April 19, 2006
10 for '07: The Teams

It hasn't even been two weeks since we watched Wisconsin skate away with the 2006 national championship in Milwaukee, but here at Inside College Hockey we can't resist casting our gaze towards the future. A lot can change between now and the drop of the puck in October, but that doesn't stop us from kicking off our 10 for '07 feature with an early look at the top 10 teams going into next season. In the coming days we'll offer our thoughts on the 10 top players and 10 big questions for 2006-07.


Of Note

North Dakota 2004-05 record: 29-16-1
Key returnees: F T.J. Oshie; G Jordan Parise; F Drew Stafford
Key losses: F Mike Prpich; D Matt Smaby; F Travis Zajac
The Fighting Sioux have already lost forward Travis Zajac and defenseman Matt Smaby to the pros, and forward Drew Stafford could be headed in that direction as well. Even if Stafford leaves, North Dakota welcomes back all but four players in the lineup for this month's Frozen Four loss against Boston College, including forwards T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews, defenseman Brian Lee and goaltender Jordan Parise. Mike Forney, who'll be a freshman forward for the Sioux next season, is a likely first-round pick in June's NHL entry draft.
Wisconsin 2004-05 record: 30-10-3
Key returnees: G Brian Elliott; F Joe Pavelski; F Jack Skille
Key losses: F Adam Burish; F Robbie Earl; D Tom Gilbert
Three of the team's top five scorers, including All-American defenseman Tom Gilbert, graduate. Forward Jack Skille will be counted on to improve on the 21 points he scored during his freshman season. Hobey Baker Award finalist Brian Elliott should be back, and among the team's incoming recruits is 6-foot-4 blueliner Nigel Williams, a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming NHL draft.
Michigan State 2004-05 record: 25-12-8
Key returnees: F Bryan Lerg; G Jeff Lerg; F Drew Miller
Key losses: F David Booth; F Colton Fretter; D Corey Potter
Only North Dakota's freshmen were better than Michigan State's down the stretch, and with goaltender Jeff Lerg leading the way for the Spartans, even that distinction is debatable. What impressed us most about MSU at the East Regional was the all-rookie line, led by Tim Crowder, that head coach Rick Comley sent over the boards seemingly every other shift. What had been a tumultuous tenure for Comley now seems to have some stability, and with only a handful of contributors graduating (defenseman Corey Potter being the best of them), the Spartans may take a big stride next year.
Boston College 2004-05 record: 26-13-3
Key returnees: F Brian Boyle; D Brett Motherwell; G Cory Schneider
Key losses: F Chris Collins; F Stephen Gionta; D Peter Harrold
Boston College was blessed with the youngest team in the nation as it made its unlikely run to the NCAA championship game in Milwaukee. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the best players on that team -- Chris Collins, Brian Boyle, Cory Schneider and Peter Harrold -- are all either graduating or are prime candidates to sign with NHL teams. Head coach Jerry York will look to players like Benn Ferriero, Dan Bertram and Brock Bradford to make a leap in productivity similar to the one Collins made this season. If Boyle or Schneider decide to return, it will be a big boost for a club that welcomes back five of its six defensemen.
Minnesota 2004-05 record: 27-9-5
Key returnees: G Kellen Briggs; D Alex Goligoski; F Phil Kessel
Key losses: D Chris Harrington; F Danny Irmen; F Ryan Potulny
What do you make of a team that waltzed through the second half of the season on the way to a WCHA title, only to lose to Holy Cross in the NCAA Tournament? Uncertainty remains as we gaze to the future for the Gophers, who could field three top-five NHL draft picks, but still be picked third -- or lower -- in their ultra-competitive conference. The losses of Ryan Potulny (Philadelphia Flyers) and Danny Irmen (Minnesota Wild) certainly hurt, but with the talent that the Gophers return, with or without potential No. 1 pick Phil Kessel, they will have the opportunity to challenge for a Frozen Four berth.
Miami 2004-05 record: 26-9-4
Key returnees: F Nathan Davis; G Charlie Effinger; D Mitch Ganzak
Key losses: F Matt Davis; D Andy Greene
If the goaltending duo of Charlie Effinger and Jeff Zatkoff repeat this season's performance, and forwards Matt Christie and Marty Guerin regain the form that allowed them to combine for 138 points as freshmen and sophomores -- they totaled just 40 points last season -- the RedHawks won't skip a beat despite the loss of defenseman Andy Greene.
Michigan 2004-05 record: 21-15-5
Key returnees: F Andrew Cogliano; F T.J. Hensick; D Jack Johnson
Key losses: F Andrew Ebbett; F Brandon Kaleniecki; G Noah Ruden
Barring offseason defections, the Wolverines -- led by forwards T.J. Hensick and Andrew Cogliano and defensemen Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick -- will boast a group of skaters as talented as any team in the nation, save North Dakota. But can anyone stop the puck? Despite an 11-6-4 record, goalie Billy Sauer had a rough freshman season (3.04 GAA, .898 save percentage).
New Hampshire 2004-05 record: 20-13-7
Key returnees: F Brett Hemingway; F Jacob Micflikier; G Kevin Regan
Key losses: G Jeff Pietrasiak; F Daniel Winnik; D Brian Yandle
The Wildcats will score goals, despite the loss of Daniel Winnik (Phoenix Coyotes) and the potential departure of Brett Hemingway (a Colorado draft pick). What will concern New Hampshire fans next season will be preventing opponents from scoring. Will Kevin Regan assume the full-time goaltending mantle for the first time? If he fits easily into that role -- and he was a national champion at the junior level for the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks -- he'll have a relatively experienced group of defensemen supporting him.
Denver 2004-05 record: 21-15-3
Key returnees: F Ryan Dingle; G Peter Mannino; F Paul Stastny
Key losses: D Matt Carle; F Gabe Gauthier
Losing Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle is huge, and centerman Gabe Gauthier also graduates. But everyone else is back, including goaltenders Glenn Fisher and Peter Mannino and high-scoring forwards Paul Stastny and Ryan Dingle. The Pioneers will also regain the services of wing Brock Trotter, who had five points in five games before suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in late October.
Harvard 2004-05 record: 21-12-2
Key returnees: F Kevin Du; F Jon Pelle, D Dylan Reese
Key losses: G John Daigneau, F Charlie Johnson, F Dan Murphy
Harvard flew under the radar a little bit in the 2005-06 season, but won't have that luxury in the fall. After winning the ECACHL playoff title, people expect bigger things from the Crimson and a returning group of players, which will include the team's leading scorer in Kevin Du and standout defenseman Dylan Reese. If there's a question mark, then it's probably in the goal, but Justin Tobe played well in spot duty behind John Daigneau last year.
Poised for a Breakout: Clarkson, Alaska-Fairbanks