View From Section U ▲ FTT 2015-16 Hockey East Preseason Poll

Usually I reveal my preseason Hockey East poll much closer to the beginning of the season when the previews are really ramping up.  However, since the polls are due to the Hockey East Broadcasters & Writers Association in the next few days I sat down and thought it through a littler earlier than usual.  So here we go.

2015-16 Hockey East Preseason Poll

1.  Boston College Eagles
2. Lowell River Hawks
3. Boston University Terriers
4. Northeastern Huskies
5. Providence Friars
6. Vermont Catamounts
7. UConn Huskies
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
9. New Hampshire Wildcats
10. Merrimack Warriors
11. Maine Black Bears
12. Massachusetts Minutemen

2015-16 Hockey East Preseason Team

F – Kevin Roy – Northeastern
F – Mario Lucia – Notre Dame
F – Tyler Kelleher – New Hampshire
D – Matt Grzelyck – Boston University
D – Dylan Zink – Lowell
G – Thatcher Demko – Boston College

First off, I will be doing an in-depth Hockey East preview in a couple weeks running through each team as well as my in-depth, “grab a six pack because this will take a while” Massachusetts Hockey preview just before the season.  But yes, I picked UMass to finish last.  Why?  Well it’s not because I don’t think the team doesn’t have skill.

Dennis Kravchenko may end up being one of the stars of the league this season.  And, as I mentioned in last night’s post, I’m very impressed by this freshman class. Especially on defense, where the team desperately needed help.  But there are so many questions surrounding this team.  With just seven upperclassmen, is the team too young to be expected to compete this year?  How long will it take the nearly totally retooled defense to adjust to college play?  Can the team replace Frank Vatrano’s 18 goals or will scoring slump to pre-Vatrano levels again?  Is Nic Renyard the real deal, giving UMass the foundation in goal they’ve needed for years?  Can Shane Walsh repeat his second half heroics of last season?

The final question is can Coach John Micheletto coach this team to success?  This year’s team has talent.  But last year’s did too.  Mick had a team comprised of nearly all of players he recruited, including Vatrano and Brandon Montour, two of the most skilled players to wear the maroon in quite a while.  Yet, they still finished last.  At the beginning of his UMass career Mick had players like Conor Sheary, Mike Pereira, and Branden Gracel, all players whose point totals are among the all-time greats at the school.  He couldn’t find success with them either.  If Mick can get the most out of these players and lead the young guys through the tumultuous learning curve that comes with playing in the best conference in college hockey then the team could surprise everyone next year.  Including myself.  But until that actually happens, I have to assume that this season will end much like the prior ones.  I hope I am thoroughly wrong.

17 days ‘til Dalhousie!  So let’s take a look at #17 for the Minutemen.  Last year that was Brennan Baxandall.  But with him taking #18 this year the #17 will be worn by incoming freshman Kurt Keats.  Keats will be one of the freshmen looked upon to pick up some of the scoring load after the losses during the offseason.  Keats, a center, played for the Powell River Kings of the BCHL the past two seasons.  Last year in the regular season he had 31 goals and 34 assists in 52 games.  Those totals were good enough for 9th in the league in goals and 11th in points.  In the playoffs he had 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 games, including grabbing 7 points in a seven games second round series.

His play has been good enough that he has represented Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge in each of the last three years.  Part of a large, talented incoming class. Keats is one of the players that I’m most looking forward to seeing play in person.  Undersized (5’8”, 170lbs), Keats is said to play bigger than his frame, unafraid to go into corners to get the puck or try to establish position in the slot.  Those type of players can and do excel in Hockey East.  His top line skating and speed shouldn’t hurt either.  With the talented defensemen, Renyard, and AJHL leading scorer Austin Plevy all coming in, Keats may be a recruit that has flown a little bit under the radar.  But he’s definitely a freshman to keep a close eye on this season as he could potentially play a big role for the Minutemen.

photo by Alicia Baas/Powell River Kings

It’s always nice when I have multiple links and stories to pass along with each nightly post.  That means hockey isn’t too far away.

The Collegian had a good feature on Frank Vatrano on the eve of Bruins training camp.

Conor Sheary was a point of focus in this preview of Penguins training camp by The Hockey Writers.

In addition to those two, other Minutemen participating in training camps are Jon Quick (Kings), Justin Braun (Sharks), Matt Irwin (Bruins), Mike Kostka (Ottawa), Joel Hanley (Canadiens), Conor Allen (Predators), Brndon Montour (Ducks), and Oleg Yevenko (Blue Jackets).

The weekly UMass Sports Insider show will be found on NESN this coming season.

America Sports Network will be producing (and distributing?) a number of Hockey East games this season, including UMass’ 11/15 visit to Vermont.  Note, if that link is accurate the 5pm start time is a review from the 1pm published earlier (more pregame time at Farmhouse Tap & Grill, right??)

The Mullins Center will be seeing some hockey this weekend as it will be hosting a junior tournament, which means the coaching staff won’t have to go far to do some scouting.

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