Thursday, September 16, 2010

The 2010-2011 UAA Seawolves Freshman Class

This group of freshman players is one of the larger classes of rookies that we'll typically see coming into our beloved program.  At this hopeful time of year, there are a couple of positives that could or should come out of having this many freshman players.  The 1st is simply that every one of these players will be competing for playing time.  The 2nd is that the bigger stable you have the more likely you'll find a horse that can really run.

Which of these guys could be one of those horses is hard to predict.  Maybe they can all really run.  Odds are though that not all of them will shine right away, if at all.  There is a lot depending on finding some gems here.  On any given night, the Seawolves goaltender is going to be a freshman.  And let's face it, the seniors, juniors and sophomores are going to need some assistance in the scoring department.


This class formed in sort of a distinctive way.  One half of the players we've known were coming for a year or two (Bailey, Sproule, McLeod, Gunderson and Cameron) while the other half were just added this offseason (Kamal, Pustin, Kirchevel, Kwas and Pickering).  I don't know that there is any great worth in that observation other than I'm more familiar with the 1st group from following them while they played juniors.  I will say that as a group photo ... um ... couldn't look much more dour.  Stoicism is one thing guys but geesh.

Matt Bailey
I have to put Matt high on my expectations list.  I expect him to do well.  Matt comes to UAA after two full seasons in the USHL with a full season in the MJHL immediately preceeding.  Prior to that this Winnipegger was a member of the Canada West U-17 Team.  The Seawolves added him during his MJHL season and it's been interesting to watch his progression in the USHL.  With Tri-City in 08/09 I thought he was a bit overlooked and underestimated by the coaching staff but did score a respectable 10g-14a that season.  His numbers at Sioux Falls were significantly better as he scored 14 goals and added 33 assists.  I hear Matt has speed.  With his resume', it wouldn't be unfair to expect him to lead this rookie class in scoring.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Brett Cameron
Brett is a bit of an enigma for one reason.  He missed a boatload of games last season in the AJHL due to a concussive injury.  In 07/08 he was named to the AJHL All-Rookie team.  In 08/09 he was named to the north squad for the AJHL All-Star game.  Going into 09/10 he was widely thought to be one of the contenders for the scoring crown.  But then he got his noodle scrambled.  I hear concussions suck.  But in our era, doctors and teams are finally taking them very seriously.  Players are not allowed to come back nearly as quickly as they once did.  Brett did rejoin Spruce Grove late last season and for their playoff run.  In 15 playoff games, he pumped in 9 goals and 7 assists ... in the combined 31 games before and after his concussion he scored 9 goals with 20 assists.  That tells me that during last years AJHL playoffs that Brett was in near top form.  If someone is going to challenge Matt Bailey for most goals as a Seawolf rookie.  It will most likely be Brett.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Rob Gunderson
Rookie goaltenders in the WCHA have been a bit of a mixed bag in recent years.  Some have unexpectedly shined and some have unexpectedly flopped.  Doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason for either situation.  Rob comes to UAA after 89 games in 3 seasons with Brooks in the AJHL.  His overall save percentage was .899 with a 3.08 goals against average.  He received the most improved player award in both his first two years with Brooks and was named to the 08/09 All Star game.  His 2nd year in Brooks was his best with a 2.58gaa and .912sv%.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Chris Kamal
Thank goodness our two goalies have names that put them close together on the roster.  Means I don't have to switch gears.  Chris was added to the UAA roster to replace the departed Bryce Christianson this past spring.  I'd have to characterize Chris as coming into his own last season with the Alexandria Blizzard in the NAHL.  His experience in the EJHL seems a bit spotty to me but he did pick up a couple of weekly awards there in 07/08.  08/09 was a rehab season after he suffered a broken leg.  But in 38 games last season he earned a .917sv% and a 2.5gaa.  He was named to the Central All-Star team.  He won the NAHL Goalie of the Week award three times.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Justin Kirchevel
Justin is a 3 year NAHL player who in his first stint with St. Louis scored 21 goals with 41 assists in 73 games over two season.  The Bandits won the NAHL championship in 08/09 with him as a member.  He was named to the 2010 NAHL Showcase All-Trounament team.  In 32 games last season with Fairbanks he tallied 14 goals and 16 assists.  FWIW ... Chris @ WesternCollegeHockeyBlog said he has "Tremendous offensive skills ..." and had these observations going into the 06/07 season.
The player from Springfield that impressed me was September '89 birthday Justin Kirchevel. Kirchevel is originally from South Dakota, but played last season with a AAA program in Colorado. He was at the Minnesota Model Camp this summer, and didn't catch my eye, but I really noticed him for Springfield. He's listed at 5'10", but looked a little shorter than that. He skated very well though, and I thought he did a very nice job playing his position both offensively and defensively. He scored a pretty goal off a rush that he finished off with a great shot top shelf, and scored another off a tap-in.

Jordan Kwas
I hear promising things about Jordan in terms of his playmaking skills.  In three seasons with Olds in the AJHL, Jordan put together a nice 42 goals and 84 assists over 134 games.  He showed a solid progression statistically over that timeframe as well.  At 5'10" 185lbs he may remind some of us of the departed Kevin Clark.  I hope he does.  If he has anything like the grit and determination of Clarky then we'll be happy when he hits the ice.  For now however, that's just me guessing and hoping.  Like many other freshman on this team, Jordan will need to prove himself.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Wes McLeod
If there is what is commonly called an "elite-level" player amongst this year's rookie class it looks to be Wes.  He's a bit of a late developing prospect but has received some attention from NHL scouts.  In 07/08 with Prince George in the B, Wes played in 58 games and had 3g-11a from the blueline.  In 08/09 he more than doubled that production with 6g-24a in the same number of games.  Last season he began the season with Prince George and in just 37 games he scored 9 goals and added 27 assists.  He was then traded to Spruce Grove in the AJHL where he played in a combined 28 regular season and playoff games scoring 6 goals with 11 assists.  Wes was a member of the Canada West Jr. A tournament team and was one of six players named to it's All-Tournament team.  He was a BCHL 09/10 All-Star player but missed that game due to his trade to the A; luckily for him he played in it the year before.  I've said this here in the past about him; Wes comes to the Seawolves with as good a resume' as any blueliner to ever play here.  Here's what his coach said about him;
Wes is a prototypical modern day D-man, he’s an outstanding skater, both forwards, backwards, laterally, and he’s a very good distributor of the puck. He’s got an excellent shot with a quick release.  Obviously he’s very gifted offensively, but because he’s such a tremendous skater, he’s also a very good defender.
Expect to see Wes skate in at least 30 games this season for the Seawolves.  I bet we'll forget all about Lee Baldwin relatively quickly.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Andrew Pickering
Andrew comes to UAA after playing for 5 different teams in the BCHL over three years.  In his combined 133 games he potted 36 goals and added 61 assists.  He produced everywhere he played at a quite reasonable rate.  His longest stint was in 08/09 with Trail where he scored 12 goals and 19 assists in 43 games.  Andrew doesn't have to consider the possibility of being traded anymore.  I bet that's something of a relief.  He does however have to consider something else here.  And that is the same that thing that several other rookie teammates should be thinking.  How can I best develop my game and earn playing time here?  I'm at a bit of a loss to describe Andrew's strengths and/or weaknesses having not seen him play or found a great deal written about him on the internet.  He's definitely a wait and see prospect.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Mark Pustin
Regular readers will note my ongoing propensity to like what smaller quicker players can bring to college hockey.  Well, Mark fits right into that description.  At 5'8" and 160lbs he isn't in any danger of getting lost in this ongoing spate of fog lately here in Anchorage.  I do hear that Mark is quick, handles the puck well and has playmaking skills.  Mark originally hails from California.  In two NAHL seasons with Fairbanks he scored 34 goals and 51 assists over 99 games.  I'd bet dollars to donuts that Mark will be glad to not be living in Squarebanks this winter.  Hopefully, he'll make us Seawolves fans happy for that too.  Mark's best path to getting minutes in the Green and Gold is to put the puck on open players sticks for goals.  He's got some competition for the playmaking role.  So like some other youngsters, Mark is going to have to prove himself this season.  Also, anyone ballsy enough to wear #9 always gets my attention.  Mark was a member of the 09/10 NAHL Showcase All-Tournament team.  Here's a link to his bio ...

Quinn Sproule
The last member of the class alphabetically is one of the first batch to commit to UAA almost two years ago.  Quinn comes to UAA after two seasons with Okotoks in the AJHL.  In 118 games with them he scored 21 goals and 37 assists from the blueline.  He was named to the 09/10 AJHL All-Star game.  He earned Best Defenseman honors for Okotoks and was nominated for Best Defenseman award.  In 08/09 he was named Most Improved player for the Oiler and was a 1st team All-Rookie team player for the league.  Quinn is a puck moving defenseman with good vision and wheels.  Quinn's job this season will be to be steady enough and dependable enough that Coach Shyiak can forget about moving Curtis Leinweber back to the blueline.  I'm betting he can do that from following him as closely as I've followed anyone in this class.  Here's a link to his bio ...

This rookie class could easily put 7 players on the ice on any given night this season.  With that will come some expectations for production.  But there's the rub, it's wrong to expect rookies in the WCHA to produce at any particular level.  For many players league-wide it can take nearly a full season to really settle in and find their game at this level.

If we see 20 goals from this class then we should be satisfied.  If it's less, we should still be satisfied.  Every one of these players above with exception will need some time to come up to speed.  Some of them will hopefully do so sooner rather than later.  It'll be exciting to see which ones step up and delight us fans.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG, that is the worst collection of hair I have seen since the days of grunge rock in the 90's.

Anonymous said...

BIO LINK for Kwas goes to McLeod in error

Donald Dunlop said...

oops ... I will correct that. Thank you.

Suze said...

There are a few of these guys I have been keeping track of as well, and I am super excited to see how they do this season. That sure is a big freshman class!!

Nice write up Donald, as always!

Donald Dunlop said...

Suze,
Thanks. It's funny that you say nice write up because I was just thinking about how I'd rushed this and really didn't include as much information as I may have if I'd dug around a little bit more. Thanks again though.

Anonymous said...

i dont know if were gonna forget about lee baldwin anytime soon.

Suze said...

Why would you say that anon? Did Lee have some potential? Yes. He is a big defenseman who has a strong shot from the point. He also made a LOT of mistakes last season.

Sure, we expect that from freshmen, but I have seen stronger performances by rookies (Shasby and Robinson come to mind) ... and frankly I was shocked by his NHL offer. Only time will tell if he left too soon, but I think he did. I would have liked to see him develop and show us what he was truly capable of.

Personally, I won't miss him based on what I saw last season.

Donald Dunlop said...

Maybe anon meant we wouldn't forget about all those mistakes?

Suze said...

Maybe, Donald. LOL. ;)

Anonymous said...

Baldwin was an impressive player with big potential. As a freshman we was one of the top 4 defenseman easily. Most young players are going to make mistakes and take time to develop; but of course you can't teach size. This year he will be missed more than ever with LeFranchise's ineligiability and only 6 defenseman, 2 of which who are also forwards... That's what will be infront of 3 goaltenders will no NCAA expierence. Expect a few struggles

Anonymous said...

Is Kane Ineligible? If so, Why? anyone in the know please respond.. thanks

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