Joseph Gravellese: Welcome back to our continuing discussion of the upcoming BC hockey season. In Part I for this week, we are going to be talking about some individual storylines set to play out in Chestnut Hill this winter.
Certainly the biggest storyline, in terms of individual players, is Gaudreaubey Watch 2.0. Will he win the award this year?
Grant Salzano: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the "OMG UR SUCH A FANBOY!!!!111one11" crowd -- of course he will.
Would you like some actual Reasons(TM) for why this will be the case?
GS: Alright. So, first of all, we know Gaudreau is just generally filthy. But I think what's going to be the key here is going to be to get his line back to having a similar look as what it did early last season.
Gaudreau can't excel quite as well when he's the only real threat on a line, because he gets absolutely everyone's attention. And that's going to be the case tenfold this year, because of his Hobey run last year and just how big of a name he is.
But look at what happened last year: At the start of the season, when he started off on that ridiculous 12 game point streak, he was put on a line with Pat Mullane and Steve Whitney.
Once injuries started taking their toll and the lines got shaken up, Gaudreau and Whitney were separated. At the end of the season when he cooled off a bit he was on a couple different lines, but one that comes to mind is Gaudreau-Mullane-Linell.
Mullane was an excellent, solid player, the absolute epitome of the Jerry York Fourth Year. He was the 2013 Barry Almeida. Played good hockey for three years and then used his experience to really put it all together for a career senior year. But Mullane was more of a setup guy than a finisher.
Whitney, on the other hand, showed flashes of being a superstar for three years until last season when it REALLY took off.
Whitney was the type of player who would draw attention, a guy who had some flash and was a finisher.
Look what happened when Gaudreau was separated from that type of player -- he cooled off significantly when everyone was able to just key in on him as the only real finisher on that line.
Now for the bold statement that brings this all together...
JG: I'm looking forward to this.
GS: Gaudreau is going to be put on a line with one or two of the elite freshman this season, and Ish Is Going To Get Real.
JG: That is, in fact, a bold statement. It wouldn't stun me, though I'm going to remain cautious about my expectations for the freshmen.
GS: I know we're talking about freshmen and you really can't go out and say someone's going to succeed right off the bat. But a few of the incoming players have that kind of style, even if unpolished, that can draw attention.
You're either going to see that freshman start to get some attention, and Gaudreau able to put on a run with some of the pressure off him, OR, Gaudreau continues to get attention and he has another finisher to dish the puck to who can make it happen on his own.
We all know Gaudreau is magical getting through traffic with that puckhandling.
JG: Alright. Well, with that scientific logic, who am I to argue.
GS: Not the craziest of my predictions.
Can't you just see his patented set-up-behind-the-net play, with a flashy freshman out in front to go to to put it home?
JG: Sure, especially since we don't even know which "flashy freshman" you're talking about, so it's all a figment of your imagination.
GS: We tend to be really good in my imagination. You should hear my football predictions.
JG: What I'm more curious about is this: Who are the other serious contenders?
Are there any seniors that are rock-solid Hobey contenders? Because being an upperclassman seems to count for a lot, quite often.
GS: I don't think you're going to see any incredible goalies this year (and I mean really incredible, not Quinnipiac incredible), so I'll just eliminate that from the whole picture.
JG: Ha. I still get a chuckle thinking about that guy from the New Haven Register or whatever it was being so upset that Hartzell was "snubbed" for the Hobey.
I think where you have to start is seeing who's actually returning, among last year's contenders.
Right off the top you have the nations #2 leading scorer from last season, Ryan Walters of Nebraska-Omaha, who announced that he will return to college for his senior season.
I think you have to consider him a really serious threat. I was surprised he didn't get more of a look last year, to be honest, but that's what happens when you play in Nebraska.
JG: They could be poised to be more in the national picture now that some of their top conference foes are off to greener pastures.
GS: Indeed. And that, of course, matters quite a bit in the Hobey talk. I would be surprised if he didn't make the Final 3, assuming he has a healthy year.
I have a hard time looking at Greg Carey of St. Lawrence seriously, despite him being leading scorer for much of the season. I haven't heard anything about him going pro but I really struggle to see him as a real contender when he plays for a team like St. Lawrence.
JG: I think Gaudreau will, barring a decline in quality of play this year, pretty solidly lead the way among Eastern players. The question is obviously some of the western guys.
This being college hockey, you never know, but yeah.
GS: I agree (naturally). As the only returning Hobey Hat Trick finalist all eyes will obviously be on him right from the drop of the puck.
Which is awesome, because we still have plenty of shirts available for you freshmen out there!
JG: Of course, what will have as much to do as anything with his Hobey prospects is how the team does around him. And we'll get into this more in a couple of weeks, but I'm getting pretty excited about this roster.
I think it's fair to call Gaudreau the leader in the preseason Hobey power poll, even taking off the maroon and gold blinkers. He should have a damn good shot at it.
GS: Being an upperclassman now obviously helps.
JG: Moving on to another big storyline for the year: Kevin Hayes.
It's almost easy to forget he's coming back. He was considered a foregone conclusion to be a 3-years-and-out guy. Then... stuff happened. And now he's coming back -- and that could be huge for BC.
It's pretty clear that things went on a downward turn when he got suspended. Remember, his suspension came the Friday night after the Beanpot, which was probably pretty much the highlight of the season (the team went all BU on us).
Once he came back from suspension and got hurt in his first game back, things went from bad to worse in a hurry.
GS: The Hayes thing felt like it was really kind of a death blow. We were already struggling and then everything just went to hell from there.
Depth was such a huge problem this year. And also speed. You're right on the "Going BU" comment, it was such an uncharacteristic season.
Hayes could be the next guy to continue the trend of Fourth Years going off. He obviously has talent. He reminds me of Steven Whitney -- Lots of skill but every year we wonder if he's finally going to put it all together.
JG: Not to get off topic, but that Beanpot was a bit of a mirage anyway. We played two pretty awful teams en route to the trophy.
But yeah, Hayes always has seemed... on the cusp of being a dominating player, but not quite there. Being a senior with some extra motivation to have a bounce-back year could help.
You can't underestimate the value of having someone with his size and strength in the lineup. If he didn't get hurt, he'd be playing against pros in the AHL this year, probably.
To me, he's the kind of player you want on a line with Gaudreau. Someone who can get in front of the net and provide the smash to Gaudreau's dash. (Though there's certianly something to be said for having speed burners alongside him.)
GS: Not to mention his experience -- there are going to be more than a few freshmen getting significant playing time this year. We're going to need all the leadership we can get.
GS: I was going to say the same thing about being on a line with Gaudreau, actually. He would slot perfectly into Mullane's 'solid senior' role, and also change the look of that line a bit.
Every time I mention 'flashy freshman" I see this happen in my head:
So maybe Cangelosi would be just the guy to center a line with Gaudreau and Hayes.
Seeing Hayes be the 'front of the net' guy for Gaudreau's 'Gretzky's Office' passes is kind of drool-worthy.
Stop by tomorrow for Part 2, where we discuss Matheson, early departures, and some quick hits.