Vermont senior captain Michael Paliotta opted to return to Burlington for his senior year instead of signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. Through the first two weekends of the college hockey season, it appears that the Westport, Conn. native made the right decision.
Paliotta, a third round selection by the Blackhawks in the 2011 NHL Draft, leads the 3-0 Catamounts in scoring and has more points than any other defenseman in college hockey. A big, sturdy 6-3 blue liner, Paliotta has two goals and five assists and is +6 through three games.
This past weekend UVM swept former ECAC Hockey rival Clarkson in a home-and-home series. Kevin Sneddon's Catamounts have allowed just three goals in three games, including Saturday's shutout at Clarkson's Cheel Arena.
Paliotta has recorded at least one point in all three games, but his biggest offensive contribution was in the team's opening night victory at Hockey East foe Northeastern. The former prep star at Choate had a goal and three assists at the always-hostile Matthews Arena.
Paliotta, a product of the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., really emerged as a star in the making last season. His ability in all three zones makes him one of the premier defensemen in all of college hockey. He's physical, strong on gap control and really moves the puck well in transition. He could arguably be the top NHL prospect out of all NCAA seniors.
Paliotta and his Vermont teammates return to the Gutterson Field House ice Saturday night when they host the University of Connecticut in the team's Hockey East home opener.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.