On paper, Merrimack appears poised to ramp up its scoring output in 2015-16 with the return of nine of their top 10 scorers from last season, but uncertainties at key positions could certainly contribute to another slide down the standings for the Warriors.
A year removed from finishing second to last in the conference with just 2.13 goals per game, Merrimack will need sophomores Brett Seney and Jace Hennig to continue to make strides after recording 20-plus points in their freshmen campaigns.
Junior Hampus Gustafsson (25 points) and senior Brian Christie (23 points) should also make their mark on the score sheet, while CCHL import Mathieu Foget should serve as a sparkplug despite his freshman standing.
While the Warriors return a large chunk of last year's roster, the departure of goaltender Rasmus Tirronen is hard to overlook. Sophomore Collin Delia impressed in limited action between the pipes, but it remains to be seen if the California native can match the production of Tirronen — who finished second in Hockey East last season with a .929 save percentage.
By Jeff Cox
Merrimack will have even more depth up front, and the team continues to improve its skating ability across the board. Head coach Mark Dennehy made a strategic adjustment in his recruiting philosophy so that the Warriors will be a stronger skating team, which should help breaking pucks out of the zone and keeping possession.
That doesn't mean Merrimack won't still be a big, strong team that will look to utilize its physicality as an advantage, especially in the comfy confines of Lawler Arena.
Brett Seney, Jace Hennig and Mathieu Tibbet made up a terrific line as rookies a year ago and should be looked upon once again this season. Brian Christie, Hampus Gustafsson and Chris LeBlanc are three bigger power forwards who use their size and strength as leverage.
The defense loses Dan Kolomatis, but picks up mobile, puck-moving defender Ethan Spaxman, who will be a pro prospect down the line, once he bulks up. Marc Biega and Jared Kolquist are now sophomores with a year under their belts.
Collin Delia was terrific in net when called upon last season, and probably would have played more down the stretch if not for how good Rasmus Tirronen was. Drew Vogler was once a highly regarded prospect and should be a serviceable backup.