Below is the All-Hockey East Rookie Team, as picked by SB Nation College Hockey columnist Jeff Cox. Please keep in mind these selections are made based on play in conference games and do not have future pro potential in mind.
Clayton Keller, Boston University
The seventh overall pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2016 NHL Draft came to Commonwealth Ave. with high expectations. He might not have put up Jack Eichel or Kyle Connoe type numbers, but he was the driving force behind BU’s offense. When he was on the ice, you know something magical could happen. His creativity, speed and hands allowed him to make his linemates better. He scored 12 goals and added 15 assists in 18 league games. He led the league in goals, assists, points, shorthanded goals, plus/minus and shots on goal among freshmen. He’s a no-brainer. Keller is also the Hockey East Rookie of the Year, in this observer’s opinion.
Ryan Lohin, UMass Lowell
One of just four drafted players on the River Hawks, the Chadds Ford, Pa. native had a wildly underrated rookie season. He had eight goals and eight assists, playing in all 22 Hockey East games for UML. While he was tied for fifth in points and tied for third in assists among rookies, what stood out was his complete game. He was good on the face-off circle, played well away from the puck and was responsible in all three zones. He killed penalties and was heavy on pucks for Norm Bazin’s team. Another positive when picking Lohin was how he finished the season. He had six goals and five assists in the team’s final 12 games.
Josh Wilkins, Providence
The Raleigh, NC native is another player who slipped under the radar for much of the season. As Nate Leaman pointed out before the playoffs, he actually had more points as a rookie in college hockey than he did in his final year of junior hockey in the USHL. He has terrific hands and a possesses a quick release on his shots. His hockey IQ and willingness to play a heavy game also stood out. He finished the season with six goals and nine assists in 22 league games. When he scored at least a point, the Friars were 17-2-2 overall.
Jonathan Kovacevic, Merrimack
Playing for the Warriors, he didn’t get the media attention he deserved. A big 6-foot-4 blue liner from Ontario, he was a presence in all three zones. He did a good job positionally, using his stick and size to his advantage in his own zone. He grinded going back to retrieve pucks and made good outlet passes. He ended up seeing power play time as the year progressed. He finished the season with two goals, nine assists and a +7 plus/minus in 22 league games.
Andrew Peeke, Notre Dame
The second defensemen’s spot on the All-Rookie team was the most challenging. Peeke gets the nod because of the improvement he showed over the course of the season, and his ability to play well in both zones compared to Jeremy Davies who struggled somewhat. He’s a big-bodied blue liner who has surprisingly good mobility. He led the league in blocked shots among freshman. He chipped in four goals and five assists in 22 league games and went +8.
Jake Oettinger, Boston University
This pick is the no-brainer. While there were four very good rookie netminders in Hockey East, Oettinger was the best. The Lakeville, Minn. native had a .927 save percentage while starting all but two league games. He was poised and a steadying influence in the crease, which was particularly impressive given that he started the season as a 17 year-old freshman.
There were a few players that were truly hard to leave off the list. A sound argument could be made for Northeastern’s Jeremy Davies, UMass Lowell’s Mattias Goransson, BU’s Dante Fabbro, BC’s Connor Moore and Providence’s Jacob Bryson on defense. Likewise for UVM’s Ross Colton, BU’s Patrick Harper and UNH’s Patrick Grasso up front. If picking a runner-up for the goaltender on the All-Rookie team, it’s UConn’s Adam Huska.