Well this is it. To everyone who has tagged along for the whole ride, thanks a bunch. Today’s team is the Preseason #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
First off, I feel like I owe an apology to any and all Notre Dame fans out there. Of the three other preseason #1s I have had in this site’s lifetime, two of them have missed the NCAA tournament completely and the other lost in the first round. So it’s no guarantee that Irish eyes will be smiling (cmon, I had to do it once) at the end of the season, but Notre Dame to me has the best combo of talent and experience out there, and they’re my choice to take home the national title.
Forwards: Despite a young group of guys (who were very good, mind you), Notre Dame made it all the way to the Frozen Four. Somehow TJ Tynan went undrafted, which seemed moderately unwise when I had only read about him, but downright preposterous after the first time I saw him. He’s not big, and doesn’t really play big, but he has a good shot and is one of the best skaters in the country. His 1.21 PPG in CCHA play led all Freshmen in that conference.
Right behind him was Anders Lee. The former high school quarterback led all CCHA Freshmen in goals with 16 in CCHA play. Overall the dynamic duo were 5th and 6th respectively in the league in scoring. It’s tough to put up big points in the CCHA but each of Tynan and Lee should be viewed as a legitimate Hobey candidate this year.
If veteran leadership is more your thing, the Irish have that covered as well. Billy Maday had 10 goals and 27 points last year and Nick Larson had 10 and 19.
With Carl Hagelin gone from Michigan, the title of best defensive forward in the league (and possibly the country) likely falls to Riley Sheahan, who also showed improved puck skills despite only scoring 5 goals last year.
Defensemen: The Irish only lost Joe Lavin off a defense that allowed 2.56 goals per game in CCHA play last year (5th). The group was also extremely young last year, featuring four Freshmen. There’s no superstar like an Ian Cole in this group, but there is a solid bunch of defensemen that will improve on their 2.56 goals allowed.
The best two are probably Sam Calabrese and Stephen Johns, a Chicago draft pick.
One spot where the Irish defensemen (and forwards of course) need to improve is on the penalty kill, where Notre Dame ranked 9th in the conference.
The Irish’s best recruit is on the blueline, as NTDPer and a 4th round pick of the Islanders Robbie Russo has had some lofty expectations hoisted upon him.
Goaltenders: Youth again was the theme here. Mike Johnson had the best winning percentage in CCHA play, but that was more of a nod to the overall dominance of the Irish as he ranked 12th in save percentage. Freshman Steve Summerhays came in with more pub, but he also had just a .863 save percentage last year. The Irish don’t have any goalie recruits coming in, so one of these two will have to step up.
It seems goalie play is a theme to the preseason top 16, but it seems that the Irish have the best ability to cover up any deficiencies caused by a lack of good goalie play. It is not necessarily a marked confidence in the men between the pipes, but rather in everyone else on the ice, that leads me to tap Notre Dame to win the 2012 national title.