ECAC 2021-22 Season Preview

The Men's Hockey Preseason Poll was released today after being voted on by the coaches (photo: ECAC Hockey)

Hockey season is almost upon us and with that, it’s time to start making predictions about the season! Specifically, we’ll be breaking down the ECAC and each team. To make the predictions, I created a model that factors in returning scoring, returning defense, and returning goaltending and rates incoming freshmen and transfers. The model would predict GPG and GAPG for each team, and then, the rankings are just sorting by the predicted goal differential from the model. We’ll be starting from the top and working our way down. Just a note: key losses and returners are skaters who had 0.5+ points per game or goalies with a high save percentage. Key newcomers are incoming players who are projected to score 10+ points by the model.

1. Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac is being underrated nationally by the media right now, and in my opinion, it’s because I find that the national college hockey media tends not to look beyond the surface level. They see that QU’s arguably 3 best players are gone and then think they’re a good team but not great, but they don’t look at the full roster. Simply put, Quinnipiac will be a national championship contender this year. Their roster is that good, and the model rates them as by far the best team in the ECAC (and I agree with it).

Key Losses: F Odeen Tufto (47 points in 29 games), D Peter DiLiberatore (20 points in 29 games), G Keith Petruzelli (.926 SV%)
Key Returners: F Wyatt Bongiovanni (8 points in 9 games), F Ethan De Jong (29 points in 29 games), D Zach Metsa (26 points in 29 games), F Ty Smilanic (21 points in 29 games), F Michael Lombardi (16 points in 26 games), F Desi Burgart (16 points in 29 games), F Guus van Nes (15 points in 29 games)
Key Newcomers: D Jack Babbage (USHL), F Oliver Chau (UMass), D Brendan Less (Dartmouth), F Liam McLinskey (NCDC), F Jacob Quillan (BCHL), D Tony Stillwell (Brown), G Dylan St. Cyr (Notre Dame), F Cristophe Tellier (USHL)

While those 3 players were arguably their best, they return literally everyone else of importance. Bongiovanni, De Jong and Metsa are all point per game players who could potentially be All-ECAC. Smilanic led the entire country in goals for freshmen, and he will likely take a jump up to that level as well. Lombardi, Burgart and van Nes are all key players who add good depth scoring. And this is just the returning players. Quinnipiac’s recruiting class is the 2nd best in the ECAC, and that’s only because Harvard has 2 class years as newcomers. If you take the average to account for the teams that didn’t play last season having 2 classes, QU’s recruiting class is the best by far. Less, Stillwell and Griffin Mendel (Denver) are 3 experienced defensemen who will all be contributors. Quillan and Tellier put up big numbers in juniors and should add some scoring immediately. Chau was one of the best transfers in the country when he entered the transfer portal as he had a point per game for UMass last season, and he could do the same this season. Last, but certainly not least, St. Cyr has a career SV% over .920, and he will come in and replace what the team lost in Petruzelli. Quinnipiac returns the most offense in the conference, has the 2nd best recruiting class in the conference, and has loads of experience on its blue line. They’re an extremely well-rounded and complete team with top-end players, great depth, experience, and goaltending. I’ll be absolutely shocked if they aren’t in the NCAA tournament.

2. Clarkson

Yeah yeah I know, grumble grumble. Unfortunately, Clarkson is going to be very good like they have been in the past 5 years. They return the 2nd most offense in the conference and the ECAC Rookie of the Year in net. They do not appear to have the same firepower as Quinnipiac, but this is a very talented team that can also do damage nationally.

Key Losses: F Grant Cooper (14 points in 22 games)
Key Returners: F Zach Tsekos (18 points in 22 games), F Anthony Callin (17 points in 22 games), F Alexander Campbell (17 points in 22 games), F Jack Jacome (15 points in 22 games), F Anthony Romano (14 points in 22 games). F Mathieu Gosselin (12 points in 22 games), G Ethan Haider (.921 SV%)
Key Newcomers: D Lukas Kalble (Lake Superior State), F Ayrton Martino (USHL), F Luke Santerno (Bentley)

Clarkson returns nearly every important player to this roster due to the returns of 5th years in Tsekos and Jacome. They have lots of depth up front with Tsekos, Callin and Campbell all at close to a point per game and possible All-ECAC players. Campbell was a freshman last season, and he should be able to make a jump like Smilanic on Quinnipiac. Jacome, Romano and Gosselin add more scoring to their lineup. While the defensemen on the roster don’t contribute much offensively, they are all big, mobile defenders who play well in their own end and should lead Clarkson to good results defensively once again. And of course, Clarkson also returns Haider in net who should be an All-ECAC goaltender. Clarkson’s recruiting class is 5th best in the ECAC with the 3 players listed all going to be big contributors for them this season. Kalble is an experienced defensemen who is great both offensively and defensively, and he’ll immediately give them a boost in their top 4. Santerno was one of the best transfers on the market with over 100 career points while at Bentley. Martino was chosen in the 3rd round of the NHL draft this summer and scored about 1.5 points per game in the USHL. He’ll be on the All-Rookie team without a doubt, and I could also see him get All-ECAC if he really puts up the point totals he’s capable of. Clarkson has lots of talent and no real weaknesses. They have high-end players at the top, good depth and great goaltending. The reason they’re second has more to do with Quinnipiac being insane rather than Clarkson having holes. I think they will also be an NCAA tournament team.

3. Cornell

Some may be surprised to see Cornell only in 3rd after 2 straight Cleary Cups, but they definitely belong to be here. They lose a lot of scoring from their 2019-20 team; they are 6th in returning scoring in the conference. While their recruiting class is very good and ranked 4th, it’s not quite good enough to bridge the gap between them and Clarkson. It should be noted that the model has them very close to Clarkson, and the difference is very small.

Key Losses: F Morgan Barron (32 points in 29 games), D Yanni Kaldis (24 points in 29 games), F Tristan Mullin (22 points in 29 games), F Cam Donaldson (18 points in 25 games), F Michael Regush (18 points in 29 games), D Alex Green (16 points in 29 games)
Key Returners: F Brenden Locke (26 points in 29 games), F Max Andreev (20 points in 24 games), F Ben Berard (17 points in 27 games), D Sam Malinski (16 points in 25 games)
Key Newcomers: F Justin Ertel (MJAHL), G Joe Howe (AJHL), F Sullivan Mack (BCHL), F Jack O’Leary (USHL), F Kyle Penney (BCHL), D Tim Rego (AJHL)

It’s easy to see that Cornell lost a lot from their team that was ranked #1 in the country when COVID-19 ended the season. However, they will still be quite good as they return enough and bring in enough good recruits to fill those losses well. Locke and Andreev were both near a point per game and will be key players at the top of the lineup. Berard and Malinski were both excellent as freshmen two years ago and will need to be good once again. Outside of those players, Cornell will also need F Kyle Betts (10 points in 24 games), F Matt Stienburg (10 points in 27 games), and F Jack Malone (8 points in 27 games) to step up and add more depth scoring. They also need D Travis Mitchell (12 points in 29 games) to build on his great freshman season. Cornell’s newcomers should help out with their depth as many of them are really good players. Ertel was just selected in the 3rd round of the NHL draft after lighting up the MJAHL. However, this is a league that almost never produces NCAA D1 players, so it is tough to know how he will adjust to the college level, especially as a young 18 year old. Mack put up big numbers in the BCHL, and as a 21 year old, he should transition very well and make an immediate impact. O’Leary has been a good USHL player throughout his time there and is also 21 years old; he’ll be able to make an immediate impact as well. Penney had great numbers in the BCHL this season and should add depth scoring right away. Lastly, Rego has put up huge numbers as a defensemen in the AJHL for two years in a row now, and he should contribute right away from the blue line. Cornell definitely has some top talent and good depth, but it is not as much as Clarkson and Quinnipiac. The real killer for them, however, is goaltending. Goaltending is a huge question mark this season. The only goaltender they return from 2019-20 is Nate McDonald, who has not played in a single NCAA game in 3 years. Howe had good numbers in the AJHL this year, but it is from an extremely small sample size of 10 games. The year before that, he really struggled in the BCHL, and I trust a 31 game sample size way more than a 10 game one. Ian Shane (USHL/NAHL) really struggled in the USHL for 2 seasons in a row, and then, he moved down to the NAHL midway through last season where he was fine but not amazing. It’s impossible to think any of them will provide the level of goaltending they got from Matt Galajda. Cornell’s defense should still be very good due to being excellent at suppressing shots and scoring chances, but if the goaltending is bad, that might take away that advantage. While I think Cornell is an NCAA tournament team, they have a big question mark that could easily derail their season.

4. Harvard

Harvard is just barely behind Cornell and Clarkson by the model; all 3 are grouped extremely close together. Harvard may be the most talented team in the ECAC, but talent does not win you games. Harvard returns a lot of top scorers and the 3rd most scoring total in the ECAC. However, that returning scoring comes almost entirely from 4 players. They will need numerous freshmen and sophomores to fill big roles immediately, and while those players are NHL draft picks and are extremely talented, that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready. If they are ready, watch out because the talent is among the best in the entire country. If not, they might not finish top 4. Overall, 4th place seems like a happy medium for this team.

Key Losses: F Jack Drury (39 points in 28 games), D Jack Rathbone (31 points in 28 games), D Reilly Walsh (27 points in 30 games), F Henry Bowlby (16 points in 31 games)
Key Returners: F Nick Abruzzese (44 points in 31 games), F Casey Dornbach (36 points in 31 games), F John Farinacci (22 points in 31 games), D Henry Thrun (21 points in 31 games), G Mitchell Gibson (.916 SV%)
Key Newcomers: F Matt Coronato (USHL), F Ryan Drkulec (USHL/NAHL), F Sean Farrell (USHL), D John Fusco (USHL), F Alex Gaffney (USHL), F Zakary Karpa (USHL), F Alex Laferriere (USHL), F Tommy Lyons (BCHL), D Ian Moore (USHL)

Drury, Rathbone, Walsh and Bowlby are all big losses, but it’s easy to see why they are rated highly. Abruzzese, Dornbach, Farinacci, Thrun and Gibson are all high-end players, and all will likely contend to be All-ECAC selections this season. Those players combined with the #1 ranked recruiting class in the league (and is also among the best in the country) should make for a potent Harvard offense once again. Coronato was drafted 13th overall in the NHL draft this summer after scoring a truly crazy goal per game (48 goals in 51 games) in the USHL. That is comparable to what Cole Caufield did in the USHL in his draft year; he had 29 goals in 28 games. They are very different players, but those are the kinds of numbers Coronato put up. He’s definitely the favorite for ECAC Rookie of the Year and definitely has a chance at an All-ECAC selection. Drkulec is weird. He had very good numbers in the USHL in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but last year in the NAHL, he did very poorly. It was only a 13 game sample size, and with the weirdness of COVID-19, I’m far more inclined to trust a 100 game sample size in the USHL. He’s a big forward at 6’6″, which is a good injection of size for what is a small group of forwards in general. Farrell was selected in the 4th round in the 2020 NHL draft, but he went back to juniors last season after the Ivy League cancelled their season. He had a whopping 2 points per game in the USHL last season, which led the league by a good amount. I could see him being an All-ECAC player right out of the gate as well. Fusco was a 7th round pick in the 2020 NHL draft and had solid numbers in the USHL last season. He should contribute to their blue line immediately. Gaffney and Karpa both had good numbers in the USHL last season and should contribute in the bottom 6 right away. Laferriere is another draft pick (3rd round in 2020) who will contribute some scoring right away, although he isn’t quite at the level of Coronato or Farrell. Lyons had good numbers in the BCHL in 2019-20 but didn’t play last season. Lastly, Moore was a 2020 3rd round draft pick who is an excellent skater and a good 2-way defensemen. He’ll play key minutes for Harvard right away. The crazy talent is obvious, so why is Harvard projected for 4th? Their defense might be problematic once again like it was in 2019-20. While Gibson should be really good again, Harvard lost a lot of experienced defensemen and only return 3 regulars to their lineup. They will need those talented freshmen to fill the hole, and defensemen usually have a tougher transition especially in their own end. All of Harvard’s questions are going to need to be answered by players just getting their first taste of D1 hockey, and they can’t be expected to do that right away. They should be able to help a lot though and make Harvard a top 4 team in the ECAC, and I see them as a bubble team for the NCAA tournament.

5. St. Lawrence

No, that’s not a typo. I expect two opinions here, both of which are incorrect. The first are those who (understandably) did not pay attention to the 2020-21 season after it got cancelled for 2/3 of the conference. For those who missed it, St. Lawrence was actually somewhat competent last season and won the ECAC “tournament”. The second are those who think St. Lawrence is high because they won the ECAC “tournament”. I can assure you that a 3 team tournament that required winning only 2 games, both of which were fluke OT wins, did not factor into this whatsoever. The fact that SLU actually gets to tout themselves as ECAC champions is actually a joke if we’re being honest. In reality, what lands SLU this high is they were quietly a competent team last season, going 6-8-3, which prorates out to 12-16-6 in a full season. In a normal year, that’d mean probably an 8th place finish in the conference, and it’s clear that in year 2 of Brent Brekke, they took a step forward. My model predicts that they’ll take another step forward this season since they return the 4th most scoring in the conference. Additionally, their defense was good last season with excellent goaltending. Overall, this should be a good team.

Key Losses: None
Key Returners: F Cameron Buhl (15 points in 17 games), F David Jankowski (12 points in 15 games), F Kaden Pickering (11 points in 17 games), D Luc Salem (10 points in 17 games), F Greg Lapointe (9 points in 17 games), G Emil Zetterquist (.926 SV%)
Key Newcomers: F Chris Pappas (AJHL), D Mason Waite (BCHL)

Having no key losses is always going to be a big boost for a team, and that’s definitely the case here. SLU only loses 2 points TOTAL from its forward group. While it’s good that basically the entire forward group returns from last season, it should be noted that they struggled to score a lot last season. It’s pretty clear from the returners that they had some top end players, with multiple forwards over half a point per game and two close to a point per game. However, they very much lacked scoring depth. What does give optimism is the fact that it is much easier to develop depth than it is to develop high end scoring, and this is by far the main reason St. Lawrence is rated 5th by the model. Defensively, they’re going to need to rely on Zetterquist a lot. SLU only returns 2 defensemen that played regularly last season, and last season, the defense allowed a high volume of shots. Zetterquist playing at an elite level is why they had a good defense, but it appears that it will be even more leaky this season. The incoming players aren’t really going to bring much to the table as their recruiting class is ranked 9th in the conference. Pappas should help out immediately in the middle 6 and add to their depth scoring. He put up big numbers with the Brooks Bandits last season (albeit a small sample size of 18 games). Waite is definitely the best member of SLU’s recruiting class in my opinion though. He had over a point per game in the BCHL last season as a defensemen, which is quite impressive. Unfortunately, he also had a small sample size (17 games), but that’s all there is to go off of. Overall, St. Lawrence’s floor is very high because of their returning high end scoring, but their ceiling is not that high. It’s hard to see them being better defensively than they were last season unless Zetterquist takes his game to an even higher level, and their recruits aren’t going to bring much to the table. I could see them sneaking into 4th but not higher. Overall, this feels like a good, competitive team, but it does not look like a great team.

6. RPI

I already wrote at length about RPI here, but they’re in a unique position. The fact that they are still this high after all the losses they sustained speaks to their excellent recruiting. RPI’s recruiting class is ranked 3rd in the conference behind only Harvard and Quinnipiac. It’s ahead of good-recruiting teams like Cornell and Clarkson. As I said in the preview, RPI’s talent is not in question. It’s a matter of gelling as a team and overcoming their lack of experience. In fact, I have no doubts in my mind that RPI is a more talented team than St. Lawrence who is just barely ahead of them by the model. In my biased opinion, RPI will click as a team sometime in November and finish above SLU, but these rankings are not my opinion. While they did lose a lot of talent, they also brought in a lot of talent that will keep them competitive.

Key Losses: F Chase Zieky (23 points in 34 games), D Will Reilly (22 points in 34 games), F Todd Burgess (20 points in 32 games), F Patrick Polino (19 points in 34 games), F Mike Gornall (19 points in 34 games), F Jake Marrello (18 points in 31 games), D Cory Babichuk (16 points in 27 games), G Owen Savory (.932 SV%)
Key Returners: F Ture Linden (21 points in 34 games), F Zach Dubinsky (12 points in 22 games)
Key Newcomers: F Justin Addamo (Robert Morris), D Anthony Baxter (UMass Lowell), F John Beaton (USHL), F Jake Gagnon (OJHL), F Henri Schreifels (BCHL), F Shane Sellar (Dartmouth), F T.J. Walsh (Northeastern)

Obviously, RPI lost a majority of their major contributors in 2019-20, but the incoming players give reason for optimism. The 4 transfers listed are all capable of contributing in key roles right away. Addamo was a top scorer for Robert Morris last season, and he has crazy size and an outstanding shot. Baxter was a key defensive defenseman for UMass Lowell all 4 of his seasons there, but he also has sneaky offensive upside. He should fill a top 4 role for the Engineers right away. Sellar was part of Dartmouth’s outstanding Timber line with Will Graber and Quin Foreman when he had 22 points. He didn’t have as good numbers the next season on a different line, but he is without a doubt a great forward who will have a big two way impact. Walsh has high end skill and passing abilities, and he’s a player you want with the puck on his stick. He wasn’t given much opportunity to use his skill at Northeastern and also struggled with some injuries, but he could be a big contributor here. For the non-transfers, they all have different strengths and are capable of contributing immediately in the lineup. Beaton is an outstanding two way center with great IQ, hockey sense and size. Schreifels is a big, strong forward with good skill, skating, goal scoring and all-around offensive abilities. Gagnon is a smaller forward with a lethal shot who puts the puck in the net. Offensively, RPI has filled a good amount of the production they lost through their incoming players, and it should be especially dangerous once the team clicks. Defensively, they still have many defensemen who were regulars in 2019-20 and as mentioned before, add a strong player defensively in Baxter. Those d-men along with returning Linden Marshall in goal make the model predict a slight drop-off from the 2019-20 defense, but it is not predicting a major drop. RPI might end up getting written off by the media and the public who don’t do their due diligence, but this team is no strangers to being ranked lower than they should be. This could be a dangerous team; underestimate them at your own peril.

7. Colgate

Colgate is interesting. The model has them barely behind RPI because they return the 5th most scoring in the ECAC, but the defense looks mediocre. The recruiting class is also weak, ranked 10th in the conference. Colgate is basically a poor man’s St. Lawrence in my eyes. Good returning scoring, weak recruiting class, okay defense. Somewhat high floor, but a low ceiling because they lack talent, especially compared to some of the top teams. There’s not much on the team that really excites me unless a couple of their players take a step forward, but I don’t think they’ll be bad by any means.

Key Losses: None
Key Returners: F Alex Young (13 points in 21 games), F Josh McKechney (13 points in 22 games)
Key Newcomers: F Alex DiPaolo (BCHL), F Cole Hanson (NAHL)

Just like SLU, Colgate does not have any key losses due to the return of 5th year senior McKechney. They return over 80% of their scoring from last season, and the players they lost are replaceable. Despite returning 80% of their scoring, the offense is ranked low because Colgate only scored 2 goals per game last season and struggled offensively. They don’t really have high end scoring or a lot of depth scoring, and the incoming players won’t really change that. Young was great as a freshman last year after being selected in the 7th round of the 2020 NHL draft, but they will need him to be an All-ECAC player in order to raise their scoring up. They have some depth scoring with Matt Verboon, Griffin Lunn and Arnaud Vachon, and DiPaolo and Hanson should add some depth scoring after putting up big numbers in the BCHL and NAHL, respectively. This is still not enough though to make up for the lack of top scoring. It’s tough to have faith in Colgate’s offensive abilities, and they need numerous players to take big steps forward in order to score well. The defense does not seem to be good either as they allowed 3 goals per game last season. They return 4 regulars there, which is okay, and they also return starter Carter Gylander. The issue with the defense is that Gylander was not good as a freshman last season, and their experience on the blue line is only average since they lost a few regulars there. However, I definitely have more optimism for their defense because Gylander should take a step forward this season. He was selected in the 7th round of the 2019 NHL draft for a reason, and he definitely has talent. If he can improve, that would go a long way for helping Colgate’s defense. Overall, this team seems slightly below average to me because they definitely don’t seem like they’ll be a bad team, but there’s also nothing to suggest they’ll be any good. I expect them to be in the 6-8 range in the conference.

8. Union

Unfortunately, Union still has not released their 2021-22 roster because they suck. They are one of two teams in the entire country to still not have their roster out, and they literally play this Saturday. Regardless, I have pieced together the roster through an inside source there. Union should be better this season than 2019-20. The defense should be at least okay, but the offense looks kinda bad. Union had a bunch of transfers like RPI, but none of them were that important. They have some good newcomers but not that many. Their roster overall just screams “meh”, but the defense should be good enough to keep them somewhat competitive.

Key Losses: F Anthony Rinaldi (29 points in 37 games), G Darion Hanson (.910 SV%)
Key Returners: F Gabriel Seger (22 points in 37 games)
Key Newcomers: F Michael Hodge (AJHL), F Andrew Seaman (BCHL), G Connor Murphy (Northeastern)

Union was a very, very young team in 2019-20, and they return most of those young players. Hanson, Christian Sanda and Colin Schmidt transferred out, but most of the team is back. They return two players for a 5th year with Brandon Estes and Josh Kosack. Estes should be good like he has been during his career, while Kosack will likely be a bottom 6 forward again. While most of the team is back, they have the same problem as Colgate where they really couldn’t score with that team previously. Union couldn’t even score 2 goals per game in 2019-20, and they lose their top scorer from that team. Seger will be their best forward, but the next highest scorer had 10 points. The returning scoring is really lacking, and it is ranked 11th (2nd to last) for a reason. The recruiting class is decent though as that is ranked 6th in the ECAC. Hodge scored nearly two points per game in the AJHL last season, but like many other players, it was a small sample size of 16 games. Seaman also had a very small sample size, but he had about a point per game in the BCHL last season. Hodge will likely be in a top 6 role for Union right away, and Seaman should be a contributor in the middle 6. Murphy is without a doubt the biggest addition for this team though. He had a .910 save percentage for Northeastern last season, and with him, there should be basically no drop off from the goaltending Hanson gave Union. Additionally, 5 regulars on the blue line return from 2019-20, which will be key for play in their own end. The defense will allow them to stay in most games even with the lack of scoring. Overall, Union is going to be a boring team who seeks to play low scoring games and rely on defense to win.

9. Brown

Brown isn’t a good team, but these bottom 4 teams are all bad. Brown is simply less bad than the other 3. Their scoring was horrendous in 2019-20. They were tied for last in the country in goals per game, and their returning scoring is ranked 10th in the conference. The defense was pretty solid though, and that’s somewhat of their saving grace. The defense doesn’t look like it will be good, but it should be enough to keep them 9th or 10th in the conference rather than at the very bottom.

Key Losses: G Gavin Nieto (.914 SV%)
Key Returners: None
Key Newcomers: D Brett Bliss (BCHL), F Brendan Clark (NAHL), F Lynden Grandberg (AJHL), F Jordan Tonelli (USHL)

There are no skaters who are considered key losses or key returners because no skaters had more than 0.5 points per game. If we ignore that criteria, Zach Giutarri, Brent Beaudoin, Tony Stillwell, and Nieto are the main losses from the 2019-20 team. Luckily for Brown, they had Luke Kania as the backup in net, and he has been a reliable backup to Nieto throughout his career. He should not have too many issues taking over as the starter. It will be a step back from Nieto, but there are teams that have way worse goaltending situations. Brown only returns 3 regulars from the blue line, but that’s right in line with the other teams in the bottom 4. Offensively, they return their leading goal scorer, Justin Jallen. Jallen is a good player, but he only had 13 points in 31 games. If that’s the production your leading scorer has, your team will be in trouble. While he’s a very good player, it’s unrealistic to expect to take a leap to point per game levels. Besides him, Luke Krys had a good freshman season as a two way defenseman, and he will look to build on that this season. He is a very good and reliable player, and he will need to lead their blue line this season. Brown has some good incoming players that will hopefully help with their scoring. Their recruiting class is ranked 7th in the ECAC. Bliss had a point per game this season in the BCHL as a defensemen, which is very impressive. He should add some offense from the blue line right away. Clark had over a point per game in the NAHL despite being a pretty young player for that league, and he can contribute right away in the middle 6. Grandberg had over a point per game in the AJHL and should also contribute in the middle 6. Last but not least, Tonelli was an effective player in the USHL, and that should definitely carry over to college. While none of those players will be world beaters, all of them are effective players that should contribute depth scoring and hopefully help the concerns on offense. Overall, it’s tough to see where the offense comes from on this team, but the defense keeps them better than the bottom 3 teams.

10. Dartmouth

Dartmouth is tough to totally pin down due to having a new coach in Reid Cashman, but on paper this is a bad team. They only return about 30% of their scoring, and their recruiting class is just okay, ranked 8th in the conference. Defensively, they were among the worst in the country, allowing 3.42 goals per game. They only return 3 regulars from that blue line and will be relying on a goalie with no D1 experience. I think the defense will improve from that (it’s hard to be worse), but Cashman will have his work cut out for him if he doesn’t want it to be a liability.

Key Losses: F Drew O’Connor (33 points in 31 games), F Will Graber (27 points in 26 games), F Quin Foreman (25 points in 31 games), F Matt Baker (24 points in 31 games)
Key Returners: D Tanner Palocsik (24 points in 31 games), F Jeff Losurdo (15 points in 30 games)
Key Newcomers: F Sean Chisholm (AJHL), F Braiden Dorfman (NAHL), D Brady MacDonald (BCHL), F Ryan Sorkin (USHL/NCDC/NAHL), G Clay Stevenson (BCHL)

Dartmouth loses almost all its scoring because its top players are gone. Palocsik is back after a stellar rookie season where he was somehow snubbed from the ECAC awards despite leading the nation in points by rookie defensemen. Lorsurdo provided great depth scoring 2 years ago, and they will need him to step up into a bigger role this season. Outside of those 2 though, Dartmouth really doesn’t return anyone of note. Forwards Sam Hesler and Mark Gallant were decent depth scorers 2 seasons ago. It’s just unlikely that these forwards are going to be able to double their scoring, which is what Dartmouth needs after their departures. A few newcomers listed should add some depth scoring. Both Chisholm and Dorfman put up lots of points in their respective junior leagues. MacDonald is another defenseman who had around a point per game in the BCHL and should add some good offense from the back end. Sorkin is interesting because he had good numbers in the USHL, but he struggled in the NAHL last season. When in doubt, go with the largest sample size though. As mentioned before, the defense only returns 3 regulars and no good goaltenders. However, Stevenson will likely be the starter for Dartmouth, and he was absolutely outstanding in the BCHL. He had a 1.77 GAA, .936 SV% and a 30-2-2 record. He should be a reliable starter from the get-go, and that will help out their defense a lot. He alone will not be enough to make the defense good though; they will need to do a better job limiting scoring chances for that to happen. Overall, Dartmouth looks like it will struggle on both offense and defense, and it will be tough for them to be competitive with that outlook. Stevenson provides some hope for the defense though.

11. Princeton

Despite the ranking, Princeton actually returns a decent amount of scoring. Their returning scoring ranks 7th in the conference. What really kills Princeton is their god-awful recruiting class. It is the worst in the ECAC by far, and the lack of projected scoring from it makes Princeton projected to have the 2nd worst offense despite having average returning scoring. Defensively, Princeton is not projected to be good either, but they have some hope on that side which will be discussed. This looks like a team that will be just as bad as they were in 2019-20.

Key Losses: F Jackson Cressey (22 points in 31 games), F Liam Grande (15 points in 29 games)
Key Returners: F Corey Andonovski (19 points in 26 games), F Luke Keenan (18 points in 31 games), G Jeremie Forget (.912 SV%)
Key Newcomers: None

Princeton has some 5th years coming back, which was big for their returning scoring. Keenan, Matthew Thom, and Mark Paolini all will continue to provide scoring, and Thom and Paolini are solid two way defensemen. Andonovski is a very good forward who will likely lead the team in scoring. Unfortunately, outside of Andonovski and Keenan, the team does not have depth scoring. Christian O’Neill was a solid depth scorer, and that’s about it. The problem is made worse by the fact that Princeton has the worst recruiting class. There are no players projected to get 10+ points; the closest is defenseman Noah De la Durantaye who is projected for 8 points. The team’s offense is really going to suffer because of this, and there’s little reason for optimism that the scoring will be anywhere close to good. The defense has some hope, mostly because they return starting goalie Forget. He played pretty well in 2019-20, and he should give them some stability in the pipes. Princeton returns 4 regulars from the blue line, which is okay. The defense is projected to slightly improve from 2019-20 because of these returners, but the defense was not good that year. So, it is still projected to be bad overall. If Forget can take his game to the next level, then the defense can make this team competitive. You can’t really bank on that happening though. Overall, this team looks very bad, and they’re very similar to Dartmouth in that there’s not much reason for optimism outside of goaltending.

12. Yale

This may be a surprise to some people, but this Yale team is absolutely garbage. When you return 20 goals total and 14 of those goals are from one player, you’re going to have problems scoring. The recruiting class is terrible too as it’s ranked 11th in the conference, only ahead of Princeton, so that’s not going to fix the scoring at all. There’s not much hope on defense either. This is by far the worst team in the conference by the model, and I agree with the model.

Key Losses: F Curtis Hall (27 points in 28 games), F Tyler Welsh (23 points in 32 games), F Kevin O’Neil (17 points in 32 games), D Jack St. Ivany (16 points in 32 games)
Key Returners: F Justin Pearson (24 points in 31 games)
Key Newcomers: F Will Dineen (USHL), F Briggs Gammill (NCDC), G Luke Pearson (BCHL)

Every player of note for Yale is gone with the exception of one, Justin Pearson. Pearson is a really good player; he had 14 goals and 10 assists for Yale 2 years ago, and he should be really good for them once again. Outside of him, there is absolutely no scoring though. The next highest in points is Defenseman Graham Lillibridge who had 8 points and only 1 goal. After Lillibridge, it’s Forward Cole Donhauser who had a grand total of 5 points in 2019-20. Knowing that, it should not be a surprise that Yale’s returning scoring is ranked last in the conference. This would be okay if they had a good recruiting class to offset that, but they don’t. As I mentioned, it’s the 2nd worst recruiting class, and it’s made up primarily of NCDC forwards who couldn’t even crack a point per game as 20 and 21 year olds. That’s fine if you’re a young player still developing, but if you’re an overager in that league that can’t crack a point per game, then you’re not a D1 caliber player. This is only for forwards; defensemen aren’t evaluated by points nor should they be. Yale still does have some newcomers who will be good. Dineen had good numbers in the USHL. Gammill had well over a point per game in the NCDC last season. Both will contribute immediately offensively. The outlook on defense is no better. Yale only returns one defenseman who was a regular in Lillibridge. They will also be relying on Pearson as a freshman to carry the load. He was very good in the BCHL last season with a .922 SV%, but just like every other BCHL player, their shortened season meant it was a small sample size of 17 games. Goalie is also a tough position to transition into D1 hockey, which is why it’s hard to rely on a freshman from the get-go. Overall, the lack of returning scoring and the lack of blue line experience make Yale ranked last in both offense and defense by the model. They are the worst team in the conference by far, and there’s basically no reason for optimism unless Pearson is insanely good in net right off the bat.

Final Rankings

  1. Quinnipiac
  2. Clarkson
  3. Cornell
  4. Harvard
  5. St. Lawrence
  6. RPI
  7. Colgate
  8. Union
  9. Brown
  10. Dartmouth
  11. Princeton
  12. Yale


Using the model, you can also separate the teams into tiers to get a sense of which teams are close together.

St. Lawrence

Where The Model Differs from the Preseason Poll

The predictions are fairly similar, but there are some differences that stand out. The poll has Harvard and Cornell flipped, and the explanation is fairly simple in my opinion. Harvard has a ton of NHL draft picks on the roster, and having that kind of talent tends to bump up hype and expectations. I don’t think the coaches are necessarily wrong for having that order either because the model has the two teams literally right next to each other, and the margin is very slim. The poll has Colgate up one spot because they are higher than RPI. This is probably because they return a significant amount of their players even though those players struggled to score last season. The coaches are also likely underrating RPI. Dartmouth in 7th in the poll is the biggest head-scratcher to me. I don’t see why they are that high. They only return about 30% of their scoring, it’s the first season of a new head coach, they have to rely on a goalie with no D1 experience, and the defense was terrible in 2019-20. I’m not sure if this is just faith in Brian Cashman to turn things around or if the incoming players are being rated higher by the coaches or if there’s some different reason. RPI is 8th in the poll, which is definitely too low. There is no way Dartmouth should be ranked higher than RPI. I think the reasoning behind this is the coaches do not rate the incoming players as highly as the model. Just because RPI doesn’t have NHL draft picks coming in doesn’t mean their recruiting class isn’t good. They are bringing in quite a few good players and should be at least 7th; I could understand them being ranked behind Colgate. Union also should not be behind Dartmouth, but otherwise their placement would make sense. Yale is in 10th in the poll, which is higher than they should be, but I think the coaches probably do not realize how little scoring they have. We agree on Princeton, and then, they have Brown last, which is also a head-scratcher to me. Obviously, they had one of the worst offenses in the country 2 years ago, but they still have more offense than Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale when you factor everything in. Their defense was good 2 years ago, and the step back shouldn’t be drastic from that. I’m not sure why they are below Princeton and Yale; I could understand Dartmouth.

All-ECAC Teams and Awards

First Team

F Nick Abruzzese, HarvardF Oliver Chau, QuinnipiacF Casey Dornbach, Harvard
D Zach Metsa, QuinnipiacD Tanner Palocsik, DartmouthG Emil Zetterquist, St. Lawrence

Second Team

F Ethan de Jong, QuinnipiacF Zach Tsekos, ClarksonF Brenden Locke, Cornell
D Henry Thrun, HarvardD Sam Malinski, CornellG Ethan Haider, Clarkson

Third Team

F Cameron Buhl, St. LawrenceF Max Andreev, CornellF Wyatt Bongiovanni, Quinnipiac
D Luc Salem, St. LawrenceD Travis Mitchell, CornellG Dylan St. Cyr, Quinnipiac

All-Rookie Team

F Ayrton Martino, ClarksonF Matt Coronato, HarvardF Cristophe Tellier, Quinnipiac
D Mason Waite, St. LawrenceD Brett Bliss, BrownG Luke Pearson, Yale

Player of the Year: F Nick Abruzzese, Harvard
Goaltender of the Year: G Emil Zetterquist, St. Lawrence
Rookie of the Year: F Matt Coronato, Harvard
Coach of the Year: Rand Pecknold, Quinnipiac

Hockey season starts on Saturday, and I can’t wait to see how these predictions turn out!

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