The Huskies are coming off a second consecutive regular season league title. Repeating that feat for a third straight year will be a difficult task though. The Huskies will have the replace the leadership and all-around play of Hobey Baker finalist Nic Dowd and break in a new goalie, all while playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
|Joey Benik, JR||Kalle Kossila, JR||Jonny Brodzinski, JR|
|David Morley, rJR||Patrick Russell, FR||Jimmy Murray, JR|
|Brooks Bertsch, SO||Joe Rehkamp, SR||Daniel Tedesco, SO|
|Judd Peterson, FR||Garrett Milan, SR||Nick Oliver, SR|
|Extras||Ryan Papa, SO(inj)||Cory Belisle||Blake Winiecki, FR|
|Andrew Prochno, SR||Ethan Prow, JR|
|Tim Daly, SR||Mika Ilvonen, FR|
|Jarrod Rabey, SR||Niklas Nevalainen, SO|
|Extras||Ben Storm, SO||Nathan Widman, FR|
|Charlie Lindgren, SO||Rasmus Reijola, rSO||Joseph Phillippi, JR|
Note: Ryan Papa was originally listed on St. Cloud's first line, but hip surgery will keep him out at least half the season, and potentially the entire year.
NHL Draft picks: Brodzinski(LAK), Storm(COL)
Potential Free Agent targets: Prochno, Prow, Kossila
For the second straight year, the Huskies find themselves replacing a Hobey Baker finalist after the graduation of Nic Dowd. Junior Jonny Brodzinski will help pick up the slack in scoring. Brodzinski proved last year that his freshman season was no fluke, developing into a go-to scorer for the Huskies last year with his incredible shot. Where Dowd’s absence will really be felt--along with fellow outgoing senior Cory Thorson--is up the middle of the ice. Both players provided a strong, reliable defensive presence at center, which will be tough to replace.
It would be a bit of a surprise if the Huskies got a ton of scoring production from their incoming freshmen forwards, which means the returners will need to make a jump in development to keep the Huskies on the same level they've been the past two seasons. The loss of Ryan Papa, at least for a good part of the season, really hurts. But this year's junior class has played a big role on the past two league title-winning teams, and now that they're upperclassmen, they should be able to carry the team.
The Huskies return one of the best defensemen in the league in senior Andrew Prochno, a skilled, smart, efficient, possession-oriented defender. Junior Ethan Prow made a big leap in development last year, basically going from Prochno-lite to Prochno 2.0. Together, those two should give St. Cloud one of the best defensive pairs in college hockey.
The biggest hole to fill on the blueline will be replacing graduated senior Kevin Gravel, who brought size, and a gritty physical game. Sophomore Ben Storm certainly has the requisite size to fill that role, but Storm was extremely raw last season, playing limited minutes, and might not be ready for that much ice time this season.
The wildcard on the blue line for St. Cloud will be Finnish newcomer Mika Ilvonen. Ilvonen is a small, puck-moving defenseman that excelled playing junior hockey in Finland, and is likely to represent the Finns at the World Juniors this year. A player of his talent should be able to make the transition to college hockey, but it’s never a guarantee. Similar things were expected from Niklas Nevelainen as a freshman last season, and he really struggled in the first half of the season, before seeing his role diminished in the second half of the year.
The Huskies will have to replace Ryan Faragher, who passed on his senior season wit the Huskies to sign a pro contract with the Anaheim Ducks. The loss of Faragher is cushioned a bit by the fact that Faragher really struggled last year, especially in the second half of the season. Replacing his .905 save percentage from last year shouldn’t be too difficult, but the Huskies will likely need a better performance in the nets this year after losing some key offensive contributors from last season.
Taking over in goal will be sophomore Charlie Lindgren. Lindgren only saw about five full games worth of action last year while he apprenticed under Faragher, though those minutes were spread out over 10 different games. One terrible start at Denver tanked his statistics, but otherwise he showed good potential. He came in as a highly-regarded recruit too. So while the Huskies are unproven in goal, there is the potential to improve in that spot from last season.
Backing up Lindgren will be redshirt sophomore Rasmus Reijola. Reijola played a few games and really struggled as a young freshman two seasons before redshirting last year when Lindgren came in. He’s a big goalie and reportedly has performed well in practices. He could be a wildcard, especially if Lindgren struggles handling the full-time workload in goal.
The Huskies have a pretty tough schedule this year. They open the season with non-conference series against Colgate, Union, and Minnesota before heading into the NCHC season. That should give them a good idea right away about Lindgren's capabilities as a starter. They should get great production from their first line, but the difference between the previous two years and this year is that I just don't see as much production coming from behind that top line.
Overall, this is a pretty good team. I don't think there is much separating the fifth-best team in the NCHC from the best team, and St. Cloud should be good enough to hang in the NCHC title picture for most of the season, but one really good team will end up without home ice in the playoffs, and I think St. Cloud is the one to get shuffled out by season's end, probably only by a few points if so.. Nationally, the Huskies tough out-of-conference should keep them in the race for a potential NCAA tournament bid, even if their record is marginal.