It’s been an extremely busy summer for those of us at Tech Hockey Guide, but we’re going to do our best to give a good quality season preview before the season starts on October 12 when the Huskies host the defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. I’ll start today with discussing the Forwards.
The attacking part of Michigan Tech’s team should be its strength. They lost three forwards (Joel L’Esperance, Brent Baltus, and Alex Gillies) and a total of 27 goals and 58 points, but Dylan Steman, Jake Jackson and Jake Lucchini (this year’s captains) lead the way returning with their 36 goals and 84 assists and will be expected to build on those numbers this year. Juniors Gavin Gould and Alex Smith will also look to improve on their 20-point seasons. The upperclassmen are rounded out by Thomas Beretta and Ray Brice who should continue to add depth with some offensive ability and the possibility of double digit points as important role players.
A pair of sophomores come into their second seasons after surprisingly good freshman campaigns. Justin Misiak and Greyson Reitmeier both ended last year with 15 points and could both end up double digits for goals this season if they improve their game and don’t lose playing time to the incoming class. Marcus Russell played in just 7 games last year and didn’t get a point but he’ll continue to fight for ice time and challenge to break into the line up every week.
The incoming class is large, including seven forwards from the NAHL or USHL. Much of the expectations will be placed on quartet from the USHL. Alec Broetzman (Madison) and Trenton Bliss (Green Bay) both finished top 20 in the league in scoring, plus Tommy Parrottino (Youngstown) and Brian Halonen (Des Moines) both had 30+ points. Halonen did that as an 18 year old and is the youngest incoming freshman.
The trio from the NAHL—TJ Polglaze (Janesville), Andrew Bellant (Bismarck) and Zach Noble (Aberdeen)—each will add depth, grit and the ability to score too. The battle for playing time with these 17 guys will be intense. Not many players will be safe in the lineup if they’re not performing. Despite the NCAA changing rules to allow a 19th skater, it seems likely MTU will go for a 7th defender over an expanded offense, so five of these guys will be watching from the stands every night.
If everyone is healthy and playing well, I would expect Jackson, Lucchini, Steman, Gould, Smith, Reitmeier, Misiak, Broetzman and Bliss to be locks. Right now, I’d lean towards Brice, Parrottino and Halonen to be there but I really don’t know how that really plays out with lines and if that lineup will have the grinding 4th line Coach Shawhan likes to play. I’m sure at least one of Polglaze, Bellant and/or Noble will surprise the heck out of me and find a way to supplant someone and play most nights.
As I said earlier, the forward group is the strength. This freshman class of forwards could be the best group in recent memory supplanting the 2012 incoming class that included Jujhar Khaira (widely expected to make the Oilers’ opening night roster on Saturday*), Alex Petan, CJ Eick and Malcolm Gould. As we get further through these previews, it will become more apparent that MTU might need this offense to put up 4+ goals a game because the defense and goaltending are far more questionable but could certainly surprise. That might not be much of a problem for the Huskies though as they averaged 3.05 goals per game last year and I expect to see an improvement this year. Top 10 in the country last year was 3.20 GPG and I can definitely see this offense exceeding that number.
Check back later for my preview on the defense.
(*The Oilers are playing a game that has them officially @ New Jersey Devils, but the game is being played in Gothenburg, Sweden as part of the NHL Global Series promotion. If you have NHL Network, you can catch that game at 1:00 PM ET).
Cover image courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics.