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Big Ten Media Day News & Notes

SB Nation College Hockey was on the scene for Big Ten Media Day at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

On this ice the Big Ten conference championship will be decided.
On this ice the Big Ten conference championship will be decided.
Nathan Wells

Here are some quick news and notes from Big Ten Media Day in Detroit where the preseason positivity flows from all six teams. We'll have other features and preseason Big Ten analysis up on SB Nation College Hockey throughout the coming days.

-As expected, Minnesota was the preseason favorite in the 2014-15 Big Ten hockey coaches' poll. In fact, the order matches the poll we released yesterday with Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State rounding up the list.

-The coaches also had a preseason players to watch list that consists of sixteen players. Six of those - JT Compher and Andrew Copp of Michigan, Kyle Rau, Mike Reilly and Adam Wilcox of Minnesota and Wisconsin's Joel Rumpel - were unanimous selections.

-Michigan State's Matt Berry and Jake Hildebrand, Minnesota's Brady Skjei and Sam Warning, Ohio State's Drew Brevig, Christian Frey and Tanner Fritz, Penn State defenseman Luke Juha and Wisconsin's Joseph LaBate were the other players to watch.

-For the second consecutive year Spartans head coach Tom Anastos had to break bad news about junior defenseman John Draeger. This time around Draeger, who was never 100% healthy last season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia, had a hip issue repaired. The timeline is murky although it appears he will start the year working back up 100%. Despite being injured, Draeger last season was still one of Michigan State's top defensemen in minutes.

-Mike Eaves (or his wife) had the line of the day when talking about Wisconsin's 11 freshmen.

"As my wife says, (the freshmen) may lack in experience, but what they lack in experience they bring with enthusiasm. She makes the analogy they're like puppies in a box. They're going to try to get out of the box, and we've just got to put them back in day after day until they figure it out."

-Multiple coaches and players were enthusiastic about how the name value of the Big Ten has helped when it comes to fan support on campus.

-Minnesota head coach Don Lucia mentioned that the Gophers wouldn't stick with the same lines despite returning most of the team that reached the national championship game.

-When it comes to the team's freshmen, it's likely he'll rotate them for the first half of the season. On defense the team has 8 defensemen drafted by NHL teams that can play on an given night. It's a good challenge to have players pushing one another on the depth chart, he said, although at the same time a challenge.

Same goes for replacing the 6 departed seniors, many of whom embraced depth and leadership roles during their time at Minnesota.

-Tim Horton's coffee was made available.

-Anastos doubles as the NCAA Rules Committee chair. When asked about the changes for this year, he was pleased with the subtle changes made to encourage offense.

"When you look at offensive-zone play, and after a scoring opportunity or a shot, and if the puck deflects out, we used to bring the puck outside unless it was deflected out by a defensive player. Now all those face-offs will start in the 
offensive zone. Very subtle thing, but it's still an offensive advantage," he said.

Anastos added, "I like that mindset. Another example is on a high stick or a hand pass, rather than bring the puck all the way back in the defensive zone, we're coming back just one zone. Maybe the most subtle but might have the most impact is traditionally the rules allowed in a defensive-zone face-off for the offensive center to have to put his stick down first and then the defensive team or the defensive player could adjust to that."

-Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky stated that the Nittany Lions program is in the black financially.

-Gadowsky also is very enthusiastic about where his team is heading in year 2.

-Michigan head coach Red Berenson believes the defense is the key to his team, saying "we have to be better defensively. We were below the middle of the pack on goals against, and that wasn't just our goalies, that was our team, whether it's your penalty killing or your back checking or your defensemen or whatever.

"We have some young players that will be more productive this year, as well, and I hope that we're not a one-line team," he said. "I hope we're a team that has balance in scoring just like Minnesota was last year, and we'll see where that goes. But I think guys like J.T. Compher will be ready to be a bigger role on the team, and Andrew Copp led our team in scoring last year, and he's our captain going in along with Zach Hyman. I think Zach is going to have his best year this year."

-Berenson was also one of several coaches to point out Minnesota's depth last season.

-Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik is looking for his team's depth to replace lost scoring from early departures Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick rather than having one player stepping up.

-Everyone seems to enjoy the conference setup of games in the second half. (i.e. Ohio State starts off against Providence and Miami while Minnesota has UMD 3x, possibly Notre Dame 3x, SCSU and BC). Having more non-conference games allows for more chances to play non-conference rivals and Eaves stated he likes the basketball-like schedule. .

-The topic of early departures in college hockey came up with both Lucia and Berenson. The key for Lucia, whose team did not have an early departure, is making sure the players who come back are committed 100%. He wasn't surprised that all came back given their situations compared with those of top-ten picks or more recently Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula (both of whom returned for a junior year two seasons ago).

While Lucia mentioned having no problem with players leaving when they are ready for the NHL to the point of "driving them to the airport," Berenson made sure to point out it's not always in their best interest. Michigan lost two juniors early last season in Phil Di Giuseppe (Carolina Hurricanes) and Alex Guptill (Dallas Stars).

"I can name you half a dozen players that I've seen in our league or our team that had they not played their senior year, they never would have made it, but they made it because they played their senior year, and really took that step. I know everybody is on an individual situation,"  Berenson said. "I think these kids, the longer they can stay in school, the longer they have a chance of making a living in hockey."


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --