. Pat had a tremendous summer. He stayed around and really worked hard. Pat put on about six to eight very good pounds and really made a big step forward physically. He’s also put in the work that he needed to keep his progress going at a high clip. So we’re excited about that. I think Pat has done everything that he could in the summer to have a good season for us.”

The Crimson return their top netminders in sophomore Steve Michalek (MIN) and junior Raphael Girard. Michalek, who played remarkably well despite some inconsistencies, appeared in 24 games, posting a 7-7-8 record. Girard posted a 6-6-3 record in 16 games.

Princeton University
NHL prospects: 1

The Tigers open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 26 facing off against host Brown in the Ivy Shootout.

Injuries and a very young squad led Princeton to a disappointing 11th place ECAC finish last season. The good news for the Tigers heading into this season is that they return most of the team intact and will be a more experienced group. Princeton graduated just three players in the off-season in forwards Mark Hagel and Brodie Zuk, and defenseman Derrick Pallis. While all three are significant losses, the Tigers will have players that should be able to eventually fill the holes left by the departures.

Princeton’s strength this season lies in their excellent forward lines. The Tigers return their top four players from last season including juniors Andrew Calof and Jack Berger.

Calof had an excellent sophomore campaign, leading Princeton for the second consecutive season with 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) and a plus-2 playing in all 32 games. While the Nepean, ON native saw his point total go down from 33 points as a freshman, he nearly doubled his goals totals. Calof is a fun player to watch and one to keep an eye on. He plays bigger than his 5’10”, 165-pound frame and has been one of the Tigers’ most consistent offensive players since arriving at Princeton three years ago. Calof possesses terrific stick skills and vision, and uses both of them very effectively in finding and utilizing open spaces. He is also very quick and uses his low center of gravity to dart through traffic with relative ease. This summer, Calof attended the New York Islanders' prospect camp.

Berger enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, finishing with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) playing in all 32 games. The St. Louis, MO native really made his mark on the Tigers special teams last season. Of his 10 goals, five came on special teams (four on the power-play and one shorthanded). Berger is a 6’3”, 220-pound power forward that doesn’t excel in any one skill area, but does many things exceedingly well. He is an outstanding skater with good feet, but could stand to develop a little more foot speed. He also possesses some nice hands and has a very good shot. Berger was one of two Princeton players that attended the New Jersey Devils' prospect camp this summer.

The other was Michael Ambrosia. The Chatham, NJ native heads a small but outstanding group of newcomers this season. Ambrosia, who had a strong showing at the Devils' prospect camp, is a 5’10”, 180-pound forward noted for his speed and aggressive play.

A returning veteran that is poised to have a very good season is junior Andrew Ammon. Although he missed some time due to injury, Ammon was still able to finish a strong sophomore campaign with seven points (four goals, three assists) in 24 games. The Aldie, VA native had an outstanding showing at the Washington Capitals' prospect camp this summer and that experience will benefit he and his Princeton team this season. Ammon is a 6’0”, 185-pound winger with some terrific speed which he uses quite effectively in the Tigers transition game as well as when driving to the net. Although Ammon is known more for his offensive prowess, it’s his much improved defensive side and awareness that has really elevated his game and allowed him to take the next step in his overall development.

One area where the Tigers will look to improve this season is at defense. Princeton allowed an average of 3.28 goals per game last season, which ranked 50th nationally and was the most among all Ivy League teams.

The Tigers return all of their goaltenders and hope to get more consistency out of them this season. Junior Sean Bonar and senior Mike Condon platooned in net last season. Bonar posted a 5-10-4 record that included one shutout in 19 appearances. Condon posted a 4-6-3 record in 14 appearances. Returning sophomore Ryan Benitez did not play last season.

Aside from Pallis, Princeton returns its defensive corps intact and it is shaping up to be quite good this season.

Anchoring the Tigers blueline is senior Michael Sdao (OTT). The Niwot, CO native emerged as one of the best rearguards coming out of the ECAC last season. Sdao doubled his point totals from his sophomore year, finishing with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) to lead Princeton in defensive scoring. Not surprisingly, he also led the Ivy League with 87 penalty minutes. Sdao’s excellent junior campaign earned him spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and on the All-ECAC Second Team. In addition to his increased point totals, Sdao made some very good strides in his development last season; two of the most notable areas were in his overall maturity and improved decision-making with the puck. While Sdao continues to make his mark as an ultra-aggressive competitor, he’s also playing smarter and with a bit more discipline as well. That, in turn, has made him more effective in all situations. And if Sdao can continue to strike a balance between his tough-as-nails style of play and being more disciplined, he will be an even bigger threat to opposing teams.

Yale University
NHL prospects: 4

The Bulldogs open their 2012-13 season on Oct. 26 versus Dartmouth in the Ivy Shootout.

Last season marked the first time since the 2007-08 season that Yale missed the NCAA Tournament. This season they hope to remedy that, but in order to do so, they will have some significant holes to fills.

Most of the Bulldogs’ losses were to their forward lines, which include top scorer Brian O’Neill (LAK) and little-used winger Brad Peltz (OTT). O’Neill, who graduated and signed with the Los Angeles Kings, was one of the nation’s most dynamic players last season. He led Yale in a number of categories including points (46), goals (21) and power-play goals (10) playing in all 35 games. His stellar senior campaign earned him numerous honors including being named the Ivy League Player of the Year and earning a selection to the All-America East Second Team.

Peltz opted to forgo the remainder of his eligibility to sign with the Binghamton Senators (AHL). He is now with the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals. The fact that Peltz chose to sign a pro contract is rather surprising considering that he saw very little playing time while with Yale. He played in just nine games and posted one goal last season after not seeing any playing time as a freshman two years ago.

While the losses O’Neill and Peltz, along with other graduated forwards Chad Ziegler, Kevin Limbert, Charles Brockett and Dan Otto are significant, the Bulldogs look to have some excellent depth up front once again. Among those leading Yale’s high-powered offense are junior Kenny Agostino (PIT) and senior Antoine Laganiere.

Since his arrival in New Haven three years ago, Agostino has blossomed into one of the ECAC’s rising stars. And as good as he was last season, he could potentially be even better this season. The Flanders, NJ native posted 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games last season. Two notable areas in Agostino’s developmental progress that contributed to his excellent sophomore campaign were his added size and strength, and his improved ability to read and react to plays. Where these attributes were especially evident were in his positioning below the dots, his ability to cycle the puck more effectively, and his intelligent use of time and space. As head coach Keith Allain explains, expectations will be quite high for Agostino this season.

“Our expectations for Kenny are extremely high. We see him as not merely a point producer but as an all-around player who will make significant contributions on both sides of the puck. As his game grows you will see his role expand. Kenny is certainly among a group of players on our club who all have a chance to lead us in scoring.”

At 6’4”, 197 pounds, it’s hard to miss Laganiere in Yale’s lineup. He is the Bulldogs’ most imposing forward and has developed into a real game-changer. The Ile Cadieux, QC native returns as the team’s top goal-scorer after posting 19 goals and finishing with 33 points playing in all 35 games last season. Since his arrival at Yale four years ago, Laganiere has been on the NHL radar and is expected to be one of the most highly sought-after collegiate free agents available this coming spring. Over the summer, he attended the prospect camps of the Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also attended the Vancouver Canucks' prospect camp in 2011. What has scouts excited about Laganiere is his combination of an NHL-sized body, toughness and superb offensive skills.

“Antoine has worked very hard each year to make himself a better player, and as a result we have seen steady improvement in his game,” Allain said of Laganiere. “His dedication and work ethic are unmatched and each day he understands more and more how to put his strengths to work. We believe he is going to have an outstanding season and will have a great opportunity to play beyond college.”

In addition to losing six forwards, Yale also lost two of their top six defensemen in graduates Kevin Peel and Nick Jaskowiak. Despite the two departures, the Bulldogs’ defensive corps is shaping up to be quite good this season.

Among those patrolling the blueline this season is junior Gus Young (COL). The Dedham, MA native has blossomed into one of Yale’s best defensemen. After not seeing playing time two years ago as a freshman, Young played in all 35 games last season, finishing with 12 points (three goals, nine assists). Young is primarily a defensive defenseman, but he has great puck-moving ability and can make excellent outlet passes. Though he’ll likely never become a prolific scoring rearguard, Young’s point production could potentially rise this season.

One defenseman to watch this season is newcomer Rob O’Gara (BOS). The Nesconset, NY native is part of Yale’s outstanding freshman class and is also one of the best defensemen coming into the NCAA this season. At 6’4”, 205 pounds, O’Gara is the biggest rearguard on the Bulldogs roster. He is noted for his superb skating and strong two-way play.

The only position that returns intact this season is in goal with the senior tandem of Jeff Malcolm and Nick Maricic holding down top two slots. Malcolm, who started most of the games, finished with a 10-11-2 record that included three shutouts in 25 appearances. Maricic posted a 6-5-1 record in 13 appearances. Returning sophomore Connor Wilson, who played just 38:27 minutes in two appearances, rounds the goaltending unit.

“Competition for playing time in our net will be fierce as we have three quality goalies on our team,” Allain said of his goaltenders. “I am confident that any one of them can give us the goaltending we need to be successful. Our senior class will be major contributors to the eventual success of our hockey team and we expect to get championship quality goaltending from Nick Maricic and Jeff Malcolm.”

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF