View From Section U: With And Without Vatrano; Olczyk Hired By Niagara

The Massachusetts Minutemen will have a tough time replacing the contributions of Frank Vatrano this coming season after the star forward signed a contract with the Boston Bruins last Spring.  A couple weeks ago I quantified exactly how much Vatrano meant to the offense last year.  He accounted for almost 1 out of every 5 goals scored last year and over 10% of the total points on the team.  He took almost 20% of all shots taken by the Minutemen.  Without a doubt he will be missed and it is up to players like Dennis Kravchenko and Shane Walsh to step up and help fill the void Vatrano leaves.  But how much did Vatrano’s output factor into the strong numbers those two returners put up last season?  Probably less than you would think.

As just a freshman, Kravchenko led the team in points last year with 33, second most points per game among Hockey East freshmen (I forget who was first).  His 33 points were made up of 10 goals and 23 assists.  But Vatrano had a small role in those numbers as the two rarely were put on the same line.  Vatrano did not assist on any of Kravchenko’s 10 goals.  And only 3 of Kravchenko’s 23 assists came from setting up a Vatrano goal.  In fact, Vatrano was only on the ice for 9 of Kravchenko’s 33 points (27.3%).  Vatrano had one of the better goal scoring seasons in recent UMass history.  And Kravchenko had an excellent freshman season.  But the two had very little to do with each other.

Walsh was spectacular in the second half of the season, especially (for some reason) on Friday nights.  He finished the season with 14 goals, second most to Vatrano, and 8 assists.  But what’s amazing is that 12 of those goals came after New Year’s Day.  Like with Kravcheno, Vatrano’s output during that time had very little effect on Walsh’s production.  Vatrano assisted on just 3 of Walsh’s 14 goals while Walsh set up Vatrano on only one of his 18 scores on the season.  Vatrano was only on the ice for 7 of Walsh’s 22 total points (31.8%).  Again, the two did not end up on the same line very often and therefore their outputs were not dependent on each other.  So who played the biggest role in Kravchenko and Walsh seasons’ last year?  Why, each other of course.

This is especially the case with what Walsh accomplished.  Kravchenko assisted on 6 of Walsh’s 14 goals (42.9%) and was on the ice for half of Walsh’s 22 points.  Of the 9 goals Walsh scored from January 16th through the end of the season, Kravchenko assisted on 6 of them.

For Kravchenko, of his 23 assists posted during the season, 6 came on Walsh goals (26.1%).  At the same time, despite the fact that Walsh only accumulated 8 assists on the season, 2 of them set up Kravchenko for a pair of his 10 goals on the season.  Walsh was on the ice for a third of the 33 points Kravchenko put up all year.  But most of that came during the second half of the season as Walsh was on the ice for 60% of the points posted by Kravchenko from New Year’s onward.

So to reiterate, it’s going to be tough to replace Vatrano’s contributions this coming season and returners Kravchenko and Walsh will be looked upon to do so.  But the good news is Vatrano had a minimal role in their outputs last year so there’s a good chance they’ll be able to build upon what they accomplished last year despite his absence.  And of course it probably wouldn’t hurt if they’re on the same line either.

Exciting news within the UMass family today as it was announced that Eddie Olczyk was named an assistant coach for the Niagara Purple Eagles.  Last season Olczyk was an assistant at DIII Utica College.  He played one year in the minors after graduating from UMass in 2013.  This is great news.  I’d love to see a greater UMass representation within the coaching community.

In a bit of a timely coincidence, UMass posted this piece by Alli Houde about Olczyk and his time spent coaching over in Russia during the summer.  Eddie got to coach alongside Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk while there.

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