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Season Preview: Denver

My next preview takes a look at my pick for 2nd place in the WCHA; Denver.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Ryan Dingle C Geoff Paukovich RW Brock Trotter
LW Matt Glasser C Tyler Ruegsegger RW Rhett Rakhshani
LW Pat Mullen C Brian Gifford RW J.D. Corbin
LW Michael Handza C Tom May RW Ryan Helgason
LD Andrew Thomas RD Chris Butler G Glenn Fisher
LD Cody Brookwell RD T.J. Fast G Peter Mannino
LD Adrian Veideman RD Julian Marcuzzi G Danny King

Strengths:

The Pioneers looked like they were going to have one of the best offenses in the WCHA, until top line center Paul Statsny bolted for the pros. Losing Statsny hurt, but the Pioneers still have pretty good depth at forward, including one of the best natural goalscorers in the country in Ryan Dingle. The Denver forwards also have a nice mix of skilled young forwards, and experienced veteran forwards. Freshmen Rhett Rakhshani drew rave reviews for his play this summer and he could make an immediate impact in the WCHA. Also, if freshemn Cody Brookwell and Brent Seabrook adjust to the WCHA, Denver will be extremely deep on defense.

Weaknesses:

Even though they won a national title, I’ve never been sold on the goaltending duo of Peter Mannino and Glenn Fisher. Despite the good players they’ve brought in, it’s impossible to replace guys like Gabe Gauthier and Matt Carle, who provided a lot of leadership, in addition to all of their goals and assists. Denver could struggle early on while they get used to not relying on those two and the young guys get their feet under them.

Question Marks

Can their powerplay be as effective without Carle, Gauthier, and Statsny? They'll be tough to replace, but Denver does have a lot of guys behind them that are waiting to step up. Are Tyler Ruegsegger and Brent Seabrook ready for college hockey? Both players were originally recruited for 2007, but were brought in a year early due to some early departures.

Overall:


I think this is going to be a very good team. They’re one of the most complete teams in college hockey. They don’t quite have the talent to keep up with Minnesota over the course of the season, but in a one-game setting, I think they’d be pretty close to even. Given their experience in the NCAA tournament, I think they’re a legitimate threat to win the national title.


Key Player: Chris Butler. After serving as Matt Carle’s understudy for a year, Butler will likely take over the role as the Pios top defenseman. While he may not run the powerplay as well as Carle did last season, Butler did score 14 points on the powerplay last year, and will probably improve upon that this season.

Breakout Player: Brock Trotter. There were only three freshmen in the WCHA that averaged a point per game last year. The first two, Phil Kessel and T.J. Oshie, are pretty obvious. The third was Brock Trotter, who tallied 5 points in 5 games last season before suffering an ugly cut from a skate blade that ended his season. Trotter’s return could help give Denver one of the country’s best offenses.

Bellwether: Last season, Denver’s goaltending duo of Glenn Fisher and Peter Mannino combined for a save percentage of .898. If they can improve that save percentage to the .905-.910 range, they’ll be a much better team.

Did You Know?

Thought Denver’s official name is the University of Denver, the correct abbreviation for the school is DU. They share this with a number of major schools in the middle of the US, including the University of Nebraska(NU), University of Colorado(CU), University of Kansas(KU), and the University of Oklahoma(OU)

The city of Denver shares the same boundaries with Denver County, making Denver one of the few consolidated city-counties in the United States.

The University of Denver was founded by politician John Evans, the same person who founded Northwestern University.

Denver was chosen as the site of the 1976 Winter Olympics, but voters voted against funding to pay for the games, so the Olympics were moved to Austria that year.

If You Go There:


You Have to Eat At:
Spanky’s Roadhouse serves great burgers before the game, and after the game, The Border restaurant is a great college bar to hang out at.

You Have to Visit: Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Don’t be scared away because John Tesh made that crappy live CD there. It’s built into the mountains over a mile above sea level and provides a beautiful view of the landscape.