The letters “FR” are listed in the rows of 14 of the 27 players on Miami’s 2016-17 roster.
Meaning over half of the RedHawks expected to hit the ice this fall will be freshmen.
Of the other 13, seven are sophomores-to-be, three will be juniors and three enter their senior seasons.
Part I of this two-part series will focus on Miami’s position-by-position breakdown for the upcoming season, while the latter installment will introduce everyone to the newest crop of RedHawks.
OUT: 6 – Kevin Morris (graduated), Sean Kuraly (graduated), Alex Gacek (graduated), Devin Loe (cut), Michael Mooney (graduated), Andrew Schmit (graduated).
RETURNING: 8 – Seniors – Anthony Louis, Justin Greenberg. Junior – Conor Lemirande. Sophomores – Jack Roslovic, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Zach LaValle, Ryan Siroky.
IN: 7 – Gordie Green, Carson Meyer, Christian Mohs, Carter Johnson, Alex Alger, Karch Bachman, Willie Knierim.
ANALYSIS: Yes, Miami took some major hits in this department, but it’s the most stable of the three facets. The RedHawks’ top four scorers all return (Louis and Sherwood, 11 goals; Roslovic, 10 goals; Melnick, nine goals). The toughest thing to replace from this group will be the leadership – Kuraly was team captain and Morris was an alternate – and the penalty killing ability. Morris, Kuraly and Gacek were all studs on the PK. Last season’s freshman class was impressive, especially the second half of the year, and will be relied on heavily in 2016-17. Even if all of the returning skaters dress, that leaves four openings for incoming freshmen, so at least one-third of the forwards will be rookies every night this fall.
OUT: 4 – Matthew Caito (graduated), Chris Joyaux (graduated), Taylor Richart (graduated), Michael Mooney (graduated).
RETURNING: 4 – Senior – Colin Sullivan. Juniors – Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock. Sophomore – Grant Hutton.
IN: 4 – Bryce Hatten, Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer. Jared Brandt.
ANALYSIS: Caito has been one of the best blueliners to play for Miami in recent years, and Richart and Joyaux were solid shut-down D-men for four years. The RedHawks were so deep here last season that Sullivan had trouble getting into the lineup despite playing very well just about every time he dressed. Like the forward corps, at least one-third of this group will be freshmen this season with only four blueliners returning. The good news is that this coaching staff has always brought in solid skaters on the back end that are game-ready as soon they come to Oxford. Hutton was the most recent example last season. If Belpedio takes another step forward he could be the top D-man in the conference. He is the lone returning alternate captain from 2015-16 and could wear the ‘C’ this fall.
OUT: 2 – Jay Williams (graduated), Ryan McKay (graduated).
RETURNING: 1 – Sophomore – Evan McCarthy.
IN: 3 – Ryan Larkin, Chase Munroe, Andrew Masters.
ANALYSIS: The Zatkoff effect continues. Jeff Zatkoff left after his junior year, leaving Miami with two freshmen in net for 2008-09, and eight seasons later the cycle repeats. Williams and McKay both had outstanding careers with the RedHawks, and the bar is high for the newcomers. McCarthy played the final minutes of one game last season, as he enters 2016-17 the most game-tested netminder on the team, having logged 9:39 between the pipes. Like with the blueline, Miami’s coaches continue to bring in excellent goalies. Masters was a late addition and gives the team four goaltenders on the roster, which is a bit of a rarity.
BOTTOM LINE: Scoring was a major issue for Miami last season, and while Roslovic was a stud early in the season, the rest of the freshman class caught up after the break, providing optimism in that area for 2016-17. And as for the goaltending, call fans spoiled but the RedHawks haven’t really struggled with talent in that area since Enrico Blasi took over the coaching reins 17 years ago, so there’s little reason to believe that will be an issue this season. The defense is arguably the biggest concern, and it’s no knock whatsoever on the incoming and returning players but a compliment to the graduated seniors from last season. The amazing two-way play of Caito, the passion and toughness of Richart, the physical and shut-down ability of Joyaux – that’s half of the blueline on the nightly lineup sheet – will be difficult to replace. Plus a D-corps can either make that transition to collegiate hockey much smoother or rougher for a team with three freshmen goalies. With all of the youth overall, at the risk of sounding cliché, this team may be much better in March than in October, which is the ultimate goal for a hockey team anyway.
A year ago at this time, Miami had 28 players on its roster, the most in recent history.
Entering the 2015-16 season, that number is just 24.
Due to factors beyond the program’s control, the RedHawks will be without four players from last season’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship team, plus another transfer Miami was expecting on its team this fall departed for the pros.
Six more graduated. Seven new players are coming in for a net of minus-4.
Defensemen Trevor Hamilton and Matt Joyaux left the team mid-season in search of more playing time. Forward John Doherty also departed. Forward Jimmy Mullin has a year of eligibility left but surprised everyone by transferring to Minnesota State.
Forward Ryan Lomberg had eligibility issues resulting from his transfer from Maine, so last month he chose to turn professional.
With a 24-man roster, that gives the RedHawks just three extra skaters heading into this season.
Let’s take a look at Miami, the 2015-16 edition, by position.
Out: Riley Barber (turned pro), Austin Czarnik (departed senior), Blake Coleman (departed senior), Alex Wideman (departed senior), Cody Murphy (departed senior), John Doherty (left team), Jimmy Mullin (redshirted in 2014-15 and transferred).
In: Jack Roslovic, Ryan Siroky, Zach LaValle, Josh Melnick, Kiefer Sherwood.
*-played 30 or more games in 2014-15
So seven of 12 starters return from last season. Assuming all are back in the lineup each night, that leaves five openings.
Spoiler alert: Jack Roslovic, Winnipeg’s first-round pick this summer, will be one of them.
And although Devin Loe has dressed just 16 times in two seasons, he has played very well at times and certainly has a shot at regular ice time, which should be available after all of the team’s key losses.
That means Loe, Siroky, LaValle, Melnick, Sherwood and possibly Mooney will be competing for four spots. In other words, the incoming freshmen have a chance to play a lot.
Obviously Miami lost a ton of talent up front, but the RedHawks still have a solid corps of returning forwards, and the resumes of the newbies are impressive. It may be a situation in which this group improves as the season progresses as it builds chemistry.
Out: Ben Paulides (departed senior), Trevor Hamilton (transferred), Matt Joyaux (transferred).
In: Grant Hutton.
*-played 30 or more games in 2014-15
Last fall it appeared Miami would have plenty of blueliner depth through this season, but with Hamilton and Matt Joyaux departing, that leaves the RedHawks thin on reserves if they suffer injuries.
The relative shortage here is part of the reality of having a top-10 college hockey program, year in and year out. All of the players that come to Oxford are good these days, and more than ever don’t want to sit for one or two years during crucial development seasons to wait their turn.
Even with only one extra plus swingman Mooney, determining who will dress will be a tough call for coach Enrico Blasi each night. The five returning starters are all going to play, and Sullivan was very good before getting hurt early in the season and played sparingly when he returned mid-season.
The wild card of course is Hutton, a 6-feet-3 freshman who has split the last three seasons between the USHL and NAHL.
Out: Anthony Jacaruso.
In: Evan McCarthy.
It was Jeff and Eff, then Cody and Connor and now the Jay and McKay show enters its fourth season.
The same could’ve been said in any of the past 10 years, but at least at the start of the season, we’ll probably see McKay and Williams in some sort of rotation, although Williams ultimately logged the majority of minutes in 2014-15.
No problem with depth here, as Miami will have the luxury of two fourth-year regulars in net.
McCarthy is a different kind of third goalie, as coach Nick Petraglia indicated that he will have plenty of opportunity to compete for playing time, especially after this season.
Just from a roster make-up perspective, it would be beneficial for the RedHawks to stop their eight-year trend of having their two top netminders in the same class.
Blasi loves guys that can play both forward and defense, and on a 24-man team, Mooney becomes invaluable.
With limited extra skaters, it’s imperative that Miami avoids injuries and on-ice shenanigans, which is easier said than done playing in a smash-mouth conference like the NCHC.
This team can also ill-afford the parade of transfers it suffered through last season, although with 18 starting slots for 21 skaters, almost everyone should see plenty of ice time.