It might be hard for some to believe. Fresh off winning the national championship, Providence College might have more premier NHL prospects on the 2015-16 team than it did last year.
That's not to take anything away from superstar goaltender Jon Gillies or captain or local boy Noel Acciari, but some of the younger members of the Friars have made significant jumps to becoming more apt to make it at the next level.
No two players have made more of a progression from last season to this than senior center Mark Jankowski and sophomore defenseman Jake Walman.
"Jake's taken a big step. I think we've gotten a lot of guys who've taken a step. [Anthony Florentino] has taken a step, [Brian] Pinho has taken a step. That's what you need. We lost some pretty good guys last year. We needed guys to step up and fill some different roles. Right now, I like what we're seing," said Providence head coach Nate Leaman.
After a weekend sweep of Ohio State, Leaman's team stands at 4-0-1 as it heads to Colgate Friday and Saturday for a two-game series. The Friars have no shortage of players who could make it to the next level.
Here's a look at seven Providence prospects, who stood out in this observer's viewing of Friday night's 2-1 win over the Buckeyes:
Anthony Florentino, Junior, Right Defense (Buffalo Sabres, 2013 5th Round) - He had an assist and scored the game-winner Friday night. His score was an absolute bullet as he stepped in from the right point in the second period. It was just an absolute laser beam into the far, top corner of the net. Any observer who's seen Providence player over the past few years knows the heavy shot he possesses. He's a good skater and is probably the strongest and most physical of the PC defenders. He's a little more inconsistent than some of the other defensemen, but when he's on and playing his game, he can be a solid shutdown guy.
Mark Jankowski, Senior, Center (Calgary Flames, 2012 1st Round) - The left-shot from St. Catherine's, Ontario has gained 30 pounds over the course of his four-year career, as Mark Divver chronicled in the Providence Journal last week. A lot of pundits criticized him for his perimeter play in his first three seasons at Providence, but the weight he's put on is evident in his play this year. On Friday night he was involved in the play, near the puck and not afraid to drive the net. The turning point might have been the Frozen Four last season, but his play is much improved. An upper body injury he suffered blocking a shot took him out of the third period Friday, but he returned with a goal Saturday.
Trevor Mingoia, Senior, Right Wing - The detractors will say he's too small to make it at the next level, and maybe they're right. However, his quickness and ability to make plays happen should buy him a chance to prove he can do it. Friday's first goal was a perfect example of this. He didn't get credit for an assist on the play, but he was a big part in the play that led to Tom Parisi's goal. He's quick, he's always in the dirty areas and creates chances for himself.
Tom Parisi, Senior, Left Defense - He's not the most explosive player, but his hockey smarts are just off the charts. He is always in good position, in shooting and passing lanes and using his stick to break up plays. He's a good skater who plays with his head up and is always looking to make a strong outlet pass. Simply put, he's a responsible defenseman who is solid in all three zones.
Brian Pinho, Sophomore, Center (Washington Capitals, 2013 6th Round) - He's not the type of forward that will catch a casual observer's eye. He doesn't have blazing speed or hands that will produce highlight reel type plays. He just does a lot of things well. For the most part, he's a consistent player who can be counted on to generate a few good chances each game. His strength, skating ability and awareness in the offensive zone allow him to keep possession of the puck. He's a solid pivot who should keep getting better under Leaman.
Brandon Tanev, Senior, Left Wing - His speed is elite. Even in Friday's game where he was held off the score sheet, his quickness and ability to get in on the forecheck stood out. He's able to make an impact in all three zones, even when playing his off wing like he did to start the game on Friday night. He's very good away from the puck, as well. The bottom line is his speed should give him the chance to have more staying power at the next level than many of the other top free agents in college hockey this season.
Jake Walman, Sophomore, Right Defense (St. Louis Blues, 2014 3rd Round) - He was good as a rookie, but his improvement this year is impressive to watch. He's such a smooth skater with a good first pivot. He skates well going backwards, has an active stick and is solid in his own zone. A left shot, he plays the right point and the puck goes through him on the power play. On one man advantage Friday, he had at least five shot attempts, all blasts from the top of the point that. His vision, skating ability and mobility make him a constant threat in puck possession situations. It's not a stretch to say he's the best defenseman in Hockey East -- right now.