The four Seawolves who comprise the 2015-16 Senior Class bring four unique sets of hockey characteristics to this year's team. Blake Leask, Austin Sevalrud, Blake Tatchell and Chris Williams bring a combined 400 games of Division 1 hockey experience to the squad.
The one thing I think that applies to all four of these guys equally is that if they have ambitions to play hockey at a higher level than this is the year to start playing as if you were already at that level. This is the year to produce numbers that will get you noticed up the hockey chain. Whether's it's goals, assists or +/- there is no next chance to make an impression on someone. Now is the time.
Blake Leask #22
In his final year of junior hockey Blake was the highest scoring defenseman in the AJHL. His offensive prowess bloomed in his 3rd year as he nearly doubled his point production from his 2nd year and a big part of that was going from 3 goals in 2010-11 to 13 in 2011-12. Last season for the green and gold Blake scored 3 goals. Could he score 13 this year? Given the right role and lots of situational play he's certainly capable.
Over his career at UAA Blake has been a go-to guy for his coaches. He's talented enough to play any position on the ice and I'm pretty sure he has done so in his first three years. Blake is listed as D this year after spending quite a bit of time up front last season and in a couple of games I though he really clicked playing center. He's also quarterbacked the power play in the past and there's lots of reasons to expect Coach Thomas will be looking to Blake this season to step up and perform that role again.
I don't think there can be any doubt that Matt Thomas wants to play the game at a high tempo and Blake's puck-handing and skating skills can be a big part of that. Don't underestimate this 5 foot 9 incher. He's got the tools to help the team succeed. 13 goals would be a beautiful thing but 7 or 8 will do just nicely.
Austin Sevalrud #5
Austin is the 2nd (alphabetically speaking) of the 3 senior defensemen. He's been a steady presence on the blueline for the Seawolves. His consistent level of effort and usually solid defensive play will again be needed on the backline. I imagine there'll be a big focus in strategy for the blueliners to step up their support of the guy in the net behind them.
More than a few times last season Olivier Mantha got hung out to dry by the team in front of him. A renewed focus on supporting him better will definitely translate to more wins. Mantha is capable of winning games virtually on his own so the fewer pucks that get to him and the more rebounds our defense controls the less opposition pucks are going to be in the net. That's why the dude's on the blueline are called "defense"men.
Austin's maturity in the locker room and on the ice via his play will serve as good examples to younger players. Sevalrud is also very capable of making contributions to the offensive effort. He's a good passer and knows when to rush the puck as well as being able to execute the rush effectively. He's smart and experienced and will be a key factor at the end of the year in the GAA stat.
Blake Tatchell #9
Blake wears #9. If you pick that number for yourself then the expectation is that you ought to produce. I think Matt Thomas is a pretty smart guy. If I'm right, then he's already told Blake that his job for the team this year is to put the puck in the net. Blake's a pretty unselfish player which is clearly evidenced by his high assist to goal ratio.
It's obviously great to help other guys score but sometimes unselfish guys pass up opportunities that they could finish. When Blake has chances to finish this season he's got to be selfish. This is a guy with the skills to score damn near 20 goals in this league. He'll need a playmaker or two on his line to accomplish that sort of number.
This year's Seawolves will need an on-ice example from Blake. The other players will need to see him busting his ass AND putting the puck in the back of the net. If he can do so then he'll elevate the guys around him and a wildfire of success can follow. There's a lot of parity between college hockey teams and that'll be the case in our league this season. One or two players can and often do make a difference between a winning season and a losing season.
I believe in Blake's #9. And if he can bag more than 15 goals this season, you'll see an AHL team or two that will want to take a chance on him.
Chris Williams #37
Somewhere during the first half of Chris Williams freshman season I thought to myself (and I'm sure I said it here) that he looked like a guy that could play in the big show one day. I still think he can. Chris' career at UAA hasn't been statistically anything that would get a scout's attention. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Williams has to pot 10 goals and 25 assists this season or never make the show.
Chris has really good wheels for his size. He gets up and down the sheet as well as anyone. He has a steady presence with the puck on his stick. He could carry more often than he does but chooses making the safer play as an option. That has it's positives but it has it's negatives as well.
I think that Chris should have the height of self-confidence at this stage of his hockey career. I think he should know that his experience and skill are enough to create plays whether by a great pass (and he is a good passer) or by a smart carry and good dish off to a scorer. I really want to see him get his first collegiate goal early in this season.
All that offense talk shouldn't overshadow that Chris' skills on the backend are vital to the Seawolves success. Williams will also need to strategically focus on supporting his netminder this season. There's is going to be lots of guys on the squad with going forward on their mind ... Chris needs to think about his blueline responsibilities first and take advantage of the chances to create offense as they come. That will go a long way to make this Keystone state native a more complete player; who will get more than a passing interest from AHL teams.
It's a small core of seniors but they're all capable of bringing something unique, useful and/or important to Seawolves success this coming season. I'll finish here by reiterating that if these guys want to go onto the next level after their last season here then they should play like that now. And also, I hope they all have fun.