College Hockey is back. With Hockey East unveiling it’s regular season slate, set to kick off November 20, the season finally feels real. After a 24-8-2 finish during the 2019-20 season, Boston College enters this season as the preseason No. 2 team, according to USCHO.
It’s been a while, so let’s get you reacquainted with some of the guys and introduce you to the newcomers before opening night against New Hampshire.
Logan Hutsko (Sr.)
Jack McBain (Jr.)
Patrick Giles (Jr.)
Casey Carreau (Jr.)
Marc McLaughlin (Jr.)
Alex Newhook (So.)
Matt Boldy (So.)
Mike Hardman (So.)
Liam Izyk (So.)
Nikita Nesterenko (Fr.)
Gentry Shamburger (Fr.)
Trevor Kuntar (Fr.)
Danny Weight (Fr.)
Harrison Roy (Fr.)
Colby Ambrosio (Fr.)
The all-freshman line of Newhook, Boldy and Hardman lit up Hockey East in the second half of last season. After deciding to return to BC, the three should form BC’s first line this season. However, Newhook is currently back in Canada preparing for national junior selection camp. If Newhook secures a roster spot, BC will be without him until January. That makes finding a first line center priority No. 1 for Coach York.
Hutsko, who had slotted in as BC’s first line right wing alongside David Cotton and Julius Mattila, will likely get bumped to the second line, although not due to a lack of production. He finally unlocked his scoring potential during the 2019-20 season, exploding for 19 goals. He’ll be an interesting player to watch, given that the only two linemates he has ever really known at the college level are gone.
BC once again boasts a solid crop of freshman forwards, led by Nesterenko, Kuntar and Ambrosio. Those four should all play valuable roles as middle six forwards, and their production can add some much-needed scoring depth to the offense.
Nesterenko, a Brooklyn native, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Draft, three months before he turned 18. He spent last season in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs, where he led the team in scoring and finished 15th in the league in scoring.
Boston College landed a last-minute steal in Kuntar, who de-committed from Harvard over the summer, due to the uncertainty surrounding Ivy League hockey. Another New Yorker, Kuntar was BC’s highest-selected player in the 2020 Draft, going to Boston with the 89th selection. Kuntar is a strong two-way center who plays physical and has a nice shot. He spent the last three seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. During the 2019-20 season, he finished with 28 goals, which was tied with Northeastern freshman Sam Colangelo for third most in the league. He was also a key contributor on Youngstown’s power play, contributing nine goals and 12 assists.
Ambrosio’s production last season nearly mirrored Kuntar’s. With the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, Ambrosio recorded 26 goals and 24 assists, putting him two behind Kuntar in goals and one in assists. He came on strong late in the season, recording 36 of his 50 points over the team’s final 28 games. He has blazing speed and a shoot-first mentality. While Ambrosio can play physical, his temper can occasionally get the best of him, according to draft reports. He joined Newhook and Helleson when the Avalanche selected him in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft.
Among the undrafted freshman, Weight, the son of former NHL-er Doug Weight, figures to make the biggest impact. He outpaced Nesterenko in the BCHL, logging 1.03 points per game with Penticton. He has a quick shot and plays with energy, but his skating is his biggest area of concern.
One other newcomer to watch is Alabama-Huntsville transfer Liam Izyk. Last season, he finished fifth on the Chargers with 11 points. Yes, Alabama-Huntsville wasn’t very good. However, Izyk did show promise during his freshman season, earning top-line minutes by the end of the season. The bulk of his 11 points came in the second half of the season, including a big three-point weekend in early February which earned him WCHA Rookie of the Week honors. A capable two-way player, Izyk is excelled in the face-off dot, meaning he should find plenty of playing time on the BC bottom six.
Presumably without Newhook for the first half of the season, BC will have some investing decisions to make regarding the forward lines. Does Coach York roll out his best three forwards in Hutsko, Hardman and Boldy? Maybe, but there would be no true center on the line (although I like Boldy as a center more than most). At the same time, the team could quickly face secondary scoring issues while the freshmen acclimate themselves to the college game.
The most likely scenario would be to find a 1C for Hardman and Boldy. Ambrosio and Kuntar are statistically very similar, but Ambrosio is the better fit. He has speed like Newhook, while Kuntar has more playmaking ability to complement Hutsko.
The bottom six likely won’t provide much scoring bunch, but the veteran presence of McBain, McLaughlin and Giles should help keep opponents off the score sheet.
Here’s how the lines could look against UNH:
Scratched: Carreau, Shamburger
Michael Karow (Sr.)
Drew Helleson (So.)
Marshall Warren (So.)
Mitch Andres (So.)
Eamon Powell (Fr.)
Jack Agnew (Fr.)
Stephen Davis (Fr.)
Tim Lovell (Fr.)
The defense, much like the offense, is on the young side. Karow is the elder statesman on a blue line otherwise made up for freshmen and sophomores. He has been reliable third pairing defensive defenseman over the last few seasons and should see a bump in responsibility this season. After 107 games, he is still looking for his first collegiate goal.
Helleson and Warren both excelled during their freshman seasons and are expected to anchor the defense this season. A dynamic offensive defenseman, Warren will likely see plenty of time manning the point on the BC power play. Helleson flew under the radar last season, but he is the best defensive defenseman on the team, and, according to York, he took a big leap over the summer.
“[Helleson] is developing into a player and all facets of his game are getting better every week,” Coach York said. “I look at the 24 or 25 players we have on the ice and he’s the one who stands out the most in terms of the difference a year has made.”
Freshmen Powell, Lovell and Davis will most likely round out the BC six. Skating alongside No. 5 overall pick Jake Sanderson, Powell recorded 14 points for the USNTDP. However, all of his points came against USHL teams, meaning he was held scoreless in 23 games against NCAA and international teams. Powell’s high hockey IQ helps him succeed on both ends of the ice. He’s a gifted playmaker and a solid skater. Scouting reports indicate that he has a good shot, but he has been hesitant to put pucks on net. He doesn’t play very physical, but he has a high compete level. Powell could easily be a first pairing defenseman from day one, especially considering how young the group is.
Eamon Powell is going to get drafted later than he should be.
Powell (#2) is a defender who skates at a high-level and can give you a bit of everything.
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) March 26, 2020
While Powell is the most talked-about of the incoming defensemen, Lovell and Davis will be critical to BC’s success. Both from Hingham, the two spent the 2019-20 season in the USHL. Listed at 5’7”, 140 pounds, Lovell isn’t a prototypical defenseman. But he showed enough offensive promise that he had the potential to be selected in the later rounds of the 2020 Draft. Behind Warren, he may be the Eagles best playmaking defenseman. There isn’t much out there on Davis, but he “crushes people” and was suspended twice by the USHL for hits to the head, so it’s safe to say he plays a physical game. With so many skilled players up front, BC could use an enforcer like Davis.
While I’ve been a big champion of a Warren-Helleson first pairing, I wouldn’t expect it to happen right away. BC would be wise to spread Helleson, Warren and Karow over the three pairings to avoid an all-freshman pairing to start the season. BC went with seven defensemen last year, and I’d expect them to employ that same strategy. However, if Coach York wants to have Carreau and Roy battle for the last forward spot, he may start out with 13 forwards.
Here’s how the defense could look:
Extra Defenseman: Andres
Spencer Knight (So.)
Knight’s new cage. Of course, Squidward is on there.
Jack Moffatt (So.)
Henry Wilder (Fr.)
Not much to say here. Spencer Knight is back. He lived up to the hype last season – don’t expect much to change this year. Knight started almost every game last season, largely due to Ryan Edquist’s injury. This season, he should be able to get more rest, with Needham’s Henry Wilder as the backup.