The Boston College Men’s Hockey team is sitting at 6-5-4 after ending the first half of their season with a big 9-6 win over BU. They’re in the middle of pack in Hockey East and on the outside looking in of the Pairwise rankings, but there’s still plenty of hockey to play. We’re still stuck in middle of the holiday break, so before BC gets back into action next week against Arizona State, let’s take a look at two bigger stories to come out of the first half of the season.
CHECKING IN ON THE OTHER FRESHMEN
Cutter Gauthier has been just about everything BC could have hoped for and more, but there are four other freshmen playing big minutes on a nightly basis for BC this season, and now feels like a good time to dive into what we’ve seen out of them so far.
At forward, both Oskar Jellvik and Andrea Gasseau have flashed some serious potential even if it hasn’t resulted in huge scoring numbers. That’s not to say they haven’t been contributing, however, as Jellvik is currently sixth on the team in scoring while Gasseau is tied for eighth.
The two players have impressed in different ways. Jellvik clearly has some real offensive upside to his game. He might only have one goal to his name so far, but it might be the goal of the season to this point, serving as the game winner in BC’s 3-2 win over UMass Lowell back in November
Seven of Jellvik’s eight assists have been the primary helper and his shooting percentage of 4.3 percent feels like it has to come up at some point.
Watching Andrea Gasseau, on the other hand, it’s hard not to see a bit of Patrick Giles in his game, and only a little bit because they both wear #24. Gasseau is BC’s biggest forward and he plays like it. He’s a pretty physical player who is already being heavily used on both the power play and penalty kill, and he’s succeeding on both. Gasseau was recently put on Gauthier’s wing on the top line, and the two showed some instant chemistry with a nice give-and-go play against BU
Seven points in 15 games isn’t going to blow anyone away, but Gasseau absolutely has looked like a player who can skate up in the lineup next to some more skilled players and not look out of place.
On defense, Lukas Gustafsson and Charlie Leddy have both been playing top four minutes for pretty much the entire season. Gustafsson has come on strong recently, and is actually fourth on the team in scoring with two goals and 10 assists. Six of those assists have been secondaries, which are a bit more random than primaries, but Gustafsson already looks like a good defenseman at this level. Maybe most impressive are his six power play points, which have almost entirely come as part of the team’s second unit. He’s clearly won the trust of the coaching staff already - he was listed on the top pair along with Eamon Powell in the game against BU - and hopefully he’ll continue with this level of play in the second half.
Charlie Leddy has came to BC labeled as a defensive defenseman and that’s exactly what he’s looked like so far. He spends too much time in the penalty box (he’s leading the team with 27 penalty minutes) but outside of that, he’s been a pretty solid contributor on the blue line. His game is unremarkable but consistent, and that’s kind of what you want out of a defenseman with his skillset. One thing that is remarkable, however, is how tough of a player Leddy is. He’s taken a beating at times this year, including a few bad looking collisions with the boards that I thought would cause him to miss at least the rest of the game. And every time, he’s back on the ice after just a few shifts. Leddy seems like the kind of player who won’t be missing time unless he’s tied down in the locker room during the game.
For a freshman class that didn’t seem overly exciting outside of Gauthier, all four of the other regulars in the lineup have already shown that they can play a bit at this level. And while Gauthier will almost surely be done at BC after the next few months, it feels like Jellvik, Gasseau, Gustafsson, and Leddy could all be contributors here for the next few seasons, and maybe guys playing important roles on the next great BC team.
AN UNLIKELY BREAKOUT PLAYER
Before the season started, one of the things I mentioned was that for BC to succeed, they were going to need a member of their junior class to breakout. Specifically, it felt like one of the forwards - Nikita Nesterenko, Colby Ambrosio, or Trevor Kuntar - was going to have to have a big season. And those three have been mostly fine. They’re all scoring at a slightly better pace than they did last year (Kuntar is actually all the way up to a point per game pace), but I think it’s fair to say that none of them have really come out and been quite as dominant as we might have hoped.
That said, there was another member of the junior class that I didn’t even consider when making this point in the preseason. Eamon Powell has, for my money, been BC’s best defenseman and one of their best players overall this season. He truly looks like a completely different player than he did last season, and his eight points in 15 games is already just one off of his total in 38 games from last year. Powell has really turned it on lately, with six points in his last seven games, but even without the scoring numbers, you can just tell he’s a more confident player this season.
Powell seems has taken a page out of Marshall Warren’s book with how much he has been skating with the puck this season, and you can see why that was considered such a strength of his game coming into his freshman year. He’s looked good in the defensive end, he’s running a very dangerous looking top power play unit, and his first passes are almost always crisp. I was a fan of Powell’s game as a freshman but after he took a noticeable step back last year, there was definitely reason to be concerned with how this year would look. Fortunately, his game has taken a big jump, and he’s been one of the most fun watches on a nightly basis this season.