Mitch Bruijsten, Chris Crowell, Tyler Currier, Alex Gellert, Daniel Naslund, Mickey Spencer and Scott Warner are the seven players that make up this season's all-important junior class. The senior class's leadership is of course important; but with 359 combined games between these juniors ... the sheer quantity of experience and maturity amongst them will the biggest part of the leadership of this year's Seawolves squad.
Mitch Bruijsten's freshman season was fairly typical for this league. He spent much of it developing and adjusting to the college game. At 6ft 4in his quickness was sometimes a question and his ice sense wasn't all it could be. But in his second year Mitch found his game. His first couple of steps dramatically improved and his positional play was solid. After just 3 goals as a freshman Mitch racked a nice 9 goals and 8 assists last season with 2 game winners. His whole season was a big step developmentally and suggests to me that as a junior he could contribute even more.
Chris Crowell came to UAA as a 4 year Vernon Vipers veteran and Captain. Chris was a force as a leader on that team with his play. Here at UAA his off-ice and locker room leadership has been important. In his first two seasons though he has played just 28 games. I'm betting he'll at least double his game total this year. Like Mitch Bruijsten, Chris is a big forward at 6ft 3in 206lbs. He's strong and uses his size well in all areas of the ice. He's a smart player as well. He also knows how to rally his teammates with his physical play which rallies his teammates. Any goal production from Chris will be a bonus this year as I expect him in large part to primarily play fill a defensive forward role much as Craig Parkinson did last season.
Tyler Currier is the current Mr. Versatile in the Seawolves lineup. He'll play any position and do well with it. Last season he found a home on the blueline when he filled in for injured players and he flat out earned his starting spot there. Tyler is also Mr. Hustle. His feet are always moving and he comes up with multiple big hits in every game. Like Chris Crowell, he only has a single career goal. Tyler's versatility will likely serve him well again this season. Including him there are 10 defensemen on the roster. And honestly, there are more than a couple of freshman with decent potential to see a lot of game time. His kind of versatility and hustle are two things a coach loves to have available in a player so I'm betting Tyler plays often. I'm just not going to guess where.
Alex Gellert played in 71 of 72 games over the course of his first two seasons. Alex is now perhaps the best face-off man on the team. Last season when the team needed a crucial draw, it generally turned to Parky to get the job done. This season, I'm betting that Alex will be that guy. Committed defensive play was a big part of the Seawolves nice run in the 2nd half last year. Alex knows what it takes to play on both ends of the ice. At 6ft 1in and with good wheels he'll do what the things that are necessary to help the team win. He's quite capable of scoring a big goal as well. In his first two years he's managed 5 goals. That doesn't sound like an unreasonable goal for a two-way forward on this year's team.
Daniel Naslund scored three goals as a freshman and three goals as a sophomore. Statistically you'd guess he had similar seasons; that would be a mistake, there was a world of difference in his play as a sophomore. As a freshman it was clear Daniel had sweet hands but even at 6ft 3in he could sometimes get bumped off the puck. Last season though like Mitch Bruijsten, Daniel found his game. His skating and strength on the puck vastly improved. And with those skills his soft hands became more of a factor in his ability to contribute. That potential didn't fully turn into production last season but I have to believe that is coming. I always imagine him as an excellent target in deep in the slot on the power play and think he might find a home in front of opposition goalies often this season.
Mickey Spencer wants to score more goals. I want him to score more goals. Last season Mickey dressed for only 14 games after 32 as a freshman. He missed games both due to injury and battling back from same as well as taking a turn sitting out. Both of Mickey's goals last season came after the regular season. He scored the game winner against the Gophers in game 2 at the Mariucci to effectively end their season. And it was a pretty one. I'm thinking that Mickey's ice time this season may be a direct reflection of his production. So please Mick, bury every scoring chance. He's got the wheels, smarts and shot to put up double-digits in goals. But he'll have to find his game in the first half of this season or he may risk seeing limited time.
Scott Warner is a now a 2nd year transfer from Army. At 5ft 9in and 174lbs, he is the classic undersized college blueliner. During his freshman year at West Point he bagged 6 goals and 3 assists. Last season (after sitting his transfer year), Scott scored 3 goals and added 7 assists. Though his numbers weren't big he was often an offensive force on the blueline. He's a defenseman that likes to find opportunities to move the puck forward but at the same time is very very responsible in his own end. Scott will likely dress every game this season as he did last year. In fact, his experience will make him a stalwart back there for the Seawolves. He'll see time on both the power play and penalty kill as well.
Everything that these each of these guys can bring to the ice will be needed this season. The Seawolves are overall a pretty young group but there's a fair amount of potential scoring, an understanding of the need to play two way hockey and excellent physical play that this junior class will contribute.