Will Salisbury finally be dethroned as the three-time defending champions of the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association?
That's the million dollar question as the 2015-16 prep hockey season approaches. The Sarum Knights lost quite a few key pieces to last year's team, but Andrew Will's team returns some talented players, and as usual, have reloaded with several blue chip recruits.
If there's one team primed to knock Salisbury off its perch, it is Avon Old Farms. The Winged Beavers return several big time players, including 2016 NHL Draft prospects Patrick Harper (Boston University) and Jamie Armstrong (Northeastern). In addition, John Gardner's team has the best incoming class in prep hockey. Defenseman Adam Karashik (UConn) and goaltender Matthew Ladd, both rated as "C" prospects by NHL Central Scouting, highlight the group of newcomers.
Once again, the Founders League will be far and away the best in prep hockey. Salisbury and Avon Old Farms, both loaded with Division I prospects, lead the way. However, Loomis Chaffee, Kent, Westminster, Choate, Hotchkiss and Taft will all be solid.
Nobles has been the king of the ISL Keller Division the past two winters, but look for Belmont Hill to make a strong push to regain its spot at the top of the perch. St. Paul's and Thayer should fall in line behind those two programs as St. Sebastian's looks to be in rebuilding mode.
St. Mark's is the favorite to repeat in the ISL Eberhart Division. Led by coach Carl Corazzini, a former standout at Boston University, the Lions have a good crop of their players returning from last year's Small School championship squad, including goaltender Ryan Ferland. Led by another former Terrier, Shawn McEachern, Rivers could challenge for the top spot. Brooks lost a few key pieces to their Large School championship team, but Dave Ries' team won't be a pushover.
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It's tough to argue against slotting the Sarum Knights in the top position, given that they are the three-time defending champs. Will's team lost a ton of key players at every position, including Flood Farr and post-season MVP Bailey MacBurnie in goal. However, if any team knows how to reload it is Salisbury.
Cole Poliziani and Jordan Kaplan are two key forwards returning while Dayne Finnson will anchor an always stout blue line. The big question for Will's team will be if either Nick Sorgio or Jonah Capriotti can come close to replacing MacBurnie. Sorgio has long been touted as a top '98 goaltender in New England, but has yet to fully take off. Capriotti, another '98, comes to Salisbury as a newcomer from Canada.
Impact recruits up front include '99 Tyce Thompson (Providence) and '00 Jack DeBoer (Boston University). Two other forwards joining the Knights will be '97 David Jankowski, the brother of Providence senior Mark, and '00 Jacques Bouquot.
2. Avon Old Farms
After two down years, the Winged Beavers appear primed to make another run deep into the post-season. AOF is loaded with returners and several impact recruits.
The top line will be Jamie Armstrong, Patrick Harper and newcomer Jake Witkowski, a PG from Malden Catholic. Dan Winslow (Quinnipiac), Josh Vertentes, Matt Allen (Providence) and John Giatrelis provide a very good supporting cast.
Karashik and '99 Providence commit Ben Mirageas will lead the defense. Karashik is an offensive defenseman who can also play very well in his own zone with a desire to play physically. Mirageas is one of the best skating blue liners in the region.
Ladd comes to AOF from the Buffalo Regals where he starred for head coach Matt Barnaby. He's a big goaltender who has progressed to a position where NHL scouts believe he could be a big time prospect. A Niagara de-commit, he's likely to be scooped up by a Hockey East program soon.
Many of Dan Donato's star players are still young, especially after the graduation of Bruins prospect Ryan Donato, now playing for Harvard.
A trio of '99s highlight the list of prospects on the Dexter roster. Jack Rathbone (Harvard) and Sean Keohan (Dartmouth) will patrol the blue line. Rathbone is an elite skater who can move the puck as well as just about anyone in the country at his age.
'99 Forward Jack Nisbet comes to the prep ranks from BC High. He's a very good passer who sees the ice well and projects as a Division I player down the road. Two '96 forwards will provide good leadership and veteran experience while bringing different attributes to the table. Pat Daly is a speedster who produced as well as anyone on the team a year ago. Kevin Hock is a big grinder that will step into the offense. He's reportedly garnering some interest from a few Division I schools who see him as a good fourth line guy.
The big reason for having the defending prep runner-up in this slot is incoming goaltender Aidan Murphy. The '98 played the past two seasons with Xaverian. He should be a definite upgrade in the crease.
4. Belmont Hill
Jeremiah McCarthy's team is primed for a big year after losing to Brooks in the Large School championship game a year ago. Belmont Hill has a good chunk of its nucleus back and, as always, will be a disciplined team that plays a strong team game.
'98s Christian O'Neill (Princeton) and Sam Hesler (Dartmouth) lead the way up front. O'Neill has really come on strong and can skate and do a lot of the little things well. '98 Evan Daddario and '96 Christian Faggas are the supporting cast. A player to keep an eye on is '99 John Copeland, a big kid who is still quite raw, but has the bloodlines and size that have piqued the interest of scouts and college coaches.
The defense is solid, guided by '98 Brian Matthews (Yale) and '97 David Giunta. He likely won't get too much playing time but '00 James Perullo is a name to watch for future seasons. Matt Barrow returns between the pipes, but freshman Connor Hopkins, a '00, is primed to take over the starting job. He's one of the best goaltenders in the country at his age.
Dana Barbin's team was the best team in prep hockey during the regular season last year, but faltered in the quarterfinals. The Big Red lost their starting goaltender and a few key forwards, including Yale freshman Teddy Hart, but the strength of their team lies on the back line.
Colgate commit Trevor Cosgrove and 2016 NHL Draft prospect Peter Christie highlight Exeter's blue line, but the group as a whole is very strong. Senior Jordan Haney is an underrated prospect who is strong and consistently solid in his own zone.
PG Joey Lazzaro comes over from Berwick and will look to solidify the goaltending position with junior Nick Moore waiting in the wings.
Up front, senior Ben Solin is an undersized forward whose development has impressed many observers. His skillset has improved dramatically and he is beginning to field offers from Division I schools, where he was considered more of a NESCAC type player previously. Senior Devin Moore and PG Ryan Petti are both considered top Division III recruits.
The Penguins had to replace their entire top line, including BC recruit David Cotton and St. Lawrence commit Bailey Conger, and starting goaltender and Ottawa Senators prospect Joey Daccord (Arizona State).
Rob Gagnon's program also knows how to reload. Three new names to watch for include '99s Vilho Saariluoma, Mattt Guerra and Eric Huss. Saariluoma, from Finland, is a power forward that has major physical tools. Guerra is a skilled, speedy undersized forward. Huss is a player who plays bigger than his size and impacts all three zones.
The team's top incoming recruit is '00 T.J. Walsh, a BC commit. Coming over from Shattuck St. Mary's, he's been sidelined with an injury, but he will provide a spark to the offense with his skill set when he's 100 percent. Another impact recruit is Jacob Kamps, a '97 UVM commit who has a big frame and could receive NHL Draft attention.
The team's top returner is St. Lawrence recruit Marc McLaughlin. The '99 is a rugged forward with a heavy shot and a powerful stride. Dakota Mulcahy, Brent Hill and Max Brainin provide depth to the offense.
The defense will be young and lacks experience outside of '97 Matt Dillon, an offensive blue liner who skates well and likes to push the pace. Joey Halstrom will fill the void left by Daccord.
First year head coach Craig Badger has inherited a very deep team that recruited well in the off-season to add some key additions. Gunnery is one of the few teams that run four lines and three defensive pairings deep.
Gunnery will start the season without Army commit and starting goaltender Trevin Kozlowski, who is sidelined with an upper body injury. '99 Zakary Kinard is a very capable goaltender, but will be tested against older competition more than he has in the past.
The defense is an older group that has plenty of experience. '97s McKay Flanagan, Connor Dahlman, Taylor Slade and Josh Gagne lead the way with '98 Keegan Ulnick also seeing big minutes.
The offense is paced by '98 Cameron Donaldson, a senior from Texas who is committed to Cornell. He's small, but he's extremely slippery and evasive. Clarkson commit Jordan Robert, Matt Danner, Daniel Haider, Chad Varney and Evan Johnson are solid up front.
'99 Zach Pellegrino is another small forward who plays with a high compete level and isn't afraid to mix it up. Two younger newcomers to watch include '99s Ethan DeStefani and Albert Washco. The most talked about recruit is Gustaf Westlund, a late '97 who made his way onto November's NHL Central Scouting Watch List, despite playing Tier II midget hockey in the fall. He's a super athlete who also plays soccer. His skating ability is off the charts.
8. Loomis Chaffee
The Pelicans were hit hard by early departures, including Jacob Bryson and Eric Esposito to the USHL. Including graduation, Loomis lost its top four scorers and top four defensemen.
J.R. Zavisza's team did a decent job of reloading and will have '97 senior goaltender Tim Birarelli as the team's backbone. Outside of Birarelli, the team will be very young in key positions, especially among the team's most skilled players.
Virginia native Andrew Lucas is a player to watch. The '99 is an undersized defenseman who previously bounced back and forth between playing up front and back. He's a smooth skater who moves the puck well and sees the ice with precision.
Vermont commit Joey Cipollone, a '99, will lead the offense. He's a speedy forward who can create time and space with his stickhandling and quickness. '98 Connor Leighton has a strong shot and '99 Mark Amatetti is quick and gritty.
9. Kimball Union
Former Maine coach Tim Whitehead will once again have a strong team. Leading the way up front will be Pat Shea, a Black Bear commit and Florida Panthers draft pick. Jack Doherty, Nic Hamre, Mike Lombardi and George Sennott will provide some veteran leadership up front.
The defense will be led by late '97 Ben Finkelstein, a St. Lawrence commit and '98 Dennis Cesana. Three younger defensemen to keep an eye on are '99s Bryce Dolan and Nolan Lavalee and '00 Jordan Harris.
Brown recruit Elijah Harris and uncommitted Peyton Porter will battle for playing time in net.
The Lions are a team out of the Founders League that is poised for a big season, but will have to overcome an extremely difficult schedule. Dale Reinhardt's team has some exciting players that could make it a fun season.
The key to Kent's success against the upper echelon teams in the Founders League will be how well '98 junior Peter Negron can play between the pipes. He's an undersized goalie, but is extremely athletic, quick and graceful in the crease.
'98 Carter Dwyer will be one of the more physical defenders in prep hockey while senior Greg Krisberg is a solid offensive defenseman at the prep level.
The offense will be led by '97 seniors Satchel Clendenin and Teddy Simpson, but there are some younger players to watch for up front. '98s Tomy Tanner, Jack Bloem and Augie Burkhardt all showed some promise in their first prep action in the Berkshire Jamboree.
This could be Gerry Dineen's best team in a while. Vermont recruits Max Sauve ('98) and Jay Cote ('99) are two small forwards with good speed and offensive skill set. '97 Ben Taylor (Brown) is a big power forward who skates well and will use his size and strength to win puck battles. Union commit Michael Ryan is a solid defenseman who continues to get better. '97 Brett Dineen and '98 Brendan Casey are both solid Division III types that will be solid on the blue line. Look for Canadian newcomer Jeremy Forget to take over the starting job between the pipes.
Leading the way for Dan Driscoll's team will be the offensive duo of Matt Koopman and Barclay Gammill. Koopman, a '98, is a speedster. The Northeastern commit is strong, rugged and can dish the puck out. Gammill is reportedly heading to Division III Trinity College.
13. St. Mark's
The defending Small School champion will be led by '98 goaltender Ryan Ferland. Senior defenseman Peter Housakos and senior forwards Luke O'Brien and Derek Osik are back after strong seasons a year ago.
St. Lawrence recruit Taggart Corriveau and Boston University commit Johnny McDermott are back for their senior seasons and will be the key cogs for the Martlets. Cal LeClair, the son of former NHLer John, and Jack Flanagan add depth up front. Defensemen Kevin O'Leary, Patrick Dawson and Peter Horsfall lead the way on the blue line. Stephen Gasior is back as the starting goaltender.
The Tigers lost top scorer Lincoln Griffin and several other impact players, but there is still talent in the cupboard. Forwards Ty Amonte, Casey Carreau, Mike Seone and Aiden McDonough will lead the way up front. '98 Colin McCabe is the undisputed leader on the blue line. Mike Royer will be the workhorse in goal.
Pat Dennehy's team lost Charley Borek, Jeremy Germain and Turner Uppgren up front and both goaltenders, Sam Tucker and Andrew Tucci. Colgate recruit Jack Hoey and Henry Marshall are the team's top offensive threats. Brendan Less (Dartmouth) and Billy Overby will anchor the blue line. Newcomer Cal Stewart is small, but expected to be a solid goaltender in time.
'99 Notre Dame commit Cam Burke and '01 Boston College recruit Pat Moynihan are both very skilled forwards, but are young. Yale commit Luke Stevens, Brown recruit Michael Fahie and uncommitted Danny Jacobs are also key forwards for Dan McGoff's team, who lost Miles Wood to BC and Cody Todesco to Bowdoin. Jerry Harding is a new forward that projects to be a Division I player down the road.
The biggest concern for the Bulldogs will be on the defensive side of the puck. Nobles lost Billy Sweezey (Yale) and Billy Carrabino to graduation. The lack of a proven goaltender is another reason to keep Nobles down low.
Head coach Shawn McEachern's team will have a very stout defense, led by UConn commit Mike Young. Holy Cross recruit Frank Boie and uncommitted Michael Gurska are also strong defenders. Sophomore Aidan Porter saw a ton of minutes between the pipes last season as a freshman.
Maine commit Jake Pappalardo and Harvard recruit Reilly Walsh lead the way offensive and defensively, respectively, for Mike Walsh's Hornets. '99 Patrick Cotton, a newcomer from Sweden, is a player to keep an eye on. Proctor is a little deeper this year, but there are concerns in the defensive zone that will keep the team from exceeding expectations.
Junior newcomer Jake Acton is a '98 goaltender who possesses the ability to be a game changer for Brett Riley's Cadets. Kevin O'Neill (Yale), Jack Quinlivan (Maine) and Nick Boyagian lead the way up front.
'99 Dartmouth commit Christian LeSueur is a very skilled, smaller forward who will pace the offense. Fellow '99 Matt Holmes is a big power forward who really impressed for the Mid-Fairfield team during the fall season. His skating ability is tremendous for a kid his size and age.
22. St. Paul's
'98 forward Colin McCaughey is the team's top prospect. The forward is a strong skater and should be a fringe Division I prospect or a high end NESCAC recruit.
Michael Brown (Bowdoin) leads the way offensively with his younger brother, Chris. '00 Freshman Mark Gallant, a Colgate commit, is a good finisher. '99 Santeri Hartikainen is an intriguing prospect from Finland. The forward has already been on visits to three of the four Beanpot schools. He played the point on the power play at the St. Paul's Jamboree.
Incoming junior goaltender Ethan Domokos could make a big difference for the Mustangs. '98 forward Jack Bliss leads the way offensively. T.J. Brennan, Spencer Fox, Trevor Turnbull and Bobby Beniers are a fairly decent supporting cast for Paul Cannata's team.
Athletic goaltender Brandon Graf will play a key role in how well the team does this season. The first line will be fun to watch with '99s Ben Thomas, Mac Mulera and Matt Fawcett.
Harvard commit Marshall Rifai is an elite skating defender from Montreal. He'll likely be picked in the fifth or sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Dave Ries' team lost Max Prawdzik in goal and Connor Moore on the blue line. Both are big losses. Senior defenseman Colin Stevens is underrated and could make a very good NESCAC player, or maybe a fringe ECAC or Atlantic Hockey player. Max Rand is one of the top uncommitted forwards among '99s. Sacred Heart recruit Vito Bavaro is a good finisher for the prep level.
Junior goaltender Andrew Farrier, a '97 from Montreal, could be a difference maker for Dan Murphy's Rhinos. Freshmen Jordan Tonelli and Shea Courtmanche are '00s to watch for in the future.
29. St. Sebastian's
Late '98 RJ Murphy (Harvard) will lead the way for a rebuilding Arrows' offense. Jack McCool is a big defenseman who made the NHL Central Scouting Watch List. Alex Zafonte is a goaltender with some promise. The '99 will be tasked with replacing Danny Higgins.
30. Roxbury Latin
Providence recruit Michael Callahan, an elite '99, is the team's top player. He has a pro frame and could be a very good player down the road.