Yes, the Terriers no longer have their trump card in star freshman and Hobey Baker recipient Jack Eichel, but there is still plenty to be excited about on Commonwealth Avenue this season.
After falling a goal short of its sixth national title last April, BU returns to Agganis Arena with a balanced set of forwards, an intriguing freshman class and one of the top defensive corps in the country — all of which should factor into another promising season for the Terriers.
Simply put, the Terriers simply do not have the means to replicate the scoring output generated by Eichel and seniors Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann — who combined for an impressive 163 points last season — but David Quinn's club still have enough ammunition to give opposing teams fits in the defensive zone.
Senior forward Danny O'Regan is expected to once again assert himself on the scoresheet after a 50-point campaign last winter, while defenseman-turned-forward Ahti Oksanen will attempt to develop further into his new role after tallying 25 goals a season ago.
Close attention should also be paid to second-round pick A.J. Greer and junior forward Robbie Baillargeon. Suiting up as the youngest forward in college hockey last season, Greer made significant strides in the final weeks of the season, while Baillargeon — who led the Terriers with 27 points in 2013-14 — is due for a bounce-back effort after being sidelined last winter with a bout of mono.
On the blue line, the Terriers return all six starting defensemen from 2014-15, led by senior captain Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk, a first-team All-American and Bruins prospect, is expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season due to offseason knee surgery, but fellow draft picks such as Brandon Hickey, John MacLeod and Doyle Somerby are expected to pick up the slack on defense in his absence.
On top of their already stout group of defenseman, the Terriers will also bring in a potential first-round pick in defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who led all blue liners in scoring last season with the U-18 NTDP. Up front, the Terriers also add two drafted skaters in two-way forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from the Omaha Lancers (USHL) and 6-foot-5 winger Jordan Greenway from the NTDP.
Goaltending for the Terriers is no longer set in stone after junior backstop Matt O'Connor (2.18 GAA, .927 save percentage) signed an NHL deal with the Ottawa Senators.
Quinn has noted that BU will likely kick off the year with a rotation in net between senior Sean Maguire and sophomore Connor LaCouvee. It remains to be seen which of these two netminders will gain the inside edge as the season progresses, but Maguire was often a solid presence for BU from 2012-14 before missing all of last year with concussion issues.
Like many teams, the Terriers have a few questions marks in various positions on its roster, but a stingy defense and a strong veteran presence should once again put BU in good position for more success this postseason.
By Jeff Cox
The defending Hockey East regular season and tournament champions lost a ton of firepower up front, namely Jack Eichel. The loss is more significant than his impact on the score sheet. When Eichel was on the ice, his line rarely was playing defense. Eichel helped sway the puck possession game in favor of the Terriers.
While the offense lost Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann, there are still some pieces up front. Danny O'Regan is the team's top offensive talent returning. He has moved to center with freshman Jordan Greenway on the left wing and senior Ahti Oksanen on the right side.
Pivoting the second line will be sensational freshman Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, a Boston Bruins draft pick. Ryan Cloonan and Bobo Carpenter will add speed and shooting ability, respectively, to the offense.
There is no better defense in college hockey on paper. Led by Matt Grzelcyk, who is returning from off-season knee surgery, is the second year captain and leader of the blue line. Brandon Hickey was tremendous as a rookie last season. He's solid at both ends of the ice, making heady lead passes, having a heavy shot from the point and being dependable in his own zone. John MacLeod and Doyle Somerby provide the physical presence to the back end. Brien Diffley and Brandon Fortunato are undersized defenders who can skate extremely well and move the puck. Add freshmen Charlie McAvoy and Shane Switzer to that group and it should be lights out.
Goaltending is a big question mark for the Terriers after Matt O'Connor graduated a year early and departed for the NHL's Ottawa Senators. Sean Maguire is back after a year off due to a medical leave and sophomore Connor LaCouvee will get more playing time after being the backup last year.
Any pundit completely writing off BU with Eichel's absence is off base. David Quinn and company still have plenty of talent to roll over the boards at Agganis Arena.