Joseph Gravellese: With one exhibition game in the books, it's time to turn our attention to the real work ahead, and preview what to expect from BC this year. Obviously, there's a lot of mystery in what to expect from both the three new guys and the countless players who will be asked to step up and play bigger roles this year. Last year, we talked about Rumsfeldian "known knowns."
Starting by looking at the BC forwards...there aren't many known knowns.
The closest thing we have to known knowns are guys we know probably aren't going to be high scorers--Sit, Straight, Smith, Silk--guys who are likely to battle it out for third and fourth line minutes and establish themselves as valuable role players.
Grant Salzano: We did have some guys look pretty good in the exhibition, though. Although, yeah, exhibition, I know. The 'Sit Straight, Smith!' line had a few really good possessions and a nice goal. They were one of the best two lines in the ice, along with Calnan-Gilmour-Tuch.
The line that should really be doing damage is Sanford-Fitzgerald-Cangelosi and they felt pretty invisible all game.
JG: To stay with the SSS line briefly, one thing they do have a little bit of is speed--even more so if Brendan Silk replaces Straight on that line Friday night--and using some of that speed to win dump and chase battles will be a big part of their job this year.
But let's shift the conversation to the top of the lineup. The line of Alex Tuch, Chris Calnan and Adam Gilmour seems poised to emerge as BC's #1 line if it stays together, and that stems from the imposing presence of the freshman, Tuch. With him wearing #12 it was so hard not to watch him and immediately think it was Kevin Hayes.
GS: Tuch was a force in the exhibition. What a big dude he is, and what an absolute cannon of a shot. Two goals on the evening. Welcome to the Heights.
I don't want to do this...please stop me...I don't wanna...but seeing him look so good made me really wish we still had Milano in the lineup.
NO STOP IT GRANT
JG: Well, yeah.
The Tuch line seems likely to really be a pro style, grind it out line, with the presence of Calnan and Gilmour who are impressive, steady players. It's going to be a different style top line from what we've seen in the past with the water bugs flying all over the ice on odd man rushes, and that's OK. But Milano would have been that waterbug element to round it out. It's going to fall on Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi to inject some of that speed and splash element into the offense this year.
GS: Yes it is. I want to see a little more of this out of Fitzgerald:
As that second line goes, so will BC go.
JG: Cangelosi had some really electric moments for BC last year too, mostly early in the season though when he was paired with Gaudreau.
My way too early concern on Fitzgerald is that he seemed to improve last year while playing on the wing of Pat Brown. Playing center comes with additional defensive responsibilities and we'll see how that impacts Fitzgerald's production. Zach Sanford didn't really stand out on Saturday night but based on his pedigree as a draft pick and a good player in the USHL I expect him to contribute.
GS: I couldn't believe how BIG we looked on Saturday. That's weird.
JG: Yes, for sure, this is one of the bigger BC teams I can remember. And up and down the lineup, forwards were willing to engage physically and throw their weight around. Unfortunately the box score didn't track hits but it seemed, from my vantage point, like everyone was getting in on the act.
GS: In theory, Fitzgerald's should be a really steady line. Maybe they won't lead the team in scoring but perhaps they will lead in +/-.
I didn't see any SANTINI SMASHes. I am looking forward to more of those. Defenseman, I know, but when I think hit, I think The Great Santini.
And when I think The Great Santini, I think about little rat looking things getting ATE.
JG: I see the Calnan line as being tops in +/-. Those guys are just steady players, him and Gilmour. it's #19 and #26 who I want to see being explosive.
Speaking of explosiveness, let's talk about Cam Spiro, Exhibition Hero.
We've already talked about his nice burst of speed and pass to set up Danny Linell's goal on Saturday night. It seems like he may have himself a slot on that third line wing this year. Whatever you think of The Kid's tweets he's usually right on his scoops, and he seemed to hint that the last position battle was between Straight and Silk, with Spiro likely to retain that spot on the wing for now.
GS: ZERO TO SPIRO!
A SPIRO IN THE MAKING!
JG: One thing that Spiro has going for him in his attempt to get ice time this year: the element he brought to the table the last few years--namely, speed--is no longer something that's sort of redundant with the other guys on the team. There aren't al ot of burners on this squad. He's got wheels.
GS: Yes, I really think he'll be a regular this year. He sure did look good on Saturday. He had another rush in that game that didn't result in a goal where he blew right around a defenseman on the outside and rifled a shot just over the crossbar. It had us in the stands on our feet.
JG: Nobody's ever doubted his speed. And in fact he's looked really good all around, beyond just his speed, in limited opportunities. Granted, he's never really faced the top notch opponents, so make of that what you will.
But he could be a real x-factor this year. Nobody is expecting BC's third line to pump in goals like the 2012 or 2010 third lines, but if he can become an extra threat facing tired opponents or a bottom D pair, all the better.
Even if he scores 7 or 8 goals, that's an element on that third line that we have sort of been lacking.
GS: With more balanced line time--the top line isn't going to play half the game--we'll probably see increased scoring from the third line just by default.
JG: This is true, but hopefully it's not just by default and it's by improved play. Matt Gaudreau didn't look out of place on Saturday night. I don't expect him to be a major offensive factor but if he can be steady there, that's a plus. And then there's Danny Linell, who has certainly shown flashes of high end skill as well, who could be another x-factor.
That could turn in to a decent line, but it's a question mark.
It's also not inconceivable to think those six NHL draft picks get split among the top 3 lines at some point.
Join us for part 2 tomorrow to discuss the defense, expected to be a strength of the squad.