Extremely Early Preseason Top 5


Because why not right? Note: these rankings are obviously rather worthless until closer to NHL Draft time because we won’t know who is leaving early (and which recruits will defect to the CHL), but these rankings will assume a player is staying unless it is pretty much guaranteed he’ll leave.

1. Minnesota

The Gophers lose Senior goaltender Kent Patterson, but could return 14 of their top 16 scorers, losing just Jake Hansen and Taylor Matson. The returners would include Nick Bjugstad (though I think he is a risk to sign), who had 25 goals, Kyle Rau who had 18, and Erik Haula, who had the quietest 49 point season in some time to lead the Gophers in scoring. In 2012 the Gophers will add talented defenseman Brady Skjei, who despite being one of the best skaters in the 2012 draft will make me hate him because I will spell his name wrong millions of times. They’ll also add Ryan and Connor Reilly, who helped Penticton win a record 42 straight BCHL games. Adam Wilcox, the probable heir apparent to Patterson, had the third best save percentage in the USHL this year.

2. Boston College

While I think the champs will probably lose Chris Kreider to the Rangers and Brian Dumoulin to the Hurricanes, they’ll return Johnny Gaudreau, who had 21 goals as a Freshman, and Steven Whitney who looked like BC’s best skater in the NCAA tournament. They’ll also return Frozen Four MOP Parker Milner, who had a .937 save percentage this season. Patrick Wey should be back to anchor their blueline, but they’ll have some talent to replace up front with Barry Almeida and Paul Carey graduating. No matter, as the Eagles will just add a pair of NTDPers in Brendan Silk and Frank Vatrano as well as Michael Matheson, who had 10 goals and 24 points from the blueline for Dubuque this year.

3. North Dakota

The Sioux have lost Brock Nelson and will probably lose Danny Kristo to early departures, as well as Ben Blood to graduation, but there is a lot of talent coming back. Rocco Grimaldi will finally be healthy, Corban Knight has developed into one of the best all around forwards in the country, and Carter Rowney had a breakout year as a Junior, scoring 18 goals. The Sioux had 8 Freshmen playing regularly last year, including 5th and 6th leading scorers Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks. They’ll add MacMillan’s brother Mitch, a transfer from St. Cloud, in the winter, and will add Bryn Chyzyk, who had 49 points in 56 games with Fargo this year. On the blueline the big addition is Jordan Schmaltz, who could be a first round pick in this summer’s NHL draft. The Sioux’s biggest strength will be in goal where Aaron Dell will be joined by Alabama-Huntsville transfer Clarke Saunders, who had a .906 save percentage behind a terrible defense, and Zane Gothberg, who was the USHL’s best goalie this year.

4. Notre Dame

I had the Irish as preseason #1 last year, and they responded by missing the tournament. Assuming TJ Tynan and Anders Lee come back, I am riding their bandwagon again. The Irish return 11 of their top 13 scorers, including their top two in Lee (17 goals) and Tynan (13). They’ll have to get a lot better offensively, with those two the only returning double digit scorers, and they’ll have to get better in net. The offensive reinforcements will come in the form of Mario Lucia, who had 42 goals and 93 points in 56 BCHL games.

5. Cornell

The Big Red came within a game of the Frozen Four last year and lose just two forwards off the team. Three of their top six forwards were Freshmen, including Brian Ferlin who missed time with a shoulder injury. Also returning is goalie Andy Iles, who had a .919 save percentage and should have been Jack Campbell’s backup at World Juniors (I will not let that go). Nick D’Agostino has developed into one of the more steady defensemen in the country, and Joakim Ryan had a great Freshman year, with 7 goals and 17 points from the blueline. NTDPer Gavin Stoick is probably their best recruit, but their coolest one is undoubtedly Teemu Tiitinen, who is Finnish but grew up in Georgia before playing with the Stars AAA team.