Harvard's a Class Above in ECAC
by Jasper Kozak-Miller/Recruiting Writer
This is the third in our series of six conference recruiting previews.
The ECAC's upward surge continues with another strong recruiting effort across the board. It starts with Harvard's successful pursuit of top talent across the country. From there, Quinnipiac's reload starts with a top-10 class, and defending national champion Yale brings in a deep and impactful group of seven to New Haven.
While the top tier of ECAC freshmen is strong, the influx of talent continues right through all 12 teams.
The crown in the ECAC lands in Cambridge this year and that's not much of a surprise. Harvard's recruiting has been lethal lately, and Ted Donato's staff is showing no sign of slowing down. Forward Sean Malone is one of the nation's top recruits and is exactly the type of immediate impact forward Harvard could use to jumpstart this year after a lackluster 2012. High-end forward Alex Kerfoot is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury but could carve out a nice role for himself as one of the ECAC's most prolific playmakers within a season or two.
Phil Zielonka has the ability to step right in and shatter goaltenders' egos across the conference and former Brunswick star Luke Esposito will do his share in that effort as well. On defense, Kevin Guiltinan could bring an intriguing mix of snarl and skill to the blue line at Bright Center.
Quinnipiac's class is too deep to elaborate on in its entirety, but it starts with game-breaking forward Peter Quenneville, who defines clutch and could be just what it takes to cauterize the loss of a talented graduating class this season. Forward Sam Anas will either prove doubters of his slight frame wrong and make an impact all over scoring sheets on a nightly basis, or simply get bullied off the ice shift-to-shift. Connor Clifton, out of the NTDP, is an all-around talent on the backend who should be able to eat big minutes early.
Yale's Alex Lyon is fierce in the nets, but fellow freshman netminder Patrick Spano could end up making this one of the best goaltending tandems in college hockey, while John Hayden and Frankie DiChiara are two towering forwards that will really put a scare into opposing teams all over the offensive zone. Mike Doherty is one of college hockey's more cerebral incoming wingers with serious collegiate upside, but Westminster alum Chris Izmirlian could actually make a more immediate impact on the scoring sheets.
Cornell Adds Big Numbers
Cornell has a huge class coming in, led by two-way forward Matt Buckles, who posted a 40-goal season for the St. Mike's Buzzers in the OJHL. Buckles won't be expected to put up the same kind of numbers, but he looks like he could be a great college player on and off the stat sheet. Buckles' Buzzers teammate and captain Pat McCarron is a big defenseman who took top defenseman honors in the well-known Ontario circuit. Another well-regarded defenseman is big skater Clint Lewis, who could be seen breaking up play after play with the NTDP the past two years. In net, Mitch Gillam is a Berkshire alumn who spent the last two seasons proving his talent in the BCHL and could very well prove to be Andy Iles' successor.
Dartmouth's class of five is deceptively potent, especially when you consider that just two graduating seniors played over 11 games. Matt Lindblad's early departure to the pro ranks will hurt, but coach Bob Gaudet brings in Wenatchee Wild star defenseman Josh Hartley to ease the pain. The 21-year-old has size, hockey sense and the instincts necessary to bring some spark to the Big Green offense from day one. Canadian forward Troy Crema brings a similarly offensive game in a 5-foot-10 frame and should prove to be one of the ECAC's more prolific scorers when all is said and done. Grant Opperman, for his part, is a Minnesotan stand-out who had inflated scoring numbers thanks to a less-than-vicious high school schedule, but certainly has the skill to pitch in some offense before long as well.
In the north, St. Lawrence's Saints have a huge class of 10 and packed some serious talent into the group. Gavin Bayreuther is a collegiate superstar in the making, a high-end puck-moving defenseman with athleticism and hockey sense. Bayreuther, an offensive fire-cracker, projects very well. Forward Matt Carey, who was slated to join the roster last year and is the brother of Hobey Baker candidate Greg Carey, has proved his scoring touch and will be a welcome addition in the final third. Drew Smolcynski is a talented, compact forward from the USHL, while Woody Hudson is on the bigger end of the height spectrum — a tough power forward with an edge. Trevor Hills is yet another Berkshire alum headed to the ECAC, via the BCHL's Chilliwack franchise, where he proved the ability to continue producing at a top level. Alexander Dahl is a high-character forward who processes the game quickly and captained the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms this year.
New York Teams Add Skill
Union's class, too, is nothing to trifle with. Defenseman Jeff Taylor is a fleet-footed former Albany Academy star with elite hockey sense and serious collegiate upside. Gonye is a forward from Deerfield Academy whose game should translate well to the college game early. Gonye, at the end of the day, could become a big contributor for this squad. As could Mike Vecchione, a great player who should slot right into the offense while Mike Pontarelli posted an absurd goal-per-game pace in the CCHL but has nowhere near proven his ability to produce against top competition on a nightly basis and that will be a big storyline here. If he can't pull it off, the gamble to move him up this season will have been a poor play by Rick Bennett's staff.
Seth Appert's engineers didn't need much for his top tier program, but he brings in three talented forwards from the USHL's Lincoln Stars, as well as Edina defenseman Parker Reno, who could develop into a top pairing star for the Engineers as an upperclassman.
Brown's recruiting continues to get more fierce annually, but so does the rest of the conference. Zack Pryzbek is a former Salisbury stand-out who can do it all at 6-4, 205, while Andrew Doane is a forward who can really bury, and furthers Brown's pipeline from Nobles and Greenough prep, one shared by Boston College. Aleksi Rossi is a stay-at-home defenseman from Finland's KalPa franchise, the same to produce such stars as Kimmo Timonen and Olli Jokinen.
Princeton's class at a glance has some undeniable prep school ties. Quin Pompi is a stand-out defenseman from Berkshire school, while Ben Foster is a former Choate-Rosemary Hall standout scorer who should be Princeton's biggest impact freshman from a statistical stand-point. Goaltender Colton Phinney is a local goaltending prospect who skated his high school hockey for New Jersey powerhouse prep school Delbarton and could pan out very well for the Tigers coaching staff.
Clarkson's A.J. Fossen is an aggressive forward who thrives in the transition while agitating on and off the scoresheet. When Fossen gets his feet under him, he utilizes an exciting combination of hands and hockey sense to walk defenders and will bring a frenetic, controversial style of play to Cheel Arena. Ville Runola is a goaltender from top Finland program TPS, producer of talented NHL mainstays Miikka Kiprusoff and Saku Koivu.
Colgate's Tim Harrison comes straight out of Dexter, where he has had prolific scoring efforts for a number of years but still needs to prove he can sustain that at the next level.