Preview: Boston College Eagles

Photo via

In the coming weeks, NU Hockey Blog will be counting down to the start of the 2017-18 Hockey East season with a look at the upcoming year for each of the returning clubs (Note: get lost Notre Dame). Today, we continue with our projected 4th place finisher, the Boston College Eagles.

Boston College Eagles 2016-17 Results:

Overall: 21-15-4

Hockey East: 13-6-3 (T1st)

Hockey East Tournament: Defeated by UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East Championship game

NCAA Tournament: Did not make tournament

Departures: Ryan Fitzgerald (F), Austin Cangelosi (F), Matthew Gaudreau (F), Chris Calnan (F), Colin White (F), Scott Savage (D)

Additions: Jacob Tortora (F), Chris Grando (F), Logan Hutsko (F), Monte Graham (F), Aaepeli Rasanen (F), Michael Karrow (D), Kevin Lohan (D, graduate transfer).

After being voted into the top five in the first USCHO poll of the 2016-17 season, Boston College was set with high expectations not unusual for a team coached by Jerry York. The Eagles were uncharacteristically picked to finish in the middle of the Hockey East pack, a disparity that proved that sometimes, pollsters rank teams the way they do simply based on names and reputation, rather than the quality of the teams themselves.

The Eagles had a season that saw them finish in a three-way tie for the Hockey East regular season championship, blowing their conference expectations out of the water. However, due to some shoddy out-of-conference play, including early season losses to Air Force and Wisconsin, as well as a loss to Northeastern in the Beanpot Consolation Round, the Eagles missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, and finished fourth in the Beanpot Tournament for the first time since 1993.

All in all, Boston College was a pretty solid team when looking at their possession numbers. They were third in Hockey East in goals per game (3.30), scoring 132 goals in the season, which was 12th best nationally. Their Corsi% was 53.8% overall, and was even high at even strength and with a close score. They put up 1319 shots, eighth-best in the NCAA, and shot 10% on those attempts, 20th-best. Where they faltered was their special teams and their defense. They allowed 2.60 goals per game, 6th best in conference and their 104 goals allowed was 24th-best nationwide. Their powerplay was 16.3%, tied with UConn for 42nd-best in the nation, and their penalty kill was 83.3%, 22nd in the nation. That penalty kill percentage seems above-average until you factor in their penalty minutes- over 15 penalty minutes per game, more than anyone in Hockey East. By putting themselves on the PK more frequently, that puts the team in jeopardy more frequently, a happening that Coach York will most certainly look to reduce this season.

Boston College was led last season by its strong senior class, highlighted by Austin Cangelosi’s 35 points, dominance in the face-off circle, and success as a penalty killer. They also received significant contributions from seniors Matthew Gaudreau (35 points), Ryan Fitzgerald (31 points), and defenseman Scott Savage (29 points). Fitzgerald in particular had bee crucial to the recent success, having been a major player for the team all four seasons. Sophomore Colin White also contributed with 33 points, before he signed an entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators after the season.

Returning Players– One consistent tenant of a Jerry York team is that players improve year-to-year, and their contributions to the team increase accordingly. It seems every year, York’s squads get major contributions from players who have that “breakout” season later in their college years. Last season, Matt Gaudreau filled that role. The season prior, it was Ryan Fitzgerald who made “The Leap.” This upcoming season, there are a handful of returning players who are candidates for projected growth.

Chris Brown, a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, is the leading returning scorer for the Eagles. He potted nine goals and finished with 26 points. His production jumped from 11 to 26 points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, so it may be argued he made The Leap already, but he will be looked upon to drive BC’s offense next season. Rising sophomore David Cotton showed flashes of brilliance as a power forward last season, and will also be a major factor in the Eagles’ offense. The defense will be anchored by Casey Fitzgerald, brother of Ryan, who is one of the best offensive defensemen returning to the NCAA this season, as well as Michael Kim, a left-shot defenseman who has developed into a formidable two-way defenseman.

The most important returning Eagle is goaltender Joseph Woll. Woll is a Toronto draft pick who took over the goaltending job when prodigy goalie Thatcher Demko signed after his junior season with Vancouver. Woll performed extremely well last season as a freshman, posting a 91.3 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against-average in 34 games. Widely considered one of the best ’98-born goaltenders in America, Woll will continue to be the backbone of the Eagles, and has the capability to carry them deep into postseason play.

Incoming Recruits– In classic Boston College fashion, there are a number of very talented players coming to The Heights this season, most of whom should be immediate contributors. The final roster for the Eagles is not yet released, but using Chris Heisenberg’s spreadsheet and College Hockey News‘ recruit layouts, I’ve been able to deduce some names that likely will be coming to Newton this fall.

Jacob Tortora is one of three gems of the class, having been in the pipeline for years now. A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Tortora racked up 61 points last season in 76 games for Team USA. Casey Carreau is a New England product out of Thayer Academy, and was voted the top male hockey player in New England last season, winning the John Carlton Memorial Award. Carreau scored 61 points (23 goals) in 30 games last season as a senior. The last jewel of the class is Logan Hutsko, who is a product of the US National Team Development Program, and before that put up other-worldly numbers at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, scoring 239 career points in only 181 games. Last season he was injured for most of the USNTDP’s season.

The class is rounded out with multiple forwards and defensemen. Chris Grando is also likely to arrive, an undrafted ’98 birth year who accumulated 55 points in 115 games with Green Bay in the United States Hockey League. , and the Eagles will add another Finnish talent to their roster in the form of Aapeli Rasanen, coming from Sioux City in the USHL as well as some international play for Finland. The lone freshman defenseman coming in is Michael Karrow, a 5th round 2017 Draft pick by Arizona. He played for Youngstown in the USHL last season. A graduate transfer from Michigan, Kevin Lohan, will be joining the Eagles this season as well.

We would be remiss if we did not mention that this class will be without Eeli Tolvanen, a first round NHL Draft pick who did not meet the academic requirements needed to gain admission to Boston College. Tolvanen was projected to be an early candidate for Rookie of the Year, as well as be a force on BC’s top line for at least one season. A pure sniper, his misfortune likely was met be sighs of relief by opposing coaches and goalies alike.

Season Outlook– Death, taxes, and Boston College having a good team this season. Those seem to be the three things guaranteed in life, and this year, I don’t expect there to be much deviance from them. With Jerry York at the helm, you can rely on Boston College getting contributions from all of its classes, and sound goaltending keeping them in games if the offense ever falters. While they may not be returning any players who are already stars at the college level, David Cotton, Chris Brown, and Casey Fitzgerald all have shown they have the potential to be true cornerstones for their team to build around. Adding in a returning stud at goalie, and the expectant contributions of a promising freshman class, and I expect Boston College to make a return to the NCAA tournament, be a contender for the Beanpot, and make plenty of noise this season in Hockey East play.