April 24, 2007
10 For '08: The Teams

It hasn't even been a month since Michigan State captured the 2007 NCAA championship in St. Louis, 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 '08 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 top 10 Hobey candidates and 10 big questions.


Of Note

Boston College 2006-07 record: 29-12-1
Key Returnees: G Cory Schneider; F Nathan Gerbe; D Brett Motherwell; F Benn Ferriero
Key Losses: F Brian Boyle; F Joe Rooney
With superb netminder Schneider back for a senior season and the sting of consecutive runner-up finishes in the national tournament to motivate them, Boston College is our preseason No. 1. The Eagles' talented forwards up front lead the way, and Jerry York's staff brings in one of the nation's best recruiting classes to The Heights. A solid blueline corps of Motherwell, Mike Brennan, Carl Sneep, Tim Filangieri, and Brian O'Hanley brings back lots of experience in front of Schneider.
Michigan State 2006-07 record: 26-13-3
Key Returnees: F Tim Kennedy; G Jeff Lerg; F Justin Abdelkader; F Chris Mueller
Key Losses: D Tyler Howells; D Ethan Graham; F Chris Lawrence
Not a single Michigan State player was named to any of the All-CCHA teams, but their balance and leadership helped them get the ultimate team award in St. Louis. Even though they didn't receive the attention, guys like Jeff Lerg and Kennedy showed that they're All-American level players and will head into the 2007-08 season with something to prove. Lawrence and a senior-laden defense corps will be missed and the biggest void that Michigan State will need to fill is the captain's leadership.
North Dakota 2006-07 record: 24-14-5
Key returnees: D Taylor Chorney; F Ryan Duncan; G Philippe Lamoureux; F T.J. Oshie
Key losses: F Erik Fabian; F Chris Porter
Admittedly, we’re hedging our bets by assuming forward Jonathan Toews will sign with the Chicago Blackhawks. If Toews returns, one could easily make a case for the Fighting Sioux as the nation’s preseason no. 1. If Toews trades a windy city for the Windy City, North Dakota is still loaded with Duncan, the 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner, Oshie, Lamoureux, and a terrific defensive corps led by Robbie Bina, Chorney, and Brian Lee. The continued development of center Chris VandeVelde, who excelled late in the season, and the emergence of a Porter-like presence on the second line — a 12-goal, 30-point scorer who can kill penalties and earn some power-play time — is imperative.
Minnesota 2006-07 record: 31-10-3
Key returnees: F Jay Barriball; G Jeff Frazee; D Alex Goligoski; F Blake Wheeler
Key losses: G Kellen Briggs; D Erik Johnson; D Mike Vannelli
Defenseman Erik Johnson played the one-and-done card, signing with the St. Louis Blues last week, but there’s little in terms of additional flight risks on the Gophers’ roster. Forward Kyle Okposo? His effectiveness waned late in the year. How would he handle the rigors of a pro schedule? Goligoski played with a bum shoulder late in the season; word is he’ll be back for his senior year. Upheaval in the Phoenix Coyotes’ front office, meanwhile, may keep Wheeler in maroon and gold for another season. A lot depends on Frazee — namely, whether he can handle the scrutiny of being the go-to guy in goal.
Clarkson 2006-07 record: 25-9-5
Key Returnees: F Nick Dodge; G David Leggio; F Steve Zalewski; F David Cayer
Key Losses: F Shawn Weller; D Michael Grenzy; F Mike Sullivan
The Golden Knights seemingly got better over the first three years of coach George Roll's tenure in Potsdam, but it didn't translate to results. That all changed in year four, with big non-conference wins, the ECAC Hockey tournament championship and a number-one seed in the East Regional. Despite losing to Massachusetts in overtime, the young Clarkson team got its first taste of NCAA Tournament competition and will set its sights on league honors in addition to the Frozen Four in Denver.
Michigan 2006-07 record: 26-14-1
Key returnees: F Andrew Cogliano; F Chad Kolarik; D Mark Mitera; F Kevin Porter
Key losses: F T.J. Hensick; D Matt Hunwick; D Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson’s defection to the Los Angeles Kings, combined with the graduations of Hunwick, Tim Cook, and Jason Dest, means the Wolverines have to rebuild two-thirds of their defense in front of wildly inconsistent goaltender Billy Sauer. Mitera will anchor that green unit. Good thing they’ll be explosive offensively once again — expect Michigan to win its share of high-scoring affairs. Porter, whose 58 points last season was overshadowed by Hensick’s accomplishments, is among the nation’s best two-way players. He could easily match or exceed his point total from last season if paired with Cogliano, who may be the fastest skater in all of college hockey..
Miami 2006-07 record: 24-14-4
Key returnees: F Nathan Davis; F Ryan Jones; D Alec Martinez; G Jeff Zatkoff
Key losses: F Matt Christie; F Marty Guerin; F Geoff Smith
On paper, the RedHawks appear to have a top-five caliber team in 2007-08, losing just four key contributors — all forwards — from a squad that fell one game shy of its first Frozen Four appearance. There’s a lot to like here, starting with a first-rate goalie in Zatkoff, a dangerous top-line scoring tandem in Davis and Jones, and an unheralded defensive unit led by Ray Eichenlaub, Mitch Ganzak, and Martinez. Miami needs a second scoring line to take some of the pressure off Davis and Jones. The onus could fall on forward Jarod Palmer (11g, 19a) and newcomer Carter Camper (71 points with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars).
Notre Dame 2006-07 record: 32-7-3
Key returnees: F Erik Condra; F Kevin Deeth; D Kyle Lawson; F Ryan Thang
Key losses: D Noah Babin; G David Brown; D Wes O’Neill
The Fighting Irish won’t win 32 games next season, not after losing goaltender David Brown to graduation. Junior Jordan Pearce and U.S. NTDP backstop Brad Phillips are the candidates to replace the All-American and CCHA Player of the Year. Still, coach Jeff Jackson’s got a lot of tools at his disposal. Goal support shouldn’t be an issue — the team’s top five scorers from last season return, led by the underrated Condra (48 points in 42 games) and his linemates, Deeth (39 points) and Thang (41 points). Winger Garrett Regan emerged as a scoring threat and a grade-A pest. Don’t overlook sophomore defenseman Lawson, who may very well be the CCHA’s best blueliner.
Maine 2006-07 record: 23-15-2
Key Returnees: F Teddy Purcell; G Ben Bishop; F Billy Ryan; D Bret Tyler
Key Losses: F Michel Léveillé; F Josh Soares; D Mike Lundin; F Mike Hamilton
The Black Bears found themselves back in the Frozen Four for a third time in four years, largely due to two hockey postseason keys that Maine excelled in — excellent special teams and goaltending. While the power play unit will lose playmakers like Léveillé and Soares, a healthy Bishop will be back to backstop Maine. If Purcell duplicates or improves upon his outstanding freshman campaign, and other forwards step up, Maine will be back in the top 10.
Quinnipiac 2006-07 record: 21-14-5
Key Returnees: F Brandon Wong; F Jamie Bates; G Bud Fisher; D Matt Sorteberg
Key Loss: D Reid Cashman
The Bobcats led all ECAC Hockey teams in overall scoring and ranked seventh nationally with 3.50 goals per game last season. They return the majority of that scoring strength, but will miss defenseman Cashman, who keyed their transition game and power play. Another year of experience will help Quinnipiac be better in big games next year. They lost their last two regular-season tilts and saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the conference title game in Albany.

Poised for a Breakout: Michigan Tech, Northeastern