I cannot hide the fact that I spent the last two years outside. I followed the team as closely as I was able during that time but my lack of live game experience is going to show when attempting to analyze certain things. One of those things is that I've never seen anyone in this class play in person. That doesn't stop me from having much love for these guys. I look forward to getting to know each of these guys strengths better as this season progresses.
#14 Tanner Dusyk
5ft 8in, 175lb Montmartre, Saskatchewan born Dusyk started last year at right wing on the first line for the first 3 games of the regular season. He moved to that same position on the third line for the next three games. Then he centered the 3rd for a couple of games. Then back to the first line for the next six games at right wing. Back to the 3rd line at center for a trio of games then he dressed on the 4th "line" for the rest of the season. In those 28 games, he scored 2g, 2a. In four full junior years (1st two with Nipawin in the SJHL; next 2 with Bonnyville in the AJHL) Tanner scored 75 goals and 86 assists in 196 games.
Tanner has some grit in his game. He's got quick feet, good hands and is strong. After spending a year playing different roles for Coach Thomas his challenge this season will be to establish himself. Have no doubt that he'll face some competition for playing time but expect him to play in at least as many games as last season where he played 28. Tanner can ensure maximum time by scoring and helping his teammates score. I would tend to think he's a candidate for penalty killing minutes as well.
#18 Brad Duwe
6ft 1in 187lb Soldotna born Duwe didn't play last season until the 7th game of the season and skated on right wing for the next 4 games. Over the next 13 games he saw action on the third and fourth line at the same position in 5 games on both the 3rd and 4th line. Then came the second half of the season and Brad seriously blossomed. He played a couple/three games on the off-wing on the 2nd line and the rest of the season at right wing on that line. He banged in 7 goals during the 2nd half. He showed a serious penchant for getting to the net at the right time for a tip and/or a rebound.
If Brad can just match his production from last year then he'll make a lot of people smile. I know he made me smile a bunch down in Illinois last year. Expect to see Brad play in just about every game this season. His scoring touch wasn't a fluke, he's got a nose for the net. He's a bear in front of the net; not a half-timid Black Bear either, a big ol' Kenai Peninsula Brownie. His nickname should be Grizz.
#19 Hudson Friesen
I remember pretty clearly when 6ft 2in 199lb Hudson first committed to the Seawolves. I was excited. Not because he came from an area (Southern Manitoba) where UAA has had some real nice success recruiting talented players but because he had a lot of nice press. In 166 games he tallied 67 goals and added 88 assists playing for Selkirk in the MJHL. I think it's an underrated league in Canada and to put up nearly a point a game is a nice accomplishment. Hudson had some NHL draft talk surrounding him as an 18 year old and was pretty widely scouted.
Last season he bagged 3 goals and 4 assists in 29 games. The most memorable one for me was his goal in the Final Five. I think he's got a lot more goals in him. I expect him to play in every game this season and provide important secondary scoring. I think he's more than capable of being in the top 4 or 5 scorers for the team. It wouldn't be crazy to see double-digit goals from him but of course that would be a big step up. We'd have to call him super-soph if that turns out to be the case. In any case, he'll be an important cog in the wheel this season.
#13 Dylan Hubbs
Nobody can be faulted for comparing Beaumont, Alberta native Dylan to the departed Seawolves fan favorite Kevin Clark. They share a hardcore gritty and chirping style that is unmistakable and that we fans love. They are similarly sized, Dylan is 5ft 9in and 167lbs. He led the freshman class in scoring last season with 4 goals and 6 assists. In Clarkie's first season he put up 102 penalty minutes. Dylan showed more discipline only getting 65 minutes in the box in his first year. With Sophomore maturity expect that number to drop a bit this year.
Dylan should dress in every game this season. He's a bright spark in the engine that makes everyone around him go a little better. He's quick footed, has excellent puck handling skills and his determination is always evident. There won't be a game where he doesn't get UAA fans excited at some point and there won't be a shift where he comes over the boards that I won't excitedly anticipate.
#31 Michael Matyas
Anyone that has read me for a long time knows I really don't like to talk about goaltenders too much. It's partly superstitious but also it's not a skill set I evaluate particularly well. Don't get me wrong; when a tender shows lots of talent, I notice. But the more subtle things that good goalies do ofttimes escape me. I know the coaching staff speaks well of all three goalies on the roster. Michael has seen action in the NCAA and our two freshman netminders haven't.
Michael is a Calgary, Alberta born product. He had really excellent numbers in the AJHL; .913 save percentage in 49 games with Calgary in 11-12. In his games last season with UAA he had an .877% and 3.29 goals against. Not spectacular but not out of the range for UAA keepers last year. So it's just hard to say what Michael might do this coming year. The position is wide-open and available for the taking.
#40 Zach Rassell
If I'm not mistaken this 6ft 2in, 224lb Calgary, Alberta native is the biggest forward on the squad this season. Don't let that fool you though; he's got good wheels. Last season he bagged 3 goals and 4 assists in 34 games. The most memorable for me was UAA's 4th goal against Ferris in the Final Five. It put the Seawolves up 4-2 and I sure thought it would be enough to take us to the Championship game.
Zach didn't have a junior career that jumps off the page at you. His final year with Canmore he scored 25 goals and added 29 assists. In his previous three seasons he managed 24 goals and 40 assists. Different players develop at different rates and I'd say Zach comes to UAA at a nice peak in his development. He clearly has good tools and centered the 3rd line most of last season. He's got a ton of upside and this year will show what he's capable of producing. Expect him to play in every game this season.
#2 Chase Van Allen
Last season Chase skated in 30 games with his primary defensive partner being Blake Leask. He tallied 8 assists but has more offensive ability than those numbers indicate. He plays bigger than his 5ft 10in 188lb frame. He's a hometown kid who played two seasons with the Alaska Avalanche before a final couple of seasons in the "B" with Alberni Valley where he put up 10g, 43a in 110 games. Chase plays a disciplined game on the backend and only had 18 minutes in penalties last year.
He's got good wheels and hands and carries the puck up the ice well when he takes the opportunity. I know the coaching staff is high on Chase so we can expect to see quite a bit of him this year and hopefully we'll see his first collegiate goal early in the season. Getting scoring from the blueliners is a big goal for the team this year and Chase should be a key contributor to that.
#16 Connor Wright
Connor is another hometown player at 5ft 9in and 177lbs. He redshirted last season. It's difficult for me to say anything substantial about Connor. His NAHL career isn't remarkable. I would anticipate that his primary personal goals this season will be to find a role that Coach Thomas needs to fill and to do everything he can to fill it. He's got good hockey genes as the son of Aces demi-legend Kory Wright who played at NMU in the mid-80s and banged home a boatload of goals on the early Anchorage Aces teams.
As a group this class will obviously be vital to the Seawolves success this season. They'll need to provide secondary scoring power and hopefully one or two of them will have "breakout" seasons. As I said at the top I'm looking forward to getting to know each of these guys strengths as this season progresses. Best of luck to each of them.