The 2014-15 Massachusetts high school hockey season was full of excitement, intrigue and surprise. It ended with St. John's Prep shocking three heavyweights, BC High, Springfield Cathedral and Malden Catholic en route to the school's first state championship in three decades.
Several of the sport's biggest stars have moved on. BC High's Ryan Shea was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks, and to the surprise of no one, bolted to the USHL to play for the Youngstown Phantoms. Malden Catholic's Matt Filipe (Northeastern) and Jack Adams (Princeton), Austin Prep's Eric MacAdams (UNH), Hingham's Matt Demelis (Northeastern) and Springfield Cathedral's Keith Petruzzelli (Quinnipiac) and John Leonard (UMass) are among the other Division I committed players who left high school hockey before graduating in the off-season.
With all those departures, there is a void for future superstars to step up and fill. Here's a look at five returning prospects who will enjoy an even greater role this season. This list does not include other top returning players who were already key players last season, such as Woburn's Justin Alves, Burlington's Anthony Nikolopoulos and Josh Boulos, and BC High's Jayson Dobay.
1. Gendron, Cameron
Central Catholic #71 - 5'11" 150 - RW - 2/5/99
Some observers chalked up his production to riding Jake Wise's coat tails, but that would be incorrect. Certainly, the Boxford, Mass. native isn't as elite of a talent as the BU commit, but he's a good player in his own right. He had a hat trick in the second game of the best-of-three quarterfinal series against Austin Prep in the Super 8. He's quick and able to separate from opposing defenders. He has a quick release and should team up well with Wise once again. Several Division I coaches have brought his name up as one to watch.
2. Murphy, Ian
BC High #21 - 5'11" 175 - RW - 4/6/99
The junior from Braintree, Mass. was always considered one of the better forwards in his birth year in the state, but didn't see much ice time in his first two years for the Eagles. He always had good speed, but he has bulked up some and it shows in his play. His play was the best this observer has ever seen it at the Tier 1 Midget Massachusetts District Championships last month in Marlboro. He'll be counted on to create offense, to help offset the loss of Patrick Kramer (USHL) and Jack Nisbet (Dexter).
3. Tongue, Devan
Springfield Cathedral #20 - 6'1" 170 - LC - 12/31/99
Entering his sophomore season, he'll be expected to step up his game and be more of a consistent force offensively this winter. Gone are Leonard, D.J. Petruzzelli and Pete Crinella. Tongue has always shown flashes of offensive skill. He has good size and is a player to continue watching as he sees more of a primary role for Brian Foley's Panthers.
4. Verrier, Ryan
Austin Prep #5 - 5'11" 172 - LD - 11/19/98
He's often overshadowed by defensive partner Collin Murphy (Northeastern), but he's a player that will be a fringe Division I or Division III prospect. He'll be a junior for Louis Finocchiaro's Cougars this season. He's a good skater, retrieves pucks well and has an active stick. He's mobile and makes decent outlet passes. Three key seniors on the blue line left, meaning Verrier and Murphy will be counted on to log a ton of minutes this season.
5. Casey, Kyle
Malden Catholic #29 - 5'11" 170 - G - 10/17/98
Although he emerged as the better of the two goaltenders, he split time with the graduated Alex Reissis last season. This year he will be the go-to man in net for John McLean's Lancers. Casey, a junior from Boxford, Mass., posted five consecutive shutouts at one point during the season last year. With the off-season departure of the team's top five forwards, Filipe, Adams, Austin Goldstein, Jake Witkowski and Brendan White, defense and goaltending will hold the key to to post-season success. Casey has a chance to step up and make a name for himself.