Few programs can utter talk of a "down year" when their season concludes in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but such was the case with the Eagles in 2014-15.
A young forward corps proved to be BC's biggest flaw last winter, with underclassmen making up eight of the team's top-10 scorers over the span of a year in which the Eagles dropped from first to seventh in the conference in goals per game (2.82).
However, with another year of experience under their belt — along with a stellar freshman class — the Eagles should once again reclaim their throne at the top of Hockey East.
While only three BC skaters managed to light the lamp more than 10 times last season, the Eagles return a loaded junior and sophomore class that accounted for almost 65% of the team's scoring last year.
The Eagles welcome back their top-three scorers in sophomore forward Alex Tuch and juniors Adam Gilmour and Ryan Fitzgerald. Tuch — who became the first freshman in 42 years to pace BC in scoring — made huge strides during his first year at Chestnut Hill and should continue to be a force down low.
Gritty forwards Zach Sanford and Chris Calnan will provide the Eagles with a physical edge near the net, while speedy center Austin Cangelosi should continue to improve after a 20-point campaign.
On top of the Eagles' already impressive returning forwards, Jerry York and his staff managed to draw in one of the top freshman classes in the country — punctuated by three impact skaters in Jeremy Bracco, Colin White and Miles Wood.
A two-year veteran of the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP), Bracco should make an immediate impact for the Eagles after breaking the record for most assists in a season (64) with the U-18 team last year.
While BC has a wealth of skill at forward, the Eagles' defense does raise a few questions. The Eagles lost captain Michael Matheson and star freshman Noah Hanifin to NHL entry-level deals, but still feature a lofty returning class on defense with Ian McCoshen, Steve Santini and Teddy Doherty.
Losing both Hanifin and Matheson will likely thrust freshmen Casey Fitzgerald and Josh Couturier into starting roles, but any potential growing pains on defense will likely be countered by the return of goaltender Thatcher Demko.
Offseason hip surgery might limit Demko at the start of the year, but the San Diego native is about as safe of a bet as you can find amongst Hockey East backstops.
While the pieces are largely in place for the Eagles, the chief determinant in what could be a special season for BC lies in its large troupe of returning forwards taking the next step in their development. Based on this program's track record, such a scenario almost seems like a certainty.
By Jeff Cox
Boston College has been selected as the preseason number one team in the country as well as in Hockey East by just about every media outlet and coaches' poll there is. With Jerry York's track record and the talented lineup he can trot out each game this season, it is tough to argue against the Eagles.
Boston College's top three forward units will be incredibly good, no matter how York decides to shuffle the lines. Three freshmen, Jeremy Bracco, Colin White and Miles Wood, all come to BC as NHL Draft selections with high acclaim.
Add the three of them to a group of returnees that include Alex Tuch, Zach Sanford, Ryan Fitzgerald, Chris Calnan, Austin Cangelosi and Adam Gilmour, you have the makings of an offense that should generate plenty of chances.
Despite losing Michael Matheson and Noah Hanifin, the Boston College blue line is still loaded with star-studded prospects, including Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini. Senior captain Teddy Doherty will once again be a puck-moving defenseman that will push the pace and contribute on the power play. Freshman Casey Fitzgerald and junior Scott Savage will also play a key role.
Junior Thatcher Demko is the backbone of the Eagles. He looks sharp after offseason hip surgery. The Vancouver Canucks prospect, if healthy, should be the best goaltender in Hockey East.