Everyone has seen the national poll, media poll and coaches poll. And if you’ve picked up the Herald preview, you’ve seen my rankings. But here is my chance to explain my thoughts my picks and share them with those who have not seen them.
Player of the year: Chay Genoway, UND.
Thoughts: Genoway was fantastic in the nine games he played last season. He’s a game-changer and perhaps nobody in college hockey can create space like he can. Certainly, there are questions because of his lengthy time off. But after seeing how Robbie Bina, Ryan Stoa, Brock Trotter and Malcom Gwilliam came back from major injuries, I think Genoway can do it as well.
His toughest competition should be Jack Connolly from Duluth and teammateÂ Jason Gregoire. St. Cloud’s Garrett Roe will put up a lot of points, but isn’t as good in all areas as Connolly and Gregoire.
Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, CC.
Thoughts: After gettingÂ my pick in this category correct the last two years, I’m feeling the pressure to keep the streak going.Â For me, it came down to Schwartz and DU’s Beau Bennett. Both guys are not only extremely talented, they will get first-line minutes and power-play minutes from Day One. That means lots of points. I think highly of DU’s Jason Zucker as well, but everyone I ask says that Bennett is the higher-end guy. The big darkhorse in this is Omaha’s Matt White (no, not the former UND recruit). He was undrafted so there’s not a lot of buzz, but he dominated the USHL last season and I expect him to contend.
As for UND’s guys, they are highly touted, but it is doubtful that they will be in position to win it. I was surprised that Derek Forbort got as many votes as he did in the media poll. I don’t remember the last defenseman to win rookie of the year. It’s usually a tough league on rookie D.Â Forbort and Brock Nelson will both be great players, but with as many returners as UND has, it’s hard to see them getting the minutes and pointsÂ that Schwartz, Bennett and Minnesota’s Nick BjugstadÂ will get (I actually thought Bjugstad would win the media poll).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: I like their talent and depth at every position.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: I really like the Bulldogs’ chancesÂ this season. They have that fantastic top line. Their defense should emerge.Â Dylan Olsen should make big strides on D. Mike Montgomery probably could have signed in the offseason and rookie Justin Faulk is highly touted.Â Kenny Reiter played well in goal for them last year, too. Very few question marks.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: Although the Pios lost a lot of great players, there actually is a solid crop of players returning, led by Anthony Maiani, Drew Shore, Jesse Martin, Matt DonovanÂ and Kyle Ostrow. Donovan should fill in for Patrick Wiercioch as the puck-moving defenseman. I also think Denver’s rookie class will make a larger immediate impact than anyone else’s rookie class. Besides Benentt and Zucker, the Pios also bring in USHL defenseman of the year David Makowski and fourth-round goalie pick Sam Brittain, who they might need if Adam Murray falters.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: I’m not as down on Minnesota as everyone else and think the Gophers should be a top-five team (then again, I said the same thing last year). But if you look at their roster, all of their best players — at all positions — are veterans. Seniors Jay Barriball, Mike Hoeffel and Jacob Cepis lead them up front. Senior Cade Fairchild and junior Aaron Ness do so on the blue line. Alex Kangas is a senior. And Bjugstad is the real deal. The question again for Minnesota is not talent, it is whether they can put it together.
5. St. Cloud State
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: If you tell me I have St. Cloud State too low, I won’t argue. I originally had them third, but switched it up at the last minute. It’s a way of being different, right? St. Cloud has a great 1-2 punch in goal and some flashy offensive players, but you can’t totally discount what Ryan Lasch has meant to that team for the last four years. My big question is who will emerge as the Huskies’ puck-moving defenseman? Garrett Raboin carried that torch for them the last couple of seasons. Nick Jensen comes in highly touted, but is he ready for that role? Or will anyone else step into it?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: Dean Blais brings in a good recruiting class, including White,Â former Wisconsin commit Brock Montpetit, former Maine commit Johnnie Searfoss, former Minnesota commit Ryan Walters and Providence transferÂ Bryce Aneloski, but how many miles can he get out of them?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: Wisconsin lost three first-round picks on defense, but that actually should still be the strength of the team. Second-round pick Justin Schultz was excellent as a rookie. First-round pick Jake Gardiner will be a junior. John Ramage was good as a freshman. Scoring will be the huge question mark for the Badgers. Like Omaha, they have good recruits coming in like Tyler Barnes and Mark Zengerle, but how much will they produce right away? Or will someone like Derek Lee emerge?
8. Colorado College
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: Once I got to eighth and put Colorado College in the spot, I said that can’t be right. Went to switch them with somebody but didn’t know who. The Schwartz brothers will light up the scoreboard. Joe Howe will be strong in net. But Colorado College’s defensive corps needs to be better this season, because Nate Prosser is no longer there.
9. Bemidji State
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: The Beavers have proved that they can beat anybody in the country at any time. Their challenge is doing it on a consistent basis. They found out how unforgiving the WCHA can be last season. After beating then-No. 1 Miami, the Beavs returned home and got swept by a ninth-place Minnesota State team. If you’re not on top of your game every night in the WCHA, you will get beat.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: The Seawolves are a big, tough team to play against. If Rob Gunderson can prove to be reliable in net, they will be even more difficult to beat this season. CoachÂ Dave Shyiak has recruited a team of 15 players who are 6-foot-1 or taller and they are going to wear out opponents this season.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: The Mavs were hit hard with graduation and the loss of Tyler Pitlick to the WHL. Their strength is in their defensemen, like Kurt Davis and Ben Youds. Their big question isÂ whether guys like Eriah Hayes and Mike Louwerse can do a better job of helpingÂ Rylan Galiardi and Mike Dorr put the puck in the net.
12. Michigan Tech
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Thoughts: Tech’s offense was bad last year and it loses three of the top six scorers. Brett Olson and Steven Seigo are offensive talents, but they need more help in order to get the Huskies out of the cellar.
There we have it. Share your thoughts, if you wish. Or else just join me after the season when we are all making fun of the picks.