Monday brought with it the first true flurry of transfer portal activity, with underclassmen players finally being able to enter the portal and seek new homes for the 2023-24 season. Northeastern has seen multiple players enter, including Sam Colangelo, Jack Hughes, Chase McInnis, James Davenport, and Cam Gaudette, however Northeastern also will be adding at least one player themselves, as it was reported that Pito Walton, a defenseman who is set to graduate Princeton, will be transferring and playing his last year of college hockey with the Huskies. Mark Divver had previously reported Walton would have Hockey East and top ECAC interest.
We projected Northeastern to have four of their six starting defensemen spots locked up, possibly five if returning defenseman Braden Doyle steps up to fill the third left defenseman spot behind Hunter McDonald and Jackson Dorrington. Vinny Borgesi and incoming freshman Michael Fisher will have two right defenseman spots locked up, and we can now pencil Walton into the third.
Walton, a New Jersey native, comes to Northeastern after a three season career at Princeton, interrupted by the Ivy League not having hockey during the 2020-21 year due to the COVID pandemic. As such, Walton has one year of eligibility left. He’s a big body, standing 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, and was one of Princeton’s captains this past season. The last two seasons he put up 32 points in 63 games, including 21 last year as a senior, with 11 goals in that time while being the most productive defenseman on the team both seasons. Also notably, he only had 30 penalty minutes in two years, cutting them from 18 to 12 in his final two years, a crucial component for a defenseman and one that Northeastern will rely on after having some trouble avoiding time in the penalty box last season. He also put 89 shots on net, which will be a potential weapon for a Northeastern team that sometimes does not generate enough offense from the point. Statistics provided by InStat indicate he led Princeton in total time on ice for the 2022-23 season, averaging well over 20 minutes a night, and even drew 37 minutes worth of penalties.
Prior to Princeton, Walton played for the Coquitlam Express in the British Columbia Hockey League, putting up 36 points in 58 games, being named to the All-Rookie Team. He garnered multiple accolades while at Princeton, including being an All-Ivy League Team Honorable Mention in 2022-23, Princeton nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, winner of the Hobey Baker Trophy as Princeton’s Most Outstanding Freshman in 2019-20, multi-time winner of the ECAC Defender of the Week, and a three-time ECAC All-Academic Team member.
Walton profiles as a more defensive defenseman despite his offensive production, and Northeastern recently had a transfer come in with a similar profile in Tommy Miller. If Walton can emulate the calm presence and veteran leadership that Miller brought, in addition to chipping in some offense, Northeastern faithful will be quite pleased with his lone year on Huntington Avenue.
Welcome Pito to the Northeastern family. As news happens all offseason, we will have it covered closely on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog, and we will have periodic written pieces over the long offseason as well. Stay tuned for a profile piece on Devon Levi as well as a 2022-23 season reflection post.
As always, go Huskies!