In this week’s edition of the Hockey East Roundtable, Jeff Cox and Joshua Kummins look at some statistical anomalies around the league, what is sustainable, unsustainable and what players and teams are going to break through.
What statistic stands out as one that is unlikely to hold up for the full season?
Joshua Kummins: I see no way that Boston University will be tied for eighth in Hockey East in terms of goals scored for very long. The loss of Clayton Keller to a week-to-week, lower-body injury leaves a hole in the offense, but the Terriers have way too much talent. Although there are a lot of other freshmen on the team still feeling things out in college hockey, their talent will surely make the adjustment period less and help balloon that count in a hurry, especially with eight games still to play before holiday break. Of course, that "feeling out" has not really applied to Patrick Harper who has been shining bright at Agganis Arena and leading the team with 14 points. There are plenty more goals to go around in that locker room, but I don't think (read: I hope you don't think) that's a news flash.
Jeff Cox: There has been a lot of buzz about Patrick Grasso’s start to his collegiate career, and rightfully so. That being said, it seems unlikely his current pace of goals per shots on goal will stick for an entire season. Right now he’s at .310, which is tops in Hockey East by a fairly large margin. Six of his nine goals have come on the power play and he has a good stick around the cage. However, he’ll seemingly have to generate more chances to stay close to his nearly goal per game average he is on right now.
What one player do you see improving his current production going forward?
Joshua Kummins: To some Boston College's strong start has been a surprise. While I'm personally not shocked the Eagles have picked up their wins early on in the season, it's a two-loss record that has been most impressive through my eyes. Even better from a BC perspective is that their success has come with Ryan Fitzgerald and Colin White just now picking up their scoring pace to previous form. They were the Eagles' top two scorers a year ago, and main reasons why offense was not my main question mark for Jerry York's team entering this season. The fact Fitzgerald and White were so far down the scoring charts speaks to the depth BC had returning, but they've worked their way up to a combined 23 points. If they can keep the pace up, watch out, because I've advised to never count the Eagles out before.
Jeff Cox: While a good answer would be Josh’s above or BC teammate Colin White, I’m going with Brian Pinho in this slot. The junior has taken a big step up this season, taking key face-offs and playing a pivotal role on the top line. He’s averaging a point per game, but has just two goals. He’s a legit pro prospect who plays a complete, 200-foot game from the center position. It’s a good bet he and linemate Erik Foley will continue to take off. Watch for Pinho’s goal scoring production to increase, maybe starting as early as this weekend with a home-and-home against Northeastern on the horizon.
What team do you think will improve its record going forward?
Joshua Kummins: I'm going with Providence here, and a strong showing against a banged up Northeastern team this weekend could prove critical in the Friars stepping back in the right direction. Although Hayden Hawkey's numbers (.902 save percentage) are not outstanding, PC has played outstanding defense overall as its 18 goals allowed are tied with BU for the fewest in Hockey East while taking the second-most shots. The Friars have also played the fewest games of any team in the league, but I think the firepower of players like Erik Foley and Brian Pinho and some growth from a freshman class with potential will make for a dangerous team as the season continues. One of PC's biggest flaws is correctable as it has averaged 20.1 penalty minutes per game. That's the sign of the NCAA's new standard of play rules, of course. But in a team-specific case, it's a sign of a team still growing after losing four experienced players from its forward group.
Jeff Cox: Again, Josh has a good answer that Providence will see a marked improvement going forward. There is too much talent, albeit young, with a good coach who knows how to get his team playing into his system. Boston University will also likely not lose three games in a nine game stretch again this entire season. I’m going to go a little off the board here and say Merrimack will improve on its 0-2-3 start. The Warriors have been a very good possession team five-on-five and have outshot their opponents in all but one league game so far. Mark Dennehy’s team has struggled to put the biscuit in the back of the net, but have been pretty good on draws. The defense has been able to break the puck out and impact zone entries, led by Marc Biega, Jared Kolquist and freshman Jonathan Kovacevic. It’s out of league, but the Warriors have a tough two-game trip to Madison this weekend to face the Badgers.