Louis Leblanc, from Pointe-Claire, Que., was taken by the Canadiens 18th overall in June's draft. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
When the games aren’t being played on the ice, speculation becomes the favored pastime. With that in mind, I’m starting to get excited about the 2009-10 NCAA season. Yes, part of the fun is the number of big names who will be suiting up for college squads this season, but also because some different schools have a chance to make a splash.
Unfortunately for Colorado College, potential star defenseman and Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder John Moore signed a pro contract with the NHL squad, meaning he’ll be playing for the Ontario League’s Kitchener Rangers instead. But barring any other changes of heart, here are some freshman classes – from both traditional and non-traditional powers – that have me intrigued this season.
St. Cloud State (WCHA): A smaller school in a power conference, the newest edition of the Huskies will at least have some serious horses to ride against traditional elite teams such as Wisconsin and Minnesota. The incoming class is headlined by two home-staters in goalie Mike Lee and high-scoring right winger Ben Hanowski. Lee (drafted 91st overall by Phoenix this summer) led the United States League’s Fargo Force to the league final, while Hanowski (Pittsburgh, 63rd overall) pumped in 110 points in 25 Minnesota high school games on the small-school circuit.
Harvard (ECAC): How about a hurrah for the smart kids? It’s hard enough to convince non-Americans to skip major junior, but the Crimson managed to woo two solid NHL draft picks to Boston even though their schoolwork will be, well, intimidating. Canadian Louis Leblanc (18th, Montreal) and Swede Alexander Fallstrom (116th, Minnesota) immediately give Harvard name recognition and scoring punch, which the Crimson lacked last season. Harvard had just one top-20 scorer in the conference – and that was 21-year-old junior Doug Rogers, who finished 19th. Former NTDP hands David Valek and Brendan Rempel are also intriguing prospects.
Boston College (Hockey East): It couldn’t have been fun for the Eagles to watch their archrivals from B.U. clinch the national championship last year, but with the Terriers losing Colin Wilson, Matt Gilroy and Brandon Yip among others, B.C. has a chance to make amends. Defensemen Brian Dumoulin (51st overall, Carolina) and Patrick Wey (115th, Washington), and right winger Kenny Ryan (50th overall, Toronto) bolster the next generation at Chestnut Hill and steady the squad for a shot at the Beanpot, among other accolades.
Michigan (CCHA): The Wolverines don’t really rebuild; they reload. As such, nearly every summer brings new prizes to Ann Arbor. But lately, the outbox has been fuller than the inbox – Jack Johnson, Andrew Cogliano, Max Pacioretty and Aaron Palushaj have all left school early in recent years, so bringing in new elite talent was crucial. Chris Brown (36th overall, Phoenix) and Kevin Lynch (56th overall, Columbus) bring NTDP experience and will be two of the key incoming talents for the Maize and Blue. Both are forwards who will take some scoring pressure off leading returning scorer Louie Caporusso, an Ottawa Senators pick. Ironically, I like what Michigan has lined up in 2010 as well, with athletic puck-moving defenseman Mac Bennett (79th overall, Montreal), Jon Merill and forward Luke Moffatt. That’s quite the pipeline coach Red Berenson has going.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - on Fridays, and his prospect feature - The Hot List - on Tuesdays.
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