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Long Island University Filling Out Inaugural Roster

The NCAA is still in a Covid-19-induced recruiting dead period, meaning coaches are unable to conduct in-home or on-campus visits, nor do any scouting—not that there are any major events to scout as it is. But they are still permitted to talk to potential recruits, and since Long Island University named Brett Riley the school’s first head coach two weeks ago, he has been hitting the virtual meetings hard trying to put together a roster for this upcoming season.

So far, the Sharks have garnered 12 public commitments from players for next season. Of the 12 players committed, two are transfers from other Division I hockey programs with immediate eligibility for next season, while the other 10 will be incoming freshmen.

Here is a look at who they have committed so far:

Forward

Marty Westhaver-’99-Victoria(BCHL)

Connor Szmul-’99-Chippewa(NAHL)

Madoka Suzuki-’00-Kemptville(CCHL)

Nolan Welsh-’99-Prince George(BCHL)

Daine Dubois-’99-Bonnyville(AJHL)

Aaron White-’99-Amarillo(NAHL)

Gustav Muller-’99-Madison(USHL)

Brad Ong-’99-Coquitlam(BCHL)

Defensemen

Jordan Di Cicco-’99-Brooks(AJHL)

Nolan McElhaney-’99-University of New Hampshire(Freshman eligibility)

Robert McCollum-’99-Muskegon(USHL)

Mitch Meek-’96-Michigan Tech grad transfer(Senior eligibility)

It’s certainly a start. There’s only so much out there to work with at this late stage in the recruiting cycle. Despite being a team of mostly freshmen, they’ll be an older team, with all but one of their recruits so far having exhausted their junior hockey eligibility. That makes sense, given the circumstances. They need players ready to play right away, and recruits with the option of returning to juniors likely weren’t jumping at the chance to play at a school with so much unsettled so far.

It doesn’t appear that there are any potential huge scorers in this early group as well. Szmul—formerly committed to Alabama-Huntsville until the announcement to drop their program—and Suzuki had decent scoring numbers, albeit in leagues where scoring numbers don’t typically translate over to the NCAA, while Muller had lowish scoring numbers in the USHL. But goals are likely to be tough to come by for this bunch.

The biggest surprise to me is just how many freshmen there are so far. LIU picked up Mitch Meek, who should provide some solid senior leadership and experience, but the only other transfer is Nolan McElhaney, who still should technically have freshman eligibility after missing all of last season with a knee injury. I have no idea who all was out there, or if Covid made things more difficult, but I would have expected LIU to be much more aggressive in the transfer market finding players with college experience and limited eligibility. There is likely to be a lot of attrition over the next few years, because an 11+-player recruiting class every four years isn’t a sustainable model.

The most important priority to fill at this point is in goal. Whoever they recruit is likely to see a ton of rubber, especially in the first couple years of the program, and could potentially help ease over some of the rough spots the fledgling team is likely to see.

It’s an impressive job by Brett Riley to have gotten this far this quickly. Last month when this announced, I think some were skeptical anyone would be able to put this together in time, and now the picture looks a whole lot clearer. But there is still a ton of work to be done to have LIU ready to step on the ice this season, and if they do, they likely still have a long ways to go before they are ready to be competitive in men’s D-1 college hockey.