Brodzinski Gets the Call
After 121 games and nearly two seasons in the American Hockey League, former SCSU forward Jonny Brodzinski finally got the call to the NHL on March 24. The 2013 5th round draft choice was inserted into the lineup vs the NY Rangers on March 25 and again vs the Edmonton Oilers on March 28th. Although he was shutout in points, he had a lone break on Rangers goaltender Antti Ranta but with the puck on edge wasn’t able to get a complete shot off. He finished the contest 0-0-0 and -1 with 3 shots on goal and 11:07 of ice time in his debut. Against the Edmonton Oilers on March 28, Brodzinski again had a solid outing garnering 13:53 of ice time including an extended shift at the end of the game with the Kings goaltender pulled. Certainly a show of confidence by the coaching staff. Brodzinski led the Kings with 5 shots on goal in the game. In my opinion, these were two solid outings for the former Husky leading me to believe his days in the AHL are numbered. Brodzinski is looking more and more like quite a bargain for the Kings who secured him as the 148th pick in the fifth round. Under a two-year contract, Brodzinski will become an restricted free agent on 4/1/2017.
A Quick Peek at the 2017-18 Men’s Hockey Schedule
A visit by one of the nations top “Blue Blood” hockey programs highlights the non-conference schedule in 2017-18. Although the schedule has not been released and dates are tentative, it does appear the Boston College Eagles will make their first ever visit to St. Cloud on October 20/21, 2017. A perennial Hockey East power, the Eagles will partner with fellow Boston school, Northeastern University in a multi-year playing arrangement. Plans are for SCSU to travel to Boston in 2018-19 to face both Northeastern and Boston College and then to host Northeastern in St. Cloud the following season. The Huskies have had one prior game with the Eagles in the 2004 Florida College Hockey Classic. They have faced Northeastern at Matthews Arena in Boston in the past.
Other games to highlight the non-conference schedule next season include a road trip to Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, two home games with MSU-Mankato, home and home with the University of Minnesota and hosting the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) in St. Cloud.
Details are still being worked out on the entire 2017-18 schedule and I will provide that information as soon as it is released so some road trip planning can be accomplished.
SCSU Men’s Hockey Continues to Excel Academically
SCSU men’s hockey excellence in academics continues to show results on several fronts. In the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the Huskies placed 17 players (trailing only Omaha) on the All-Academic team. Junior defenseman, Nate Widman was the lone NCHC player with a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA. The following SCSU players were named to the NCHC All-Academic team (those listed in bold were named scholar athletes):
To be eligible for the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team, a student-athlete must compile a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average or better while having completed at least one academic year at his current institution. Student-athletes that have accrued a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better garner NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team distinction, in addition to Academic All-Conference.
SCSU also continues to do well on their APR ranking. This is a four-year rolling average with the Huskies current APR at 967. The APR, or Academic Progress Rate, holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term. The APR is calculated as follows:
Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible. A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate. In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.Currently, teams must earn a 930 four-year average APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in NCAA championships. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930 to compete in championships.
Ahcan Unanimously Selected to the NCHC All-Rookie Team
First-year defenseman Jack Ahcan has had quite a memorable season. After helping Team USA win the World Junior Championship in early January, Ahcan went back to work finishing 4th on the team points for SCSU with 5-16-21 in 32 games. His efforts were rewarded as the only player voted unanimously to the 2016-17 NCHC All-Rookie Team. Undrafted in the 2016 NHL entry draft, I suspect he’ll finally be selected in his final year of eligibility for the draft this June in Chicago.
Early Departures Unlikely for SCSU
It’s been a devastating off-season for some teams when it comes to early departures. In particular, Western Michigan, Boston University and North Dakota have seen marquee players forgo college eligibility to sign with the NHL. Although it’s not news to see blue chip players leave early it’s troubling to see the number of underclassmen leave the college ranks. For North Dakota, the loss of Brock Boesser, Tyson Jost and Tucker Poolman makes another huge dent in their roster as they head towards the 2017-18 season. This is in addition to numerous early departures last season. Unfortunately, even for a program like North Dakota it’s simply impossible to reload quick enough to replace high-level talent like this. At Western Michigan, the departure of underclassmen, Griffin Molino and Matheson Iacopelli strips them of their top two scorers in 2016-17. Boston University, which had one of the top group of first-year players in years has already lost Clayton Keller and Charle McAvoy after one season. It certainly makes one wonder if the time. expense and effort in recruiting these blue-chippers is worth it in the long-run. In contrast, fellow NCHC member UMD was able to retain top players Dominic Toninato, Carson Soucey and Alex Iafallo for their senior season and they’ve been crucial to their success and run to the frozen four in 2016-17.
I had the opportunity to speak with SCSU defensemen, Jimmy Schuldt and Dennis Cholowski recently and they were of the opinion that the Huskies would not see any departures in the off-season. If true, the Huskies will certainly be a favorite to finish in the upper half of the NCHC in 2017-18.
Update 3/31/2017: Defenseman, Nate Widman has been signed by the Rapid City Rush of the ECHL. Widman would have had to petition for an additional year of eligibility due to the “five year rule”. He did participate in SCSU’s senior night in March.
Update: 4/6/2017: In a transaction that took many of us by surprise, the Detroit Red Wings announced on April 5 that they have signed first-round draft choice Dennis Cholowski to a three-year entry level deal. Specfics of the contract were not released but it is assumed it is a maximum ELC. Cholowski could finish the season with the Red Wings top affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins or with Prince George of the Western Hockey League.
Brodzinski and Lizotte to Fortify the SCSU Offense in 2017-18
It’s no secret that the Huskies had difficulty burying the puck in 2016-17. With not a single player cracking the top 75 in points nationally and team offense ranked 28th scoring 2.92 goals per game improvements are needed. Two players that could help alleviate the struggles on offense are USHL players Easton Brodzinski and Blake Lizotte. Brodzinski, the brother of former Husky, Jonny Brodzinski has piled up the goals during the 2016-17 season with 22 goals in 50 games while playing for Fargo, Madison and currently the Green Bay Gamblers. The sniper has accumulated 36 points including 3 game-winning goals and 6 power play goals. Don’t be surprised to see his shot on the power play for SCSU in 2017-18. Lizotte, a native of Lindstrom, MN is currently battling for the USHL scoring title for the Fargo Force with 15-43-58 in 51 games. A “pass first” forward, Lizotte will transfer his play-making skills to the Huskies in 2017-18 and make a number of other Husky forwards quite happy with his ability to distribute the puck.
Finally, another SCSU recruit, Cole Guttman is another “first-pager” in USHL scoring with 23-24-47 in 49 games. There’s no definitive indication whether he’ll make the jump to the the Huskies in 2017-18 or the following season. Still a youngster at age 17, the native of Los Angeles, CA might best be served to season another year in the USHL giving himself another year to mature physically.