Herald preseason college hockey top 20
The college hockey season kicks off Saturday night with UND hosting the University of Manitoba in an exhibition game at 7:07 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Before any of the teams hit the ice, here's the Grand Forks Herald's preseason top 20:
The defending champs usually start at No. 1, but this year, it's for good reason. Denver didn't lose any of its players early to NHL deals -- and there were a number of them who could have signed.
2. Minnesota State-Mankato
It was a huge coup for the Mavs to retain defenseman Daniel Brickley and forward C.J. Suess. Everything is set up for MSU to dominate the WCHA and earn a high seed in the NCAAs.
All of the attention is on rookie Casey Mittelstadt, and rightfully so, but getting forward Tommy Novak and defenseman Ryan Lindgren back from injury is a game-changer for Minnesota.
4. Boston University
A lot of high-end players left for the NHL, but this team still has stars at every position -- forwards Jordan Greenway, Patrick Harper and Brady Tkachuk, defensemen Dante Fabbro and Brandon Hickey and goalie Jake Oettinger.
The Badgers were poised for their best year since 2013-14 -- and that was before they found out they were getting St. Lawrence star goalie Kyle Hayton as a graduate transfer.
Lowell lost a pair of big point producers on the back end, but still has plenty of firepower up front and this program seems to overachieve consistently.
7. St. Cloud State
The Huskies return 96 percent of their goals from last season and one of the top defensive corps in program history.
Harvard lost some big-time scorers, but still returns the ECAC's best forward (Ryan Donato), defenseman (Adam Fox) and goalie (Merrick Madsen).
9. Penn State
The Nittany Lions will still be an offensive powerhouse that shoots the puck from anywhere, led by sophomore Denis Smirnov.
10. Minnesota Duluth
Replacing five defensemen is a massive challenge, but the Bulldogs bring in the right guys to do it in Dylan Samberg and Mikey Anderson.
11. North Dakota
The big names of past teams may be gone, but this Fighting Hawks squad is deep up front with a national champion goalie in back.
The RedHawks are dangerous up front, led by coveted NHL free agent Kiefer Sherwood. If Miami defends well, it can get back to the NCAA tournament.
The Friars lost Jake Walman on the back end but they're going to be explosive up front.
14. Boston College
Losing 10 players to early NHL signings in the last three offseasons takes its toll. There are some pieces there, but not as many as Eagle fans are used to.
15. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have some big holes to fill after the early signings of Anders Bjork and Cal Petersen, but offensive firepower won't be a problem.
16. Ohio State
The Buckeyes can build off of last year's NCAA berth with the return of Mason Jobst up front.
Quinnipiac missed the NCAA tournament last season, but can get back there behind freshman goalie Keith Petruzzelli.
The Mavericks don't have a superstar up front like Austin Ortega, Jake Guentzel or Ryan Walters, but the team's depth is strong.
19. Air Force
Atlantic Hockey may be the deepest it has ever been and the Falcons lead the way.
20. Bemidji State
The Beavers rolled through the WCHA last season and will lean on star goalie Michael Bitzer to get in the top 20.