David Quinn’s first season as coach of the Boston University hockey team was a struggle. The team went 10-21-4, winning just one away game all season. As the team continues to move on from the Jack Parker era, David Quinn’s true legacy as coach will be built. It starts with a large freshman class of eleven players, headlined by the biggest name to play in the NCAA since Jonathan Toews, Jack Eichel. To accommodate the freshmen, Quinn cut Brendan Collier and JD Carrabino, with more cuts probably on the way. If the team is going to rebound next year, these freshmen will play a big role.
Jack Eichel, Center, USNTDP
When Jack Eichel arrives on campus in September, he will do so with much fanfare. Eichel is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 draft. Some even think he could be taken ahead of wunderkind Connor McDavid (who Eichel outscored at the 2014 U20 World Juniors). Playing for the U18 USNTDP, Eichel proved that he is an elite offensive talent, and the next great American forward. Eichel scored at a blistering offensive pace this year, with 87 points in 53 games (1.64 PPG). For a reference, 2007 #1 and #2 overall picks Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk scored 68 points in 43 games (1.58 PPG), and 4 points in 14 games (.29 PPG), respectively, at the same age.
Eichel is an all-around offensive force, with no weaknesses in his game. Perhaps his biggest strength is his ability to slow the game down and dictate the pace of play when he is out on the ice, like few stars are able to do. He will provided a much needed boost to the Terriers’ offense, and should be the centerpiece of their new attack. While it is likely that Eichel will only play one year for the Terriers, he should be one of the highest scoring players in the NCAA and a treat to watch.
Chase Phelps, LW, Shattuck St. Mary’s
In Phelps’ second season for Shattuck St. Mary’s, he managed 24 goals and 42 assists for 66 points in 53 games. Phelps brings good size at 6’0″, and his best asset in the offensive zone is his powerful shot. Though he is not an overly physical player, he uses his size effectively to open up room for himself and get off his potent shot. Phelps is currently ranked 163rd among North American skaters by NHL CSS for the 2014 Draft, meaning there is a good chance he will be a late-round draft pick.
Nikolas Olsson, RW, Sioux City Musketeers
Hailing from Escondido, CA, Olsson will join the Terriers after playing two years in the USHL for the Sioux City Musketeers. In those last two years, he had 23 points over 75 games, and added 65 penalty minutes. Olsson will added some needed depth on the wings for the Terriers, who were decimated by injuries and departures last season.
JJ Piccinich, RW, Youngstown Phantoms
A rare playmaking winger, Piccinich enjoyed a very strong season for the Phantoms in the USHL. He finished with 58 points in 60 games, which was good for 13th in the league and second on his team. Piccinich’s best asset is his passing ability and vision from the wing. He was particularly deadly on the power play, where his 13 goals led the USHL. His play away from the puck is strong as well, and is willing to go to the dirty areas to get the job done. His coach in Youngstown had this to say about him:
“A big part of it is he goes out and he’s willing to get to the areas where you might have to take a stick, you might have to take a punch in the face, you might have to take a body, but if you get to that area, you’re more likely to score a goal”
Piccinich was ranked 135th among North American skaters in NHL CSS 2014 draft rankings.
AJ Greer, LW, Kimball Union Academy
Standing at 6’3″, 198 lbs. Greer brings great size to the table as a winger. At Kimball Union in 2013-14, he was the captain of the team and the second leading scorer with 57 points in 31 games. Playing alongside 2014 draft eligible players Tyler Bird and JD Dudek, the trio was one of the most dangerous lines in prep school hockey. The combination of his size and skill made him a force to be reckoned with at prep school.
Greer has drawn stylistic comparisons to Val d’Or Foreurs star forward Anthony Mantha, whose size, speed, and shot made him a star forward in the QMJHL. Greer will be eligible for selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. Greer had originally been committed to Penn State, but decided the Terriers were a better fit.
Liam Coughlin, LW, Vernon Vipers
After starring for local Boston-area high school Catholic Memorial, Liam Coughlin enjoyed a successful season for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL. He scored 45 points in 53 games, and added 13 points in 19 games in the playoffs. Standing at 6’3″, Coughlin is a big winger, which has been a common theme of the forwards in this freshman class.
“Liam is a player we have been after for quite some time,” said Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson. “He is a big body that can score, but also plays with an edge that most players from South Boston have. He will add a lot of versatility to our lineup.”
Brandon Hickey, Spruce Grove Saints
Playing the AJHL last year, Hickey scored four goals and added twelve assists in 37 games. While his offensive numbers do not pop out, Hickey is seen as a player that has a lot of potential for growth in his game. By far his best asset is his skating, which is an extremely valuable asset for defensemen. Adding a puck-mover like Hickey is especially important for the Terriers, who often struggled to make good outlet passes and effectively break the puck out of their defensive zone.
Fortunato becomes the second mobile, well-regarded defenseman named Brandon (joining Brandon Hickey), heading to BU's campus for this fall.
— Over the Boards (@overtheboards) May 13, 2014
“We expect him to get better and better. He’s come a very long way and he’s a world class skater.
“There’s a lot of things to like about his game, but most importantly, he’s a real good person, a real good teammate and he’s going to improve as the year goes on,” Mckee said.
As Hickey grows as a player, his skating abilities will allow him to contribute even more offensively. Hickey was ranked 63rd among North American skaters by NHL CSS, meaning he should be an early to mid round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Johnathan MacLeod, USNTDP
A teammate of Jack Eichel with the USNTDP, MacLeod brings a solid all-around package to the table. MacLeod’s biggest asset is his physicality, which he uses with aplomb. His former coach at Kimball Union Academy, a program that churns out NCAA players, called MacLeod the toughest player he’s ever coached. Offense is not the focal point of his game; however, he is a good skater that makes the simple, effective play.
Last season, he scored 11 points in 51 games. He also had the chance to represent the US at the U18 WJC, where he scored two goals and added an assist in seven games. Ranked 44th among North American skaters by NHL CSS, MacLeod will be a big part of the Terriers’ blueline moving forward, and has a good shot at being an NHLer.
Brandon Fortunato, USNTDP
An undersized defenseman that stands at 5’10”, 148 lbs, Fortunato makes his mark on the game away from the physical side. Playing for the U18 USNTDP last season, Fortunato was the highest scoring defenseman on the team with 37 points in 61 games. He thrives on the attacking side of the puck, where his strong skating, passing, and puck skills have all the makings of a strong offensive defenseman.
BU gets another good one. Defenseman @BFortunato5, Brandon Fortunato. High end vision & puck distributor on blue line. Great hands
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) May 13, 2014
Fortunato plays a lot like current Terrier Matt Grzelcyk, who stands at just 5’9″ 172 lbs. His vision and composure with the puck will be a valuable asset when breaking the puck out at even strength, and at the point on the power play. Fortunato had originally been committed to Harvard.
Ori Abramson, New Jersey Hitmen
Abramson was originally a recruit of Providence College, but an illness forced him to leave the school in 2012. He spent the last 3 years in the EJHL, OJHL, and USPHL. Most recently, he played for the New Jersey Hitmen where he scored 26 points in 41 games. Abramson brings good size to the table at 6’3″, 225 lbs, and is physically more mature than most freshmen because he is a 1993. He has a flair for the physical game, and is also able to chip in offense.
Brien Diffley, Buckingham Browne & Nicholls
Standing at 6’2″ 181 lbs, Diffley is another puck-moving defenseman that David Quinn can add to his stable. Playing for high school Buckingham Brown & Nicholls in addition to the Boston Jr. Bruins of the USPHL, Diffley saw his stock rise significantly this year. At BB&N, Diffley earned the nickname “one-man breakout” due to his superb skill in the transition game and breaking the puck out. He can break the puck out in a multitude of ways, hitting his teammates with crisp outlet passes, or carrying the puck himself with his great skating ability. BU assistant coach Steve Greeley had the following to say
“He has the ability to carry the puck at full speed, and makes plays with his head up moving up the ice. He has great stick skills, and his vision and decision making are his strengths.”
“His combination of speed and skill at his frame are hard to find, and his skating is as fluid as there is. Once he grows into his body, he will be a difference maker.”
Diffley finished the season with 17 points in 28 games for BB&N.
The Common Thread for Boston University Hockey
When looking at this recruiting class, there are two points of emphasis among the forwards and defensemen
- Size at forward, especially at wing, was valued highly. Greer and Coughlin are both 6’3″, and both Eichel and Phelps are over 6′
- Priority was given to strong skating, offensive defensemen
These two themes fit right in with what David Quinn wants to do with the team. He aspires to be a blue collar, hard working squad that is strong on the forecheck. Big, physical wingers that can skate well are exactly what a good forecheck requires. Last year, the team struggled mightily to transition from defense to offense and break the puck out. With this class, Quinn has added a number of very good skaters that will supplement the breakout and support the offense.
If this new recruiting class can live up to its expectations, Boston University hockey will be back to the elite of the NCAA in short order.
Bill Schoeninger is a Philadelphia Flyers writer and current Boston University student studying business. Coming to THW from Hometown Hockey, Bill follows and writes about the Flyers, Boston University Terriers, and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @BSchoeninger17