Another season has come and gone. This can only bring one thing: Speculation about recruits and what the team roster will look like in the fall. I gave it a shot a year ago and missed badly in one area: I picked Andrew MacWilliam, not Corey Fienhage, to come in for 2008-09.
Part of last year was also not knowing if there would be early departures. That's been answered: The team won't be facing early departures as it has for the last decade.
So, with that backdrop we'll begin to look at what I project as the ins-and-outs of the UND Hockey roster for 2009-2010.
For openers, thanks to Aaron Walski and welcome to Aaron Dell. (There's nothing like starting out with the gimme-of-gimmes to improve the prediction average.)
Moving to defense, Joe Finley and Zach Jones graduate and Andrew MacWilliam and Joe Gleason are the obvious replacements. We'll see Nick Mattson and Derek Forbort at some later date.
Forward is where the confusion and questions come in when I try to prognosticate the roster. Initially, do we consider Brad Miller a forward or a defenseman? For this conversation, and under the Hobey Baker caliber statement of Ryan "the Brad Miller I know is a forward" Duncan, I'm considering Brad Miller as a forward. That leaves UND with five holes at forward: Ryan Duncan, Matt Watkins, Andrew Kozek, Ryan Martens, and Brad Miller.
So, which five forward recruits in the UND pipeline do I expect to see skating in REA in the fall? Allow me to list them in my expected order:
1. Mike Cichy - Mike dominated the USHL Clark Cup playoffs, including taking home the playoff MVP award. That's the last checkbox on his "ready for the WCHA" punch list.
2. Dan Kristo - Dan's seen the World Junior Tournament for Team USA. Next question.
3. Brett Bruneteau - Brett was projected to come in during fall of 2008 but injuries led him back to the USHL for 2008-09 to help ensure he is ready for the next level.
4. Michael Forney - This is the first real question on my list. Is Michael returning to UND? He's coming off an outstanding, and healthy, season for Green Bay (USHL). I'd be very interested in seeing what a healthy Michael Forney would do for the home team in REA.
5. Corbin Knight - Here's another case of "Team Hak Recruiting". Knight wasn't highly known, touted, or visible before his commitment to UND. However, Knight went from that anonymity (unranked by NHL Central Scouting at mid-season) to being the 64th ranked North American forward as season's end. Team Hak Recruiting finds another gem in the coal mine.
6. Carter Rowney - Rowney, by being named AJHL playoff MVP, has put his name next to the likes of Dany (stinkin' Badger) Heatley, Mike (no-good Wolverine) Comrie, and Joe (dirty Pioneers) Colborne. That's pretty good hockey company, even though in my opinion they chose poorly when it came to collegiate squads. Most consider Rowney a late-bloomer but also a guy who does the hard work that's not always the glamorous part of the game. For some reason, that makes me smile.
7. Danny Mattson - I know some will call me a sinner for not expecting the Holy Angels (sinner, angel, get it?) star at UND this fall but I don't see him coming to Grand Forks until 2010. A year in the USHL would help a guy used to skating in open ice get ready for that part of the rink called "the corners" which is where the WCHA seems to play.
8. "The Rest" - meaning (still in order) Mike Fink, Derek Rodwell, Matt White, Michael Parks, Brendan O'Donnell - these folks, with maybe the exception of Fink, have all been recruited for 2010 or 2011 so to see them in Grand Forks this fall would be a true shock.
I'm pretty sure of 1 through 3, and like I stated, Forney, until something becomes official, is my biggest question. If Forney doesn't return to UND that would make 2009 space for the reigning AJHL playoff MVP.
Now, all we have to do is wait until September to see how well I did.
Enjoy your summer.