I'm back. Quit looking at that picture. There is still more than a fair bit of time before any hockey (that any of us will see) actually begins. It's been a relatively quiet off-season in terms of any news coming out about the Seawolves. If I'm not mistaken, the "press-release" last week and yesterday's roster update have pretty much been it. Of course, outside of Alaska there has been the little conference reshuffle.
Starting in 2010-2011 the WCHA will have two new members .. meh. An old D3 team from a berg even less significant than Mankato and some Cornhusker wannabes called by the Spanish language word for "one". Hooray ... new Internet fans that will grow to despise me!
Let me clarify something here. I don't want UAA to go to the CCHA. What I want is for UAA to no longer be required to pay for 12 freaking airline tickets to all these schools that have been provided a mechanism to recover those costs already. It's double-dipping ... I have a little 2 part plan to make a more powerful statement with regard to this blackmail that our school is paying. Stay tuned.
The official roster was finally updated yesterday. Obviously, the late additions for this season kept it from appearing earlier. It takes some work to get all the Euro-schooling transfer rig-a-mah-roll through.
Here's the breakdown:
28 players (25 skaters -- 3 goalies; 7 defensemen; 15 forwards; 2 forward/defensemen; 1 redshirt forward and 1 transfer eligible next year). The squad has 15 returning skaters -- 4 on D and 10 forwards with one returner listed as F/D. Of those 15, 12 are either juniors or seniors.
One recruit was lost to major junior after he was drafted by the Calgary Flames (Bennett) but he was ultimately replaced with a comparably resume'd prospect (Bruijsten). Even with a reasonably strong group of returning players the Seawolves will look quite different this season. 8 players will make their debuts at some point. This season it looks like the Seawolves will be the largest squad in all of Division 1 hockey. THE ... by a fair margin as well. More on that though when CHN updates it's "Almanac" section with corrected rosters. As it stands today, UAA has a more than 15 pound per player advantage over the smallest WCHA school which is Minnesota-Duluth ... 191.75lbs versus 176.36lbs. Only Cornell is taller on average than UAA ... by .05 inches. Some of all that is due to the fact that we have two pretty tall goalies; so they tend in a small way to skew the figures. Nevertheless, Coach Shyiak likes NHL size and must believe it will pay off. Solid thinking, I think. We haven't suffered from any speed problems the past couple of seasons, so there is every reason to believe that the team won't have any issues along those lines.
What am I excited about? Of course, I'm as curious as I can be to see all the rookies skate and get some sense of what if anything they might be able to contribute. It's all a bit of wait and see right? There are some pretty interesting possible combinations. I think I'd like to see August Aiken, Curtis Leinweber and Kevin Clark skating together. They're all three left-handed ... so I'd put Leinweber on the off-wing. Those three guys could really fly up and down the ice. It could be a winner ... Coach Shyiak is a bit conservative at times so I'm guessing he won't try such a thing. But I'd add that such combinations have sometimes prospered in college hockey in the past.
I like the team's defensive lineup this season. Backstrom and Hunt are both seniors and obviously very capable. There are no flies landing on Lafranchise or Vidmar in their 3rd year. Lee Baldwin will have some pressure to perform well right away. I'm unsure at this point as to whether Curtis Leinweber will return to the blueline regularly or play forward a bunch. And what about Gorham? Is he better suited to play up front or in the back? Will Drew Darwitz make those questions easier by showing he can step onto the blueline and do the job? His former junior coach called him one of the best players in the NAHL last season. In any case, I think the D should be considered an overall positive for the team. It will be very important for this group to contribute more offensively than in the past.
Offensively, there are legitimate questions about the level of scoring the Seawolves can acheive. Lunden, Clark and Grant are the primary offensive threats. But each of them suffered from some inconsistency in putting the puck in the back of the net last season. They'll all be counted on to at least match their production from last season. For team success, they'll have to each increase their scoring. Secondary scoring is the BIG question. Where will it come from? There are lots of possibilities. Can Parky find the net more often? What about Portwood or Wiles? Will Selby play a lot? If he does, will he find the twine? How about Tuton or Haddad? Or will it be Aiken? More than a couple of guys will have to step up their past production dramatically to get the secondary scoring the team will need.
Perhaps we'll see a rookie make an offensive impact? Coming from the same league and having similar numbers, Mickey Spencer and Alex Gellert both could be compared reasonably to Josh Lunden. Bruijsten has the good resume ... maybe he'll contribute? Naslund is a complete unknown to me but is said to be a strong skater with a good nose for the net. I think Chris Crowell isn't likely to pot a mess-o-goals ... but I think he'll be a very valuable presence physically.
I'll start my season previews with the usual class by class breakdown beginning with the seniors and working my way down to the rookies. Expect about one a week of such posts between now and then. Expect some sort of post with me guessing about how the entire league will shake out ... for whatever that's worth. I will also try to be at practice a couple of days during the first week and I'll report what I see then. I have new glasses this season and shouldn't be complaining about all the details that I was unable to see.
And ok ok ... Here's Milla's back.