Rensselaer coach Seth Appert was direct when asked what senior goalie and NHL draft pick Jason Kasdorf has to prove entering this season.
“He has a ton to prove,” Appert said. “His career has been derailed by injury. I think if Jason wanted to sign an NHL contract this summer, he probably could have. But Jason is a leader and wanted to come back and do something special for our program.
“He stayed in Troy all summer. He’s a married man. … He’s about as mature and professional and hardworking as you can have. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be one of the top goalies in the country this year.”
Kasdorf was an elite goalie as a freshman during the 2012-13 season. But injuries limited him to two games as a sophomore and took a toll on his performance last year as well.
His decision to remain at Rensselaer for his senior year looms large after goalie Alec Dillon, a Los Angeles draft pick, decided over the offseason to go the major junior route and play for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL instead of coming to RPI this fall.
In addition to Kasdorf, RPI is looking for a boost from several other returnees. The Engineers averaged 1.86 goals per game last season and didn’t have a double-digit goal scorer.
Leading scorer Drew Melanson was a freshman last year, and Appert expects an increase in production after the forward won the team’s strength and conditioning award this offseason. Classmates Viktor Liljegren and Kenny Gillespie have the potential to breakout as well.
“When you put that all together, we’ll have a team that can score goals,” Appert said.
12-26-3, 8-12-2 (ninth) in ECAC Hockey. Lost to St. Lawrence in the ECAC quarterfinals.
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If he can stay healthy, Kasdorf has the potential for a big senior year. Appert is looking for more production from seniors Mark Miller, Milos Bubela and Zach Schroeder, as well as a breakout season from junior Riley Bourbonnais, who has emerged as a solid player after barely playing as a freshman. Forward Lou Nanne (Minnesota) and defenseman Mike Prapavessis (Dallas) are both NHL draft picks. Look for freshman Evan Tironese and Jesper Öhrvall to contribute as well. However, the Engineers will be without freshman Brady Wiffen, who will sit out the season after being ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA.
1. Will the potential for offense translate into actual goals for RPI?
2. Can Kasdorf have a big senior year and match the promise he showed as a freshman?
3. Will the Engineers stay healthy? Rensselaer was plagued by injuries last season, with only three skaters playing in every game.
If Kasdorf can stay healthy and RPI can put together some goals, the Engineers could challenge for a first-round bye. If not, it could be a long season. Expect something more toward the middle of those two outcomes.