Hockey East: 15-2-5 (1st)
Hockey East Tournament: 2-2 (Bye in Round 1, 2-1 series win vs. Vermont, lost to NU semifinals)
NCAA Tournament: 2-1 (Won Northeast Regional. Lost to Quinnipiac in Semifinals)
Jerry York’s Boston College Eagles had another successful season in 2015-16, which included a Beanpot championship and another trip to the NCAA tournament, where they were eliminated in the Frozen Four by eventual runner-up Quinnipiac. The Eagles were bounced in the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament by the eventual champion Northeastern Huskies. Many Eagles fans must be clamoring to go back to that season, as this offseason has been tumultuous for the program. BC has seen seven players leave with some NCAA eligibility remaining, by far the most in the country. Among those who left were Minnesota first rounder Alex Tuch, Florida Panthers draft pick Ian McCoshen, and New Jersey Devils draft pick Steven Santini. Tuch was a havoc-causer up front, while McCoshen was arguably the best defenseman in Hockey East last season. Santini was known more for his physicality than his puck skills, but was the hardest hitter in Hockey East during his time at BC. The biggest loss is in the form of former goaltender Thatcher Demko, who turned his runs to the Hobey Baker Hat Trick into a professional contract with the team that drafted him, the Vancouver Canucks. Clearly, the Eagles will have large shoes to fill this upcoming season, and we’ll look into some of the higher profile recruits later in this season preview.
Looking ahead to next season, Boston College returns six of their top ten scorers, seven of their top twelve, including their top scoring defenseman (Casey Fitzgerald) and three of their top point scorers (Ryan Fitzgerald, Colin White, and Austin Cangelosi). However, depth is the biggest question mark with the Eagles, as after their leading points scorers at forward and defense, there is a major drop off in points production. At forward, those three returning leading point scorers total 56.7% of the points the team returns from last season, a staggering proportion. After Cangelosi, the only other returning forward with 20+ points is Matt Gaudreau, and the next highest after Gaudreau’s 21 points is rising senior and 2016-17 Captain of the Eagles Chris Calnan, who scored 11 points in 2015-16. On the blue line, Fitzgerald leads defensemen in scoring by a wide margin (27), nine higher than the second highest returnee (Scott Savage, with 18), but after Savage, there is a massive drop off to Michael Kim’s 6 points. The one caveat amongst returners is that Kim’s 6 points was in only half a season, so there may be some optimism with Kim. For a program that historically puts up video game-like numbers, there has to be concern with relying on either immediate freshman contribution or banking on players breaking out of roles/molds and filling scoring roles. One note this author found interesting was that Cangelosi had a shooting percentage of 24.4%, far above the average shooting percentage across the NCAA. That is likely to decline steeply; his shooting percentage as a sophomore was 11.3%. He did shoot 23% as a freshman, however with significantly fewer shots on goal. Cangelosi will be a major X-Factor in driving the Eagles’ offense this season.
Statistically speaking, the Eagles had the number one offense in Hockey East last year, both overall and strictly looking at Hockey East games. Their offense in Hockey East games actually was higher, rising from 3.8 goals per game overall to 4.14 goals per game in their 22 Hockey East games. They had the top powerplay overall, second in conference games. For defense, they had a top tier defense, anchored largely by Demko’s Hobey Baker-worthy campaign: third defense overall, fourth in Hockey East games. Their penalty kill was stifling- second in the conference games, tops in overall performance. And also notable, they return the top three faceoff men in the conference- Cangelosi, Fitzgerald, and White. Looking at these statistics, it is reasonable to expect both the offensive and defensive numbers to fall. The loss of Demko alone is enough to expect change, but losing defensive stalwarts in McCoshen and Santini, as well as a proven Hockey East commodity like Josh Couturier, will hurt the experience of the Eagles’ blue line. This is compounded further by York potentially throwing four freshmen into the opening night lineup.
Looking at the incoming class for the Eagles, it is evident that Jerry York and his staff are aiming to bring in more “four year players” who they anticipate growing into reliable contributors down the road. A balance of four year players and higher-end players who potentially can leave early is critical for the short-term, as well as long-term, success of a hockey program. The Eagles are bringing in a total of 13 players, including 11 skaters and two goalies. I’ve highlighted a handful below:
- The gem of the class is Demko’s anticipated replacement, Joseph Woll, out of the US National Team Development Program. Woll was a third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading to speculation he would go the route to Major Juniors, but he has stayed firm on his commitment to BC. Woll is a highly regarded goalie recruit, with a 2.14 GAA and a .918 save percentage in a college-like schedule (33 games). The 6 foot 3 goaltender plays in the butterfly, taking up lots of space in net. He will be 18 when he arrives at The Heights, and will compete with returnee Ian Milosz and incoming freshman Ryan Edquist for playing time.
- The USNTDP is sending two forwards to BC in the form of Zach Walker and Graham McPhee. Walker, a six-foot, 200 pound right shot, had a 13-9-21 line for the program, while McPhee was more of a scorer with 17-11-28, and was a scorer at Shattuck-St. Mary’s before going to the NTDP. McPhee stands 5 foot-11 inches, and is of a slighter build at 172 pounds. Both will be 18 when they arrive at campus, and will likely compete for top 6 minutes for an Eagles team in need of an injection of young scorers.
- On defense, the Eagles look to add some puck movers sandwiched around a true stay-at-home defenseman. Fellow NTDPer Michael Campoli is a 6’2’’ left shot defensemen who may be the heir-apparent to Santini’s nickname “The Sherriff.” He only had a single assist last season, but earns his keep as a defensive defenseman that can lay the body and keep the puck on the outside. Connor Moore comes to BC via the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, and loos to be a puck mover the Eagles will desperately need to help breakout and setup their offense. Moore is on the smaller side at 5’10’’, but makes up for it with his production, scoring 7-26-33 in 60 games last season. Luke McInnis, son of BC coach Mary McInnis, also comes via Youngstown, and is another puck mover, scoring 6-22-28 in his 58 games in the USHL. Both will be relied upon to drive the offense while keeping the puck out of the Eagles’ net.
There has long been the statement that Jerry York doesn’t rebuild the Eagles, he reloads them. This season may be the exception to that statement. The offseason hit BC hard and their lack of depth is worrisome heading into the season. Their large freshman class comprised of many “four-year” players reminds me of Northeastern’s class of 2017, which saw 10 new faces added to the program, many of whom are still with the team and were instrumental in the success seen last season. For the Eagles, they have to hope the freshman can hit the ice running, or at least become acclimated quickly to the nature of Hockey East. I still anticipate the Eagles to be a top-6 team in Hockey East and host home playoff games, but I question whether or not they have the firepower and the defensive ability to make the top 4 and earn a first-round bye.
Stay tuned to the site for all of our previews of Hockey East teams. Follow us on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog, and as always, Go Huskies!