Upon first glance, it would appear that the Fighting Irish are set to take a few steps backward in their third foray against Hockey East competition.
All-American defenseman Robbie Russo — who finished second nationally in scoring among blue liners — was lost to graduation, while leading scorer Vince Hinostroza abdicated his last two seasons at South Bend to sign an NHL contract with his hometown Blackhawks.
Hinostroza's withdrawal might project as the most surprising early exit for Jeff Jackson's crew, but the Irish were also dealt a major blow when the crown jewel of their upcoming freshman class, USNTDP product Christian Fischer, signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes in August.
Regardless of the voids left by Russo, Hinostroza and others, there is certainly is no dearth of talent on Notre Dame's roster this season.
Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen turned heads last season, compiling four shutouts with a .919 save percentage. The fifth-round selection of the Sabres saved his best for the waning weeks of the 2014-15 season, as Petersen led the nation with a .962 save percentage in February before making a Div. 1 record 87 saves in a five-overtime contest against UMass Amherst on March 6.
Up front, the Irish will be led by seniors Mario Lucia and Thomas DiPauli, while Bruins prospect Anders Bjork will look to build upon a freshman season that saw the winger rack up 22 points.
Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross ranked fourth amongst Hockey East blue liners in points (28) last season, and should be aided by the arrival of freshmen Bobby Nardella and Dennis Gilbert of the USHL.
The Irish may not field the most complete team, but no conference foe should take this skilled group lightly. Count on this club to serve as a thorn in the side of every Hockey East program.