Sunday, September 24, 2017

2018 Season Preview

We are a less than a week away from hockey. Yes, five days from tonight, BU will play a real hockey game that actually counts against Union. It is the earliest non-exhibition game I can remember ever being on the schedule.
BU celebrates after a Jordan Greenway overtime winner
in Game1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals last season.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
BU once again has a top-notch recruiting class, ranked second in the nation by Neutral Zone. Like last year, the highly skilled freshmen will be thrown right into the fire and asked to play key roles, but that is one of the main reasons kids choose to come to BU.

Losing Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Clayton Keller, all of whom have already played NHL games, off the roster is going to be hard to replace no matter what kind of recruiting class is coming in.

Kieffer Bellows is a sneaky big loss. Bellows, though only notching 14 points in 34 games last year, was coming into his own at the end of the year. He scored a huge goal against Notre Dame at the end of the season and was one of BU’s best players against North Dakota at regionals. Bellows bolted for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks over the summer. It was long rumored that he was frustrated with playing time last year, seeing a lot of third line time and even getting benched for a game in Vermont.

Simply, Coach Quinn said after the Vermont game, “Sometimes guys just need to sit a watch from above.”

Personally, I thought Bellows was going to be a bigger part of the picture last year and certainly a huge part of the team this upcoming year. I thought he could have been a Colin Wilson type player this season. Wilson had a strong year his freshman campaign, playing much better down the stretch before exploding for 50+ points his sophomore year and neons named a Hoby Hatrick finalist.

All that said, the Terriers still have the makeup of a strong squad in 2017-18. There will have to be a feeling out process. With ten freshmen and a new assistant coach in Len Quesnelle, guys are going to have to get used to playing with each other. Come December, I think things will be running much more smoothly. There is simply too much talent on the roster for it not to work.

Defense is going play a strong role at the beginning of the year. Jake Oettinger, Brandon Hickey, and John MacLoud will be the backbone. It’s fair to expect big things from guys like Dante Fabbro and Chad Krys. Both should be huge contributors on the power play and I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them make a considerable jump from a year ago.

Upfront, filling the holes left by JFK and Keller certainly will not be easy. Bobo Carpenter, who has constantly produced high energy and effort game in and game out will be looked upon to bring that spark to one of the top two lines. Pat Curry, Chase Phelps, and Ryan Cloonan could all very well see increased rolls.

One of the unknowns (again) is the health and effectiveness of Nik Olsson. The senior captain has missed extensive time in all three of his prior seasons. When he’s in the lineup, Olsson is a very effective power-forward who can really contribute on the scoresheet. Olsson seems to be his own worst enemy at times when it comes to taking the body. I’m all for a good body check, but there is no reason to Scott Steven’s everyone on the ice. His overly physical play has lead to more than one injury over his career.

Getting To Know The New Guys

The incoming forward class is highlighted by Shane Bowers and Brady Tkachuk. Bowers, a 6-2 forward from Halifax, Nova Scotia went 28th overall to Ottawa in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. In two seasons, he posted 37 goals and 47 assists with Waterloo (USHL).  Tkachuk (son of Terrier standout Keith) on the other hand, was recently projected as the third pick in next year’s draft. If that comes to fruition, Brady would be the highest BU pick since Jack Eichel. He was also named ‘player of the game’ in Thursday night’s CCM All-American Prospect Game.

Logan Cockerill, another high-end forward and NHL draft pick, racked up 14 goals and 13 assists for the USA U18 team, last season. Ty Amonte, son of former Terrier Tony (who played on a line with Keith Tkachuk in 1991) tallied 37 points in the BCHL for Penticton. The 5-11, Norwell, Mass native played four years for his father at Thayer Academy.

Hank Crone, a 5-9, 165lb Cedar Hill Texas native recorded impressive numbers (24g, 38a, 62pts) with the Fargo Force (USHL). The stats were third highest in the USHL last year, behind only Blake Lizotte (St. Cloud) and Zach Solow (Northeastern). Ex-Catholic Memorial star Jake Witkowski played two seasons with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL) and put up a 23-17-40 line, good for second on the team a year ago.

Rounding out the forward class is Drew Melanson, a graduate transfer from RPI. In 36 games played, Melanson posted four goals and eight assists for the Engineers. In his freshman season, Melanson was named to the ECAC Rookie team with a team-leading 9-11-20 line in 36 games.

On the back end, BU picked up some very highly touted names. The 6-2, 190lb Kasper Kotkansalo could potentially be the captain of the Finnish World Junior team this upcoming season. Kotkansalo, born in Espoo, Finland, played for the Fins in last year’s WJC tournament and their 2016 U18 championship team. He was selected 82nd overall by Detroit in the NHL draft.

David Farrance skated for the NTDP last year, winning a gold medal in U18 World Championships. The offensive defensemen is best known for his puck movement and his assist total (30) on the NTDP is evident of that. Farrance was the 92nd overall pick in the draft by Nashville.

Finally, Cam Crotty finishes up the defenseman. Crotty played two seasons with Brockville in the CCHL, a league not generally known for producing top-end NHL talent. Last summer, Crotty was taken 82nd overall by Arizona, making him one of the highest selections ever out of the CCHL.

According to NHL Central Scouting, Crotty is a “Mobile defenseman … a factor at both ends of the ice … quick and accurate point shot … dictates pace of play … decisive puck-mover … takes away time and space effectively”

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