It's only one game against an opponent picked to finish 11th in Hockey East, but Boston University appears poised to make a gigantic leap in the standings from last year to this. The Terriers finished ninth last year, but have been picked to finish much higher this season.
There's a myriad of reasons for the Terrier faithful to be optimistic following just one regular season game an a lopsided exhibition contest. It's not just that BU has outscored its opponents 20-2 including the UMass game and the 12-1 exhibition contest over St. Thomas. It's the way David Quinn's squad has looked and the vast improvement it appears to have made in several key departments over the offseason.
Here's five reasons that fans of the scarlet and white on Commonwealth Ave. should have a smile on their face:
1) Jack Eichel is the most dangerous offensive player in Hockey East. It's a bold statement to make, especially of a 17 year-old freshman who has only played one regular season game in college hockey against a team picked to finish second to last in Hockey East. However, it's not just his four point night. His skating ability, his reach, his elite skill level with the puck on his stick and his finishing ability stands above all.
"Jack has a world class shot," said BU head coach David Quinn. "He's a special player. We all know that."
2) The depth is remarkably improved over last season. Take a look at the line charts from last season and you'll see Nick Roberto dotting the first or second line most games. This season it appears the sophomore from Wakefield, Mass. will be primarily on the fourth line. This isn't a shot at Roberto, a fine hockey player. This columnist was quite high on Roberto from the early parts of last season. It's more about the fact that his demotion on the line chart shows how much more talent BU has across the board. A major problem with last year's team, as Quinn pointed out after the UMass game, was players were being asked to do too much, whether it be log way too many minutes or be put in roles where they didn't belong.
3) This is an issue that has been harped on time and time again, but as anyone who watched the Terriers last season can attest, a major pitfall was the team's inability to break the puck out of its defensive zone and maintain puck possession for any length of time.
The skill level is better across the board, but the puck possession appears to be so much better in the early going in large part due to a more skilled defensive group. The Terriers brought in four freshmen blue liners who can all move the puck well, have good vision and can skate.
4) Special teams should be better. The Terriers ranked second to last, only ahead of Merrimack, in special teams net during the 2013-14 season. With more high-end talent, the power play numbers are sure to go up, but the penalty kill should be better as well. Senior Cason Hohmann, who struggled with an upper body injury last season, was a standout on the PK as the Terriers killed all three UMass power plays. He did a terrific job getting his stick in shooting and passing lanes as did several other BU players. With the added depth comes less need for players to over-exert themselves which in turn will lead to players being more energized and efficient on the penalty kill.
5) The coaching staff will have a year of added experience to be better game managers and prepare the team for the rigorous grind of Hockey East. David Quinn was a standout player for BU and was an assistant coach under Jack Parker and made several stops in pro hockey. However, as he admitted a few times, it was a learning process as he became accustomed to being the bench boss of one of the premier programs in Division I. Between Quinn and assistants Steve Greeley and Albie O'Connell and Director of Hockey Ops Scott Young, there is no shortage of experience and knowledge of the game on the BU bench. Players will know the expectations and the intricacies of the new coaching staff.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.