The moment I saw Ferris State’s All-Decade Teams get released around the Great Lakes Invitational, I started wondering what a 20 player team (12 forwards/6 defensemen/2 goalies) would look like. Since the WCHA currently allows 21 players to dress, we’ll go that deep. We’ll also select 3 goaltenders like a home team because I really struggled to pick just 2. The stats I mention include all of the 2009-2010 season and this season through the GLI (all of 2019).
We’ll cover the 12 Forwards during this first part of the All-Decade Team. First, I tried to figure out who the top 12 forwards were over the last 10 and a half seasons, then figure out if they fit from a positional lineup. For the most part, that ended up working but it might not feature the guys based on where they played the majority of their games for Michigan Tech.
We’ll start with what was probably the easiest position to figure out. For the polls released on twitter, it was difficult for me to go eight deep here and have them be legit RWs and also truly belong in the poll for this decade. However, if you really look at statistics, roles, and responsibilities with the team during the decade the four that shake out are pretty obvious. They all stayed four years and as a group they averaged 145 games, 42 goals, 61 assists, and 103 points.
The obvious leader at this position was Alex Petan. He has the most goals, assists, and points of anyone during the decade (59-76-135) averaging almost a point per game for his career in Black & Gold (0.882). His 15 game winners and 21 power play goals are also tops for the team. He led the team in scoring every season except his Junior year when Tanner Kero took a giant leap forward to All-American status. There is little doubt that Alex Petan deserves Top Line status as the best Right Winger of the last decade.
The rest of the Right Wing group consists of David Johnstone, Joel L’Esperance and Reid Sturos. Their careers all overlap with David Johnstone being a senior when Sturos and L’Esperance were a sophomore and freshman respectively. David Johnstone was overshadowed by a couple other players on this team but hitting the century mark for points is big deal in Michigan Tech History.
It’s happen 66 times in the 98 year history of the team and it only happen 8 times combined in the 90s and 2000s. Joel L’Esperance fell just short with 98 points. L’Esperance and Sturos both earn their spots for finding a way to grow as players and really lead by example throughout their careers.
I’ll do my best not to confuse anyone but the top Left Wing over the last decade is Blake Pietila (not the freshman goaltender). Pietila didn’t always play left wing but he was one of the best on the team, he scored 46 goals and 106 points in his four year. His strength lies with his ability to play any role. For the Huskies he was a Top 6 forward, but he helped Team USA win a Gold Medal in the 2013 World Junior Championship. His versatility allowed him to dominate the whole rink and put up points while not being afraid to play the hard ice that Joe Shawhan talks about frequently. From an all-around stand point, I can’t really think of a better forward in the decade.
The rest of the Left Wing group features another member of the Century Club, a sniper, and a leader. Jake Lucchini, Malcolm Gould, and Brent Baltus. Lucchini was a great scorer that failed to finish his senior year strong enough but beyond that his career resulted in 104 points and second most game winners (11).
To quote one of the writers I spoke to in putting this list together, Malcolm Gould worked his ass off to improve himself and stay in the lineup. Once he did, he scored. He managed 75 points over his career after struggling to get quality minutes his first two seasons. His improvement over the hist last two years was quite helpful in getting the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, and one game away in 2016.
The last player on this list is Brent Baltus, the leader of that historic playoff run in 2018 that saw the Huskies knock off Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan on their way to the inaugural Sauer Trophy and almost an upset of Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. He was the glue that kept that team together and over his career he scored nearly a point every two games.
This was the deepest position over the last decade. According to College Hockey Inc’s statistics for face offs, two of our Left Wingers (Pietila and Lucchini) could have qualified with over 1600 face offs in their career but Left Wing would be very weak without them. The top choice Center for the 2010s is the only player to make an All-American team in the decade, Tanner Kero. Kero entered his Senior season with 65 points but found a way to put up the best season any player did in the decade scoring 20 goals and 46 points on his way to all-conference and all-American honors along with leading the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament since 1981.
Brett Olson was next on the list, one of the few players to make the list that played under former coach Jamie Russell. Olson was the epitome of a leader for helping bring the team together under Pearson in his first year and his statistics match up considering his first three years were pretty lean. He fought through all that and helped the team to a spot in the WCHA Final Five.
Mike Neville and Alex Smith round out the center position with good careers and great character as well. Neville was a valuable leader that finished his senior year 54% on faceoffs and 23 points. He played his role throughout and stepped up in the end. Smith is the only current Husky to make the list which isn’t that surprising considering the dearth of seniors. His role as a leader and the fact that he’s the only upper classman besides Seamus Donohue in the Top Ten scoring for this years team help to make his case.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Blake Pietila||Tanner Kero||Alex Petan|
|Jake Lucchini||Brett Olson||David Johnstone|
|Malcolm Gould||Mike Neville||Joel L’Esperance|
|Brent Baltus||Alex Smith||Reid Sturos|
It was a fun exercise going through this to come up with the best four lines of skaters for the 2010s. I feel its necessary to add a few honorable mentions or explain a couple exclusions. I couldn’t bring myself to include someone like Jujhar Khaira who left after only one year. Malcolm Gwilliam and Jordan Baker might have made it from the Russell era but they didn’t have enough time in the 2010s. Tyler Heinonen, Jake Jackson, and C.J. Eick were fan favorites but part of their game was lacking at times and they just didn’t make the cut. Check in next week when we release our All-Decade Defensemen and Goaltenders plus we’ll include an extra skater like NCAA Hockey allows.