Miami entered 2017-18 with just three seniors, but its 2018-19 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks.
One is an NHL draftee – Johnny Gruden was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round last month.
Of the 10, five are forwards, four are defensemen plus one goalie. That brings Miami’s full roster to 15 wings and centers, nine blueliners and three netminders.
Two key names were missing from the RedHawks’ roster: Fs Matej Pekar and Ryan Savage.
Pekar was committed to UNO but switched to Miami this spring, following assistant coach Peter Mannino. He was drafted one spot ahead of Gruden, No. 94, by the Buffalo Sabres.
Since this is a sensitive subject that could negatively affect Pekar, BoB will not report any speculation about if or when he will join the team.
Savage, son of former NHL forward and RedHawks standout Brian Savage, signed an NLI prior to 2017-18 but will play another season in juniors after going 8-7-15 in 48 USHL games. He will join the RedHawks in 2019-20.
A glance at the newest official members of the Miami hockey community:
71 JONATHAN GRUDEN
From: Farmington Hills, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: USNDT, 61 GP, 28-32-60.
Notes: Gruden has the best credentials of any incoming player. He was drafted by Ottawa 95th overall in June and kept a point-a-game place for the USNDT and posted 15 goals and 19 assists in 25 games vs. USHL opponents.
His father, John Gruden, is a former NHL defenseman who logged 92 games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington. He is now the coach of OHL Hamilton, which makes Jonathan Gruden choosing the college path interesting.
In addition to his points production, he has impressed with his two-way play, and he also can play multiple forward positions. Coach Enrico Blasi really likes versatility.
Where he fits in this season: There’s rarely a sure thing in college hockey, but barring injury Gruden will almost certainly skate on one of the top two pairings this season and should excel.
The RedHawks will need his offensive talents, as six forwards from 2017-18 have moved on.
18 MONTE GRAHAM
From: Hanover, Mass.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 57 GP, 10-15-25.
Notes: The former Boston College commit (actually still on the Eagles’ 2018-19 roster!) is the cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte and current Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle.
Graham has already played three full seasons in the USHL, logging 173 games and notching 21 goals and 36 assists. He is known for his skating, and he racked up 95 PIMs last season.
While he went from eight points to 24 in his first two USHL seasons, he climbed just one point to 25 in 2017-18.
Where he fits in this season: Not a big offensive guy in juniors, but Graham reached the 10-goal mark for the first time last season, so he may slide into a starting role.
Miami only has nine returning forwards, so opportunities for ice time should be ample for rookies up front.
14 NOAH JORDAN
From: Toronto, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: North York (OJHL), 47 GP, 18-20-38.
Notes: Jordan played four seasons for St. Michael’s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League then was back in that league for his overage season in 2017-18. He netted 18 goals and dished for 20 assists in 47 games with North York and also tied for the team lead in playoff points with 12 in 11 games.
Jordan is 21, and only 20 Division I players are taller, according to College Hockey News. Originally a Quinnipiac commit, Jordan switched to Miami in April.
Where he fits in this season: The OJHL is considered a slight step above the NAHL, so we’ll see how that offensive success translates in the NCAA.
With Conor Lemirande graduating, a player exhibiting a similar style could be welcome for the RedHawks.
19 BRIAN HAWKINSON
From: Aurora, Colo.
2017-18 stats/team: Tri-City (USHL), 58 GP, 6-10-16.
Notes: Hawkinson has played the past three seasons with USHL Tri-City, where he was team captain last season. He was also teammates with Graham the duo’s first two juniors campaigns.
Known as a do-anything-to-win type, he enters 2018-19 with 164 games of regular-season experience in the USHL. He notched just 10 points in his first two seasons combined in that league, but he stepped up with a 6-10-16 line last year.
Tri-City lists him at 5-10, 175 while other sites have him at 5-9-146.
Where he fits in this season: Hard to say because smaller forwards are usually known for their offense and Hawkinson is more of a grit guy.
A ton of USHL experience should make for a smooth transition to the college game.
25 SCOTT CORBETT
From: Carmel, Ind.
2017-18 stats/team: Dubuque (USHL), 59 GP, 6-18-24.
Notes: Another older player with ample USHL experience, Corbett started his Major Juniors career in the NAHL but has been in the U the past season and a half.
The dual citizen committed to Miami last week, becoming the third player from the northern Indianapolis suburb to join the RedHawks in the past dozen years, with Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton being the others.
Corbett was solid in his first full season in the USHL, going 6-18-24 in 59 games with Dubuque. He has good size for a forward competing in the ultra-physical NCHC.
Where he fits in this season: He hasn’t been a big points producer in juniors but Miami hasn’t gotten much production from its third and fourth lines in recent seasons so he may have the opportunity to thrive.
Again, with nine returning forwards, starting slots will be there for the taking so Corbett and the four other newbies up front should get long looks this fall.
13 DEREK DASCHKE
From: Troy, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Chicago (USHL), 56 GP, 8-21-29.
Notes: Peter Mannino was Daschke’s coach for Clark Cup-winning Chicago of the USHL this spring.
Daschke was committed to Nebraska-Omaha, where Mannino was an assistant, but when Mannino was hired by Miami this off-season, the blueliner switched his commitment to the RedHawks.
His commitment is definitely in the top five news items from this program this off-season. Daschke has played in the USHL since 2014 and he was the captain of that championship Steel team last season.
He has a laser of a shot and found the net eight times last season, adding 21 assists.
Where he fits in this season: It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Daschke not contributing right away.
He’s big, he’s experienced, he can shoot the puck and he’s joining a team that has just five returning D-men.
4 ANDREW SINARD
From: Brentwood, Tenn.
2017-18 stats/team: Aberdeen (NAHL), 58 GP, 0-19-19.
Notes: Sinard is a shut-down defenseman with a huge reach, and he also picked up 19 assists last season with NAHL Aberdeen.
He started his Major Juniors career with USHL Cedar Rapids but has been with the Wings since. Sinard does not have a goal in 96 juniors games, but he has impressed with his shut-down prowess.
Where he fits in this season: The only two similar players in recent Miami history are Brian Sipotz and Michael Findorff, and neither were full-time starters, although Sipotz played six seasons with Chicago of the AHL.
We’ll see if Sinard can buck that trend.
3 BRAYDEN CROWDER
From: Sudbury, Ont.
2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 55 GP, 5-14-19.
Notes: Like Daschke, Crowder was also committed to Nebraska-Omaha but switched to Miami after Mannino was brought in as an assistant.
Crowder left Canada two seasons ago, and after staying in the NAHL in 2016-17, he jumped to the USHL and went 5-14-19 with Muskegon, finishing plus-11.
Miami will be his 10th team in six seasons, so the blueliner should welcome the stability. His father, Troy, was a tough guy who logged 150 NHL games over seven seasons, amassing 433 PIMs to go along with his nine goals and seven assists.
Where he fits in this season: A 6-6 defenseman who scores five goals in the USHL is very intriguing, especially since he was 18 when last season started, and big guys typically develop later.
81 RIVER RYMSHA
From: Huntington Woods, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Dartmouth (NCAA), 28 GP, 1-2-3.
Notes: Like former Miamian Marc Hagel, Rymsha completed his degree with a year of eligibility remaining due to an injury that cost him the majority of a season, so he will work on his graduate studies at Miami.
Rymsha, who will not turn 22 until next month, played just 63 games at Dartmouth and scored three goals accompanied by five assists.
He is known as a physical D-man with a high hockey IQ. Rymsha also boasts a strong hockey pedigree, as his father, Andy, played six games with Quebec of the NHL and his brother is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.
Where he fits in this season: He has not played more than 28 games in an NCAA season and has just eight points, so it’s unlikely he goes Grant Hutton this season.
But another steady blueliner with plenty of college experience can’t hurt on a team that will start the season with five D-men who are freshmen or sophomores.
32 JORDAN UHELSKI
From: Burton, Mich.
2017-18 stats/team: Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA), 32 GP, 12-18-2, 3.05, .907.
Notes: Another fifth-year senior situation, as Uhelski was a major contributor in net for Alabama-Huntsville the past two seasons.
He played 55 games with the Chargers the past two seasons, posting a .907 save percentage and recording 18 wins.
Where he fits in this season: Chase Munroe and Grant Valentine were expected to vie for the backup job this season, but Munroe is not listed on Miami’s roster and Uhelski is.
Boasting a quality resume, Uhelski could move into the No. 2 spot and push Larkin for starts.
After a whirlwind spring, Miami once again has a full complement of coaches and within a few weeks its 2018-19 roster will likely by finalized.
But several unanswered questions still surround the RedHawks heading into the season as they hope to halt their run of three consecutive sub-.500 campaigns.
BoB takes a look at some of those issues in the summer 2018 edition of State of the Program.
Q: So what’s up with the struggles the past few years?
A: I would say the biggest issue for Miami since 2015 has been depth. The Josh Melnicks and Grant Huttons are as talented as anyone to don the Red and White, but when the RedHawks were qualifying for the NCAAs annually and winning conference titles, they essentially had five lines, four defensive pairings and a suburb goaltending duo.
Let’s look at the forwards from 2007-08, arguably the best offensive Miami hockey team ever. Here are the point totals of the top 12 forwards:
By the way, the 17-point scorer was Nathan Davis, who was hurt for half of his junior season, and the guy with 14 was Andy Miele, who played just 18 games his freshman year, coming in mid-season.
Yes, there is more to forward-ing than racking up points, and yes, that was against CCHA competition and not the NCHC, but the dropoff is still stark.
Defense is much more subjective, but I was a huge fan of the pairings the 2009-10 team rolled out. Here’s how that blueline stacked up:
Matt Tomassoni (F/D)
Name one of those guys who was easy to play against.
Last season the top-end defensemen were fantastic but opponents’ Grade-A chances were at least double those faced eight years prior.
Every season Miami has fared well in the postseason it has had two strong goalies.
In that 2007-08 season, Jeff Zatkoff posted a .933 save percentage. His backup, Charlie Effinger, went 6-0, 2.16 and .912 and still played fewer than 400 minutes.
It was Jeff and Eff, then Cody and Connor, then Jay and McKay. Competition is healthy, and those tandems motivated and fed off each other.
Junior-to-be Ryan Larkin thrived as a freshman but was at .886 in 2017-18 and his backups were well below that mark. The last time a goaltending leader had posted a goals-against average above three was 2001-02. Larkin’s was 3.12.
Again, depth. Miami has been so deep in net it has typically rotated the past decade-plus. A strong showing by a No. 2 could’ve pushed Larkin to more success.
Now, people may say comparing 2017-18 to some of the best Miami teams is unfair, but those teams made deep runs in the NCAAs, and isn’t that the ultimate goal moving forward?
Q: Assuming you’re right – and you rarely are – why has depth been a problem the past few years?
A: The athletic department and/or the hockey team obviously felt like recruiting was a primary reason, as both assistant coaches were moved out of those roles as soon as last season ended.
I definitely think that was a large part of it, which pains me to say because Coaches Brekke and Petraglia bleed Miami red and worked so hard to keep this program on a successful course.
But a key to their demise was the incoming 2016-17 class, when the RedHawks needed 12 freshmen to replenish talent after suffering major losses at forward, defense and in net. Only seven of those players will dress as juniors this fall.
Q: Are there any other reasons high-end players aren’t coming to Miami?
A: Unfortunately, when a team isn’t performing well, it’s tougher to persuade the next Austin Czarnik to come to Oxford.
A lot of the negativity surrounding those sub-par teams over the past few seasons may have also stained the culture’s image to a degree.
Especially in the social media era, the hockey world is a small one and extremely tight-knit. Picking a college is a huge decision for an elite player and he’s going to balk at one that has perceived internal problems.
That said, bringing in new coaches could have a cathartic effect.
And the good news is that Miami is still an excellent school in a beautiful town, playing in a state-of-the-art facility that is the envy of the Division I world. Those attributes of this program will always steer quality recruits to Oxford.
Q: What is Coach Blasi’s status?
A: There are more rumblings each off-season, but he still has five years left on a multi-million dollar contract. That deal doesn’t expire until 2023.
So for those who want him out, he’s not going anywhere. Maybe if this losing trend continues for a couple more seasons, Miami would eat the final couple years on his contract. Maybe.
Personally, I thought his in-game coaching was markedly better last season. The team just didn’t have the guns to make a much-needed postseason run.
Q: Are these new assistants any good?
A: We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?
To be fair, they’re inheriting a team of players that didn’t recruit, so it’s going to be tough to evaluate them for a couple of years.
Still just 34, Peter Mannino moves into the more revered role of associate head coach, which was Brekke’s position. He is a former goalie that won a Division I title with Denver, played eight years in the pros including a cup of coffee with three NHL teams, and this will be his third season behind the bench.
Coming from an assistant’s role at Nebraska-Omaha and having played at DU, he should be extremely familiar with the teams in this league and the types of players he will need to recruit to help Miami win in the NCHC.
The other thing with Mannino is several players previously committed to UNO may now come to Miami as soon as this fall. That could make a huge impact on a team that currently has just 15 skaters on its roster.
Joel Beal has been a D-1 assistant for Union and Sacred Heart the past seven seasons, so he has much more coaching experience.
It will be interesting to see where Miami draws its next generation of players from with these coaches at the helm. The RedHawks had a long-running Chicago-area pipeline, but those connections may have dried up and recent rosters have featured more of a Michigan flare.
Q: So is this team going to be better this year?
A: It’s really hard to say, especially with so many still-unfilled holes on the roster.
It was very encouraging to see how well Miami played down the stretch, taking St. Cloud State to overtime in Game 3 on the Huskies’ home ice.
There was also a lot to like among the freshman class. Phil Knies posted 11 goals, Casey Gilling tallied 19 points and was a stud on defense and in the faceoff circle, and Ben Lown dished for 11 assists and was also a solid penalty killer.
Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell showed lots of promise on defense, with Mahalak running the power play at times later in the season.
But nine players are gone from that 2017-18 team. Graduated are Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande, Kiefer Sherwood turned pro, Carson Meyer transferred and the team is not bringing back Willie Knierim, Bryce Hatten or the Alger brothers.
Exactly who is coming in this fall is still a huge question mark with several players possibly following Mannino to Oxford, and internet speculation is running amuck, so we’ll leave that for the next post.
The point is: That’s a lot of players to replace when a year ago Miami thought it would only lose three guys this off-season.
When the full roster is posted it will be easier to assess the 2018-19 version of the RedHawks.
Not only did Reilly Smith lead expansion Vegas in points in that team’s Stanley Cup final run, his 17 assists and 22 points were both Miami alumni playoff records.
In the final series alone, he posted three goals and three helpers, recording multiple points twice during the Golden Knights’ historic run vs. eventual champion Washington.
Dan Boyle held the previous RedHawks record with 16 points in 2010-11 during San Jose’s postseason run.
Smith is second all-time to Boyle in Stanley Cup playoff points with 35. Boyle notched 81 during his 17-season NHL career.
During the regular season, Smith blew away the field, leading 11 former Miamians by posting 60 points on 22 goals and 38 assists and tallying a plus-31 rating.
Here is a look at some of the other highlights by ex-RedHawks during the 2017-18 regular season and playoffs:
NHL: Smith and defenseman Andy Greene both eclipsed the 200-point mark in the NHL. Greene ended the season with three goals and 10 assists for the New Jersey Devils.
Smith is now fourth all-time on the Miami leaderboard with 247 points, and Greene ranks fifth with 210.
– It was forward Blake Coleman’s first full NHL season, and he thrived, rolling up 13 goals and 12 assists in 75 games as Greene’s teammate on the Devils. He also scored twice in five postseason games.
After dressing just once for Winnipeg in 2016-17, Jack Roslovic played in 31 games for the Jets this season, going 5-9-14, and he also logged 10 playoff games in which he picked up three helpers.
Roslovic forced his way into the NHL with 35 points in 32 AHL games.
Louie Belpedio made the most of his first and only NHL appearance. He dished for two assists in his debut and finished the game plus-1.
AHL: Defenseman Vincent LoVerde won his second Calder Cup championship, and he tallied a pair of assists in Game 7 of the final to help Toronto secure that title.
LoVerde also skated that trophy with Manchester in 2014-15. He has played in 364 AHL games in six seasons, posting 141 points, and has been on the ice for 65 more postseason contests.
Providence’s Austin Czarnik finished third in the league in points with 69 as he eclipsed both the 100- and 150-point marks for his career in this league.
Czarnik was also fourth in the AHL in power play goals (13) despite playing just 64 games because of stints with NHL Boston.
Czarnik was signed by Calgary on Sunday and is expected to compete for a job with the Flames this fall.
Texas’ Curtis McKenzie played against LoVerde’s Toronto team in the championship, and despite falling in the finals, he was the AHL’s leader in postseason goals (11) and power play goals (5).
McKenzie also picked up nine assists for 20 playoff points, ranking second in the postseason.
He will rejoin his former Oxford roommate Smith in Vegas, as he was signed by the Golden Knights last week.
Last season was Carter Camper’s eighth in the AHL, but it was first time he eclipsed 60 points. Camper went 16-45-61 for Cleveland and Tucson, and he added nine more points in the postseason.
Camper, a Cleveland-area native, was dealt to Grand Rapids last week, and when he hits the ice this fall that will be the eighth AHL team for which he will have dressed.
Camper has played in 443 AHL games, scoring 87 times and adding 243 assists for 330 points plus an 18-27-45 line in the playoffs.
ECHL: He had never scored more than 14 goals in any of his previous six pro seasons, but Justin Vaive netted 32 with Cincinnati in 2017-18 at age 29, and he added five more in five playoff games with the Cyclones.
Between the regular and postseasons, Vaive found the net 37 times in 53 games at this level.
After a nightmarish end to his Miami hockeycareer, Jimmy Mullin finally had the chance to prove himself in the pros. And he thrived in Kalamazoo.
Mullin went 21-24-45 in 68 games after a major injury ultimately cost him nearly two seasons.
Speaking of feel-good stories, defensive defenseman Taylor Richart scored 17 goals and assisted on 24 more for 41 points with Utah.
At 5-feet-9, he earned his inaugural call-up to the AHL and went 1-2-3 in two games for San Antonio.
Alex Wideman led all former Miamians with 48 ECHL points. With a line of 16-32-48 in 2017-18, he has 103 regular season points the past two seasons.
SPHL: Mississippi fifth-year pro Devin Mantha set a career high in points with 58. Mantha scored 22 times and earned 36 assists in 56 games, and he went 1-2-3 in three playoff games.
Europe: Andy Miele won the Le Mat Trophy this spring, the Swedish Hockey League’s version of the Stanley Cup, as his Vaxjo team swept Skelleftea in the final.
Miele picked up an assist in the clinching game, a 5-0 win. He finished 1-8-9 in 13 postseason games.
Matt Tomassoni also won a championship, as he was a member of EBEL’s Bolzano Foxes team that won that league’s title in April.
Tomassoni picked up an assist and was plus-2 in Game 7 the 3-2 finale of Bolzano’s championship series.
Here are the final regular season and playoff stats for all former Miamians playing around the world:
FINAL 2017-18 REGULAR SEASON
|Reilly Smith||Vegas Golden Knights||F||67||22||38||60||31||24|
|Blake Coleman||New Jersey Devils||F||79||13||12||25||7||50|
|Alec Martinez||Los Angeles Kings||D||77||9||16||25||3||34|
|Tommy Wingels||Chicago Blackhawks||F||75||9||8||17||-11||45|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||75||6||8||14||-5||40|
|Jack Roslovic||Winnipeg Jets||F||31||5||9||14||5||2|
|Andy Greene||New Jersey Devils||D||81||3||10||13||-9||21|
|Chris Wideman||Ottawa Senators||D||16||3||5||8||5||6|
|Austin Czarnik||Boston Bruins||F||10||0||4||4||-1||0|
|Curtis McKenzie||Dallas Stars||F||7||0||2||2||3||11|
|Louie Belpedio||Minnesota Wild||F||1||0||2||2||1||0|
|Trent Vogelhuber||San Antonio||F||59||4||8||12||-7||26|
|Taylor Richart||San Antonio||D||2||1||2||3||-1||0|
|Matthew Caito||Rapid City||D||28||5||14||19||4||18|
|Conor Lemirande||South Carolina||F||2||0||0||0||-1||2|
|Andy Miele||Vaxjo (SweHL)||F||46||10||22||32||-7||39|
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)||F||52||15||14||29||-1||8|
|Marc Hagel||Lorenskog (Eliteserien)||F||39||16||12||28||-14||86|
|Matt Tomassoni||Bolzano (AUS)||F||54||4||17||21||-3||28|
|Will Weber||Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2)||D||39||3||5||8||10||132|
|Cody Murphy||Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan)||F||16||3||3||6||3||2|
FINAL 2017-18 PLAYOFFS
|Reilly Smith||Vegas Golden Knights||F||20||5||17||22||5||10|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||12||2||2||4||5||2|
|Jack Roslovic||Winnipeg Jets||F||10||0||3||3||4||2|
|Blake Coleman||New Jersey Devils||F||5||2||0||2||1||4|
|Andy Greene||New Jersey Devils||D||5||0||2||2||-4||6|
|Alec Martinez||Los Angeles Kings||D||4||0||0||0||-2||0|
|Andy Miele||Vaxjo (SweHL)||F||13||1||8||9||8||24|
|Matt Tomassoni||Bolzano (AUS)||F||18||1||8||9||3||2|
|Cody Murphy||Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan)||F||5||2||2||4||0||0|
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)||F||6||1||1||2||-3||2|
|Marc Hagel||Lorenskog (Eliteserien)||F||4||1||0||1||-3||18|
|Will Weber||Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2)||D||9||0||1||1||3||4|
The first three rounds did not see any Miamians selected in this weekend’s NHL draft, but consecutive RedHawks were taken to open the fourth round in Dallas this weekend.
Incoming freshmen-to-be Jonathan Gruden was picked by Buffalo, 94th overall, and Ottawa Matej Pekar went 95th. Both forwards are expected to start their Miami careers this fall.
It’s just the second time since 2011 two RedHawks were drafted in the same year. Jack Roslovic and Karch Bachman were taken in 2015.
The past two Junes, just one Miami player has had his name called on NHL draft weekend.
But in the next couple of days, as many as three RedHawks-to-be could be selected prior to their freshman seasons.
Carson Meyer was taken in the sixth round by Columbus last summer, and 2016 was the first draft in which Miami was not represented since the NHL dropped to seven rounds.
Since the program’s inception, 62 Miami players have been drafted.
A quick look at this year’s potential draftees:
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, Mich.
Position: Center/left wing.
2017-18 team: U.S. National Development.
2017-18 stats: 86 GP, 43 goals, 51 assists, 94 points, 66 PIMs.
Skinny: Coming off an outstanding season with the U.S. Under-18 team, Gruden will likely be the highest pick among this group. After scoring 43 goals with the U.S. National Development Team – including 15 in 25 games vs. USHL opponents – Gruden’s already-healthy stock rose slightly.
He jumped from No. 48 to No. 46 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings from the mid-term rankings until the final edition, and with an allegedly strong European class this year, Gruden may be picked in the third round or fourth rounds.
Gruden is six feet tall, but at 170 pounds he knows he needs to add weight.
His father is John Gruden, a former defenseman who logged 92 NHL games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington.
That’s where it gets interesting. John Gruden previously coached Team USA before accepting a job with Flint of the OHL. He was fired in his first season for not playing the owner’s son enough then hired back after the players protested. Then he was fired again three months later. He got the last laugh, accepting a job with the OHL team in Hamilton and winning that league’s championship last month.
So it’s unusual that a successful OHL coach would have a son playing in the NCAA, although John Gruden attended Ferris State.
Anyway, Gruden could be the next major points producer on a Miami team has been short on offense the past couple of seasons, and he’s impressed with his defense.
He can play multiple forward positions and will likely excel at all of them when he takes the ice in Oxford this fall.
Birthplace: Turnov, Czech Replublic.
Position: Center/right wing.
2017-18 team: Muskegon.
2017-18 stats: 56 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points, 36 PIMs.
Skinny: When Miami hired Nebraska-Omaha assistant Peter Mannino this spring, he came bearing gifts. Pekar almost immediately changed his commitment from UNO to Miami, and he is headed to Oxford this fall.
The Czech-born forward will be entering his fourth season of hockey in North America, and he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the USHL last season by averaging a point a game.
He is known for his intelligent play, versatility and a missile of a shot.
Similar to Gruden, Pekar earns high marks for his two-way play and could thrive on both the penalty kill and power play.
He has impressed with his ability to win battles for loose pucks, both in front of the net and along the boards, but he will need to add muscle to compete with NCHC foes physically.
Pekar rose 32 spots among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, up from 87th to No. 55. The means, like Gruden, he projects as a third- or fourth-round pick.
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada.
Position: Right wing.
2017-18 teams: Fargo/Omaha.
2017-18 stats: 48 GP, 8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points, 14 PIMs.
Skinny: Savage’s first full season in the USHL did not go well, and he slipped from 149th among North American skaters in the mid-terms to not ranked as a result.
Despite the setback, NHL teams love pedigree and take more chances late in drafts, so Savage could still be selected.
Savage will be another second-generation Hawk – he is the son of former Miami standout and NHL forward Brian Savage. Ryan Savage’s younger brother – Red Savage – is also committed to the RedHawks, so it’s likely Miami will have a Savage on the ice for a number of seasons.
Brian Savage played 12 seasons in the NHL, going 192-167-359 for Montreal, Phoenix, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He scored 37 goals in 38 games his final season in Oxford as he led MU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest.
It’s possible Savage returns to the USHL this fall. His stats were underwhelming last season, and another season of development in juniors could vault Savage back onto the fast track to draftee status.
Another two-generation Miami hockey family is the Kuralys, and son Sean benefited tremendously from another season in the USHL.
It’s been the most eventful off-season in Miami hockey history, and four months still remain until the puck drops in 2018-19.
Starting just days after the RedHawks’ NCHC opening-round tournament loss at St. Cloud, a nearly non-stop flow of news has hit the internet.
A quick timeline:
March 11 – Miami’s best-of-3 first-round NCHC series at St. Cloud ends with an overtime loss. The RedHawks took the Huskies to Game 3 and led the finale, 3-1 but ultimately fell, 4-3 in the extra session.
March 16 – Stories surfaced that both assistant coaches, Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke, were relieved of duties. One report added that four players from 2017-18 would not be back as well, which turned out to be true.
March 20 – Junior Kiefer Sherwood turns pro, signing with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks after playing three seasons and recording 86 points in Oxford.
March 29 – Peter Mannino, an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha, was named to Brent Brekke’s vacated associate head coach position. He was an NCAA title-winning goalie for Denver and played briefly in the NHL, and he was a head coach in the USHL before taking his post with the Mavericks.
May 22 – The Athletic reports that sophomore and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Carson Meyer is leaving Miami after two seasons. That makes six players to leave the team since the end of the season.
May 31 – Seniors-to-be Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick go on record stating they will return this fall. Melnick has 81 points in three years at Miami, and Hutton scored 13 goals in 2017-18, the most by a RedHawks defenseman in a quarter century.
Also in the past week – Miami’s 2018-19 preliminary roster was posted on its site without any freshmen listed. Absent were Willie Knierim, Alex Alger, Austin Alger and Bryce Hatton.
June 2 – Sacred Heart assistant Joel Beal is named to Petraglia’s vacated spot. That rounds out the coaching staff. He was a solid player at Union and coached there as an assistant for two seasons before joining the Sacred Heart staff. That team has improved significantly in his five seasons on its bench, and he was promoted to associate head coach.
June 7 – Petraglia was named the director of external relations. As expected, the former RedHawks goalie and MU graduate was retained within the athletic department.
Now that we’re caught up, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these events.
MIAMI FALLS TO ST. CLOUD – Not a shocker here, as the RedHawks were an eight seed and St. Cloud was No. 1, with all three games played in Minnesota. Miami played solid hockey in this set but as has happened so many times in recent years, it could not hold a two-goal lead in Game 3. The RedHawks gave up a late second-period goal, the tying marker with six minutes left in the third period and of course the series-clincher in OT.
That capped off Miami’s third straight losing season and its fourth in five years. Prior to that, the RedHawks had not posted a sub-.500 record since 2004-05.
Which led to this…
BREKKE, PETRAGLIA OUT – It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but this is a business and sometimes the most decent, passionate and hard-working people can’t translate those attributes into wins, and both coaches were casualties as a result.
Sub-par recruiting was a major reason for their departure. Brekke had been a Miami assistant for 10 seasons, Petraglia eight, and those two were exclusively responsible for bringing talent to Oxford.
Since the players that both coaches inherited graduated and Miami’s on-ice talent has been solely their responsibility, the quantity of highly-talented skaters and goalies in Oxford has dwindled.
On Thursday, Petraglia was named the director of external relations. Brekke was recently offered the Alaska-Fairbanks job and turned it down.
SHERWOOD TURNS PRO: This was somewhat surprising because Sherwood took a step back the first half of the season and appeared to need that fourth season in Oxford to prepare for his pro career.
Overall in 2017-18, he seemed less pro-ready than classmates Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick – both of whom recently announced they would be back – but it sounds like Sherwood had surgery prior to last season and that contributed to his slow start.
That deeply-personal decision is extremely difficult and different for everyone, and BoB wishes Sherwood nothing but the best in the pros. He scored twice in 11 games with AHL San Diego.
For a Miami team that finished seventh in the eight-team NCHC in scoring last season, that’s a major offensive cog that will be missing from its lineup.
MANNINO NAMED ASSISTANT: The former netminder won an NCAA title in Denver and led Calder Cup playoff runs with Chicago and Wilkes-Barre in the AHL. He logged six NHL games with Atlanta, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders.
He clearly has the playing experience and he knows the NCHC, both from playing against most its current teams with Denver and more recently by coaching at UNO.
Mannino should understand the type of players it takes to win in this league, and he will be a primary recruiter for the RedHawks, who have recently struggled in this area.
For what it’s worth, BoB has heard nothing but praise for Mannino in his brief stint with the team, but that’s pretty standard when a team that has struggled brings in a fresh face.
But because he’s inheriting an entire team he did not recruit, it will take time to see the effects of a Mannino-recruited team.
F Matej Pekar, a Czech player previously committed to UNO, has since switched allegiances to Miami, and he is expected to join the RedHawks this fall.
Two more players could defect from the Mavericks and follow Mannino to Oxford as soon as this fall.
TEDDYGATE: Making an already-eventful off-season a lot more bizarre is the saga of Carson Meyer, who discharged a 25-inch tapeworm, which is believed to be the cause for his struggles the past season and a half.
Meyer lit it up the first half of his freshman year but missed a handful of games down the stretch of 2016-17 due to what was believed to be mononucleosis. He did not improve last season, and in May, The Athletic broke the story that “Teddy” had exited Meyer.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, Meyer also announced that he was exiting Oxford in favor of his hometown Ohio State.
Meyer indirectly blamed the coaching staff for its handling of his situation, which was more bad pub the team didn’t need in an already tumultuous spring.
That’s one more forward out of an already-decimated corps for 2018-19.
It’s a horrible situation for Meyer, who has been a shell of himself for a season and a half and will almost certainly have to redshirt in 2018-19.
BoB mirrors the Miami coaching staff in wishing Meyer nothing but the best in his hockey career moving forward.
HUTTON, MELNICK RETURNING: The worst part of the off-season for the college hockey fan is the waiting. At any point from the final horn of a campaign’s last game to the puck drop the following fall, a player could bolt for the pros.
That chance was elevated for standouts Hutton and Melnick in recent months after watching their roster from 2017-18 disintegrate. Both are pro-ready and both will be entering their senior seasons for a Miami team that will likely be picked to finish near the bottom of the league standings.
For everything that hasn’t gone right for the RedHawks this off-season, having two of your studs publicly tell your fanbase they are coming back – and doing so while inserting some much-needed positive comments about the program – couldn’t have come at a better time.
And Hutton and Melnick aren’t just outstanding players, they’re leaders. They’ll be co-captains this season. And they’re class acts.
THE ABRIDGED ROSTER? Miami recently posted its 2018-19 roster with no freshmen and just 15 skaters and four goalies, so obviously it will be updated.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the RedHawks’ pipeline and who we can expect to see in uniform this fall.
COACHING STAFF COMPLETE – Miami has little history with Union and Sacred Heart, so it’s unclear if there was any previous relationship between Beal and the RedHawks.
It’s only fair to note that the Pioneers took a step back this past season, finishing with their lowest win percentage since 2013-14, and .421 has been the team’s winning percentage high-water mark with Beal in his role.
But Sacred Heart won just 14 games total in the three seasons before his arrival.
PETRAGLIA REASSIGNED – Petraglia exudes positive energy. If he’s bummed during a losing streak he never shows it.
So he will be a face of Miami athletics to the Blue Line Club and alumni among others and serve as a fundraiser. No doubt he will thrive in his new position.