Grand Forks Herald college hockey preseason top 20

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Preseason college hockey polls have been filtering out over the past two weeks.

Most of them follow a general pattern, set by where each team finished last season. The 2019-20 Grand Forks Herald preseason poll does not.

Here is some bold -- or would you call it foolish? -- prognosticating by Herald beat writer Brad Elliott Schlossman:

1. MSU-Mankato

Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Minnesota State. The Mavericks were trying to replace four-year standout forwards C.J. Suess and Zeb Knutson up front, NHL-bound Daniel Brickley on defense and both goalies. But the Mavericks went 32-8-2 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They graduated just one regular from that team. If MSU can earn a No. 1 seed with a team that was supposed to build for 2019-20, what can they do with the team that was made for 2019-20?

2. Wisconsin

Last year, it was UMass that skyrocketed to national prominence thanks to a couple of terrific recruiting classes. The Badgers should be this year’s UMass. A lot has to do with the impressive recruiting class featuring first-round picks Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte, as well as future first-round pick Dylan Holloway. But the big key is Wisconsin’s D-core is finally getting older and experienced. Wyatt Kalynuk is a junior. K’Andre Miller and Ty Emberson are sophomores. Tyler Inamoto and Josh Ess are juniors, too. Having an experienced back end to go along with the high-end recruits will be key.


3. Western Michigan

Yes this is a bold pick. Yes, the Broncos need to find reliable goaltending. But this team is as explosive up front as anyone in the country, led by Wade Allison, Hugh McGing, Austin Rueschhoff, Josh Passolt and more. Coach Andy Murray and his staff have added key pieces in the recruiting game -- namely USHL record-setting defenseman Ronnie Attard -- to help make the Broncos well-rounded, deep team.

4. Denver

The Pioneers overachieved last season with a young team. Their key forwards like Brett Stapley, Emilio Pettersen and Cole Guttman are back as sophomores, and they’re adding a dynamic threat in Bobby Brink. It’s hard to expect the Pioneers to have the same elite goaltending (.929 team save percentage) that Filip Larsson (signed with Detroit) and Devin Cooley (now a junior) provided last year, but they shouldn’t need it.

5. Minnesota Duluth

The two-time defending NCAA champs are loaded on defense (Scott Perunovich, Dylan Samberg and Nick Wolff) and have a proven goalie in Hunter Shepard. Do they have enough offense to win their first regular-season conference championship since 1993? That’s the only question the Bulldogs need to answer.

6. UMass

The Minutemen won’t be able to replace Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar, who is off with the Colorado Avalanche, or Mario Ferraro, who is with the San Jose Sharks. But there’s enough talent there, led by Mitchell Chaffee and the Del Gaizo brothers, to make a run at winning Hockey East once again. Another strong recruiting class will help.

7. Cornell

Cornell will be a veteran team with proven players at every position. Morgan Barron could be a Hobey Baker Award candidate up front, captain Yanni Kaldis is a big point producer on the back end and Matthew Galajda has posted 14 shutouts in two seasons for the Big Red. They're the favorite in the ECAC.

8. Penn State

The Nittany Lions led the nation in scoring offense last season by a wide margin and they should do that once again this season considering their top five scorers -- Alex Limoges (50 points), Evan Barratt (43), Liam Folkes (42), Brandon Biro (40) and Nate Sucese (37) -- are all back. But can they finally defend well enough to win big?

9. North Dakota

Everyone seems to be sleeping on UND after back-to-back NCAA-tournament misses, but the Fighting Hawks start the season with one of the best defensive groups in the nation, led by Colton Poolman, Matt Kiersted and Jacob Bernard-Docker. The last time they could say that, they won the NCAA national title. Offense was an issue last season and the Fighting Hawks may still have games where scoring is a problem, but it won’t be as exasperating as last season.

10. St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State had massive losses in the offseason, but don’t sleep on the Huskies, either. They had a number of players on their third and fourth lines who were ready for a much larger roles. They have much of their defense back -- led by Jack Ahcan, Warroad’s Luke Jaycox and Thief River Falls' Brendan Bushy -- and experienced goaltending.


11. Boston College

The Eagles had a hugely disappointing 2018-19 campaign and will need big contributions from its outstanding rookie class, featuring Minnesota Wild first-round pick Matthew Boldy (forward), Florida Panthers first-round pick Spencer Knight (goalie) and Colorado Avalanche first-round pick Alex Newhook (forward).

12. Harvard

Harvard may be a young team, but the Crimson will be loaded with talent, led by high-scoring defenseman Reilly Walsh and the Jacks: defenseman Jack Rathbone, forward Jack Drury and forward Jack Badini. Incoming freshman Nick Abruzzese is coming off of a huge USHL season for the Chicago Steel.

13. Ohio State

The Buckeyes were fortunate to get Tanner Laczynski, a Flyers draft pick, back for his senior season. There are other pieces around Laczynski that could get Ohio State to a fourth-straight NCAA tournament, but can Tommy Nappier repeat his unbelievable sophomore season in net (.934)? Watch out for Buckeye freshman defenseman Layton Ahac, who had scouts buzzing in the BCHL last season.

14. Bowling Green

If anyone can push MSU-Mankato in the WCHA, it will be Bowling Green. Bismarck’s Alec Rauhauser, a defenseman, opted to come back for his senior season, while the Big Three of Max Johnson, Brandon Kruse and Connor Ford are all back. Offense shouldn't be a problem for the Falcons.

15. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish bring back star goalie Cale Morris for another season. That alone should keep Notre Dame in every game. The Irish lost their top two defensemen, but bring back Cal Burke and Cam Morrison up front. They won't need to score a ton with Morris holding down the net.

16. Minnesota

The Gophers lost their top three scorers and both goaltenders, but they’re bringing in a college-experienced goalie in Michigan transfer Jack LaFontaine and a talented rookie in Winnipeg draft pick Jared Moe. The question is whether they’ve improved enough on defense to be a top contender.

17. Colorado College

The Tigers lost their top scorers, but should be one of college hockey’s sneaky good teams. It’s easy to forget that their most skilled players -- Nick Halloran and Chris Wilkie -- were injured to end last season. If they can get strong goaltending, they’ll surprise their doubters this season. From top to bottom, this is the best squad coach Mike Haviland has had in the Springs.

18. Northeastern

The Huskies seem to have a lot of holes, losing their top three scorers from last season and goalie Cayden Primeau, who signed with Montreal. But Tyler Madden is expected to have a big season up front and the Huskies should contend in a potentially down year for Hockey East, which had more early signings than any other league.


19. American International

American International proved it was the real deal last season. The Yellow Jackets won Atlantic Hockey’s regular-season title, postseason title and came within two goals of reaching the NCAA Frozen Four. Nearly everyone is back and the Yellow Jackets could be poised for another run. St. Lawrence reportedly tried to lure coach Eric Lang, but perhaps it is no surprise he wanted to stay with the talent they have returning.

20. Boston University

The Terriers lost four players to early NHL signings, but will reload with players like first-round draft pick Trevor Zegras. Talent has not been the question at BU. The question is whether the Terriers can finally turn their young talent into consistent success. In recent years, they haven't been able to overcome their youth.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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