With the Huskies’ season scheduled to begin this weekend, we’re back with our final preview of the preseason. Today we’ll be looking at the NU forward group led, of course, by their top center and captain Zach Solow. You can read our interviews with Solow and freshman forwards Sam Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine as we look ahead to the 2020-21 season.
This year’s group will look considerably different than the one we saw up front for the Huskies last year, as leading scorer Tyler Madden departed in the offseason for the Los Angeles Kings, and the Huskies graduated seniors Matt Filipe, John Picking, Biagio Lerario, and Brandan van Riemsdyk in the spring. Matt Thomson is also no longer a part of the team. That leaves a lot of minutes to be filled, and Jim Madigan, Jerry Keefe, and Mike McLaughlin have done a lot of work bringing in players who are capable of filling those gaps and bringing in players who can bring the program to the next level.
The Newcomers: Sam Colangelo (Chicago, USHL), Gunnarwolfe Fontaine (Chicago, USHL), Ty Jackson (Dubuque, USHL), Dylan Jackson (Dubuque, USHL), Steven Agriogianis (Nanaimo, BCHL), Michael Outzen (New Jersey, NAHL), and Marco Bozzo (Junior transfer, UMass).
Sam Colangelo became the highest drafted Husky since Jamie Oleksiak in 2011 when the Anaheim Ducks took him with the 36th pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Listed at 6’2″ 208 as a true freshman, Colangelo is a power forward who can beat you with his shot, but his passing and vision is the real reason he was (and is) such a highly sought-after prospect. He’ll need to adapt to playing at the next level of course, but the ability to slow down a game comes naturally to Colangelo, as he showed when he moved from Lawrence Academy to the Chicago Steel and put up 28 goals and 58 points in his only full season of junior hockey, in addition to 3 goals for Team USA in the U18 and U19 tournaments the last two seasons. Colangelo should make an impact on the Huskies from day one.
Colangelo’s longtime teammate Gunnarwolfe Fontaine is up next. Colangelo and Fontaine (as well as sophomore Neil Shea) played together with Lawrence and the Steel before coming together again at NU. But that’s not his only association with the Huskies, as his sister Skylar is a senior All-American defenseman for the top ranked Huskies women’s hockey team. Fontaine was selected 202nd overall in this past draft by the Nashville Predators, coming off a two year run with the Steel where he tallied 46 goals and 100 points. What got him drafted as a 20 year old may have been his performance at the World Junior A Challenge last winter, where he scored 9 points in the USA’s four preliminary round games and notched his fifth goal of the tournament on goaltender Devon Levi in the semifinals, the only goal Levi would allow in the game en route to an MVP performance. Fontaine is a good all around player, with a hard shot, showing skill on and off the puck, and will be a part of the Huskies’ top six for years to come.
Dylan Jackson comes to NU with his twin brother Ty after two seasons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The goal scorer of the twins, Dylan scored 33 goals in 54 games with the St. Michaels Buzzers of the OJHL and followed it with 34 goals in the USHL for the Saints. Jackson was named a USHL Second Team All-Star in the shortened 2019-20 season after his 55 point campaign, two years after being named the OJHL Rookie of the Year.
Dylan will be centered, as he has been all his life, by his twin brother Ty Jackson. Ty is the playmaker of the twins, deferring to his brother, but regardless has shown a scoring touch himself with 17 goals for the Buzzers and 32 for the Saints. Ty was the USHL assists leader in 2020-21, scoring 58 points in the shortened season on the power of his 41 assists, following the path forged by Zach Solow, who led the USHL with 69 points and 51 assists for the Saints in 2016-17 en route to a USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year nod and his arrival on Huntington Ave. Ty and Dylan should be together on a scoring line for the Huskies for the next four years.
Next up is Steven Agriogianis, who comes to NU after a 39 point season in the BCHL with the Nanaimo Clippers, following 144 games of USHL experience with multiple franchises over the last four seasons. Agriogianis was a top USA hockey prospect, having competed at the USA Hockey Selects camps for most of his teenage years and scoring at every one, including 3 goals and 8 points in 5 games at the Selects 17 camp. Agriogianis will add needed depth for NU this year and comes with a history of performance at every level of junior hockey.
Rounding out the freshman forwards is Michael Outzen, another forward who was invited to the USA Hockey Selects camps at 15 through 17 years old and scored in every one. A Cushing Academy product, Outzen played the last two seasons in the NAHL with the New Jersey Junior Titans, amassing 33 goals and 88 points for his NAHL career. Outzen left Cushing after 19 goals and 34 points in 32 games in his final season and has only continued scoring in the NAHL ever since, and is another player who will add needed experience to the Huskies and come in as a player who has scored at every level of hockey he has played.
The final newcomer is Marco Bozzo, a transfer from UMass. Bozzo comes to NU as a junior after two years with Greg Carvel and Cale Makar as a member of the Minutemen, including an appearance in UMass’ 2019 National Championship Game loss to Minnesota-Duluth. This is the third consecutive season the Huskies have brought in a transfer forward from within Hockey East to help mold the young players, following Austin Plevy and Brendan van Riemsdyk as graduate transfers the previous two seasons. Bozzo should take a place in the Huskies’ lineup immediately.
The Returnees: Zach Solow (Senior, captain), Grant Jozefek (senior, assistant captain), Austin Goldstein (junior, assistant captain), Matt DeMelis (sophomore), Riley Hughes (sophomore), Aidan McDonough (sophomore), Alex Mella (sophomore), Neil Shea (sophomore), TJ Walsh (sophomore).
I don’t need to tell you as much about the returning Huskies, so here are some notes.
- Captain Zach Solow finally takes his place as the Huskies’ top center after waiting for three years behind Adam Gaudette and Madden. With a career-high 31 points last year and two consecutive seasons of double-digit goals, Solow will lead NU on the scoreboard, on the ice, and off it. Grant Jozefek returns to NU for a fifth year after injuries derailed his early career with the Huskies. He has been consistent in his scoring over the last three seasons, and we’ll be looking for him to put together a full season as an impact player on Huntington Ave in his extra go-around.
- NU returns two sophomores who look to improve on strong freshman years. Aidan McDonough was one of the top freshmen in Hockey East last year, with 11 goals and 27 points in his first season. We think very highly of McDonough as a prospect, and we’re looking for him to improve at even strength and show how he can perform without Madden as a mainstay in the Huskies top six and power play. Matt DeMelis came on strong for NU as a freshman with 8 goals, only overshadowed by McDonough’s 11 despite being a bit less heralded than some of the other forwards on the roster last year. With NU at need of centers after losing Madden and Picking, we’re excited to see DeMelis get more time and perhaps get a chance to step up and establish himself in a top six role for NU.
- Austin Goldstein reshirted last season to finally get a handle on and get ahead of nagging injuries that had him in and out of the NU lineup since he stepped foot on campus. One of the fastest players in the lineup and best known for his breakaway OT winner against Jeremy Swayman and Maine in the 2019 Hockey East tournament, Goldstein was named an assistant captain of the team this fall, showing his dedication to NU and to hockey and the trust his teammates have in him.
- NU returns four sophomores who came to NU off of strong junior hockey seasons but never quite found their collegiate scoring touch last year, including Alex Mella who looked the part when he broke into the lineup late in the year despite not finding a goal. TJ Walsh had his freshman season unfortunately derailed by injury midway through the campaign. With an elongated offseason to recover, Walsh can hopefully get on track in 2021, perhaps alongside fellow undersized forwards Ty and Dylan Jackson. Riley Hughes is a New York Rangers draft pick who had a strong prep career and 58 points in his lone BCHL season but only found the back of the net once as a freshman, while Neil Shea found himself right alongside Hughes both on the ice and the scoresheet after strong performances with Lawrence and the Steel. All of these players are forwards we were high on coming into last season and remain high on. College hockey is a step up, especially in size and age, from anywhere that freshmen have played before. We’ve seen players have tough transitions early on and come out as high-level performers on the other side under this coaching staff, Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette among them in the first half of their respective freshman seasons. There’s a lot of competition at NU and more to come with the incredible class of forwards who signed their NLIs last week, so these three will be looked at as players to take their next steps in their careers and pave the way for not only this year’s freshman class but the freshmen behind them.
NU faces some questions at forward this year with the loss of so many players, including “the straw that stirs the drink,” as Coach Madigan would say, in Tyler Madden. The Huskies looked, frankly, lost and confused when Madden was injured at the end of the season last year, and their performance down the stretch left a lot to be desired. But if there’s one thing that exists in bunches from the group, both the newcomers and the returnees, it’s a plethora of hockey talent. After a long offseason and limited action there’s good reason to worry that maybe the freshmen didn’t get the adjustment time and the upperclassmen didn’t get the development time needed during the summer and that it’s going to be a growing process for NU as the season plays out, but by the end of it, don’t be surprised if this NU forward group is as scary as any in the country and even looking forward to 2021-22, is a true powerhouse and maybe even a national title contender. That’s a lofty expectation for a team that closed 2019-20 how it did, but it’s 100% within the grasp of the roster that has been put together.
Hughes-Goldstein-Shea-Bozzo (One listed as extra skater)
Projected Full Lineup: