Now that Michigan Tech has officially released their hockey roster for the 2021-22 season, it’s time for the Old Dog to look at the players that Coach Joe Shawhan will have at his disposal and begin speculating about the coming season. And—kudos to THG’s Tim Braun, whose Recruiting Grid had this list nailed down weeks ago.
Without question, this is the largest roster the Huskies have ever released. There’s a log jam for several reasons. First, the “COVID year” last season granted an extra year of eligibility for every player who was onboard then. Second, with the new rules on transfers, Tech has picked up several players that ordinarily would not be available. And third, there are (as always) freshmen coming to Houghton for their first taste of Husky Hockey.
All of that adds up quickly, and Tech will have 29 skaters and 3 goalies potentially wearing Black and Gold this coming season. Given that only 19 skaters can dress each night, and only two goalies (realistically) will be playing on any weekend, that means there will be a real (ahem) dog fight among the Huskies for a chance to log game time.
There are five freshmen joining Tech’s roster as well as three transfers—plus the two players Tech added mid-season last winter. We’ll discuss all of these newcomers as we roll through the talent that will represent MTU in 2021-22 in the coming weeks.
To review all of the players, let’s look at this situation in three groups: forwards, defensemen, and goalies. This week, we’ll look at the forwards. Then we’ll follow up with a review of the defensemen and the goalies next week.
There are 19 forwards on the list this year. I think we can divide these players into three groups.
The IN CROWD
There are five players who, based on their past history, are almost certain to be in the lineup unless they are injured. This includes Trenton Bliss, Alec Broetzman, Arvid Caderoth, Brian Halonen and Justin Misiak. This will be the heart and soul of the Husky offense this season, and if this group doesn’t produce goals, no matter how well they contribute on the defensive end, it’s probably going to be a disappointing year.
The LIKELY GUYS
Right behind are the LIKELY GUYS—four skaters who are going to be heavy favorites to dress every night unless they suddenly decide they don’t want to backcheck. Tommy Parrottino and Jake Crespi are known factors, and Tristan Ashbrook (who transferred to Tech from Rensselaer Polytechnic in mid-season and showed a scoring touch the Huskies sorely need) is also familiar to Tech fans.
The fourth man in this group is Matt Quercia, a 6’3” transfer from Boston University. With 81 NCAA games under his belt in Hockey East, and a solid reputation as a strong defensive forward, Quercia must be seen as someone who’s likely to play if he can fit into Shawhan’s system quickly.
These first two groups have enough bodies for three lines.
The MAYBE GUYS
Next come the MAYBE GUYS. While some of these seven players could end up as regulars, it’s more probable that each week will be an adventure, with a fourth line assignment and/or an extra skater role up for grabs. There’s a good deal of talent in this group, but there are only so many places available and not all of them are going to be happy about playing infrequently. This includes Logan Ganie, Parker Saretsky, Blais Richartz, Nick Nardella and Logan Pietila.
All of these skaters have found a place in the lineup in the past, but this year it will be tougher to get in. The group also includes Ryland Mosely, who joined the Huskies in January and was impressive with his energy and nose for the puck. The last player in this group is Tyrone Bronte, an Australian and a transfer from the now-on-hold Alabama-Huntsville program. Bronte was impressive when he played against Tech last year, and he tallied 4 goals and 9 assists for the Chargers. He’s fast, he can score, and he could work his way up the depth chart quickly if he can deliver when he gets a chance.
Ya GOTTA EARN IT GROUP
Finally, there are three freshmen forwards that fall into the GOTTA EARN IT category. Alex Nordstrom, a Yooper star at Hancock High, racked up 82 USHL games and posted 12 goals and 22 assists there. He also tallied 40 goals in 48 games in the Alberta Junior Hockey league, so it’s clear he knows how to score. With 99 games played in 2-plus years in the USHL, posting 15 goals and 17 assists, Levi Stauber is another strong recruit. He also skated in 52 games out west in the British Columbia Hockey League prior to his time in the USHL.
And, joining Caderoth as another Swedish junior star who found his way to Houghton, is Marcus Pedersen. Like Caderoth, Pedersen has size (6’3” and 190 pounds) and experience playing in the Elit and SuperElit divisions of the Swedish Hockey League. It may take him a while to adjust to the smaller ice surface in North America, but Pedersen could be another great forward for Them Dogs. But it’s less likely he’ll be able to jump right in the way Caderoth did last year just because there’s so much talent stacked up ahead of him.
The BIG PICTURE
Of course, it’s always impossible to know exactly how a 20-something hockey player is going to develop in the next few months. Some of those most likely to play could struggle, and perhaps some of the other guys could play like gangbusters in limited action and fight their way into the regular lineup.
Nevertheless, this team needs to score more than they have in the past few seasons. Anyone who can put the puck in the net on a consistent basis will have a big advantage in the battle to dress and play.
Overall, though, there are 19 forwards and only 4 lines—12 spots—and so not everyone is going to be content. In fact, the Old Dog will suggest that keeping everyone happy will be one of Shawhan’s greatest challenges this year. Perhaps the promotion of Tyler Shelast to assistant coach will provide a younger man’s viewpoint that will help. Even running productive practices might be a problem.
If the team is winning, there’s less likely to be turmoil. But if they are once again a bit short of reaching the top echelon in their league—the newly constituted Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), then grumbling and unhappiness is all but certain to surface. If that happens, with the new transfer rules, more than a couple of the younger players might, in the in semi-immortal words of Back to the Future’s bully-villain Biff Tanner, “make like a tree and get out of here.”
Next week, the Old Dog will turn his attention to the defense. It’s just as crowded there, too.