Each year in Hockey East, it’s inevitable a player or two will seemingly come from nowhere to have a terrific season.
Last year, Northeastern’s entire top line could be counted in that category. Nolan Stevens went from 12 points to 42 while Zach Aston-Reese led the team with 43 points after putting up 23 the year before.
Erik Foley, Soph., LW, Providence - The Winnipeg Jets draft pick had his moments last year, but only scored seven goals and 12 assists in 36 games played.
With the Friars losing their top four scorers from a year ago, the Mansfield, Mass. native will be counted on to take a big step this year.
Foley, who played a year in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, should be more of a force and have more of a consistent impact this season with a year’s experience under his belt. He plays a heavy game, is strong going north and south and finds the score sheet by working hard and using his strength down low more than he does with finesse.
He had a great National Junior Evaluation Camp for Team USA. Two of his goals were scored from right on top of the goal mouth. Getting in on pucks down low, cycling and winning battles around the net are three keys that will see Foley score even more in his second go around in a Providence uniform.
Brendan Robbins, Soph., RW, Maine - The Black Bears didn’t have many bright spots in a season that found them in unchartered territory — close to the cellar.
However, Brendan Robbins is a player that progressed as his rookie season moved along. The Nashua, NH native scored five of his 11 points over the last nine games.
“I thought Brendan Robbins’ game kept getting better all year,” said Maine head coach Red Gendron. “By the end of the season last year, he was really good.”
Maine struggled mightily to score goals a year ago, so Robbins and his teammates will all need to step up in order to avoid finishing in last, where the coaches pegged them.
“I can really see him having a breakout year. His speed is dimensional. He can absolutely fly. He’s as fast as anyone in this league. He has that competitive grit that I want all of our players to have. With a year’s experience under his belt, he can jump out and score even more than he did last year,” Gendron said.
Jarrid Privitera, Jr., C, Vermont - The Old Tappan, NJ native nearly doubled his production from freshman year to sophomore, going from 10 points to 18.
The product of the Dubuque Fighting Saints product is a small, but quick forward who doesn’t mind going into the dirty areas to score goals. He centered UVM’s second line for much of last season, and will be counted on again as a catalyst to the team’s second line.
“Another guy that I thought had a really good year for us last year, and I’d like to see him take another step this year, was Jarrid Privitera. He scored some big goals for us last year and we’re excited to see him back,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon.
Lincoln Griffin, Soph., LW, Northeastern - The son of a former Huskies baseball player, Griffin played in all 41 games for Jim Madigan’s team. However, he didn’t get the offensive minutes he needed to produce at the level he is capable of.
“We weren’t able to give him the ice time he probably deserved because we were so deep last year. He’ll get more of an opportunity this year,” Madigan explained.
Griffin, who came straight to Northeastern from prep school hockey, has a strong offensive skill set. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him plucked in on the second line with center Adam Gaudette and winger Dylan Sikura. Griffin and Gaudette were linemates for Tony Amonte at Thayer Academy.
“Usually from a freshman to sophomore year, you kind of make that adjustment and jump. I’m expecting big things from Lincoln Griffin,” said Madigan.
Marcus Vela, Soph., RW, New Hampshire - Under Dick Umile, it’s unusual for a freshman to see such significant minutes, but the Burnaby, British Columbia native played in all 37 games for the Wildcats.
The seventh round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2015 was a young freshman, playing most of the season as an 18 year old. He scored seven goals and nine assists, including two goals in game one of the Hockey East playoffs.
He’s a big, strong forward who can protect the puck and impact possession favorably. He should see even more ice time this year. Expect his game to really take off now that he’s had one season to learn the ropes in Hockey East.