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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:

1. Denver

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.

3. Minnesota

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.

5. Wisconsin

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.

6. UMass-Lowell

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.

8. Harvard

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.

12. Miami

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.

13. Providence

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.

17. Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac missed the NCAA tournament last season, but can get back there behind freshman goalie Keith Petruzzelli.

18. Omaha

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.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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