NCAA college prospects notebook for October, 2012

By DJ Powers

Riley Barber - Miami University

Photo: Washington Capitals prospect Riley Barber had a successful start to his college career, posting eight points during the month of October for Miami University (courtesy of Tim G. Zechar / Icon SMI)

The first edition of the 2012-13 College Prospects Notebook takes a look some notable (and not so notable) prospect performances from around college hockey. Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are current as of Oct. 31.

Season-opening tournament roundup

Four tournaments marked the season opener for a number of teams around the NCAA.

Notre Dame won this year’s Icebreaker Tournament with a 1-0 shutout over Maine and a hard-fought 3-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha, respectively. Junior T.J. Tynan (CBJ) posted the lone goal in the Fighting Irish’s win over Maine and assisted on freshman Thomas Di Pauli’s game-winner to take the tournament MVP honor. Tynan and Di Pauli’s linemate, junior Bryan Rust (PIT) along with junior defenseman Stephen Johns (CHI) joined Tynan on the all-tournament team.

Further up north, host Alaska-Anchorage won the Kendall Hockey Classic, shutting out Canisius 2-0 before tying Air Force 3-3 in the championship game. Junior Matt Bailey, who scored a crucial shorthanded goal in the championship game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The following week in Fairbanks, host Alaska took down Merrimack 3-2 before pulling off a 2-1 upset of powerhouse North Dakota to take the Brice Alaska Gold Rush crown. Senior Steve Thompson was brilliant between the pipes for the Nanooks, stopping a combined 52 of 55 shots to garner the tournament’s MVP honor. Freshman defenseman Colton Parayko (STL) earned an assist on senior Chad Gehon’s game-winner in the championship game. North Dakota senior defenseman Andrew MacWilliam (TOR) and redshirted freshman Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) assisted on North Dakota’s lone goal that was scored by freshman Colton St. Clair. MacWilliam, along with freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (STL) were named to the all-tournament team.

The final weekend of the month saw Dartmouth College tying Yale 2-2 then blanking host Brown 4-0 to claim the Ivy Shootout championship. Junior Eric Robinson netted the game-tying goal versus Yale and the game-winning power-play goal versus Brown to lead the Big Green. Yale senior Antoine Laganiere netted both goals for the Bulldogs versus Dartmouth and posted the game-winner versus Princeton in the third-place game. Junior Kenny Agostino (PIT) also chipped in a goal for Yale in that game. Princeton senior defenseman Michael Sdao (OTT) posted an assist in each of the Tigers’ losses to Brown and Yale respectively.

Kings prospects reign supreme

No NHL team got more production out of their collegiate prospects in the month of October than the Los Angeles Kings. The reigning Stanley Cup champions saw their six NCAA prospects combine for an astounding 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) during the month. All six prospects posted at least a goal and an assist in October. And, with the exception of St. Cloud State defenseman Kevin Gravel, all of them either currently lead or are among the leaders in points on their respective teams.

Headlining the group is Denver junior Nick Shore, who netted his first career hat trick and added an assist in the Pioneers’ 5-2 win over Air Force on Oct. 20. In Denver’s four games in October, Shore has posted nine points (four goals, five assists).

St. Cloud State juniors Nic Dowd and Kevin Gravel have gotten the Huskies off to a 4-2-0 start. Dowd, who is currently tied for second nationally in scoring, registered ten points (four goals, six assists) in St. Cloud State’s six games in October. Gravel has posted three points (one goal, two assists).

Wisconsin junior Michael Mersch has three goals in the Badgers’ four games. His notable tally was the game-tying goal in Wisconsin’s 3-3 tie with Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 27.

North Dakota junior defenseman Derek Forbort has three points (two goals, one assist) in the team’s four games. His most notable goal on the month was the game-tying goal in North Dakota’s 3-3 with Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 27.

Cornell sophomore Joel Lowry has posted two goals in the Big Red’s two games to date. Both of his goals came in Cornell’s 3-2 win over Colorado College on Oct. 27. Both goals also came on the power-play, with the second one being the game-winner.

Capital Gain

Miami freshman and Washington Capitals prospect Riley Barber has proven that you don’t have to be a first- or second-round draft pick to make a significant and immediate impact for your team. Barber, a sixth round (167th overall) selection of the Capitals this past June, was one of the hottest players in the nation in the month of October. The Livonia, MI native racked up eight points (four goals, four assists) in the opening month en route to earning the CCHA’s Rookie of the Month honor. His eight points co-lead the RedHawks and also currently co-leads the nation in rookie scoring. Barber plays on Miami’s stellar top line that also features senior Curtis McKenzie (DAL) and sophomore Austin Czarnik. The trio has combined for 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in the RedHawks’ six games.

October also was a very good month for a number of other Capitals prospects, including Western Michigan sophomore defenseman Garrett Haar. The Huntington Beach, CA native posted three points (two goals, one assist) in the Broncos’ four games. Haar’s two goals already match his total of last season. His most memorable performance came in the weekend split with St. Lawrence back on Oct. 12/13. In that series, he posted two goals, including the game-winner on the power-play on Oct. 13. His performance also garnered Haar his first CCHA Defenseman of the Week honor of the season.

Picking up from where they left off

Two of the nation’s top rookies from last season, Boston College sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) and Denver sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia (EDM), are off to fast starts this season.

After leading the nation in rookie scoring last season, Gaudreau has continued his torrid scoring pace through this season’s opening month. The Carneys Point, NJ native posted seven points (three goals, four assists) in the Eagles’ five games in October. Of Gaudreau’s three goals, two have been game-winners. His most notable goal was the game-winner in Boston College’s 5-4 overtime win over UMass on Oct. 19. It also earned Gaudreau his first Hockey East Player of the Week honor on the season.

LaLeggia, the reigning NCAA and WCHA Rookie of the Year, has helped guide Denver to their best start since the 2008-09 season. The Pioneers are one of only two teams (New Hampshire is the other) that are undefeated that have played four or more games so far. LaLeggia currently leads Denver in defensive scoring with six points (three goals, three assists) in four games to date. His six points are also currently tied for second among all defensemen nationally. LaLeggia’s most notable performance came in the Pioneers 5-2 win over Michigan Tech on Oct. 27. In that contest, he netted the game-winner and added an assist to give Denver the sweep of the weekend series.

As good as advertised

Each year, a number of highly touted freshmen enter the collegiate ranks and prove they can indeed live up to the hype. And this season has been no different.

In addition to the aforementioned Barber, four other notable newcomers have also made immediate and significant impacts for their respective teams.

Michigan freshman Jacob Trouba (WPG) was among the top defensemen taken in the 2012 NHL Draft and he’s already proven to be quite an asset for the Wolverines. In the month of October, he posted six points (two goals, four assists) through five games and currently leads all Michigan defensemen. Trouba’s six points is currently tied for second in the nation among all defensemen. One of his best games came back on Oct. 11 in Michigan’s heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss to RIT. In that game, he posted a goal and an assist. Both points came on the power-play. Trouba’s contributions have been especially important to Michigan with the early rash of injuries that have hit the Wolverines blueline, most notably to junior Jon Merrill (NJD).

One question about Providence College heading into this season was goaltending. Now that question has been put to rest with the stellar play of freshman Jon Gillies (CGY). The South Portland, ME native has started all six of the Friars’ games to date, posting a record of 3-2-1. He posted his first collegiate win in Providence’s season-opening game versus Sacred Heart on Oct. 12. His most memorable performance came on Oct. 27 at Maine, where he stopped all 26 shots en route to earning his first collegiate shutout and backstopping the Friars to a sweep of the host team. The performance also earned Gillies his second Hockey East Rookie of the Week honor. Gillies is a part of group of excellent goaltenders joining the collegiate ranks this season.

Another is Minnesota freshman Adam Wilcox (TBL). The Golden Gophers look to have found their go-to guy in Wilcox, who is a perfect 3-0-0 in his three starts. Overall, he has played in four games, coming in relief on Oct. 19 versus Michigan Tech. Wilcox is coming off of his best performance of the month, stopping all 20 shots to post his first collegiate shutout in Minnesota’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Canisius. In his three starts thus far, Wilcox has allowed an average of 1.14 goals per game, which currently ranks fifth in the nation.

Although Harvard has only played one regular season game so far, freshman Jimmy Vesey (NSH) has made it count in a big way. In that game, which was versus Bentley on Oct. 27, Vesey posted two goals and assisted on senior Luke Grenier’s game-winner to lead the Crimson to a 5-0 win. The first of his two goals came on the power-play. The performance also earned Vesey his first ECAC Rookie of the Week honor on the season.

Who’s hot

In addition to the players mentioned previously, several other prospects enjoyed a very strong opening month, as well.

After posting five points (three goals, two assists) in October of 2011, Michigan sophomore Alex Guptill (DAL) slightly improved on that in the opening month of this season. In the Wolverines’ five games to date, Guptill has posted six points (four goals, two assists). His most notable performance of the month came on Oct. 19 versus Bentley, where he netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner in Michigan’s 6-3 victory.

After losing their season-opener to Northeastern, Boston College has gotten things back on track, winning their last four games. One reason behind their success can be attributed to the outstanding play of junior Kevin Hayes (CHI). The Dorchester, MA native posted six points (three goals, three assists) in the Eagles’ five games in October. All of his goals have come on the power-play. Hayes plays the left side of Boston College’s excellent second line that also features junior Bill Arnold (CGY) and 2013 NHL Draft-eligible sophomore Destry Straight. The trio has combined for 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in the month of October.

Two of the driving forces for Minnesota last season, Florida Panthers prospects junior Nick Bjugstad and sophomore Kyle Rau, continue to be that this season. The two have combined to post ten points (five goals, five assists) in the Golden Gophers’ five games during October. Both also co-lead Minnesota. Bjugstad’s best performance came in the season-opening series versus Michigan State on Oct. 12/13. In that weekend series, he tallied the game-winner in both games to give the Golden Gophers the sweep. The performance also earned Bjugstad his first WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honor of the season.

One of Rau’s best games of the month came on Oct. 27 versus Canisius, where he tallied the lone goal in Minnesota’s 1-0 victory.

Like last season, both Bjugstad and Rau play on the Golden Gophers' top line. The change to the line this season is on the right side where sophomore Christian Isackson (BUF) has replaced junior Zach Budish (NSH).

Who’s not

While some prospects got off to fast starts to the 2012-13 campaign, others have struggled out of the gate.

One of the hottest players in the nation this time last season was Western Michigan junior Chase Balisy (NSH), who posted nine points (three points, six assists) last October. But the Rancho Santa Margarita, CA native has really found points hard to come this October, posting just one assist in the Broncos’ four games to date. His lone point was an assist on senior Mike Cichy’s (MTL) power-play goal in Western Michigan’s 3-0 shutout of Canisius on Oct. 19.

Another of last season’s top players who has struggled in his point production in the early going is UMass-Lowell sophomore Scott Wilson (PIT). After posting three points (one goal, two assists) in October last season, Wilson couldn’t quite find his groove in the opening month of this season, posting just one goal. That tally, a power-play goal, came in the River Hawks’ 6-3 loss to Boston College on Oct. 28.

After a very good October last year where he posted four points (two goals, two assists), Colgate senior defenseman Thomas Larkin (CBJ) struggled to find that same touch in the season opening month this year. He was held to just two assists in the Raiders’ seven games to date.

One of the most highly touted newcomers coming into Hockey East this season was Boston University freshman Sam Kurker. The second round selection (56th overall) of the St. Louis Blues this past June has played in just two of the Terriers’ four games to date and has yet to post his first collegiate point.

On the shelf

A pair of Michigan defensive prospects are currently sidelined with injuries. Junior Jon Merrill (NJ) is expected to be out until mid-November due to a fractured vertebra he suffered in an exhibition game on Oct. 9. Sophomore Brennan Serville (WPG) suffered a concussion in the weekend series versus Miami on Oct. 26/27.

Two Philadelphia Flyers prospects are also sidelined with injuries. North Dakota sophomore Michael Parks has been out of the lineup since suffering a lower body injury in an exhibition game on Oct. 6. Union College sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere suffered a lower body injury at UConn on Oct. 27. Both are listed as week to week.

Merrimack senior defenseman Kyle Bigos (EDM) suffered a lower body injury in the Warriors’ season-opener versus Union College on Oct. 6 and has been out of the lineup ever since. He is currently listed as day-to-day.

St. Cloud State senior Ben Hanowski (PIT) is currently out of the lineup after suffering an upper body injury versus Minnesota State-Mankato on Oct. 26.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF