After previewing the best of the NCHC's and Big Ten's freshmen class, it's time to look at potential impact freshmen in the WCHA this year. The WCHA's recruiting profile is a little different than the other two leagues. It's a much more mature group with many players that were overlooked as youngsters, but blossomed in junior hockey. As a result, this group may not be as hyped as the younger recruits in other leagues, but that doesn't mean they won't be effective players at the college level.
Here's our look at ten(technically 12) freshmen to watch in the WCHA this year:
1. Peter Krieger, Forward, Alaska-Fairbanks
Krieger was a decent player coming out of the Minnesota high school ranks, but he is a classic example of a player whose career really took off when he got to junior hockey. He scored 54 points as a rookie for Aberdeen in the NAHL(tied for 22nd in the league behind a bunch of guys on teams that scored way more goals Aberdeen). That earned him a spot in the USHL this past year, where he continued his scoring touch, finishing fifth in league scoring with 67 points in 60 games for Waterloo.
He doesn't blow you away with speed or skill, but his excellent hockey sense have allowed him to become a big scorer at the junior level, and should continue over to the college game.
2. Mark Friedman Defenseman, Bowling Green
Friedman was the highest selected player with WCHA ties in this past summer's NHL Draft, when he was drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Friedman is a smaller defenseman, and not incredibly fast for his size, but he makes up for that with a high hockey IQ and absolutely tenacious play. He's a crafty offensive player that racked up 40 points in the USHL last season--fourth-best among defensemen, best among first-time draft eligible D--and can play hard-hitting physical defense. He should be a regular on Bowling Green's blue line from the outset this year.
3. CJ Franklin, Forward, Minnesota State
Franklin, like Krieger, is another player that was a good, not great Minnesota high school player, but really blossomed in the USHL. Franklin is an athletic kid that didn't completely focus on hockey until after high school, at which point he became a star for the Sioux Falls Stampede. Franklin impressed so much that he was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the fourth round of the NHL Draft this past summer in his final year of eligibility.
Franklin is a tenacious two-way forward that is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win. His excellent speed makes him a dangerous offensive scoring threat.
4. Brett Beauvais, Defenseman, Bemidji State
Beauvais was an under-appreciated player with Kalamazoo's NAHL franchise for two seasons. It wasn't until he moved to Penticton of the BCHL last season that he really started to get credit for what an excellent defenseman he is when he averaged just over a point-per-game with the Vees. Beauvais is a smart player that plays his position ery well, and can contribute on offense by making smart passes.
The Beavers already have a power play quarterback in senior captain Matt Prapavessis, but Beauvais should help add depth to that role this year, before taking over the top job next year when Prapavessis graduates.
5. Olivier Mantha, Goalie, Alaska-Anchorage
Mantha was the first player to commit to Alaska-Anchorage after new head coach Matt Thomas took over. With last year's goalies Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal both graduating, there will be opportunity for him to step in right away and play, along with fellow freshman Jared D'Amico. Mantha is a Quebec-native, but moved to Penticton of the BCHL last season where he put up excellent statistics. Mantha isn't huge for a goalie, relying more on excellent quickness and good positioning to make saves.
6. Dane Birks, Defenseman, Michigan Tech
Birks was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and played last season in the BCHL before enrolling at Michigan Tech this year. Birks is an intriguing combination of a player that has above-average size--he measures at 6'3" 190 lbs--but also possesses some offensive abilities. He'll add size to the Michigan Tech blueline, replacing outgoing seniors Dan Sova and Brad Stebner--without sacrificing the skating ability needed to play the up-tempo style of hockey that Michigan Tech wants to play.
7. Brad McClure, Forward, Minnesota State
At one time, McClure was committed to skate for Ferris State. But after moving to Penticton in the BCHL, the Ontario-native re-opened his recruitment, and eventually landed at Minnesota State. In his final year of junior hockey last season, McClure captained an excellent Penticton team and scored 80 points in 58 games. McClure is a quick skater with a deadly release on his shot which makes him a dangerous goal-scoring threat.
8. Mason Blacklock, Forward, Michigan Tech
Injuries slowed down Blacklock last season in the BCHL, limiting him to just 28 games, and likely cost him a good chance at being drafted in last summer's NHL Draft. But if healthy, Blacklock has the ability to be a major offensive weapon for the Huskies. He's a very skilled forward, and at 6'1" 194 lbs., he has the size to handle the physicality of college hockey.
9. Max McHugh, Forward, Alabama-Huntsville
Alabama-Huntsville underwent a major roster turnover over the summer, cutting a number of players from last year's team in order to add some new recruits. Leading the way for that freshman class is Max McHugh. McHugh was a last-minute addition to the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL last season, but went on to be an alternate captain for the Saints, and score 21-13-34 on the season. Adding talented players with experience in college hockey's top feeder league will be a big step towards bringing the UAH program to respectability.
10. Fitzgerald brothers, Forwards, Bemidji State
Triplets Leo, Gerry, and Myles Fitzgerald are the only three incoming freshmen this year to have their own Wikipedia page. That's because while they're talented scoring forwards--Myles tied for the league scoring lead in the BCHL, while Gerry was third in league--they also have a bit of a film career .The triplets combined to play one role in the movie Baby Geniuses, and in the sequel Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, two movies that rank among the Bottom 100 movies of all-time accoring to IMDB rankings.
While the original Baby Geniuses is just generically bad, coming in at 89th on the list, the sequel is truly special. It ranks as the 9th worst movie, and, in a category with very stiff competition, the absolute worst sequel of all-time. The collected reviews from Rotten Tomatoes are absolutely amazing to read. To make a movie so bad that people say, "This movie with Carrot Top playing a surfer that becomes CEO of a major company has almost no artistic merit whatsoever, but at least it's not that." is a remarkable accomplishment.
The Fitzgeralds should be much better on the ice than they were on the big screen, and should help add some scoring punch to Bemidji State's line-up this year.