The 2012 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey National Champions won't have their on campus parade and rally until tomorrow evening. So while fans of the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes anxiously await decisions from juniors Chris Kreider and Brian Dumoulin respectively - decisions I expect to be announced at or immediately after tomorrow's rally - we Eagle fans can cast an eye towards next year's team as well.
Kreider and Dumoulin both almost assuredly will forego their senior seasons, removing both the most talented forward and most talented defenseman from this year's roster, as well as the two most NHL-ready players. In addition to the two juniors, BC will graduate six seniors, four of whom played key roles on this year's squad: fowards Barry Almeida, Tommy Atkinson, and Paul Carey; defensemen Tommy Cross and Edwin Shea, and goaltender Chris Venti.
These departures remove one forward from each of BC's top three lines, as well as half the defensive corps. But just as they've had throughout this amazing 15 year run, the program has ample resources at its disposal with which to re-load.
The existing roster returns four players who were routine scratches this season: junior forward Brooks Dyroff, who has appeared in 20 games between the last two years and spent some time on the blue line this season while Patrick Wey recovered from a severed foot tendon; sophomore forward Patrick Brown, who has appeared in 43 games between the last two years, was a regular amongst the 2010-11 bottom six, and is the son of former Eagle Doug Brown and nephew of former Eagle and current assistant coach Greg Brown; freshman forward Cam Spiro; and freshman defenseman Mark Begert, both of whom appeared in one game this past year.
In addition to potential reinforcements from the press box, next year's club can expect bigger contributions from the freshman trio of Danny Linell, Michael Sit, and Quinn Smith, who made for a solid fourth line on this year's team. Much like Almeida, Carey, and countless others before them, these three likely will grow into more minutes and larger roles after beginning their careers with small, defense-first assignments on the fourth line.
Beyond the in-house options, BC has seven incoming freshman commitments according to College Hockey Inc: forwards Travis Jeke [Northwood (NY) HS, 6'4", 205], Peter McMullen [Langley (BCHL), 6'0", 204], Brendan Silk [USNTDP (USHL), 6'2", 191], and Frankie Vatrano [USNTDP (USHL), 5'10, 221], and defensemen Mike Matheson [Dubuque (USHL), 6'1", 180], Sam Piazza [Sioux City (USHL), 5'11", 204], and Teddy Doherty [Dubuque (USHL), 5'8", 185]. [UPDATE 4/10: College Hockey Inc's database is incorrect - Jeke is a defenseman]
Five of the seven are currently in the United States Hockey League, the premier junior league in the U.S., while McMullen - the grandson of the New Jersey Devils founder and long time owner John McMullen - skates in A-level juniors in Canada. Matheson was the top-rated prospect for the Quebec Major Junior draft before electing to go the USHL route to preserve college eligibility. Doherty attended famed Minnesota hockey factory Shattuck-Saint Mary's, and is the nephew of former Eagle Marty Hughes ('01).
three four defensemen have the greatest chance to make an impact next year, with three openings on the blueline. Losing Cross and Dumoulin, the top two defensemen on the roster, as well as Cross's partner Shea, will certainly hurt, but Patrick Wey, Patch Alber, and Isaac MacLeod make for a solid returning core. Given that Begert dressed for but one game as freshman, despite being the only spare defensemen on the roster and Wey missing a dozen games due to injury, 2012-13 may see Jeke, Matheson, Piazza, and Doherty all receiving regular minutes. BC has had success in the past with young defensive corps: the '97-'98 team that lost the championship game in overtime had freshmen Bobby Allen, Rob Scuderi, and Marty Hughes, the 2001 Championship team featured J.D. Forrest and Brett Petersen, and Carl Sneep was the lone senior on the 2010 Championship blueline that saw Dumoulin, Wey, Alber, and Philip Samuelsson all log significant minutes as freshmen.
Patrick Wey, Isaac MacLeod, Bill Arnold, Kevin Hayes, and Johnny Gaudreau are the remaining underclassmen whose draft rights are held by NHL clubs, but I don't expect any of them to depart school this year. Tommy Cross's leadership as the captain and as an outstanding representative of the university will be difficult to replace, but the junior class of Wey, Alber, Stephen Whitney, and Pat Mullane figures to supply ample leadership for next year's club.
Last year at this time, the team was still reeling from a shellacking at the hands of Colorado College in the Regional Semifinals. Record setting goaltender John Muse, as well as first line forwards Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney were set to graduate. Jimmy Hayes, Cam Atkinson, and Philip Samuelsson all soon would announce their early departures, further cutting into the depth, and Johnny Gaudreau remained a Northeastern commit. At that time I couldn't imagine the 2011-12 team being as talented as the 2010-11 team, but that was before the returning players grew into new roles, before Gaudreau emerged as the Eagles' next diminutive superstar, before Parker Milner righted his mid-season slide to become BC's next great goaltender,and before a record-setting 19 game winning streak. There's every reason to believe, with the returning players from this year's team and a talented crop of incoming freshman, that Jerry York's team will continue to compete for trophies into next spring.