Face Off: Week 4

Welcome back to U.S. College Hockey Online’s roundtable discussion. Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get down to business, which we’ll be doing each week in this space, where various members of our staff take on a hockey topic. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly — but either way, watch the feathers fly: no punches will be pulled, and no quarter given, when these people face off.

Who is the Most Underrated Player in College Hockey Today?

Tim Brule, USCHO Coordinator: By far the most overlooked position in college hockey is defenseman. Forwards put the puck in the net, and get all the attention for doing so. Goaltenders are roundly praised on good nights, and hear it from the crowd on bad nights — sieve, sieve, sieve …

But the only way for a defenseman to get noticed is to score points, which is why Minnesota’s Mike Crowley got all the media attention for scoring 63 points last year from the blue line. This year, Andy Roach of Ferris State is contributing a great deal offensively. Roach is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, averaging 1.46 points per game (38-26) on a team that only scores at a 3.38 per-game clip. By the end of the year, the media will have noticed Andy, but currently he gets very little national coverage.

Jayson Moy, ECAC Correspondent: In the ECAC, at least, the most underrated player is Jean-Francois Houle of Clarkson. He has always trailed the leading scorers of the team — whether that be Todd White, Patrice Robitaille, Marko Tuomainen, Brian Mueller or so on — but he puts the puck in the net without being recognized for it very often.

Also, he is often overlooked on defense; he plays the penalty-kill with expertise, where he is a dangerous shorthanded threat. Houle plays a great checking game with an intense style. The fans appreciate him enough that his name appears among USCHO’s Hobey-poll semifinalists; it’s good to see that Houle is finally being recognized.

Dave Hendrickson, Hockey East Correspondent: Underrated players, almost by definition, can be detected only by seeing a team many times. As a result, I’ll consider only Hockey East and pick one player at each position deserving of additional attention.

UMass-Amherst goalie Brian Regan earns my bronze medal. The Minutemen have recorded an 11-43-6 league record during his tenure, but Regan’s unflattering statistics belie his abilities, reflecting the “expansion” team he’s had in front of him.

Merrimack forward Kris Porter, my silver medalist, moves like the “Before” picture in a power-skating ad; he may be the worst-looking skater in Hockey East. But his hard work and deft touch around the net has gotten him 17 points in 18 games. Many “pretty” skaters should be so lucky.

Northeastern defensive defenseman Rick Schuhwerk isn’t flashy, rarely shows up in the box scores and captains a last place team. Most fans only notice defensemen when they get beat, but Schuhwerk deserves recognition for his hard hits and his excellent defensive-zone play.

Paula C. Weston, CCHA Correspondent: Miami defenseman Dan Boyle has my vote.

It could be said that this entire Miami team is underrated; because of its relatively recent success, some people are having difficulty believing this team is for real. Miami doesn’t get the national press attention that Michigan (deservedly) does, nor does this Miami team seem to be as big as the success story of, say, North Dakota.

Miami is loaded with talent. Most people think of Randy Robitaille as the driving force behind Miami, and he is indeed an incredible player. Dan Boyle lives in Robitaille’s shadow, but Boyle is key on the Miami defense, and pivotal on a very effective penalty-kill unit. In addition to playing solid defensive hockey, in 15 league games played, Boyle has 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists), second on his team. And he comes with a plus-minus rating of +11.

Dan Boyle is the whole package — a key defenseman who scores points and makes plays.