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ECAC 2023-24 Preview
In-depth team-by-team breakdowns with a model to predict the standings
Back when I was still a student at RPI, I created a model meant to project offense and defense for all the ECAC teams to create a prediction for the standings. I wrote my first (and only) model-based predictions using it, and the results were great. It had the 2nd best prediction score all-time for a yearly ECAC standings prediction contest.
Last year, I didn’t use it to make any sort of prediction because I didn’t really trust it based on the predicted standings it spit out. This ended up being a good thing though because it forced me to evaluate why it seemed off, and I made some tweaks that I think will pay off. Before I go into the projections for this year and break down each team, let’s go over the results for the model, so as readers, you can see it’s a fairly accurate and trustable tool. I went back to run it on the 19-20 season too, so we have 3 seasons worth of results to use.
Average Standings error (average difference in standings position per team)
Total Avg: 1.44
Average Offensive rank error (average difference in offensive rank per team)
Total Avg: 2.44
Average Defensive rank error (average difference in defensive rank per team)
Total Avg: 1.67
The results are really good in those 3 years. The average team is off by 1.44 spots in the standings, 2.44 spots offensively and 1.67 spots defensively. You can have confidence that the model will have a fairly accurate picture of the ECAC. Now, it’s time for the preview!
1. Quinnipiac (Last Year: 1)
Shocker, right? The defending natty champs are projected to once again finish atop the standings. This will be the 3rd season in a row the model projects Quinnipiac to finish 1st. The past 2 years they have delivered; can they make it 3? The model doesn’t think they are quite as loaded as the past 2 years, but it also doesn’t think they are too far off.
Key Losses: F Ethan de Jong (40 points in 41 games), D Zach Metsa (37 points in 40 games), F Skyler Brind’amour (32 points in 41 games), F TJ Friedmann (22 points in 41 games), F Michael Lombardi (22 points in 41 games), D Jake Johnson (15 points in 39 games), G Yaniv Perets (0.931 SV%)
Key Returners: F Colin Graf (59 points in 41 games), F Sam Lipkin (43 points in 39 games), F Jacob Quillan (38 points in 41 games), F Cristophe Tellier (22 points in 37 games), D Jayden Lee (20 points in 41 games), D Iivari Rasanen (15 points in 41 games)
Key Newcomers: F Andon Cerbone (USHL), G Vinny Duplessis (BU), F Mason Marcellus (USHL), G Matej Marinov (USHL), D Cooper Moore (North Dakota), D Davis Pennington (Omaha), F Travis Treloar (Ohio State), F Zach Tupker (Cornell), D Nicky Wallace (USHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 1
Incoming Class Rank: 1
Projected Offensive Rank: 1
Quinnipiac did lose a lot in the offseason as you can see. de Jong, Brind’amour, Friedmann and Lombardi were all key offensive players for the Bobcats. Metsa and Johnson made up their top pairing on the blue line. The thing is though that when you score almost 4 goals per game, you can afford to lose some players. That’s how they lose really good players but still return the most scoring in the league. It also helps that they return their entire top line of Lipkin - Quillan - Graf. That was a dynamic trio last year and 3 of the best players in the league.
Then, when you add in the best incoming recruiting class (including transfers) in the league, the model projects them to by far have the best offense. Cerbone had a point per game in the USHL last year. Treloar had 55 points in 96 games at Ohio State and will slide right into their top 6. Mason Marcellus was 7th in the entire USHL in points. Those guys could all play key roles right away, and then, I expect Zach Tupker to slide into a defensive bottom 6 role like he did for Cornell.
Even the defensemen should add offense. Lee and Rasanen can both move the puck well, and Lee is incredible in transition with his dynamic skating and skill. Moore and Pennington were both very effective in the NCHC and will fill top 4 roles no problem. Wallace had 2 good years in the USHL and is ready for college hockey.
Overall, they are loaded up again offensively and will be looking to keep up their level from last year.
Projected Defensive Rank: 2
The model is expecting a slight drop-off defensively from Quinnipiac for a couple reasons. The first is due to losing the top pairing of Jake Johnson and Zach Metsa. They were excellent both ways with some of the best metrics in the country for play-driving. Their all-around impact will be extremely tough to replace even with the transfers that are incoming. The second reason is Yaniv Perets’s early departure for the NHL. It’s not easy to replace a 2x All-American and 2x ECAC Goalie of the Year.
The defense is still projected to be elite overall because Quinnipiac still returns the rest of their key blue liners in Jayden Lee, Iivari Rasanen, CJ McGee and Charles-Alexis Legault. While there will probably be a drop-off, it should not be significant.
In the net, Quinnipiac has two great options to succeed Perets. Vinny Duplessis was always relegated to the backup role for BU despite having success when given spot starts. He had a 0.915 SV% there, and I expect he will win the starting job. Matej Marinov is definitely capable of starting too though. This season, he was one of the best goaltenders in the USHL with a 0.917 SV%, which was 3rd in the league. It should be a really good battle to win the starting role.
While neither goalie will replicate the level of Perets, both should be reliable starters. With enough defense returning to go with that goaltending, Quinnipiac should once again be elite in its own end.
Overall, this team looks like an NCAA tournament lock with both elite offense and defense.
2. Cornell (Last Year: 3)
Cornell isn’t quite expected to be on Quinnipiac’s level, but they are the clear #2 for the model. After a bounce back season last year where they made the NCAA tournament and made it to the final 8, they should once again be an NCAA tournament team.
Key Losses: F Ben Berard (28 points in 34 games), D Sam Malinski (26 points in 34 games), F Max Andreev (22 points in 31 games), D Travis Mitchell (19 points in 34 games), F Jack Malone (17 points in 34 games)
Key Returners: F Gabriel Seger (30 points in 30 games), F Dalton Bancroft (21 points in 33 games), F Nick DeSantis (20 points in 30 games), F Kyle Penney (18 points in 33 games), F Jack O’Leary (17 points in 29 games), D Tim Rego (9 points in 33 games), D Hank Kempf (2 points in 31 games), G Ian Shane (0.916 SV%)
Key Newcomers: D George Fegaras (USHL), F Jacob Kraft (USHL), D Ben Robertson (USHL), D Hoyt Stanley (BCHL), F Ryan Walsh (USHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 5
Incoming Class Rank: 7
Projected Offensive Rank: 3
I know it may not seem like the math adds up here, but it does. I’ll explain that later. The returning offense for Cornell is pretty good. While they did lose a handful of key players, they return numerous contributors from last season. Seger will be one of the best centers in the league this season. Penney and O’Leary are proven top 6 guys. Bancroft and DeSantis were two of the better freshmen in the league last season, and I expect them to elevate their games even further. Their returning offense is ranked 5th, but it’s just barely behind 3 and 4.
The Big Red will be adding some quality recruits to their lineup too. Ryan Walsh was 2nd in the entire USHL in points and will contribute immediately. They have multiple defensemen who can provide offense too. Ben Robertson was 4th in points among USHL defensemen and led all USHL defensemen in assists. George Fegaras wasn’t quite as good but still had 27 points. Hoyt Stanley was 9th in the BCHL in points for defensemen despite being 17 most of the year.
There are a few reasons the math is weird. The first is the gap between teams 4-8 in returning scoring is miniscule, and Cornell also isn’t that far behind the 3rd ranked team. The second reason is the recruiting class rankings don’t account for position. Cornell is bringing in 5 freshmen defensemen this season. Defensemen are projected for less offense than forwards as they should be, but this makes Cornell’s incoming class ranking lower than it should be. I should probably factor in positions for the class rankings in the future, and if I did that, I bet Cornell would be at least a couple spots higher.
In the overall calculations, I do factor in position, so it works out in the end. That ending for Cornell leads to a pretty talented lineup. It’s one that should continue the success that they had last year.
Projected Defensive Rank: 1
With such a young defense, it might be a surprise to see Cornell ranked so highly here. The reality though is that they only lost 2 impactful defensemen in Malinski and Mitchell. Both were very good, but returning the other key guys on the blue line makes up for it. Tim Rego and Hank Kempf both had outstanding defensive numbers last season and are important pieces to bring back. They will help Cornell stick to its patented defensive style.
The other main component leading to this ranking is the return of Ian Shane. He had a 0.932 SV% a couple years ago and a 0.916 last year. He gives Cornell a very reliable #1 in the net who will likely be starting the vast majority of the year.
Cornell’s defense seems likely to maintain its elite level that we have grown accustomed to over the years.
Overall, Cornell looks like an elite, NCAA tournament-caliber team who could challenge Quinnipiac. They have the talent and depth to make some real noise this season.
3. Clarkson (Last Year: 6)
We’ve hit the first mild surprise in the projections after Clarkson struggled to play to the standard they’ve set in the past 5 years. Clarkson is a team that still has a lot of talent though, and due to that talent, the model is predicting they will have a bounce back year. They aren’t too far behind Cornell, and I see them as a bubble team for the NCAA tournament.
Key Losses: F Alex Campbell (25 points in 33 games), F Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (21 points in 37 games), F Anthony Callin (19 points in 35 games), D Jordan Power (13 points in 37 games), G Ethan Haider (0.906 SV%)
Key Returners: F Ayrton Martino (38 points in 37 games), F Mathieu Gosselin (33 points in 37 games), D Noah Beck (23 points in 37 games), F Ryan Taylor (19 points in 33 games), F Anthony Romano (15 points in 19 games), D Dustyn McFaul (9 points in 30 games)
Key Newcomers: F Eric Ciccolini (Michigan), G Emmett Croteau (USHL), F Daimon Gardner (USHL), D Jack Judson (Arizona State), F Oliver Moberg (USHL), F Cody Monds (Providence), F Charlie Russell (USHL), F Jesse Tucker (Michigan State)
Returning Offense Rank: 6
Incoming Class Rank: 2
Projected Offensive Rank: 2
Clarkson has a good mix of returning offense and an outstanding recruiting class that should have them set to score plenty this season. While they did lose a few top 6 guys in Campbell, Callin and Schmidt-Svejstrup, bringing back Gosselin and Romano for 5th years was absolutely huge. Gosselin has been All-ECAC 2 years in a row now, and Romano finally broke out last year to the tune of nearly a point per game.
Then, you add in Martino who had 38 points, Ryan Taylor who had 19 points as a freshman, Ciccolini coming in from Michigan, Monds coming in from Providence, Tucker coming in from Michigan State, and Gardner who had a point per game in the USHL, and it shows that Clarkson has easily replaced its outgoing production. I’d argue that they’ve even enhanced their forward lineup and should have a very good top 9 that’s capable of producing.
As usual with Clarkson, I wouldn’t expect too much production from the backend, but Noah Beck should once again be one of the best defensemen in the league. Judson was an excellent portal pickup from Arizona State as well. Those two will likely be the offensive leaders from the blue line.
Projected Defensive Rank: 3
Clarkson’s defense was very good last season, but it was not elite like it had been in seasons prior. I expect them to return to an elite level this season.
Dustyn McFaul is a hugely impactful player returning for his 5th year. He was the best defensive player for Clarkson last season as an outstanding shutdown defenseman. He will remain a key component of their top 4. Beck was also good defensively last year and should continue to be excellent both ways.
Behind them, Trey Taylor and Tristan Sarsland are pretty talented players who I think can take steps forward this year, and as I said before, Jack Judson was an excellent pickup from the transfer portal.
In net, I actually think they’re upgrading there this year despite the loss of Ethan Haider to the portal. Truth be told, after his freshman year, Haider was a disappointment considering his pedigree. He had save percentages of 0.908 and 0.906 the last 2 years, and you simply expect more from an NHL draft pick.
Emmett Croteau comes in, and I think he’s going to be excellent right off the bat. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens last year. This year, he put up a 0.917 SV% in the USHL, good for 3rd in the entire league. I don’t think he will have any issues adjusting to college hockey, and that projection is also why Clarkson is expected to improve their defense this season.
Overall, Clarkson looks primed for a bounce back year due to their talent at every position. I expect them to make their way back into the top 4 of the league and once again challenge to make the NCAA tournament.
4. Princeton (Last Year: 9)
No, that’s not a typo. This is the first big surprise of these rankings as Princeton is projected to rise 5 spots in the standings by this model. In reality, I don’t think it’s that big of a jump. Princeton was in a 3 way tie for 7th last season, and by goal differential per game, they were actually the best of those 3 teams. Still, jumping into the top 4 is no easy feat.
So why is Princeton projected to jump up this high? They simply have the perfect recipe for improvement by the model. It’s one that has been followed by a few different teams that produced major jumps in the standings. It’s essentially returning a ton of scoring, filling in the gaps with a few key newcomers and getting good goaltending.
Key Losses: F Liam Gorman (24 points in 32 games), D Pito Walton (21 points in 32 games)
Key Returners: F Ian Murphy (29 points in 31 games), F Brendan Gorman (19 points in 31 games), F Jack Cronin (18 points in 32 games), D Noah de la Durantaye (17 points in 31 games), F Nick Seitz (15 points in 28 games), D Nick Carabin (11 points in 32 games)
Key Newcomers: F Kai Daniells (BCHL), G Arthur Smith (NAHL), F Michael Young (NAHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 3
Incoming Class Rank: 5
Projected Offensive Rank: 5
Princeton’s key losses should give you an idea why they are ranked so highly by the model. Gorman and Walton are really the only important players not returning this season. For the forward lineup specifically, Gorman and Spencer Kersten are the only 2 regular contributors who left.
For the returners, you’ve got the 4 players above who are all top 6 quality players. Murphy is a total stud and had about a point per game last season. Brendan Gorman was great as a freshman with 19 points. Seitz and Cronin were key secondary scorers and have the potential to take steps forward this season. David Jacobs and Adam Robbins weren’t on the key returners list but both are quality middle 6 players. Princeton also has some offensive production returning from the blue line in de la Durantaye and Carabin despite losing Walton.
The list of incoming freshmen is short due to the number of returning players, but Princeton is projected to have 2 high impact ones at forward. Daniells had 71 points in the BCHL last year, which was 5th in the entire league. He’s very good and should be an immediate contributor in the top 6. Young had over a point per game in the NAHL as one of the best players in the league. He was 10th in the league in points and 4th in the league in points per game. He can slide right into their middle 6.
With those 2 freshmen filling the spots that Gorman and Kersten leave behind (and projected to do well in those roles) plus the rest of their lineup returning, it makes sense why Princeton is expected to be a good team offensively.
Projected Defensive Rank: 5
This defensive rank might seem high based on Princeton’s horrendous defense (by the numbers) last season, but there’s some context that’s missing if you go just by the numbers.
Princeton’s starting goaltender last year was Ethan Pearson who was meh with a 0.903 SV%. However, what really killed Princeton was when he got injured. Aidan Porter was the backup and in the 13 games he played, he had a horrible 0.843 SV% and a 4.16 GAA. Pearson’s GAA was 2.71, so Porter was allowing 1.4 extra goals per game on average, which is absolutely insane. Porter ended up starting over 1/3 of their season due to Pearson’s injuries, and Princeton only had 2 goalies last year on the roster (2 others were added mid-season from the club team so they could dress a backup). They had to stick with Porter despite his play.
Even just having Pearson for a full season will pay huge dividends for Princeton. However, Princeton has 2 options to take the starting role in net this year. I expect freshman Arthur Smith to compete for the role based on his play in junior hockey. He had a 0.928 SV% last year in the NAHL, which was tied for the league lead. He also has had NHL interest as he’s been ranked by NHL Central Scouting at various points in the last 2 seasons. Smith is a really talented goaltender who I think will eventually beat out Pearson for the #1 role. Even if he doesn’t, Princeton automatically will be upgraded in net this year.
The defense was actually pretty good at limiting shots last year with only 27.5 shots against per game. Princeton returns every single defenseman outside of Walton, so I expect that to continue and improve. Carabin was a great shutdown defender last year, and I think he can do the same this season. Nick Marciano was also good defensively as a freshman. Returning experience has proven to be pretty important defensively, so with those two and the remainder of the blue line back this season, it’s really not hard to see why the defense can be good.
The returning defense plus the much improved goaltending has Princeton projected to improve more than any other team defensively. You combine that with their high amount of returning offense and a few recruits who can help fill roles immediately, and I think the model’s optimism is justified.
5. St. Lawrence (Last Year: 4)
SLU is a team that has a similar prototype as Princeton but without the recruiting class to go along with it. They have lots of returning scoring and returning players in general, which should lead to another successful season.
The model has the gap between them and Princeton (and the teams below them) as pretty small, so it’s possible they can get to 4th again. It’s also possible they move down to 7th or 8th though. With the gaps in the middling teams being smaller, there’s a wider range of outcomes; the teams ranked 4-8 are all really bunched together.
What ultimately has them behind Princeton is their lack of high-end talent.
Key Losses: D Tim Makowski (9 points in 32 games)
Key Returners: D Luc Salem (27 points in 36 games), F Cameron Buhl (18 points in 35 games), D Mason Waite (16 points in 35 games), F Ty Naaykens (16 points in 31 games), D Philippe Chapleau (14 points in 35 games)
Key Newcomers: G Ben Kraws (Arizona State)
Returning Offense Rank: 2
Incoming Class Rank: 12
Projected Offensive Rank: 6
With only Tim Makowski being a key loss, SLU is returning the 2nd most offense in the league. The only regular forwards that they lose are Aleksi Peltonen and Jordan Steinmetz who were 3rd liners and are pretty easily replaceable.
Bringing Cameron Buhl back for a 5th year is good for them since he was their leading scorer at forward. SLU overall returns their top 7 forwards in points and 8 of their top 10. They also return some big point producers on the backend. Salem made All-ECAC last year, and his 27 points led the team. Waite and Chapleau can also provide some offense and should be key top 4 players.
SLU’s depth is clearly very good, but what holds them back is their lack of high-end talent. They return 11 players who had 10+ points last season; 8 of those are forwards. Outside of Salem, none of those players are high-end though. It’s really not a good sign when your leading producer at forward only has 18 points in 35 games. The depth will definitely help, but it’s way easier to find depth than top-end talent. I’m sure all their returning players will continue developing, but players don’t typically just become elite out of nowhere.
The other real issue is that SLU has the 2nd worst recruiting class (offensively) this model has ever seen. I know 3 of their recruits are goalies, but I account for that and it’s still atrocious. Gunnar Thoreson is their only incoming forward, and he had 38 points in the NAHL, which isn’t much in that league. On the blue line, none of Olenginski, Lammens and Mitchell move the needle offensively.
Will their crazy returning scoring and depth win out? Or will the lack of high-end talent? We’ll have to wait and see, but the model expects the end result to be a middle of the pack offense.
Projected Defensive Rank: 4
SLU had a solid defense last year, and it’s expected to be a strength for them this year. Returning literally every defenseman except for Makowski, who was really good defensively for them, is big. Their experience on the blue line should allow them to once again be strong at suppressing chances and shots against. They only allowed 26.6 shots per game last year, and based on what they return defensively, that could be even better this year!
In net, they will no longer have Emil Zetterquist, but honestly, he is not much of a loss. He had some pretty high expectations after he put up a 0.926 SV% in the COVID year. However, it’s pretty clear now that that was a fluke. The past 2 seasons he had save percentages of 0.904 and 0.899, respectively.
The starting role in net should be open. I’m expecting Ben Kraws to win the job eventually. Grant Adams has a career 0.840 SV%. Mason Kucenski had an awful year in the USHL last year (though some of the blame absolutely belongs to being on the worst team in the league). Cameron Smith dominated the NCDC, but that’s an extremely weak league, and he was an overager. Kraws gives them an experienced option with 4 years of college hockey. After a rough 2 years with Miami, he transferred to Arizona State and played pretty well there. His numbers have improved every year of his career, and I think he can be a capable starter for them.
With how good the defense projects to be, that’s all SLU really needs in net. They don’t need a goalie who will steal games; they just need one who won’t lose them games. Kraws can definitely be that, and I agree with the model that the defense should be a strength for the team.
Overall, SLU will look to build on last season where they broke into the top 4 by returning nearly their entire roster. They’ll look to ride their defense and get enough development from all their returning offense to do that. Do they have enough talent to progress further? Time will tell.
6. RPI (Last Year: 7)
RPI has a very similar profile as Princeton and SLU with one difference that keeps them behind the two of them in the projections.
The main similar component is extremely limited key losses with a lot of key returning players leading to a good amount of returning scoring. Like Princeton, RPI also has a pretty good recruiting class to fill in the gaps, which projects to lead to a good offense overall.
The main difference is the defense. RPI’s defensive struggles from last year have their defensive projection lower. They are projected to improve, but it does not close the gap.
Key Losses: F Ryan Mahshie (22 points in 31 games), D Kyle Hallbauer (13 points in 35 games)
Key Returners: F Sutter Muzzatti (22 points in 35 games), F Jake Lee (22 points in 28 games), F Austin Heidemann (20 points in 34 games), F Jake Gagnon (16 points in 31 games), D Lauri Sertti (15 points in 35 games), D Max Smolinski (14 points in 35 games), D Jack Agnew (12 points in 32 games), D Nick Strom (6 points in 35 games)
Key Newcomers: F Ryan Brushett (UMass Lowell), F Tyler Hotson (USHL), F Jeremie Payant (BCHL), F Dovar Tinling (BCHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 8
Incoming Class Rank: 3
Projected Offensive Rank: 4
This is another time that the numbers do add up even if it doesn’t look like it. RPI is only ranked 8th in returning scoring, but as I said for Cornell, the gap between teams 4-8 in returning scoring is miniscule. RPI is less than 0.4 points per game away from being 4th in returning scoring. It’s really that close.
What’s more important than the quantity of returning scoring is the quality though, and RPI returns nearly everyone of importance offensively. Ryan Mahshie is the only real point producer not coming back. TJ Walsh is the only other lineup regular who doesn’t return to RPI’s forward group. That means a trio of 20+ point forwards all return in Lee, Muzzatti and Heidemann.
There’s also a good amount of production returning from the blue line. Hallbauer and Klee are the only lineup regulars that don’t return on the backend, and Klee wasn’t much of an offensive contributor. Sertti, Smolinski, and Agnew all come back after having double digit points last season and will look to build on that with good offensive play at even strength and on the power play.
There’s not too many gaps to fill with what RPI has returning, but regardless, they bring in the model’s 3rd ranked recruiting class with some excellent recruits who will make immediate impacts on the scoresheet. Ryan Brushett only had 10 points in 24 games last year with Lowell as he dealt with injuries, but he had 22 points the year prior. He is expected to slide right into the top 6. Another transfer, Dovar Tinling, joins the team after he went to UVM as a 17 year old before he was ready for college. He went back to juniors and produced well in both the USHL and the BCHL. Last but not least, Tyler Hotson was one of the most productive players in the USHL last year and is one of the best incoming players in the league.
The incoming players is what really pushes RPI’s projected offense up in the model, and they’re expected to have the 4th best offense as a result.
Projected Defensive Rank: 9
While RPI does return the majority of their defense, the improvement is not expected to be as much as some of the other teams. One reason is Klee was more impactful defensively than a lot of the players that the other teams are losing. This lessens the projected improvement to a degree.
Goaltending was a big issue for RPI last year, and it is projected to improve. Jack Watson returns in net, and while he did struggle last year, he had a great freshman year in 2021-22. He has the potential to bounce back. The model uses up to 3 years of data for goalies, so his 2021-22 season is factored in and a slight bounce back is projected by it.
Overall, there is some improvement expected, but it isn’t as much as some of the other teams which is why RPI is only projected to be 9th defensively. It is what keeps them behind Princeton and SLU in the overall rankings even though they are right on their tails.
7. Harvard (Last Year: 2)
Here’s the second big surprise of the model’s rankings. Harvard is expected to drop hard after the number of losses they’ve sustained this offseason. No team returns less scoring, and they also lose their top pairing on the blue line and their starting goaltender.
They basically lost all their best players, and since they can’t use the transfer portal, they have to turn to freshmen to fill the void. They will be talented like they always are, but it’s difficult to see Harvard overcoming all those losses and the crazy amount of youth on the roster.
Key Losses: F Sean Farrell (53 points in 34 games), F Alex Laferriere (42 points in 34 games), F Matt Coronato (36 points in 34 games), D Henry Thrun (31 points in 33 games), F John Farinacci (20 points in 19 games), D Ryan Siedem (17 points in 34 games), G Mitchell Gibson (0.919 SV%)
Key Returners: F Joe Miller (28 points in 33 games), D Ian Moore (19 points in 34 games), D Jack Bar (5 points in 32 games)
Key Newcomers: F Michael Callow (USHL), F Ryan Fine (USHL), F Salvatore Guzzo (USHL), F Ben MacDonald (BCHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 12
Incoming Class Rank: 4
Projected Offensive Rank: 10
It’s really tough to recover from losing almost 2/3 of your scoring. Harvard lost a whopping 4 30+ point scorers, all 4 were 1st team or 2nd team All-ECAC. Sean Farrell even won ECAC Player of the Year and was one of the best players in the country.
That doesn’t even include John Farinacci and Ryan Siedem, both of whom were also excellent last season. You just can’t replace all this production in an offseason without the portal unless you’re bringing in a Jack Eichel or Adam Fantilli, which Harvard is not doing.
They do return some good players. Joe Miller made the All-Rookie team after his great freshman year. Ian Moore is an outstanding two way defenseman and has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Alex Gaffney and Marek Hejduk had 16 and 13 points, respectively and could take steps forward this season. There are more players who were down in the lineup last season that have talent and could step up (both at forward and defense) such as Zakary Karpa, Phil Tresca, Casey Severo, Ryan Healey, and Kyle Aucoin.
Even though Harvard’s recruiting class is good, it has no truly elite players. It’s missing guys on the Coronato/Farrell/Lafferiere level who were excellent in the USHL before going to Harvard. The USHL players they bring in are good but not elite.
Ryan Fine and Salvatore Guzzo both had above 0.5 points per game for the USNTDP last season and should be good players immediately and throughout their careers. Ben MacDonald had over a point per game in the BCHL while Michael Callow had 40 points in the USHL. They’re all good players who should contribute right away.
There’s a lot of talent on this Harvard team, and I expect they’ll outperform this projected 10th place offensive ranking. However, I still expect struggles as is natural when a team loses so much scoring (as an RPI fan, I’ve seen it firsthand).
Projected Defensive Rank: 6
Harvard’s defense was excellent last year, and it’s still projected to be pretty solid this season. That being said, there is a drop-off expected here due to the players they lose. Siedem and Thrun made up their top pairing, and they were both fantastic last season. That’s a big loss that will be felt on the backend. Additionally, Mitchell Gibson is gone now after being a reliable starter for the past few seasons.
Harvard still returns some pretty good players though, which keeps their defense projected to be solid. Ian Moore is someone I’ve already mentioned, but he’s a great player who could be a top player in the league. His defensive impacts have been outstanding for two years in a row, and he has pretty good offense to go with it. Jack Bar is another player who has had excellent defensive impacts, and he should be filling a larger role this year. Ryan Healey and Kyle Aucoin both struggled a bit last season but have obvious talent and could breakout.
In net, I expect Harvard will be okay because they return Derek Mullahy. He had a 0.929 SV% last year in a very limited 6 game sample size. They year before, he had a 0.905 SV% in 7 games. He doesn’t have much experience, but he has performed well in limited time. He also has good pedigree with 2 years of USHL experience prior to going to Harvard. I think he can be reliable for them in net even if I don’t think he’ll be as good as Gibson.
Overall, it leads to a defense that is projected to drop off but still be good enough to be competitive. The main worry for Harvard is how they will score. They have lots of talent and lots of youth and inexperience. If they can’t all take steps and fill bigger roles, it won’t be pretty. If they can, the team’s talent gives them a high ceiling, and the model’s logjam of teams 4-8 means they can still stick around in the top 4.
8. Colgate (Last Year: 5)
This might be a mild surprise after Colgate won the ECAC tournament, but they lost their head coach, top assistant and a few of their top players in the offseason. They still return some good scoring, but the majority of it is from the blue line.
The defense should be solid once again though with the return of Carter Gylander and most of the defensemen. The main thing that keeps Colgate projected this low is that they are not projected to be good either offensively or defensively. They’re expected to be about average in both. Princeton and RPI both have good projected offenses, and SLU and Harvard have good projected defenses. As I said before, the gap for teams projected 4-8 is pretty small, so this minor difference is what keeps Colgate in that 8 spot rather than higher.
Key Losses: F Alex Young (39 points in 40 games), F Matt Verboon (35 points in 40 games), F Colton Young (28 points in 40 games), D Anthony Stark (1 point in 30 games)
Key Returners: D Nick Anderson (29 points in 40 games), F Ross Mitton (27 points in 40 games), F Alex DiPaolo (26 points in 40 games), D Nic Belpedio (14 points in 40 games), D Reid Irwin (14 points in 39 games), D Tommy Bergsland (10 points in 40 games), G Carter Gylander (0.914 SV%)
Key Newcomers: F Brett Chorske (Colorado College), F Robby Newton (Wisconsin), Nicholas Rexine (USHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 4
Incoming Class Rank: 8
Projected Offensive Rank: 8
I mentioned it above, but Colgate’s returning scoring comes mostly from the blue line, which is why the overall rank is lower than you would expect. That’s still really good puck movement to have on your team though. Nick Anderson is a star defenseman who can defend in addition to his great offense. Belpedio, Irwin and Bergsland all good years offensively and look like they’ll be counted on for key minutes again.
There are few forward losses, but the ones they lose were easily their 3 best forwards. Alex Young transferred to follow Dana Borges after the coaching changes and leaves behind 39 points and a First Team All-ECAC selection. Matt Verboon went pro after his 35 point season. Colton Young also went pro after putting up 28 points. That’s a lot of scoring leaving even though it’s just 3 players.
Luckily, Colgate does return Ross Mitton and Alex DiPaolo who both were key top 6 forwards for them. They will need both of them to take steps up to fill the gaps of what left. Some good middle 6 players return as well with Ethan Manderville, Simon Labelle and Daniel Panetta returning. If all these players take steps up, Colgate does have the potential to be good offensively, but it’s just tough to see them matching last year’s levels.
It doesn’t help that there are not many impactful recruits coming in. Robby Newton and Brett Chorske project more as bottom 6 players given their lack of playing time and production at Wisconsin and Colorado College, respectively. Nicholas Rexine should be able to fill a middle 6 role after his solid year in the USHL, but that’s about it for meaningful incoming recruits.
Overall, while the offense has some solid players overall, there doesn’t appear to be enough top 6 production to match their pretty good offense from last season.
Projected Defensive Rank: 7
Colgate’s defense should still be pretty reliable, and it’s expected to be about the same as it was last season. The reason their ranking is down 2 spots from last year is more due to teams like SLU and Princeton projected to improve to be slightly ahead of them.
Colgate returns every defenseman that played key minutes last season except for Anthony Stark. Unfortunately, Stark had one of the best defensive impacts on the team despite only having 1 point, so that’s still an important loss. With the returning experience, I expect them to be able to overcome that though.
In net, Carter Gylander returns for his senior season, and he will be reliable between the pipes again. Last year, he had a solid but not amazing 0.914 SV%. I feel like we’ve been waiting for Gylander’s breakout year for a little while now, and we haven’t quite gotten it. His save percentages by year are 0.901, 0.906 and 0.914. Those are all fine but based on his pedigree, you would think he has another level to hit. The model projects him to be around where he was last year, but if he can hit that next level, I think their defense could be elite.
Overall, Colgate projects to be solid defensively once again. Whether or not they can be more than that comes down to Gylander in my opinion. With a projected middling offense though, they are projected to be 8th by the model, just barely behind teams 4-7. If they can replace their major losses up front and get high-level goaltending, they could make that projection look silly. With the tight gaps between these middling teams and the great year last year, it wouldn’t be surprise if they finish higher.
9. Union (Last Year: 8)
I think Union will actually be a better team than they were last year as new coach Josh Hauge continues to rebuild the program. However, that doesn’t translate to an improvement in the model’s projections. It’s more because the teams ahead of them have more talent rather than anything Union is doing wrong.
If you want to point to why Union is projected this low, it really is just that lack of talent by the model’s standards. Overall, I kinda have to agree because when I look at their roster, I just think “meh” outside of 3-4 players. That’s simply what life is as a rebuilding program with a new coach, and it’s not an indictment on their long term direction under him.
Key Losses: none
Key Returners: D John Prokop (23 points in 35 games), F Nate Hanley (21 points in 35 games), F Tyler Watkins (19 points in 35 games), D Cal Mell (15 points in 34 games), D Nick Young (9 points in 34 games)
Key Newcomers: F Brandon Buhr (BCHL), F Cole Kodsi (Bentley), D Joey Potter (NAHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 7
Incoming Class Rank: 9
Projected Offensive Rank: 7
As you can see, the offense isn’t projected to be bad, but it’s not projected to be good either. The returning scoring is average. Nate Hanley and Tyler Watkins lead the way here as Union’s most productive forwards, and both return this year. Those were the only 2 forwards above half a point per game though. Josh Nixon, Chaz Smedsrud, Liam Robertson, and Caden Villegas were all solid 3rd liners who will be good secondary scorers.
I like Hanley a lot, and Watkins is solid. Prokop and Mell were very good as freshmen last year and gave Union some offense from the blue line. Everyone else though is more just reliable depth rather than true difference makers, but Union will be relying on them in the top 6. It’s possible they can take steps forward, but it’s tough to expect all of them to do it in the same year.
The recruits look pretty much the same. Buhr was a productive BCHL player but did absolutely nothing at Clarkson last year, and it’s not like he lit up the BCHL either considering he was an overager. Kodsi only had 16 points for Bentley in the Atlantic. I actually really like Potter. He had almost a point per game in the NAHL as a defenseman and should add some more offense from the backend. That’s about it though. Buhr and Kodsi project as more depth, and Potter is good but by himself doesn’t make a crazy impact.
Barring a lot of improvement by the returning players, Union just seems to be lacking talent on offense, and it is the reason why its offense is projected to be middle of the pack.
Projected Defensive Rank: 10
Prokop, Mell and Nick Young are a pretty good core to build around on defense. Young hasn’t been mentioned before, but he had a really good defensive impact as a freshman. Outside of those 3 though, they actually lose more defensemen than you’d think due to the transfer portal. Nic Petruolo and Greg Japchen both moved on in the offseason, and Mason Snell is not on roster. Petruolo and Snell played a lot last season, and losing them dulls the expected improvement from Union’s defense.
In net, Kyle Chauvette was a pretty reliable backup last year as a freshman, and he is expected to move into the starting role. He only played 10 games last year, so it remains to be seen how he can do as a full-time #1 goalie. I think he can be solid, and the model projects him to provide the same level of goaltending as last year. That’s another reason the expected defensive improvement is dulled. If he plays the same as he did last year with a 0.905 SV%, that’d be fine overall. However, a 0.905 would be a below average starter in college hockey, so that’s why Union is not projected for more of an improvement. If he can be a bonafide starter, that will help them a lot.
Overall, Union is expected to improve defensively, but similar to the offense, it’s not to a great degree. Union should be decent both ways, but the improvement is not projected to be enough to stick with the teams ahead of them. It should still be a positive step forward for the program, and they’ll certainly put up a fight against most of the teams in the league.
10. Brown (Last Year: 11)
Earlier in the offseason, Brown was looking like they were in a good spot to start building something around a few pretty good players. It went a bit haywire though when Mathieu Caron decided to transfer. He was the backbone of the team and one of the best goalies in the league.
Brown still returns some good players in its core, but without the star goalie, their outlook isn’t as rosy. The core players they still have were good enough to keep them above 11 and 12, but their projection and ceiling are more limited now.
Key Losses: D Luke Krys (16 points in 30 games), D James Crossman (12 points in 29 games), G Mathieu Caron (0.921 SV%)
Key Returners: F Ryan Bottrill (21 points in 30 games), F Jordan Tonelli (17 points in 23 games), D Brett Bliss (13 points in 30 games)
Key Newcomers: F Tyler Kopff (BCHL), D Ethan Mistry (BCHL), F Ryan St. Louis (USHL), G Lawton Zacher (NAHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 11
Incoming Class Rank: 6
Projected Offensive Rank: 9
I think Brown will surprise some people offensively to be honest as they have a nice class coming in. Starting there, Tyler Kopff had a point per game in the BCHL and should slide right into the top 6. More importantly though, Brown picked up its biggest recruiting win that I’ve personally ever seen with the commitment of Ryan St. Louis.
St. Louis had 72 points in the USHL last season, good for 5th in the entire league. He’ll come in as a sophomore after he went to Northeastern for a year, wasn’t ready for college hockey and went back to junior hockey last year. He’s going to be absolutely huge for Brown.
Ethan Mistry also had a point per game in the BCHL, but even more impressively, he did it as a defenseman. He’ll be a highly impactful player for Brown as a freshman, and I think he’ll be one of their top defensemen right away. Sticking to the blue line, Brett Bliss returns and is a really good player. They will need him to take a step forward to help replace Luke Krys and James Crossman. Him and Mistry are the only ones who project to be impactful offensively from the blue line.
Up front, Brown returns two really good players in Ryan Bottrill and Jordan Tonelli. Tonelli was their top line center and played really well all year. Unfortunately, he missed some time due to injury. This season, he will be one of their most important players. Bottrill can flat out play. I loved watching him last year; he’s a very good player and a big building block for Brown.
Overall, Brown didn’t lose a whole lot and bring in some talented players that are more than capable of playing key roles. I don’t know that they quite replaced both Krys and Crossman on the backend, but they more than made up for that with their forward additions. They don’t have enough depth to truly challenge the teams above them offensively, but they have some sneaky good talent.
Projected Defensive Rank: 10
The defensive outlook isn’t as optimistic for Brown because they lost a ton of players in this regard. They lost 4 out of their 7 regular defensemen, which means there is decline expected there. These weren’t just regular defensemen either; it includes 3 out of their top 4. Krys was excellent both ways and was one of the most sought after grad transfers in the portal. Crossman and Niinisaari also had good two way impacts and were hot commodities in the portal. Ivy League teams not allowing grad students to play cost them these potential 5th year players sadly.
Defensive experience tends to correlate to improvement there, but Brown is turning over half of its blue line. There will definitely be some struggles to limit chances against, especially early in the season.
In net, Brown lost Mathieu Caron who was one of the best goalies in the country, in my opinion. That was a huge loss for them, and he’s a player that I don’t think they have a chance of replacing. They return last season’s backup, Jacob Zacharewicz, who only had a 0.868 SV%.
I don’t think he’ll be starting. I believe either Lawton Zacher or Tyler Shea will start. Shea comes in from Michigan where he didn’t play at all as a freshman. Before that, he was meh in the BCHL with a 0.904 SV%. Zacher is who I believe will end up starting for Brown ultimately. Last season, he did great in the NAHL with a 0.920 SV%. Before that he was dominant at Nichols School in prep.
Zacher’s model projection is pretty solid, especially for a freshman goalie, but it is still a decent drop off from Caron’s projection. That’s just what happens when you lose a top goalie to the portal.
Overall, Brown will need their freshmen defensemen to step in and be ready to play as well as improvement from the returners. Then, they’ll also need one of the goalies to establish themselves as a quality starter. Can they get all of that? It’s possible but unlikely.
To succeed, Brown needs their talented offensive players to carry the team a bit and to get enough depth scoring to stay in games. There’s just a lot of question marks here keeping their projection low, but I do think Brown has more potential than your average 10th place team.
11. Yale (Last Year: 10)
Yale is an interesting team that returns nearly all of its scoring and players of consequence but is still ranked very low by the model. The reason for that is Yale simply lacks talent offensively.
However, their defense has the ability to be a saving grace for them. They have a proven starter in net, which is always going to help your defense. Yale does have the potential to surpass this projection because of that.
Key Losses: D Ryan Carmichael (2 points in 31 games)
Key Returners: F Ian Carpentier (17 points in 31 games), D Bayard Hall (6 points in 23 games)
Key Newcomers: F David Andreychuk (NAHL), D Rhys Bentham (BCHL), G Jack Stark (USHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 10
Incoming Class Rank: 10
Projected Offensive Rank: 12
There are no key losses offensively for Yale, but the only key returner is Ian Carpentier who led the team with 17 points. When your leading scorer has 17 points, that is never a good sign, and it shows Yale’s lack of offensive ability and talent. It doesn’t really matter that they return 78.8% of their points when that offense was literally last in the country.
For some positives outside of Carpentier, David Chen and Briggs Gammill return and are quality middle 6 players. Reilly Connors and Niklais Allain return and can be quality depth options. The issue is all of these players are expected to produce in the top 6. None of them have done it so far in their careers, and I don’t see a reason to expect them to start now. Chen is probably the only player with the potential to do it (outside of Carpentier obviously) since he was solid in the USHL before his freshman year at Yale. Will Dineen was also solid in the USHL, but he has only produced 9 points in each of his first 2 seasons.
There’s basically no offense returning from the blue line either. Connor Sullivan led the team with 9 points there. However, Rhys Bentham was great in the BCHL last season and projects to add some offense as a defenseman. Those two players will provide a little offense but not much.
Another issue outside of the returning scoring is the incoming recruits are not good outside of Bentham and David Andreychuk. Andreychuk led the entire NAHL in scoring last year, and he should be in Yale’s top 6 immediately. I think he can be really good for Yale, but sadly, none of the other recruits project to add offense.
Overall, the scoring should improve at least a little bit due to returning players progressing, but it’s not going to be enough to meaningfully compete.
Projected Defensive Rank: 8
Here’s where Yale is going to have to win its games this season. The defense is projected to about average overall, but that can still be good enough to get them some wins.
In terms of shot and chance suppression, Yale does not actually project to improve. They lose Brandon Tabakin, Michael Young and Ryan Carmichael. Carmichael had great defensive impacts last year and will be missed. Tabakin and Young didn’t have quite the same impact but both were lineup regulars who played a lot. The loss of those 3 is projected to lessen Yale’s defensive quality.
Yale does return Bayard Hall though who had the best defensive impacts on the team last year when he played. His return along with Sullivan and Ryan Conroy should help mitigate those losses.
What really makes Yale’s projection so good is Luke Pearson. He was great last year with a 0.918 SV%. As a freshman two years ago, he had a 0.916, so he has shown he’s a capable starter. I mentioned it once or twice last year on this blog, but I cannot understand for the life of me why Pearson hasn’t started more. He played 9 games as a freshman and only 19 last year with those numbers. For some reason, Allain opted for Nathan Reid for 18 games and 13 games in those years, respectively, despite being clearly worse.
Pearson should be the full time starter now, and him playing full-time is a big reason why he is projected by the model to boost Yale’s defense to 8th in the league. He’s a great goalie with the ability to steal games. They’ll need him to be doing that frequently this year with the league’s worst projected offense and a defense that projects to give up more shots and chances than last season.
12. Dartmouth (Last Year: 12)
I was pretty high on Dartmouth last year and thought they would improve, and then they burned me. The model has them last in the ECAC for this season, so naturally, they are going to improve this year and burn me once again.
Dartmouth has built a pretty good core that I really like and should be a good foundation for them for the next 2-3 seasons. The issue is that those guys are not high-end (yet), so similar to Yale in front of them, their leading returning scorer only had 17 points last year. Like Yale and Brown, the model also doesn’t think there’s enough of a supporting cast around those core pieces.
Luckily for Dartmouth, these players are all pretty young for the most part, so they still have the potential to grow into high-end players. If they can do that, depth players are a lot easier to find and develop than the high-end ones. This is what Dartmouth will need in order to beat this projection and finish higher in the standings.
Key Losses: D Tanner Palocsik (22 points in 30 games), F Matt Hubbarde (16 points in 30 games)
Key Returners: F Braiden Dorfman (17 points in 30 games), F Luke Haymes (16 points in 30 games), F Cooper Flinton (15 points in 27 games), D John Fusco (11 points in 22 games)
Key Newcomers: D Matthew Fusco (BCHL)
Returning Offense Rank: 9
Incoming Class Rank: 11
Projected Offensive Rank: 11
Dartmouth returns most of its scoring, but I already laid out the issues with their returning scoring above. The lack of depth and high-end players makes Dartmouth ranked 9th in returning offense despite returning 2/3 of its points from last year.
Matt Hubbarde leaving for the transfer portal is an impactful loss since he was one of the players in their core that had been able to score pretty well. It’s not the end of the world though because he is their only key loss up front.
Dorfman, Haymes and Flinton all had good seasons last year, but more importantly, they are all very young. Dorfman was a sophomore, and Haymes and Flinton were freshmen. That means they should have even more growth coming this season and beyond. I also would probably throw Sean Chisholm into that group. He only had 14 points last year, but he had 23 points as a freshman. Just from watching him play, I think he’s pretty good and belongs with the rest of their core.
Those players are good, but then there is no depth after it. Only one other player had 10+ points last season, and there are no recruits projected to make much of an impact (granted they only bring in 2 forwards).
The defensive scoring also doesn’t look too promising with the loss of Tanner Palocsik. They return John Fusco who should be really good, but the next highest scoring defenseman is Ian Pierce with 6 points. Matt Fusco should join his brother in providing offense from the blue line after he had a good year in the BCHL. While I don’t rate them as very impactful, CJ Foley and Eric Charpentier were solid in junior hockey and should also contribute at least a little as freshmen.
Overall, Dartmouth has the chance to be good offensively if they get the needed improvement out of its core players and find some players who can fill in as depth. If that doesn’t happen, they should still improve from last season based on what they return, but they’ll likely be below average offensively once again.
Projected Defensive Rank: 12
Dartmouth’s defense was horrible last year, and they look like they’ll have a tough road in their own end once again. They lose half of their defensemen from last season, which is almost never a recipe for defensive success. In order to improve, they will need their freshmen to step in right away and be reliable, which is a tall task for that many of them. Expecting 1 or 2 to step into the lineup right away is normal, but more than that is unlikely, in my opinion.
In net, Dartmouth should be pretty set. Cooper Black returns after he made the All-Rookie team. He was consistent as their #1 starter last year. His numbers weren’t very good as he only had a 0.899 SV%, but he was playing behind one of the worst defenses in the country. With all the inexperience on Dartmouth’s blue line, Black will likely need to elevate his game to help Dartmouth’s defense improve.
Overall, the defensive outlook is bleak, but if the young players prove to be ready and upgrades over the numerous players who left, Dartmouth should have the goaltending to be improved defensively. The offense comes down to pretty much the same idea: how much can the young players take steps forward? I like what Reid Cashman is building, but the model expects another year of building before they can move forward in the rebuild.
Jr F Ayrton Martino, Clarkson
Jr F Collin Graf, Quinnipiac
So F Sam Lipkin, Quinnipiac
Sr D Noah Beck, Clarkson
Sr D Luc Salem, SLU
Jr G Ian Shane, Cornell
Sr F Gabriel Seger, Cornell
Jr F Jacob Quillan, Quinnipiac
Sr F Ian Murphy, Princeton
Sr D Nick Anderson, Colgate
Jr D Ian Moore, Harvard
Sr G Carter Gylander, Colgate
So F Sutter Muzzatti, RPI
Gr F Mathieu Gosselin, Clarkson
So F Joe Miller, Harvard
So D John Prokop, Union
Jr D Noah de la Durantaye, Princeton
Jr G Luke Pearson, Yale
F Tyler Hotson, RPI
F Ryan Walsh, Cornell
F Kai Daniells, Princeton
D Ethan Mistry, Brown
D Ben Robertson, Cornell
G Emmett Croteau, Clarkson
Player of the Year: Jr F Collin Graf, Quinnipiac
Goalie of the Year: Jr G Ian Shane, Cornell
Rookie of the Year: Fr G Emmett Croteau, Clarkson
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! I can’t wait for the season to get here, so we can watch this all play out!
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