On Tuesday, we finally got a press release on GoNU.com regard which players would comprise the leadership corps at the helm of the 2018-19 Northeastern Huskies.
Rising senior defenseman Eric Williams will be the next captain of the Huskies, taking over the mantle previous held by Nolan Stevens last year. Williams is the first Canadian captain since Kevin Roy in 2015-16, and the first defenseman to be named captain of the team since Dax Lauwers in 2014-15. Williams has played in 117 games since arriving at Northeastern, and has a very real chance to break the program’s career games played record held by former Huskies forward Wade MacLeod (149) if he can stay healthy his whole senior season. To date, Williams has scored 15 goals and tallied 45 assists, making him just over a 0.5 points-per-game player, which is solid from a defenseman. A right-handed shot, he will be counted on to be a top-pairing defenseman for the Huskies and play heavy minutes with the departures of Garrett Cecere and Trevor Owens from last year’s squad.
Three assistant captains were also named in the press release, two of them joining Williams in the Huskies’ defensive pairings. Rising juniors Jeremy Davies and Ryan Shea both were named assistant captains, which should abate any fears Huskies fans may have had that either player would jump from Huntington Avenue to the appeals of professional hockey (Davies is a Devils draft pick; Shea a Blackhawks one). Davies will one again be leaned on heavily next season, after playing nearly 28 minutes per game last season. He produced when on the ice, however, tallying the first 30-point season from a Huskies defenseman since Jim Fahey in 2001-02. For his efforts, Davies was named a First Team All-American, again the first for Northeastern since Fahey. We expect Davies to once again be a key quarterback of the Huskies’ powerplay, as well as being relied on for the penalty kill.
Shea has been a consistent, stabilizing presence for the Huskies since he arrived at Northeastern. Producing 31 points over two seasons at Northeastern, largely by setting up his teammates, Shea’s value to the Huskies comes from his elite positioning and stability in the defensive end. He is a key figure in the Huskies’ penalty kill, and will be relied on heavily this upcoming season as well. Previously a captain at Boston College High School in Massachusetts, Shea could be an early front-runner for captain in 2019-20 if he stays with the Huskies through his senior season.
The final assistant captain is John Picking, who is a play I have come to love as a fan watching him play. Picking did not play much as a freshman, including suffering an ankle injury that ended his season prematurely, but last season as a key member of the Huskies’ bottom 6, Picking established himself as one of the premier defensive forwards on the roster. Relentless on the forecheck and at causing turnovers in the opponent’s offensive zone, Picking will be a valuable part of the team this year as well as Coach Madigan turns to him to win defensive zone faceoffs and keep opponents at bay in the defensive zone. We expect Picking to grow offensively as well, after putting up eight points last year and having a history of scoring in the United States Premier Hockey League before enrolling at NU.
I think three of the four letters going to defensemen underscores how important the defense will be to the team this season. In a deviance from recent teams, the backbone of this year’s team appears to be the defensive corps, with three returning high-impact starters, one high-profile incoming recruit (Jordan Harris), and two other spots open to be decided between the returners and the other freshmen (AJ Villella and Julian Kislin), they will be relied on heavily, along with Primeau, to carry a team losing a lot of scoring from last season. It will be essential for the defense and goaltending to hold up in the early part of the season as the team figures out who will be filling in the gaps left by the departures from last season, but once those gaps are filled, I expect the team to be just as big a threat to Hockey East as it has been in recent years.
Congratulations to Eric, John, Ryan, and Jeremy on these selections. These four men are incredible ambassadors for the program and will make fine leaders for the Huskies program. I am excited to see them on the ice in October.
Stay tuned for more offseason content as we create it. We still have our season recap in the works (sorry, life and school has gotten quite in the way), and with the NHL Draft at the end of June we will have Northeastern coverage there as well. You can follow us on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog for more frequent information postings. As always, go Huskies!