Here are my Division One college hockey pre-season rankings.
1.) Denver University - On paper it would appear that the Denver Pioneers don't have many real weaknesses offensively, on the blue line the Pioneers are a little young this season. There is a very good possibility that there could be two or three freshman defenseman playing in the top 6 defensive positions from night to night. The Pioneers return -- Forwards Rhett Rakhshani (15g-22a-37pts), Joe Colborne (10g-21a-31), and Tyler Ruegsegger (15g-11a-26pts), on defense Patrick Wiercioch (12g-23-35pts) decided to not sign a contract and junior goalie Marc Cheverie (23-12-5, 2.34 GAA and .921 SV %) is a very serviceable goaltender and with a younger defensive core he will be tested. The Pioneers lose forward Tyler Bozak (8g-15a-23pts), defensemen Patrick Mullen (4g-21a-25pts), and J.P. Testwuide (3g-10a-13pts). Will be the odds on favorite to finish first in the WCHA.
2.) Miami University - Looking at Miami University's 2009-2010 roster it would appear that the RedHawks are going to be well balanced team and could make another run to the Frozen Four, I don't think it is a stretch so that say that RedHawks have a legitimate shot at an NCAA title. Miami's biggest departures are forward Justin Mercier (14g-15-29pts) and defenseman Kevin Roeder (2g-4a-6pts). The 64,000.00 question; will be any lingering affects of the alleged choke job in the final minutes of the third period of the championship game?
3.) Notre Dame - The X-Factor is Irish head coach Jeff Jackson who has turned Notre Dame into a national contender after being a door mat team for many seasons. Key losses goalie Jordan Pearce (30-6-3, 1.68 GAA and .931 SV%), Erik Condra (13g-25a-38pts) and Christian Hanson (16g-15a-31pts) While the Irish lose a big time goaltender and a couple of decent forwards the Irish's still have a lot of talent left to make a run towards the Frozen Four and should be a top five team.
4.) University of North Dakota - Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol has been the coach of the Fighting Sioux hockey team for five seasons and has compiled a an impressive 130-70-19 winning a regular season title, a conference tourney title. Hakstol's teams have also finished 2 (x1) and 3rd (x3) in the NCAA tourney. Last season was the first time in his tenure at UND Hakstol's team didn't win a regional title and advance to the Frozen Four. Key Loses Ryan Duncan (20g-19a-39pts), Brad Miller (6g-29-35pts), Matt Frattin (13g-12a-25pts). While there were some key loses for the Fighting Sioux there are good replacements coming in for the Fighting Sioux, forwards Danny Kristo, Michael Cichy, Corbin Knight, Carter Rowney, defenseman Andrew MacWilliam and goaltender Aaron Dell should challenge Brad Eidsness (24-12-4 2.56 GAA and 906 SV%) for playing time.
5.) Boston University - last season the Terriers were an explosive team that could score goals in bunches and in a very short period of time; this was the team that scored five goals on UND and seven goals on Michigan. B.U. was also defensive powerhouse; the Terriers had to be based on the number of penalties minutes they racked up last season. Gone from the Terrier line up are the big offensive numbers of Colin Wilson (17g-38a-55pts), Chris Higgins (14g-34a-48pts), Brandon Yip (20g-23a-43pts), Jason Lawrence (25-14-39) and Matt Gilroy (8g-29a-37pts). The Terriers return a very strong defensive core led by Kevin Shattenkirk (7g-21a-28pts), David Warsofsky (3g-20-a-23pts) and a proven sophomore goaltender in Kieran Millan (29-2-3, 1.94 GAA, .921 SV %).
6.) University of Michigan - the Wolverines still smarting from losing to Air Force Academy in the first round of last season's regional will be ready to avenge last season's disappointing exit from the NCAA tourney. The Wolverines return a pretty good group pretty solid group of core players forwards; Louie Caporusso (24g-25a-49pts), Carl Hagelin (13g-18a-31pts), David Wohlberg (15g-15a-30pts), defenseman; Chad Langlais (6g-18a-25pts), and goalie Bryan Hogan (24-6-0, 1.97 GAA, .914 SV %). Expect the Wolverines to be at the top of the CCHA with Miami.
7.) Vermont University - the Catamounts lose their star forwards Peter Lenes (15g-16a-31pts) graduation and Viktor Stålberg (24g-22a-46pts) to the NHL but the Catamounts should be a pretty good team that returns a solid core of players. Key returnees Brian Roloff (10g-19a-29pts), Justin Milo (12g-14a-26pts). Vermont is my pick to win Hockey East.
8.) University of Minnesota - Key loss Ryan Stoa (22-g-22-a-46pts) signed with the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL in the off season. Super Sophomore Jordan Schroeder (13g-32a-45pts) returns for what will probably be his last season in the WCHA. Key new arrivals Zach Budish, Nick Leddy and Seth Helgeson.
9.) University of Wisconsin- On paper the Badgers would appear to have one of the best defensive blue lines in college hockey, Brendan Smith (9g-14a-23pts), Jake Gardiner (3g-18a-21pts), Ryan McDonagh (5g-11a-16pts), , Cody Goloubef (5g-8a-13pts) is a pretty solid top four defensive group. While there seems to be the perception around the WCHA that Wisconsin is all defense and no flash the Badgers were the 3rd ranked in the WCHA in scoring last season. This season the Badgers should be a pretty balanced this season as well offensively lead by Sophomore Derek Stephan (9g-24a-33pts) who is a game breaker and will only get better in his second season. The biggest question mark for the Badger is in goal.
10.) University of Mass Lowell - the River Hawks return most of their team including 12 Seniors from last season that 12-5- 2 after January 16th and almost landed them in the NCAA tourney falling one game short by losing to Boston University in the Championship game of the Hockey East tourney. Goalies Nevin Hamilton (10-7-1, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV %) and Carter Hutton (9-8-1, 2.06 GAA, .916 SV %) make up a pretty nice two headed monster in net for U-Mass Lowell.
The Rest of the Field.
11.) University of Minnesota Duluth
12.) Boston College
13.) Yale University
14.) Princeton University
15.) University of New Hampshire
16.) Northeastern University
17.) Saint Cloud State University.
18.) Northern Michigan University
19.) Cornell University
20.) U.S. Air Force Academy