Denver Unanimous Pick to Lead NCHC
CHN Staff Report
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Returning the majority of last season’s national championship team, Denver was unanimously selected by the media as the favorite to capture the NCHC regular-season championship.
The Pioneers received all 30 first-place votes on the media ballots for a total of 240 points. St. Cloud State was picked second in the poll with 187 points, after placing fifth last year.
Denver posted a 33-7-4 record en route to the program’s eighth national championship last season, including 18-3-3-2 in NCHC play to hoist the Penrose Cup. The Pioneers return 16 letterwinners from that title team, including four players who earned NCHC Preseason All-Conference Team honors on Monday, but do lose Hobey Baker Award-winning defenseman Will Butcher. Senior Tanner Jaillet, the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award winner, returns in goal for the Pioneers while sophomore forward Henrik Borgström, the reigning NCHC Rookie of the Year, and junior forwards Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry all joined Jaillet on the Preseason All-NCHC Team.
St. Cloud State is coming off a 10-13-1-0 campaign in the NCHC that saw them finish only four points behind fourth-place North Dakota. The Huskies bring back 18 lettermen from that team, including junior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt, who was named to the NCHC Preseason All-Conference Team Monday, and sophomore forward Ryan Poehling, who was a first-round NHL draft pick in June.
The Fighting Hawks were picked behind SCSU, but also return 18 letterwinners from a team that went 11-12-1-1 in the NCHC a season ago. UND was 21-16-3 overall last year after making its 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and will be led in net by senior Cam Johnson and on offense by junior forward Shane Gersich, who was a Preseason All-NCHC pick.
Rounding out the top half of the poll was Minnesota Duluth, which is coming off a national runner-up season and a runner-up finish in the NCHC with a 15-5-4-3 record. The Bulldogs were 28-7-7 overall last year, losing 10 letterwinners from that squad, but UMD does bring in a talented freshman class with three NHL draft picks to go along with sophomore forwards Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte, who were both drafted in 2016.
2017-18 NCHC Preseason Poll
Denver – 240 points (30 first-place votes)
St. Cloud State - 187
North Dakota - 172
Minnesota-Duluth - 160
Miami - 104
Western Michigan - 102
Nebraska-Omaha - 83
Colorado College – 32