Roy’s return for senior season gives Northeastern a lift

Kevin Roy is back for his senior season at Northeastern (photo: Melissa Wade).

It is quite possible that the best day of Northeastern coach Jim Madigan’s offseason was when Kevin Roy said he would return for his senior season.

Roy, a fourth-round draft choice of Anaheim in 2012, easily could have followed the route most high-end draft picks take after their junior year and sign a pro contract. But for Roy, there is unfinished business.

“With Kevin, there wasn’t many conversations,” Madigan said about talking to Roy about his NHL futures. “He knew the opportunities for him if he wanted to sign. But he also knew the opportunity if he came back.

“He’s feeling there’s unfinished business. We haven’t won anything. He wants to win something at Northeastern. He wants to lead our team to win a championship.”

Earning a championship, however, isn’t simply Roy’s birthright by returning and Madigan knows he also won’t be able to depend on just one player. The team has holes to fill, particularly one left when sophomore Mike Szmatula decided he wanted to transfer. Szmatula will redshirt at Minnesota this season before having two years of eligibility left.

That offensive gap, Madigan said, needs to be filled by some of the more talented offensive forwards like Dalen Hedges, second on the team in points a year ago, and Zach Aston-Reese. Matt Benning will be the leader on the blue line alongside senior Colton Saucerman and Garret Cockerill, who follows up an impressive freshman campaign.

But the big question for Northeastern might be between the pipes, with Clay Witt gone to graduation. Derick Roy played 13 games a season ago, posting a 5-6-2 mark, and likely will be the starter on opening night. But this is a position that can’t be weak if this team wants postseason success.

“From the outside looking at our team you can ask, ‘How’s the goaltending going to be?’ and that’s a fair question,” said Madigan. “But you could ask that two years ago when Clay Witt was assuming that role. I look at it as Derick Roy played more than Clay Witt did in his first few years.”

Does that translate to wins? One shall see, but Madigan was very clear where his team’s goals are as this season begins.

“The last two years, we’ve made some progress but we haven’t won in March,” said Madigan. “We have to win in March. That’s our goal.”

Last season

16-16-4, 11-9-2 (tied for sixth) in Hockey East. Lost to Merrimack in the Hockey East first round.

Names to know

Kevin Roy is easily the most important name to know on this team, if not in the league. But there are some talented players who need to play key roles if the Huskies will enjoy success, namely Hedges and Aston-Reese up front and Benning on the blue line.

Three questions

1. Can Kevin Roy be dominant? He has proven that he can take over a game. But how often can that happen? Can Roy be for Northeastern what Jack Eichel was for BU last season?

2. Who fills Szmatula’s role? With the forward transferring, that leaves a hole for a consistent scorer on Northeastern’s second line. What player can fill that hole?

3. Is Derick Roy ready to be the go-to guy in net? Will this season be the year that Derick Roy is known as something more than Kevin’s brother? If not, does Northeastern have a rookie it can rely on?

Crystal ball

Jim Connelly (ninth place): Many think Kevin Roy’s return for his senior season will vault this club to the top of the standings. I still have concerns about Roy’s brother, Derick, a relatively untested goaltender who will have to assume the starting job in net.

David H. Hendrickson (seventh place): The Huskies will be dynamic on offense but will go only as far as their team defense and goaltending allow.

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