We've reached the point in the fall where teams are starting to release their rosters for the upcoming season. As a way of previewing the season, I'll be taking a look at each team's roster, and how their team looks for the upcoming season.
Up first is Notre Dame. Last year the Irish earned the ignominious title of 'most talented 8th place team ever'. Coming off a run to the Frozen Four the year prior, the Irish suffered from some shaky goaltending and an offense that disappeared in the second half of the season. Despite last year's poor results, expectations should be high for Notre Dame this year given how many talented players they have.
Here is this year's team.
F-Patrick Gaul (Graduation)
Maday and Lorenz were two very capable veteran players. Sheahan's early departure hurts, especially since he showed signs of being a dominating force last year, but Notre Dame did get three years out of a first round NHL draft pick, which is pretty good by most standards, and Sheahan never cracked double digits in goals in his Notre Dame career, making his offensive contributions seemingly replaceable. The other four were mostly role players. Notably absent from this list is Anders Lee, who returned to Notre Dame for his junior season.
This is a very strong class led by two Minnesota high schoolers in Lucia and Fogarty that were high NHL draft picks and played a year of junior hockey before jumping into college hockey. What's most notable about this group is that every player comes from an extremely successful team. Lucia and Fogarty dominated the BCHL with the Penticton Vees, and won Canada's Tier II championship. Herr won the USHL's Clark Cup with Green Bay, and DiPauli and Ryan both won gold medals with the NTDP.
The Irish return their top two scorers in TJ Tynan and Anders Lee, and will expect Lucia and Fogarty to step in right away and contribute offensively as well.(Update: Lucia will miss the first half of the season due to injury.) The bottom half of the lineup contains a lot of hard-nosed, physical players. It's a talented group, but also largely the same group that managed three goals in a game only once in their final 12 games last season.
The Irish are always a pretty strong team defensively. The big key this year is that defensemen Stephen Johns, Kevin Lind, and Shayne Taker all make the jump from underclassmen to upperclassmen this year. All three are big defensemen but speed has been an issue, and their play hasn't quite lived up to expectations so far in their career. If they can take another step forward this season, this could be a dominating unit.
The Irish split time between Steve Summerhays and Mike Johnson last year, with neither really grasping firm control of the starting job. There's perhaps no better indicator of Notre Dame's confidence in net than their mid-summer pursuit of top goalie recruit Jon Gillies, who eventually ended up at Providence. Summerhays comes into the season as the favorite to see more playing time but it seems likely he and Johnson will battle it out again for playing time, with whoever is hot at the moment getting the start.
The Irish have developed a strange pattern of mixing one great year with one poor year, which, for a team that recruits as well as they do, should be inexcusable. It's always a bit of a mystery which Irish team will show up, but given that they have more talent on their roster than the large majority of college hockey teams, it seems foolish to bet against them having another down season.