The NHL got underway last night, so I’m sure most people naturally want to talk about that, but college hockey gets underway in earnest tonight (there were preseason games and 1 that counted last weekend) so what better time than now to unveil my preseason top 10 teams in the country:
1o. New Hampshire
The defending Hockey East champs led the regular season NCAA leader in goal scoring in Bobby Butler, but they have a ton of skill back. Defenseman Blake Kessel (yes, Phil’s brother) leads a talented blueline was 2nd in defenseman scoring last year with 38 points. New Hampshire was not very good defensively last year, but they didn’t give the opponent any help: they were the least penalized team in the country at just 9.8 PIM per game.
The Nanooks come off their first NCAA Tournament berth in the history of the program, and they welcome North Dakota to Fairbanks this weekend. Andy Taranto, the reigning CCHA Frosh of the year (18-24–42), leads the team, but the Nanooks will need more secondary scoring to make another NCAA push: they were just 7th in the low scoring CCHA in goals per game last year.
Speaking of great players, Maine might have the best one of them all. Gustav Nyquist had 61 points in 39 games last year to lead the country, and most of his running mates are back. Brian Flynn, who had 19 goals and 47 points last year, is as good of a 2nd option as there is in the country. One potential undoing is Maine’s goaltending: last year’s starter Scott Darling is gone, and his potential replacements are short on experience.
Like Maine, last year’s highest scoring team retains a lot of scoring, though they also lost quite a bit. Brian O’Neill (45 pts), Broc Little (41) and Denny Kearney (37) all return. The similarities to Maine don’t end there, as Yale could potentially give up just as many, as Nick Maricic had just an .888 save percentage last year.
6. St. Cloud State
In the past the Huskies have been a very offensive team featuring a great power play. While Garrett Roe (20-29–49) is back, St. Cloud should be much more defensive this year. They have possibly the most talented goalie tandem in the country in Dan Dunn and Mike Lee, and a tough defense. St. Cloud got the first NCAA tournament win in the history of the program last year, and they have a good shot to double that this season and make the Frozen Four.
See the top 5 after the jump
The Wolverines are led by Swede Carl Hagelin, who led the conference with 50 points last season (19 goals). Fellow Senior Louie Caporusso led the conference with 21 goals. Michigan has tons of offensive firepower, but goaltending could prove to be a problem, especially in non-conference games. Though Freshman Jon Merrill should provide a big help and be an impact defenseman right away.
The Bulldogs may be the deepest offensive team in the country, led by Jack Connolly, who had 18 goals and 49 points last year. Mike Connolly and Justin Fontaine help to form one of the most talented trios out there. Duluth is expected to be right in the WCHA race until the end, and with Minnesota struggling as of late, Duluth is the state’s best chance to have a home team at the Frozen Four this year.
With back to back Frozen Four appearances, the RedHawks really have nothing to prove. Carter Camper (15-28–43) leads the team offensively, but Miami is built around a good defensive system and two good goalies. Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp (each with .921 save percentages) were statistically the best duo in the country last year, and should be again this year.
2. North Dakota
Though they are not #1, there is a legitimate argument that this is the most talented team in the country. 2010 NHL Draft 1st rounders Derek Forbort and Brock Nelson join an already deep bunch, and the Sioux perhaps have the deepest defensive corps in the country. Although Forbort and Nelson are extremely talented, their best “recruit” may be Chay Genoway, who gets a 5th year of eligibility after having last year cut short due to a concussion. They don’t have a Nyquist type who will lead the country in scoring, but there are 4-6 players who all could put up great games on any given night.
1. Boston College
The defending champs are back atop the rankings to start the year. Cam Atkinson, who ended up with 30 goals last year, leads the team, but BC has a deep stable of skilled speedy forwards leading them, including Brian Gibbons (50 pts), Joe Whitney (45 pts) and Jimmy Hayes (35 pts). The Eagles should be in the running to win their 3rd national title in the last 4 seasons.