The second article in our annual New to Northeastern series, today we look at the defensemen who are new to the program. This incoming class features three transfers and two freshmen, one of whom is a high NHL Draft pick.
Michael Fisher, #16– The first freshman to discuss is Michael Fisher, a 2022 third round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks who comes to Northeastern from Youngstown in the USHL. Fisher was regarded as one of the best skaters in the whole 2022 class. A 6-foot-2 right shot defenseman, Fisher is known more as a shutdown type defenseman who can help fly in transition. In his final prep hockey season at St. Mark’s he saw his offensive game blossom with 50 points in just 28 games in 2021-22. His 2022-23 season was cut short due to a knee injury that cost him all but 14 games in the USHL, so don’t be shocked if he starts off on the third pairing to get acclimated to the speed of the college game. Fisher has all the tools to be a workhorse for the Huskies in his career once he is fully healthy.
Coach Keefe on Fisher: “A high-end skater that can break pucks out and start transition. He’s got great feet defensively with excellent edges. Michael has the ability to be involved in the offense while using his skating to recover. He brings a dynamic element to our defensive corps with a lot of ability.”
Nolan Hayes, #3– The second freshman defenseman this season, Hayes is the son of former Northeastern forward and 1993 graduate Adam Hayes. Hayes is a 6-foot tall right shot and comes to Huntington Avenue via the BCHL and the West Kelowna Warriors, and also played in the USHL for the Omaha Lancers. Similar to Fisher, Hayes battled injuries this past season but still managed to put up 15 points in 18 games for West Kelowna. A local product through and through, we expect Hayes to start as important depth on defense particularly on the right side of the lineup, while developing into a potential contributor later in his career.
Coach Keefe on Hayes: “Nolan is an athletic and mobile defenseman who plays with an edge. He likes the physical part of the game. He has good stick skills and can start transition from his own end. He has a lot of tools to be a very good defenseman for us.”
Patrick Dawson, #10– The first of three graduate transfers to discuss, Dawson comes to Northeastern after four seasons at Sacred Heart, the last of which he was an assistant captain. Called “the heart and soul” of the team by head coach CJ Marottolo, Dawson is a left shot 6-foot tall defenseman who we expect to be an important part of the penalty kill and factor into the 6th/7th defenseman role, giving reliability and stability every time he’s in the lineup.
Coach Keefe on Dawson: “Patrick’s an experienced defenseman that plays a mature game. He’s been a captain at the college level and played in important situations. He’s excellent on the penalty kill and will eat pucks. He brings leadership and depth to our defensive group.”
Matt Staudacher, #25– Staudacher comes to Northeastern after a successful four year career at Minnesota. A 6-foot-1, 200 pound left shot defenseman, Staudacher is someone coaches external to Northeastern have described as incredible tough to play against, and can play with a mean streak. More of a producer in his own end than in the offensive one, we expect Staudacher to be in competition for the second or third left defenseman position and to have a major role on the penalty kill.
Coach Keefe on Staudacher: “Another natural leader, Matt is a defenseman that skates well and defends hard. He’s physical and can shut down plays fast. He has big game experience and will be looked to as a leader on our backend that can log minutes in important situations.”
Pito Walton, #4– The final addition to the blue line, Walton comes to Northeastern from Princeton where he was a captain during his senior year. Third on the team in scoring with 21 points (7 goals), Walton is a 6-foot-2 right shot defenseman that brings a combination of offensive ability, a physical edge to his game, and a fearlessness in all situations. Anyone who has watched games with me in the last half decade knows that I always wish Northeastern would generate more offense from the point, with shots from defensemen or from up top. Walton is someone who can bring that element to the Huskies’ offensive attack. He’s someone that we pencil into the top right defenseman spot for the Huskies next season and can see time on the powerplay for sure.
Coach Keefe on Walton:” A big defender that has an excellent offensive stick. He scored seven goals this past season and can really shoot the puck. He has very good poise with the puck and is good in transition. We will be looking for Pito to play big minutes in all situations.”
With these five players added to a defenseman group that also features the trio of sophomores of 2023 breakout star Hunter McDonald, as well as the ever-reliable Jackson Dorrington Vinny Borgesi, as well as Kings draft pick Braden Doyle and rising sophomore Kyle Furey, the Huskies quickly created deep, skilled, and competitive corps of players for their blue line. We expect the transfers and Fisher to contribute immediately, and for the experience each transfer has at this level to play a huge role in the team getting off to a fast start. Our current pairing projections (which very well could be way off by the time October 7th roles around) are below:
Hunter McDonald – Pito Walton
Jackson Dorrington – Vinny Borgesi
Matt Staudacher – Michael Fisher
Extra: Braden Doyle, Nolan Hayes, Kyle Furey
Stay tuned for the last installment of our New to Northeastern series when we look at the men up front who look to take the reigns as the new era of Northeastern goal scorers- the forwards.
As always, go Huskies!