Despite being a win away from a national championship a season ago, Boston University faces a number of questions heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
None, of course, will be larger than how to replace Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel, who surprised none when he left to sign with the Buffalo Sabres just two days after being drafted second overall in the NHL Draft.
It would be an understatement to say that the single-season rental for the Terriers was a big part of the team’s offense that led them to Hockey East regular season and postseason titles. But it would be unfair to say this club will be absent of offense entirely heading into this season.
The leading returners up front are Danny O’Regan, a 50-point scorer a year ago, and converted defenseman Ahti Oksanen, who potted 25 goals a season ago. Add to that defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who many thought would have signed with the NHL in the offseason, and it is clear this team still has a potent offense.
“We’re always going to lose great players. That’s the program we aspire to be,” said coach David Quinn, who enters his third season behind the BU bench. “Jack [Eichel] had an incredible year last year, but we were a true team.”
Another piece of that team that was critical much of the season and also departed early was goaltender Matt O’Connor. The good news for the Terriers, however, is the return of Sean Maguire, who missed last year recovering from a head injury.
Additionally, the incoming freshman class, which includes three of the top 30 rookies as ranked by the International Scouting Service, should play a major role in filling holes in every position.
“They all have great resumes, but you never know how guys will adapt to college hockey,” said Quinn. “The year we had last year was due to how our returning players embraced our freshmen. We’ve got such a great group of guys that I think we’ll be in a similar situation.”
28-8-5, 14-5-3 (first) in Hockey East. Won Hockey East tournament; lost to Providence in NCAA championship game.
Names to know
Plenty of returning talent, including forward O’Regan, defenseman Grzelcyk and goaltender Maguire will be joined by a talented freshman class led by NHL second-rounders Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jordan Greenway.
1. No matter who returns and what freshman come into this program, how powerful can the offense be without Eichel?
2. At times, O’Connor was dominant in net for last year’s squad. Now can Maguire, coming off an injury, be a similar force in net?
3. Can A.J. Greer be the X-factor? In the postseason, he was a force offensively. Continuing that this season could mean a lot to this BU offense.
Jim Connelly (first place): The Terriers may not be the popular pick to win the league in a lot of people’s opinion, but I think they have all the pieces of the puzzle to repeat as regular season champs.
David H. Hendrickson (second place): The Terriers may get passed by their archrivals (Boston College) but still bring back some of the last year’s top players and will once again be one of the top teams in the country.