I still have hope
by ndmd99 (2020-03-09 19:26:47)

Definitely a frustrating season. But I’m still very optimistic for the future.

I don’t see the program trending downward. Last year, Wegworth was off to a monster start with a 20+ goal pace. If he doesn’t blow out his knee, I think the season would’ve played out differently. I think this past year will end up being an outlier.

This year the team’s struggles were multi-factorial. Amongst the forwards, the upperclassmen struggling really surprised me. Other than Morrison, none of the others really had a great year. Cal Burke hit a wall after a blazing start and I can’t figure out why. He still was able to get some great scoring chances, but couldn’t get the puck in the net. His shooting % plummeted compared to prior years. And since his freshman year, I’ve thought Theisen had the skills to put some point on the board, but he hasn’t been showing much improvement over the years.

A lot of focus is on the scoring struggles, but stopping pucks from getting into the net is just as effective at winning games. This year’s upperclassmen on the blueline were awful defensively. +/- usually is considered an unreliable stat, but Hellickson’s -12 was pretty indicative of his play. The weakness was especially magnified on the PK.

Goaltending was for sure inconsistent. Some of that was on Cale…some of that was on the D. This past weekend, MN didn’t get a ton of SOG. But the number of high danger scoring chances Cale faced due to sloppy turnovers or losing guys in the D zone was astronomical. As a fan, I probably would’ve liked Bischel to get some time toward the end of the year. But I’m guessing Jackson wanted to give Cale every opportunity to try and re-kindle some spark for his fading professional aspirations.

My expectations for next year:
1. I think the forwards will rebound some and scoring will improve. Steeves had a great season so hopefully he continues the trajectory. I’m thinking Graham will score more. Janicke showed some good skills. I still am optimistic Theisen may breakout. And I expect some contributions from incoming freshmen. My biggest concern is the lack of size. Battling in front of the net wasn’t a team strength this year and will only get worse with Morrison leaving. The team really needs to bring in a bigger body to help in front of the net with dirty goals and tipping shots (similar to the role Wegworth excelled at last year before getting hurt).
2. I like the younger defensemen. I think Stastney may end up the team’s best player (if he isn't already). I’d like him to be a little more selfish and take advantage of his puck skills more in the offensive zone. It’s a beautiful thing to watch when he starts dangling around opponents. Leivermann was pretty solid. Unfortunately, unless Hellickson suddenly develops some defensive awareness and stops turning the puck over I think the blueline will still struggle. He’s a draft pick and a senior, so he’s probably going to still get a ton of minutes which could be painful.
3. It’ll be St. Cyr’s net to lose. He’s showed some promise in his limited career. I’m not expecting a Richter, but think he’ll be an improvement on this year.

To me, this year seemed more like a fluke. Overall, I expect the team to be better next year and have a good chance at making the tourney (although I’m not expecting a Frozen Four).

Recruiting is tough to follow with limited information available, but I have kept up with it a little bit. Which is why I’m excited for the 2021-22 season.

Next year, F Ryder Rolston looks to be the highest rated signee. Mocks currently have him picked in 3rd round. F Landon Slaggert probably 3rd-4th round. D Ryan Helliwell may be a late round pick. Looks like F Grant Silianoff (previously signed LOI to join our current Freshmen) will join next year. Delayed maybe due to wrist surgery May 2019. Surgery probably also why he didn’t get drafted (had been projected 4th-6th round). Class took a blow when D Brock Faber de-committed last Fall. He is projected 2nd round. Overall, it seems like the class is solid. Will add important depth and probably guys that are going to stick around 3-4 yrs. But I’m not anticipating any of them to immediately contribute 30+ points out of the gate.

2021-22 is when things get more exciting, although who knows what’ll happen until they sign. Sasha Pastujov is putting up big numbers on the u17 NTDP (1.02 PPG). He might sneak into the late 1st round. Keep in mind both of his brothers are currently at Ann Arbor, so hopefully his commitment doesn’t waver. Justin Janicke was having a very good year as well (0.75 PPG for u17) and just recently promoted to the u18 team. I’ve seen projections for the 2nd round. Also committed from the NTDP are D Ethan Straky, D Ty Gallegher, and F Hunter Strand. The way things are shaping up as it stands now, in 2021-22 our current deep sophomore class will be seniors, the sophomore class looks like it could have some solid players, and incoming freshmen like Pastojov and Janicke might provide some high end talent. I anticipate that team may do some big things.

2022-23 has 4 commits, but in the all-too-early hype it looks to be a great class as well. All 4 have invites to NTDP evaluation camp this month. Led by F Rutger McGroarty who has lots of 1st round chatter surrounding him (and he looks to be a perennial contender for the All-Names team).

McGroarty's quote from at his commitment: “Also, the recruiting class is unreal – a bunch of great kids who want to do some big things.”