Eight NCHC players who could have a break out 2019-20 season
Each college hockey season, there are players who unexpectedly emerge and have impactful years.
Here are eight National Collegiate Hockey Conference forwards who you may not be familiar with yet, but you should be by the end of the season.
Colorado College: Alex Berardinelli, senior
The Tigers lost four of their top six forwards in the offseason. Trey Bradley, Mason Bergh and Trevor Gooch graduated, while Westin Michaud transferred to UND. That leaves plenty of big roles open. You may know all about former first-team all-NCHC forward Nick Halloran and Florida Panthers draft pick Chris Wilkie, but you’ll soon be familiar with Berardinelli.
The 5-foot-10, 157-pound forward from Pittsburgh has blazing speed and can cause problems for defenders. He’s the top returner for the Tigers in both plus-minus and shots on goal. Last season, he feasted on nonconference opponents. This season, he should become more familiar in the NCHC, too.
Denver: Ryan Barrow, junior
Barrow, a 6-foot-2, 179-pound forward from Banff, Alta., had a quietly productive first two seasons. He tallied nine points as a rookie and 14 as a sophomore, but he could emerge as a regular scorer as a junior.
Barrow has elite skating skills and speed, which could get him a look with some of Denver’s high-end skill players like Emilio Pettersen, Brett Stapley or rookie Bobby Brink. Barrow has the ability to provide some of the same elements as Colorado Avalanche signee Logan O’Connor, only Barrow has better size.
Miami: Casey Gilling, junior
Josh Melnick held down the first-line center role for the last three seasons at Miami, but he graduated in the spring, leaving that spot wide open and up for grabs.
Heading into this season, the top candidate to take that spot is Gilling, a junior forward from Gaylord, Mich. Gilling had four goals and 12 points a year ago (he ended last season on a 20-game goal drought), but has potential to significantly increase that number if he’s playing between speedy and dynamic wingers Gordie Green and Karch Bachman. Gilling centered those two to close the regular season in 2018-19.
Minnesota Duluth: Cole Koepke, sophomore
Koepke finished 10th in scoring on Minnesota Duluth’s team last season as a freshman, but he showed plenty of signs that he’s ready for a much larger role. That should come this season for the sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Koepke had 66 shots on goal in 24 conference games a season ago, good for second on the team. Only three of those 66 shots found the back of the net (4.5 shooting percentage). He’ll continue to get shots on net again this season, but look for his shooting percentage to double.
Omaha: Tyler Weiss, sophomore
Weiss tallied three goals and 11 points in his first collegiate season, but there’s more to it than the numbers show. Weiss was the youngest player on the roster, had to start the season a month and a half late because of an injury and really showed flashes of his high-end potential down the stretch.
Weiss had one point in his first 10 college games. He had 10 points in his last 15. Omaha lost its top two scorers in Mason Morelli and Frederik Olofsson to graduation and will be looking for someone to step into those big minutes. Weiss is a prime candidate.
North Dakota: Gavin Hain, sophomore
A year ago, Hain was a key cog in a line that dominated its opponent in puck possession, scoring chances and offensive output. Along with Mark Senden and Cole Smith, their unit was a combined plus-45. No other forward on UND’s team was better than a plus-4.
Hain didn’t crack double digits in points -- he had nine in 31 games -- but if he stays healthy this season, he will. The Grand Rapids, Minn., product has excellent puck protection skills, strength and, at times, gave a preview of the skill level that UND hopes will show more often this season.
St. Cloud State: Micah Miller, sophomore
The bad news for St. Cloud State is that it suffered massive losses in the offseason. Five of its top six scorers -- Patrick Newell, Blake Lizotte, Robby Jackson, Jimmy Schuldt and Ryan Poehling -- are all gone. The good news for the Huskies is that they have several forwards who are ready for much larger roles.
Miller, a speedy winger from Remer, Minn., is one of them. Miller, a linemate of Hain’s at Grand Rapids High School, had four goals and seven points last season, but will be elevated in the lineup this season.
Western Michigan: Lawton Courtnall, senior
Courtnall has primarily been used as a bottom-six forward and in penalty-killing roles. His elite speed has made him effective there.
Now, as a senior, Courtnall could get a look in the top six for a Western Michigan team that should lead the NCHC in offense. Broncos coach Andy Murray gave Courtnall an audition in the top six to end last season. If Courtnall can stick there, he’ll easily eclipse his career high in points. Courtnall, the son of longtime NHL forward Russ, tallied 10 points as a rookie and nine as a sophomore and a junior.