Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What We're Watching For This Offseason

Well, the offseason is here a couple of weeks earlier than we'd hoped for. It's time to power down a bit from the fever pitch of the dying weeks of the regular season and the first and sadly last week of the playoffs.

We'll still have coverage of the remainder of the ECAC Tournament (including a quarterfinal breakdown on Friday), and features on both the men's and women's NCAA Tournaments.

In the meantime, here's what to keep your eyes and ears open for as the long 7 month journey to October gets underway.

1. Will he or won't he?
It's a question that applies to three current Engineers and one recruit specifically, but could also pertain to a number of other recruits.

Senior-to-be Chase Polacek is, according to Hockey's Future, is drawing some attention from NHL scouts. As an undrafted free agent, Polacek has more options than he would have if he'd have been drafted, since there are 32 teams who could potentially be bidding for his services instead of being limited to the needs and whims of a single team. Ken Schott told us a few weeks ago that he doesn't see Polacek leaving. We'll be watching.

Sophomores-to-be Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo are also on the watch list, although there's a bit less concern that they might leave. Both are considered highly prized prospects for their respective NHL teams, but conventional wisdom says that both require a little more seasoning - in Pirri's case, a bit more size - before joining the professional ranks, even in the minor leagues.

Then there's the case of Jacob Laliberté, the stud forward recruit who has been dominating the CJHL all season long. Laliberté had 62 goals and 48 assists for 110 points in just 50 games this season. There remains some question about whether he will indeed come to RPI, or whether the lure of major junior will snatch him away. The Engineers recently got a commitment for next year from his current teammate in Cornwall, defenseman Guy Leboeuf, and has another recruit coming in next year in forward Brock Higgs, who played well with Laliberté in the World Junior Challenge. Might they play a role in sealing the deal?

Needless to say, if RPI can go 4-for-4 with these guys returning/arriving, last weekend's playoff series will be a distant memory. Could you imagine these 4 guys playing together on a power play unit with Bryan Brutlag or Mike Bergin as the QB?

Additionally, a couple of committed recruits, Nick Quinn and Luke Curadi, are still somewhat up in the air as to whether they will be arriving this year or in 2011. Similarly, there are rumors that Patrick Koudys may come a year earlier than previously expected, but he should still be on track to arrive in 2011.

2. The Red Carpet
Although RPI's early exit from the ECAC Playoffs basically assures that he won't be among the final 3 contenders for the award, we'll be watching over the next week to see if Chase Polacek is one of the 10 finalists. We think he did enough to earn a mention in the annual Hobey Baker highlight reel that plays at each tournament's neutral-site venue.

The Engineers also have a pair of potential candidates for the national rookie of the year award in Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo.

The ECAC awards will be handed out next week as well, with Polacek, Pirri, and D'Amigo all probable candidates for the league equivalents of those national awards.

3. Field House renovations
The last couple of years have seen various changes to the Field House, and those renovations are not done yet. Plans are in place to redo the exterior facing Peoples Avenue and to place a VIP suite in the empty spot where Section 1 used to be. There are also whiffs of a new scoreboard complete with video capability in the near future, especially after the video screen used during alumni weekend was met with positive reviews. How near term are these projects? Perhaps we'll find out this summer.

4. There is no offseason
Not when it comes to recruiting, anyway. We became aware of four commitments during the last offseason (Koudys, Quinn, Nick Bailen and Greg Burgdoerfer), three in 2008 (Pirri, D'Amigo, and Rabbani), and four in 2007 (Polacek, Beauregard, Kennedy, and Foss). We'll be keeping our ear to the ground for new recruits, tangling with finalizing the incoming freshman class and hopefully starting to get a good idea of what 2011 and maybe even 2012 will bring us for new players.

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We're also planning to offer quite a bit of Summer Cooler material, including (we hope) guest columns from around the college hockey world, preseason outlooks on all 58 Division I programs, and possibly some new features starting in September. It may be the offseason, but we hope you'll stick around here at Without a Peer for all of your RPI hockey needs.

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