Welcome back … and about that WCHA media poll

Nice to see you again. Good summer? Ours was fine, thanks.

The offseason is just about over — in case you missed it, college hockey won’t look quite the same after this season because of what took place over the last few months — and soon enough, USCHO will be getting back to full speed.

Things have already started moving, with the preseason conference polls rolling out here and there. For the second year in a row, I compiled the results for a WCHA media poll (this year, for madison.com), and the benefit of that is that I get the raw data to detail for you here. I could spend way too much time doing that, so here we go.

(The actual poll, along with the coaches’ poll, can be found here.)

It was absolutely no surprise that Denver was the overwhelming favorite. The Pioneers return 2.93 goals per game from last season (that statistic, however, includes stats from Dustin Jackson, who will miss the season with a broken right leg), are stacked on defense with Patrick Wiercioch leading the way and have a dependable goalie in Marc Cheverie.

There wasn’t that much of a gap between the teams picked for second, third and fourth, which tells me that North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota should be right in the mix. I think everyone’s getting the idea that if you think North Dakota lost too much to be a contender, you’re probably wrong. The Sioux lost five regular forwards and three regular defensemen, but they’re a pretty solid pick for one of the top spots — 24 of the 25 voters had them in the top four.

People think St. Cloud State will be good enough to make the top five, and that might be shorting the Huskies considering the top-end offense they have in the fold.

Eight of the 25 voters picked Minnesota-Duluth to finish in the top five. Six others picked the Bulldogs to end up eighth or ninth. It seems there are a lot of questions with UMD, and after it lost nearly half of its regular lineup, they seem valid.

More people picked Colorado College for eighth than seventh, but four voters picked the Tigers to finish in the top five, compared to just one for Minnesota State. Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech were unanimous bottom-half picks.

Here’s how my ballot looked:

1. Denver

2. North Dakota

3. Minnesota

4. Wisconsin

5. St. Cloud State

6. Colorado College

7. Minnesota State

8. Minnesota-Duluth

9. Alaska-Anchorage

10. Michigan Tech

It’s funny how all of this seems to make sense now, only to look so pathetic when comparing it to the final standings in March.

Minnesota forward Jordan Schroeder got 14 of the 23 votes for player of the year (not all voters wanted to cast ballots for the individual awards). Denver players had their votes split — Wiercioch got four, forward Rhett Rakhshani got three and goaltender Marc Cheverie got one — while North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway also got one vote.

Wiercioch got my vote. Nothing against Schroeder, but I thought Wiercioch was a better player last season, too. Of course, I saw the Denver defenseman play against Wisconsin a bunch of times last year, so maybe I saw his best games.

Seven players got votes for the rookie of the year — a pretty typical response considering you never really know what to expect from freshmen. St. Cloud State goaltender Mike Lee was the leader with seven. Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Dylan Olsen had four votes, while Wisconsin forward Craig Smith, Minnesota defenseman Nick Leddy and North Dakota forward Danny Kristo had three each. Denver forward Drew Shore and Minnesota forward Zach Budish got one vote each.

I had a tough time with this one, but I went with Kristo. I understand why Lee got many of the votes, but I just wasn’t ready to commit to a goalie that may not play every night this season. With a lot of big-time players gone from last year’s team in North Dakota, Kristo should get his chance.

The voting for all-league team shook out like this:

Forwards — Schroeder 22, Ryan Lasch (SCSU) 19, Rakhshani 6, Justin Fontaine (UMD) 6, Joe Colborne (DU) 3, Chris VandeVelde (UND) 3, Anthony Maiani (DU) 3, Tyler Ruegsegger (DU) 2, Kael Mouillierat (MSU) 2, Garrett Roe (SCSU) 2, Derek Stepan (UW) 2, Mike Connolly (UMD) 1, Jack Connolly (UMD) 1.

Defensemen — Wiercioch 20, Genoway 16, Ryan McDonagh (UW) 6, Cade Fairchild (Minnesota) 3, Garrett Raboin (SCSU) 2, Aaron Ness (Minnesota) 1.

Goaltenders — Cheverie 17, Brad Eidsness (UND) 5, Lee 2.

My ballot had Lasch, Schroeder, Rakhshani, Wiercioch, Genoway and Eidsness. I went on my best judgments from last season and hoped that things carried over to this year.

Another year, another poll. Now it’s time to work on the national top 20. Anyone have any suggestions on that one?

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