As is almost always the case in NCAA Division 1 Hockey, upperclassmen are the key to success for each program. Every team of the 59 will live and die based on the performances of their returning players. Once in a while a Thomas Vanek shows up and destroys the paradigm I've just established. But that's so so rare as to not consider it a real factor. This year's Seawolves' success will be based on what our veterans produce. And as a whole, I'm pretty stoked about the potential. Lemme splain why and how I love our vets …
#29 Scott Allen:
If there is a single player with more expectations to perform this season than Scottie Allen, I don't know who it could be. The 6'3" 207lb forward from Edmonton scored a sweet 17 goals last year and added 14 assists. I've been following Allen since he first committed to UAA during his 3rd season at Spruce Grove in the AJHL. That year Spruce Grove was stacked. But Scottie stood out with his work ethic and potted 25 goals and 26 assists in 58 games.
He took a chance and tried out in the USHL the next season but got a bit of a bum deal coming up against the import quota and ultimately returned to Spruce Grove. I don't think he was well received by the coaching staff and spent the season on the 3rd and 4th line. But he busted his arse and scored 21 goals with 23 assists on a grinder line. He found his freshman year at UAA to be a bit challenging but as a sophomore began to find his scoring stride netting 12 goals.
Scottie has good wheels and an even better ice sense. He knows where to go and knows where his linemates are. He's got an excellent release when he shoots. His experience and maturity can only benefit the Seawolves this season. If he can play with enthusiasm and not feel the pressure to score then I think he'll really have another big season. Sometimes, young men at this level feel the pressure and over-think their game. Scottie should just be himself and the production will follow.
#10 Brett Cameron:
In Brett's 2nd full year of juniors with Spruce Grove he tore it up. He scored 28 goals and added 39 assists landing him amongst the top scorers in a league chock full of talent that year. It seemed that there was nothing but upside for Brett but he ran into some concussion issues.
Much care was taken to ensure that he wasn't rushed back and in 31 games in his final junior season Brett finished with 9 goals and 20 assists. Cameron experienced the same concussion issues during his career so far at UAA but again the proper care was followed. He redshirted a year to ensure his safe return and last season he had his best year with 10 goals and 13 assists.
Brett seems to know only one way to play … full speed ahead. He's active all oner the ice and is always strong along the boards. He's perhaps the most "gifted" potential scorer on the squad. I think last year he really began to find his touch. Regardless of past injury he isn't ever tentative and as a leader this season I think we all could end up being thrilled by his production. Is he a 20 goal scorer? I think it's very possible.
#3 Derek Docken:
I love all our returners but if I had to pick a #1 favorite, Derek would be the guy. He is massively underrated amongst WCHA defensemen. His numbers in 3 years at UAA have been underwhelming from an offensive standpoint. Just 5 goals and 15 assists in three years isn't going to get anyone to notice who doesn't watch him play night in and night out.
But there isn't a steadier, more reliable and mistake-free defensemen in the WCHA. Derek is just 6 feet tall and 193lbs. Again, not the sort of physical makeup that's going to garner attention. Derek had an really interesting junior career. He was very overlooked amongst the huge talent-base in Minnesota (he's from Northfield … anyone know what Northfield is perhaps most famous for?) and after high school went to a terrible Albert Lea team which ended up in a big NAHL "pay to play" scandal.
He soldiered through that tough season (4-49) and all the controversy and in his 2nd year put up an astonishing +23 plus/minus rating which if I recall led the league. The next season with Dubuque in the USHL he showed those numbers were no fluke and again was amongst the league leaders in +/- with +23. He continued that stellar play at UAA in his first three seasons. Derek must be a dream to coach. He'd be the first guy I'd put on a team if I were building one from existing WCHA rosters.
#7 Austin Coldwell:
Austin is the type of defenseman who is going to get noticed due to his offensive numbers. Last season he led Seawolf blueliners in scoring with 6 goals and 13 assists. I think he was overlooked for the All-WCHA teams but not by much. Austin is very effective on the point during the power play and has a great sense of how best to move the puck and/or shoot. Austin had two very nice final years in the USHLwith Des Moines scoring 19 goals and 52 assists in 117 games. Like Derek he isn't big at just 6ft and 196lbs.
He attends well to his defensive duties leading the team last season in blocked shots and is a force in his own end. But moving forward he shines with good wheels and strong vision up the ice. Whether it's making a nice pass for a break, rushing the puck or holding the zone he is at his best contributing on that end. I can't say that I think Austin will lead the league this season scoring from the blueline but the Vancouver, Washington product will almost certainly be near the top of the league. I hope he proves me wrong and comes in at #1. I'll love to be wrong.
#23 Kory Roy:
Anchorage born Kory Roy had a bit of a time finding a home in juniors until he caught on with Canmore in the AJHL in 09-10. He contributed nicely there in his first season scoring 11g-27a in 57 games and the next season nearly doubled his production with 30 goals and 33 assists. Since coming to UAA Kory has found himself best suited to the 3rd and 4th line with occasional duty filling in on the 1st and 2nd. He's a versatile player who fills the roles asked of him and does so with great gusto. His 3 goals and 9 assists in 73 games isn't eye-catching by any measure.
I don't expect Kory to dress in even the majority of games this season. But his maturity and experience off the ice and in practice are certain to be important to younger players. Don't write him off though. If and when called upon this guy will be ready to play and capable of making fans stand up and cheer. He has always played bigger than his frame and with lots of energy. Guys like Kory are what college hockey is all about. Without selfless hard workers who toil in anonymity the talented elite players couldn't shine as bright.
I'd originally intended to cover all the returning players in this post but frankly I've had a pretty long day of running around town on my bike doing all my errands (about 20 miles all told); I'm pretty bushed after a fabulous late evening meal. I'll find time tomorrow to write about the Juniors and on Friday I'll tackle the Sophomores. Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about the returning Seawolves. The cupboards are nicely stocked.
By the way, all the photos are courtesy of http://www.goseawolves.com without whom this blog would be totally lame.