Every season starts off with preseason predictions that look genius or foolish with five months of hindsight.
This year is no different. After 20 conference games, some non-conference shenanigans, coach's challenges, Mike Eaves postgame quote gold and a modest proposal, the end of the regular season came and went. The end result is that the preseason predictions I made back in September and October now have consequences. (We here at SB Nation College Hockey believe in transparency and admitting in writing we aren't owning Las Vegas. It'd be in video too if I knew how to do that.)
In the spirit of Chris Dilks' NCHC and WCHA reviews, here's my preseason Big Ten predictions and how genius or foolish they look.
3. Ohio State
4. Penn State
5. Michigan State
Actual Order of Finish
1. Minnesota (42 points)
2. Michigan (41)
3. Penn State (32)
4. Ohio State (29)
5. Michigan State (20)
6. Wisconsin (15)
What I got right:
-Michigan State finishing fifth
Sorry Spartans. Not to make noise at your expense, but the fact I called Michigan State finishing fifth was going out on a limb. Sadly Tom Anastos' squad delivered. Out of the 16 people who participated in the preseason poll, I'm the only one who had Michigan State fifth. The coaches had the Spartans third as did most people after Michigan State returned 2015 POTY Jake Hildebrand from a second-place finish.
Here's what I wrote:
The Spartans have a goaltender in Jake Hildebrand that can steal any game, however, I still think it is asking a lot of him to do so for another year. Tom Anastos' preseason divulging of a defenseman undergoing offseason surgery has become the Big Ten's longest-running tradition. With that and the losses of Brock Krygier (graduate transfer to Arizona State) and Josh Jacobs (OHL defection), any depth has disappeared.
Hildebrand went from a .930 save percentage to .904 and the Spartans gave up a goal more per game (3.33 versus 2.29). Defenses struggled this season throughout the conference and no team depended more on its defense than Michigan State.
In addition to slotting the Spartans, I had the correct tiers. Minnesota and Michigan were close together, Wisconsin was way in the cellar, and the rest fought it out in the middle. Maybe Penn State out-skated its expectations by hanging in the top tier for longer than anyone expected, but injuries and the rigors of a long season took their toll.
I was high on the 2015 Winnipeg Jets first round draft pick after his season in the USHL with Youngstown, the latest in a long line of high-end Michigan recruits. I thought he could have the same impact Dylan Larkin did a season ago. Connor did that and more, scoring a nation-high 30 goals in 34 games.
-Calling Hudson Fasching and JT Compher breaking out after sophomore slumps
Both players were not the easiest picks to have on second and first team, respectively. They paid off that decision. Compher ended up being a Hobey Baker top-10 finalist as part of the CCM line while Fasching scored a career-high 20 goals this season.
What I got wrong:
-Michigan winning the title
Credit to Minnesota for taking home the regular season title for the third time in as many years. Although Michigan scored goals like it was playing a video game on rookie level and is the only team guaranteed an at-large bid in the Big Ten, the Wolverines fell one point short. Minnesota's 7-3 road record, getting splits and winning four overtime games in Big Ten play all contributed to the Gophers overachieving, pulling through in a season where nothing came easy.
(It still hasn't. Thanks to a 5-10 non-conference record and a slow start, the Gophers could be the rare team to hang a banner and not make the NCAA Tournament.)
"It doesn't matter what people say about championships. We're going to enjoy this one," said Minnesota captain Justin Kloos after clinching the title. "They're always hard to come by. If they were easy to win one everyone would win one every year. Michigan would win every year, or Penn State had a good year. But we found a way again so it's feeling really good right now."
Both the coaches, half of our poll and I had Michigan winning.
I also had Ohio State ahead of Penn State. The Buckeyes ended the year on a seven game unbeaten streak, but it took too long for the underclassmen like John Wiitala (a healthy scratch at one point), Mason Jobst and Dakota Joshua to get going. (One of the freshmen, Tyler Nanne, never was cleared to play this year and any return to the Buckeyes is in doubt.)
I didn't have Connor on either of my first two teams, which with how the year ends does count as an oversight.
He wasn't my MVP either. Having Zach Werenski, who ended up being the Big Ten defensive player of the year, isn't a bad choice. The methodology (Michigan player that stands out among the depth) was right, though. Just had the wrong player, one who can be considered a favorite to take home the Hobey Baker Award.
-Ryan Collins being on the second team
There was nothing right here. After being cut from the US World Junior team, Collins struggled to regain confidence. He was scratched in early January after being on the ice for all three goals given up in a loss to Penn State and then regularly found himself trading ice time with time in the press box.
-Debating Luke Kunin being all-Rookie team
In this case Kunin made me look foolish with his play. The 2016 draft eligible led the Badgers in goals with 18, good for third in the nation behind Connor and former Wisconsin commit/North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser. His presence was missed when he was not on the ice. There was no debate this time around.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate