It’s already the back half of June as the offseason continues to fly by, which means exciting times in the hockey world. The Stanley Cup Champions were just crowned (Congratulations to Joe Vitale and his St. Louis Blues), the NHL Draft starts on Friday, and most importantly, the Friends of NU Hockey Annual Meeting recently took place. While we were not able to attend the proceedings ourselves, which were rescheduled from its original date, some loyal Friends of the Blog stepped in to report back on the meeting.
- Coach Madigan remarked that first and foremost, Northeastern set the program record for wins last year and are the reigning Beanpot and Hockey East Champions, a fact that can be confirmed by anyone who attends an event at TD Garden between now and February 2020.
- The events that occured during the NCAA Tournament were not how the team wanted the season to end and they were incredibly disappointed, but the game did not unfold their way. They went down on the scoreboard after allowing an early goal for the second year in a row, and it was a goal that “I’m sure Cayden would like to have back.” The score multiplied from there, and Cornell is a defensive and disciplined team you cannot succeed against if you are playing from behind.
- Coach reiterated that any season in which you win the Beanpot and Hockey East is an unquestioned success, but noted that getting further in the NCAA Tournament is the next goal in front of the program.
- Madigan also noted that the team was picked to finish around 5th in Hockey East last preseason and that it motivated the team to prove they were better than that ranking and wouldn’t regress without the big three, and that he expects the preseason polls to come in placing them in roughly the same position this fall and to use it as similar motivation.
- Starting on D, Coach Madigan said that Captain Ryan Shea, Jordan Harris, and Julian Kislin are the top three D on the roster, which matches how they were implemented in the top four alongside Jeremy Davies during the spring.
- Madigan also remarked that Kislin missed a considerable portion of last fall while recovering from a knee injury which prevented him from making his debut, but that he grew as the season progressed.
- At forward, there are a lot of losses to replace, but coach noted that what they are returning is a strong top three down the center of the ice in Tyler Madden, Zach Solow, and John Picking. Madden and Solow are legitimate top centers and Picking can play in all situations and had 16 points as a junior despite missing a chunk of the season with illness.
- On the wings, Madigan is expecting big years from upperclassmen Matt Filipe and Grant Jozefek. He mentioned the seniors who stepped up last year in Patrick Schule, Lincoln Griffin, Brandon Hawkins, and Liam Pecararo and said that he expects these senior forwards to step up and have their best year as seniors just as those players did. He also mentioned Austin Goldstein, Matt Thomson, and Biagio Lerario as returning forwards he likes
- Curtis Frye and Nick Scarpa will return in goal.
- Three forwards from last year’s roster will not return, besides the graduates. Bobby Hampton already announced his transfer to Penn State, whereas Eetu Selanne and Drew Blackmun will also not return.
Madigan led by noting that 6 or 7 new faces will slot into the forward lines from the start of next season, which will make for a very young team. In addition, there are 4 highly regarded defensemen coming in and 2 new goaltenders who will each see playing time. All in all, it will be a very young and very different team than the one that lined up against Cornell. In addition, Madigan noted that having such a young team is exciting for the coaches because they have more work to do molding young players, rather than letting players like Gaudette, Sikura, and Davies be themselves.
- Starting at forward, the first newcomer Madigan named was Aidan McDonough, a forward from Mark Carlson’s Cedar Rapids program that NU is very familiar with; the same team produced NU players including Adam Gaudette and Matt Filipe. McDonough scored 21 goals and 42 points in his lone USHL season despite missing time due to injury, and Madigan expects him to come in and score right off the bat for the Huskies.
- Next up is Neil Shea, a forward from the Chicago Steel team that featured 3 Northeastern commits last season. Shea scored 15 goals and 43 points in his only USHL season and in addition to his scoring, Madigan noted that Shea plays a gritty game all the way up and down the ice, praise that players like the Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese used to get often from Madigan.
- The third forward highlighted was TJ Walsh, a small and dynamic forward from the Des Moines Buccaneers. Madigan noted that Walsh was in the top ten in the USHL in scoring before missing extensive time with an illness but still managed to finish with 49 points. He described Walsh as a scoring center, so it will be interesting to see how he fits in the lineup for an NU team that seems to be established down the middle of the ice.
- Next we go to Riley Hughes, a pick of the New York Rangers in last year’s NHL draft. Hughes played alongside Jeremie Bucheler, who we will mention in a bit, in the BCHL last year and notched 24 goals and 58 points. Coach described Hughes as a scorer who is both tall and fast as he starts to fill out his frame, bringing a rare element of speed to the Huskies’ lineup.
- Matt DeMelis is next, DeMelis had a strong start to his lone USHL season last year before facing some adversity in the middle, but finished strong in spite of it and ended up with 14 goals and 38 points for Youngstown.
- Rounding out the freshmen up front is Alex Mella, a forward who committed to Northeastern out of the heralded Shattuck St. Mary’s program. Mella played for Madison last year and scored 15 goals and 25 points for them in the USHL.
- Finally Madigan mentioned that another forward is expected to come in but cannot be named yet under NCAA rules. There have been multiple reports, including one from the New Hampshire Union Leader, that cites former UNH forward Brendan van Riemsdyk as taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule and transferring to Northeastern, and will play immediately. van Riemsdyk graduated UNH in three years and would come to NU after a double digit goal scoring campaign as a junior for the Wildcats, adding some much needed experience on the wing for the Huskies.
On defense, Madigan mentioned 4 newcomers.
- Michael Kesselring is a 6’5 defenseman with offensive abilities who was drafted by Edmonton last year. He put up 9 goals and 34 points in the USHL last year split between two teams, as Fargo picked him up for a playoff push.
- Jeremie Bucheler played with Riley Hughes in Victoria as we mentioned earlier, he added 8 goals and 45 points as the Grizzlies ran roughshot over the BCHL Island Division last season. According to Coach, Bucheler plays with his head up, and he and Kesselring will contribute both offensively and defensively.
- Tyler Spott is the son of a San Jose Sharks’ assistant coach and added 8-21-29 in the USHL last season. Spott is the smallest D in the class at 5’9 and plays a puck moving game to match his frame. Coach was very pleased with his growth into an offensive-defenseman. Both Spott and Bucheler are both potential late round picks as overage players in the NHL draft this weekend.
- Finally, Madigan was unable to name the fourth defenseman who will be joining the program at this time, but mentioned that he was the most highly regarded of the bunch. Considering NU only has one more defenseman committed who is over 16 years old, that implies that it’s Jayden Struble, a prep school standout who is projected to go in the second or third round and possibly even the first round of the NHL draft this weekend. He was recently named (alongside Jordan Harris) to the US roster for the World Junior Summer Series, a precursor to the team that will compete at World Juniors this winter under assistant coach Jerry Keefe. Struble is as highly regarded of a defense prospect, or a player at all for that matter, as the Huskies have had under Madigan and company and I like the move to bring him in now, because holding off a year likely doesn’t get him to stay in college for any longer before the NHL comes calling, it’s just one less year we see Struble in red and black. It is unclear how this news relates to the fact that Struble has committed to play next year for Victoria in the BCHL.
Finally in goal, two new faces replace Montreal’s Cayden Primeau and Colorado College’s Ryan Ruck.
- The freshman is Connor Murphy, a goaltender out of the same league that produced NU players like Mike McMurtry and Dustin Darou. Murphy had a great year last year to go along with the 6’4 200 pound frame that coaches love to have in net and will see ice time from the start.
- Madigan then skipped over another name who is not yet officially signed with the school, but once again we anticipate it to be a graduate transfer. Multiple reports including The Mack Report have linked former Merrimack goaltender Craig Pantano to the Huskies. An underdog story, Pantano was very good in a lot of MC wins last year, including a certain game at Matthews Arena in early January that those of us in attendance would like to forget. Pantano will share the net with Murphy.
As an overall theme of the freshman class, Madigan noted that the opportunities are there for them to make an impact right away and they need to go out and earn it and not wait until the second semester to really step up. He also noted that the group as a whole has a lot of confidence, maybe not as much confidence as Tyler Madden, but a lot none the less.
Speaking of Mr. Bright Lights, Madigan also mentioned that Madden will be a flight risk starting next summer, but that Gaudette stayed 3 years for Vancouver and that the team and the player have to work together to make that decision. He mentioned that most players know well in advance whether they will leave school and the staff is informed as well, including Gaudette and Davies both knowing before their junior seasons that they were signing and Primeau knowing before his sophomore season.
One more recruiting note, Northeastern will be holding a camp at Matthews this summer for elite young prospects to showcase their game and receive guidance from the staff. NU has been unable to hold such camps in the past due to certain quirks in the University scheduling and how it relates to NCAA rules, but they were able to resolve those issues and put together a camp rivaling the ones BC, BU, and other elite schools hold every summer.
Some notes looking ahead to next year, NU originally did not schedule an exhibition game the first weekend, just as they didn’t play one in fall 2018. However, after assessing the number of young players and their roles, the coaches realized that they needed to have some game action before facing Union on the road to start their careers.
Madigan will miss the exhibition game to attend to the wedding of his daughter. Jerry Keefe will presumably act as head coach for the game. Congratulations to the Madigan family!
The schedule released last week should have dates added soon, the school is just working with NESN and the league to move a few games for TV. These changes are expected to be Friday/Saturday date swaps, not wholesale changes. The dates will be released once they are finalized with TV.
Finally, Madigan noted how important continuity of coaching has been to the recent run of success for NU and how important the stability is to keeping that success going, as both Jerry Keefe and Mike McLaughlin have been considered for other jobs around the NCAA. However he also noted that they have to keep developing themselves as coaches and stay on top of the game, not become stagnant from year to year.
As always, lots of great information coming from the FOH meeting, and make sure to go over and take a look at our updated recruit spreadsheet. It’s an exciting time to be a Huskies fan, and the team just announced their initial recruiting class on Twitter and the website on Wednesday. Follow them @GoNUmHockey and us @NUHockeyBlog to follow all the latest news and happenings this offseason as we count down to the college hockey season’s starting again.