Monday, May 24, 2010

The 2010-11 Engineers at a Glance

RPI has released the official information sheet on the incoming Class of 2014 - as we mentioned, two of which are actually members of the Class of 2013. Now we can officially take a look at next season's roster as compared with last season and get a good idea of what to expect.

Gone: Paul Kerins, Christian Morissette and Garett Vassel.

Back: Alex Angers-Goulet, Bryan Brutlag, Patrick Cullen, Jerry D'Amigo, Scott Halpern, Tyler Helfrich, C.J. Lee, Joel Malchuk, Marty O'Grady, Brandon Pirri, Chase Polacek, Josh Rabbani, Justin Smith and Jordan Watts.

Recruits: Greg Burgdoerfer, Brock Higgs, Johnny Rogic and Matt Tinordi.


Even without Jacob Laliberté, there are already plenty of replacements for the forwards the Engineers are losing in this class, with Higgs or Rogic as a possible replacement for Kerins (although that could also fall to Scott Halpern, Tyler Helfrich, or Patrick Cullen) and with Burgdoerfer and/or Tinordi to fill Vassel's role, though both men may be more offensively oriented than Vassel was (and Justin Smith and Josh Rabbani have the bonafides to play Vassel's checking line role as well from time to time). Meanwhile, Morrissette left the team midseason without a single game in the Engineer lineup - replacing him is not an issue.

With 18 forwards on the roster and only 12 forward slots open per game, the competition is going to be fierce for playing time. That can even be cut down to 15 forwards competing for 9 slots, since it's hard to imagine the trio of D'Amigo, Pirri, and Polacek missing any game for which they're healthy. Given their success from last season, it's equally hard to see Brutlag or O'Grady missing any significant time. Joel Malchuk was a rock on the fourth line all year, whether that was a checking line or a pseudo-scoring line. So what does that leave us with? 6 positions on forward lines to be competed for by 12 players. The math says that's a lot of guys wearing suits in the stands - and looking at the names involved, that adds up to solid talent that won't be playing every night.

That's certainly not a bad problem to have. Not only does that provide rich depth in case of injuries or slumps, it also provides flexibility for dealing with different teams with different combinations of athletes. If you want speed, you can put together lines with the ability to blow the other team away with guys like Lee, Rogic, and Watts. If you want physicality, you've got more than enough to put together a fearsome checking line that might even be able to help offensively with Burgdoerfer, Rabbani, Smith, or Tinordi. Need guys to put the puck on net? Aside from the big three of D'Amigo, Pirri, and Polacek, you've got your reserve of Angers-Goulet, Cullen, Halpern, Helfrich, and Higgs. Mix and match as required.

Does the loss of a talented recruit like Laliberté sting? A little bit. But in this upcoming season, he would have been just another weapon in an already potentially fearsome arsenal. Time will tell if he can grow into a potential replacement for Polacek in 2011.

Gone: Erik Burgdoerfer, Christian Jensen, Peter Merth and Mark Zarbo.

Back: Mike Bergin, Kevin Beauregard, Jeff Foss and John Kennedy.

Recruits: Nick Bailen, Bo Dolan, Patrick Koudys, and Guy Leboeuf.


The defensive situation is a little more complicated, but there's definitely now a bigger safety net than we had last season. With only three regulars returning in Bergin, Foss, and Kennedy, that leaves three positions to be filled every night by four incoming student-athletes.

Peter Merth's role as one of the defensive rocks will almost assuredly be taken by Nick Bailen, who comes in with a year of NCAA experience under his belt and is likely the most talented single player coming onto the team next season. As long as he integrates into the team quickly, he'll definitely provide some much needed stability in what is otherwise going to be a half inexperienced/half experienced defensive corps.

Erik Burgdoerfer brought a very well noted physical aspect to his game, and of the remaining three players, there's none that fits that bill better than Bo Dolan. Appert described him as "a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who adds to our attacking style of play. More importantly, he is a fierce competitor." That last clause, along with those bruising battles we showed you a couple of weeks ago, lends one to believe that Dolan is the kind of player that isn't going to be taking much guff from the forwards of the ECAC. Expect to see him as a regular in the lineup.

The final spot, replacing Christian Jensen, will likely be something of a rotation between two 6'4" freshmen in Koudys and Leboeuf. Koudys is young, but has his size and a lot of upside to grow into a top defender. Leboeuf is older, but without the upside or room to grow. He may well see a career at RPI similar to that of Jensen - on again, off again when it comes to playing time, but a solid 5th or 6th defenseman when he's called on.

That leaves Mark Zarbo to be replaced. He only played in one game last season, but for stretches of the year he was the only depth available on the blue line. Essentially, Beauregard's move from forward to defenseman allows him to take Zarbo's role of emergency backup, but don't forget that in a pinch, Bryan Brutlag can play back as well.

As far as the power play is concerned, last season saw Bergin and Brutlag largely running the show. From all reports, Bailen is well versed in quarterbacking a man advantage as well. So there's depth in that position, too.

The low number of returning regulars leads the defense to be the number one question mark heading into next season, but the potential certainly is there for excellence, especially if Bailen and Dolan play as advertised.

This position will continue to be in flux in 2011 after Kennedy and Foss graduate - but as we've pointed out, their replacements (Curadi and Quinn) will have a bit of a leg up when they get to Troy.

Gone: None.

Back: Joey Harkenrider, Bryce Merriam and Allen York.

Recruits: None.


Pretty clear cut here - Allen York will come into next season with a reputation as one of the elite goaltenders in the ECAC, given that he was named second team All-ECAC, and the first team goaltender, Cornell's Ben Scrivens, has graduated. He took the driver's seat in net during the playoffs his freshman season and has not relinquished control. Bryce Merriam will be his capable backup - we saw flashes of brilliance from him last season which display his capacity to be the top goaltender if he needs to be (like the BU game), but we also saw some stinkers while York was hurt (like Freakout). Hopefully, a year under his belt will help Merriam improve next season. As for Harkenrider, he's what RPI fans have come to expect from the practice goalie - a big heart and a lot of fans, but not much game time and for a reason.

That's not a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. That's just plain light. As long as the defense doesn't have too big of a learning curve, all of the assets are now in place for the Engineers to return after a long absence as one of the elite teams in the ECAC. Last season's heightened expectations largely came to fruition - when you're disappointed after not earning the first-round bye, you're certainly on the rise. Now, with a returning Hobey Baker candidate, a pair of super sophs up front with a solid year of college hockey added to their resumes, one of the best goaltenders in the league, and an incoming class that looks ready to bring depth, flexibility, and balance to the team, expectations have not been this high in a decade.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010-11 Men's Hockey Schedule

The schedule hasn't been released in the typical press release fashion yet, but it is included in the season ticket mailings which have been sent out (and which we have received). That's good enough for us. Here's the official schedule for the men next season, with home games in caps:

Last updated: September 1st

Sat. 2 - Cherry and White Scrimmage
Tue. 5 - NEW BRUNSWICK (exhibition)
Fri. 8 - at Colorado College
Sat. 9 - at Colorado College
Fri. 15 - at Northeastern
Sat. 16 - BENTLEY
Fri. 22 - RIT
Sat. 23 - NIAGARA
Sat. 30 - vs. Union (Lake Placid, NY)

Fri. 5 - at Dartmouth
Sat. 6 - at Harvard
Fri. 12 - at Union
Sat. 13 - UNION (Black Saturday)
Fri. 26 - UCONN (RPI Invitational)

Fri. 3 - at Yale
Sat. 4 - at Brown
Sun. 19 - USA JUNIOR TEAM (exhibition)
Thu. 30 - at Alabama-Huntsville
Fri. 31 - at Alabama-Huntsville

Fri. 14 - at Cornell
Sat. 15 - at Colgate
Fri. 21 - HARVARD
Fri. 28 - BROWN
Sat. 29 - YALE (Big Red Freakout!)

Fri. 4 - at Quinnipiac
Sat. 5 - at Princeton
Fri. 11 - COLGATE
Sat. 12 - CORNELL (Whiteout)
Fri. 18 - at St. Lawrence
Sat. 19 - at Clarkson
Sat. 26 - QUINNIPIAC (Senior Night)

Fri-Sun 4-6 - ECAC First Round
Fri-Sun 11-13 - ECAC Quarterfinals
Fri. 18 - ECAC Semifinals (Atlantic City, NJ)
Sat. 19 - ECAC Championship (Atlantic City, NJ)
Fri-Sun 25-27 - NCAA Regionals (Manchester, NH; Bridgeport, CT; Green Bay, WI; St. Louis, MO)

Thu. 7 - NCAA Frozen Four (St. Paul, MN)
Sat. 9 - NCAA Championship (St. Paul, MN)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Severe Fisking of Bucky Gleason

I hate to do this, because this guy seems to be on the right track in discussing what he wants to discuss, but he trips and falls over himself so many times along the way that it practically requires a fisking.

First, for those that are unaware, the definition of "fisking."

fisking. n. A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic, and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form.
OK. So now that that's out of the way, let me introduce you to one Bucky Gleason. Seems like a decent guy. Covers the Sabres for The Buffalo News. Enthusiastic. Highly supportive of growth for college hockey in the Buffalo area. Sounds sweet, right? Well, let's make sure we've got our ducks in a row before we start making requests here.

If it's obvious to Paul Kelly all the way from his office in Newton, Mass., how can it remain largely overlooked here? Buffalo is one of the premier hockey hotbeds in the country. Check the television ratings. Check the youth leagues. Check the number of ex-NHL players who stick around.

News flash: Hockey is huge in Buffalo no matter how many years sail past without the Sabres winning the Stanley Cup. Thing is, this region could celebrate a major hockey title if college administrators opened their eyes and understood the opportunity before them.

Aaand stop. Gleason starts off on a roll with a number of really good points about why Buffalo is a top hockey hotbed. Having experienced a Sabres game at HSBC Arena this past season, I get that very much. And truth be told, I think there's definitely a room for growth in the region for college hockey. Yes, I agree with the main premise of his argument.

But any college hockey fan will tell you that it takes a lot more than administrators opening their eyes, or having opportunity, to celebrate a major hockey title in college hockey, what the layman would refer to as "the national championship." Ask the University of Michigan how their long streak of NCAA Tournament appearances has translated into "major hockey titles." Their rivals in East Lansing won one a couple of years ago, but they're almost as successful at taking the taco lately. Ask New Hampshire. Ask Colorado College. Ask St. Cloud State. They're all in hockey hotbeds too, and they focus a LOT of attention on their teams, and yet... nothing.

Kelly, the former NHL players' association chief, is now executive director of College Hockey Inc. Basically, his group offers guidance for colleges looking to build bigger, better programs. And what he sees here is a geographic gold mine begging for a major Division I college program that could compete with the best teams in the country.

"Buffalo is a natural," Kelly said. "You're in the center of hockey up there. You're right on the Ontario border. Yes, it would make a great deal of sense, definitely."

OK, OK. Fair points. I'll let him slide on referring to College Hockey Inc. only as an outfit offering guidance to colleges, though to be completely honest, CHI is also focusing big time on lobbying junior A players to maintain their NCAA eligibility and choose college over major juniors. They're going to be a major player in the brewing talent war.

Kelly's absolutely right. Given their geography and their high level of support for the game, Buffalo's a natural location for college hockey to grow. He's also investigating California, which is both intriguing and logical, given their massive population and an ever growing supply of players who hail from the Golden State.

All it takes to tap into our natural resources is vision and commitment, which have been lacking at Canisius, Niagara and the University at Buffalo. The first two have at least made the attempt. UB has no valid excuse for not putting together a program that has the potential to become a national powerhouse quickly.

Heck, it should be an arms race.


I don't know where to begin here. It's true Canisius and Niagara have "made the attempt." Niagara's even made some strides. But to say UB has "no valid excuse" is laughable, and to say that they have "the potential to become a national powerhouse quickly' is even worse.

No one becomes a national powerhouse quickly. Ask Rico Blasi at Miami. He's been there for 11 seasons, and they weren't all 1st place finishes and Frozen Four appearances. It took him the better part of a decade to build his program into one of the newly dominant programs in the nation - and he wasn't starting from scratch, and he wasn't in a minor conference like Canisius and Niagara are.

Constantly, people are saying that such and such a school has no excuse for not playing varsity hockey. Syracuse and Penn State are usually the most commonly cited schools in the East. Whenever someone says this, they betray the fact that they don't know what goes into starting up a varsity hockey program. It's very expensive - more expensive to start-up than most sports, given the costs of a rink and the machinery necessary to maintain an ice surface, or the generally high cost of renting ice time.
Rochester Institute of Technology became a national contender in five years. RIT last season emerged from Atlantic Hockey, which included Canisius, and reached the Frozen Four. It was a great story, one that could easily be repeated if administrators in our region get their heads out of the sand. This is a no-brainer, a belt-high fastball down the middle.

A history lesson, Mr. Gleason. Back in 2006, George Mason University shocked the sporting world when they advanced to the Final Four in men's basketball. They were the feel good, Cinderella story of the decade. Did anyone call them "national contenders?" No, and for good reason. They'd done very well in overachieving in a single-elimination tournament, but that's where it ended. They've played in precisely one more NCAA tournament GAME since then, losing to Notre Dame.

Same goes for RIT. They were easily the feel good, Cinderella story of the year in advancing to the Frozen Four. I don't even like them, and I can make that assertion. But if you're putting your money down on them making a repeat appearance in St. Paul next season, I suggest you prepare to lose your bet. It WAS a great story, but the only way it's likely to happen is if coaches and administrators KEEP their heads in the sand when it comes to minor conference teams like RIT this year and Bemidji State last year (although they're no longer minor conference). They're no slouch, but they aren't often going to be world beaters. They did very well in overachieving, but their Frozen Four game with Wisconsin was... less than memorable to say the least. (Personally, I'd rather not have my team there than watch them get systematically torn apart by a vastly superior team, but hey, that's just me.)

Canisius coach Dave Smith has done a terrific job, but he's tangled in an unfair fight despite the pretty campus, excellent academics and rich tradition. Recruiting hits a wall when he's forced to admit the home rink rests — where? — on Buffalo State's campus.

Rumblings had Sabres owner Tom Golisano willing to donate some $10 million toward an on- campus events center, which would house graduation ceremonies, basketball and hockey, if Canisius approached him. School officials are waiting for him to come to them.

Good heavens, people, make it work. Canisius hockey with a 4,000-seat rink could become Miami of Ohio hockey, which spent most of last season as the top-ranked team in the country.

Oh. My. God.

Canisius just needs a 4,000 seat rink in order to become the best team in the country? Hells bells! We've got way more than that at RPI. Where are all of our 1st place votes in the poll? Does it have to be brand new? Well shoot, Quinnipiac should have been at least to the Frozen Four by now if Miami is the model.

Canisius has come a long way from where they were before Dave Smith took over. Cory Conacher wouldn't have even sniffed Canisius before Smith took charge there. They do need an arena of their own if they're going to continue to grow. But let's not get carried away here. They still play in Atlantic Hockey. Their prospects for getting access to a Big Three conference is lower than a lot of their peers in Atlantic Hockey. They won't be in the ECAC anytime soon, either.

Oh, and that "rich tradition" at Canisius? It pales in comparison to other far more established programs. But I'm sure Tom Golisano can just sprinkle his magical fairy dust and fix that.
Niagara was going in the right direction before pulling back when it should have pushed. The Purple Eagles had 18 scholarships and planned to expand Dwyer Arena; then its conference folded. It joined Atlantic Hockey, which allows only 12 scholarships. The concrete had been poured, but why expand the arena after contracting the program?
Contracting the program? Have you been paying attention, Bucky? I know you are, because you referenced this in the passage above. If Niagara hadn't joined Atlantic Hockey, they'd be in a conference with precisely ONE other school, that other school being in ALABAMA. This wasn't something they decided to do in the middle of the night as some kind of cost-saving measure. Niagara's a MAAC school. Atlantic Hockey was once operated by the MAAC, as the MAAC. So why was Niagara never part of the MAAC, Bucky? They didn't want to play with six less scholarships. But when the rest of the teams in your conference up and leave, what are you supposed to do? Dangle in the wind, or accept the shelter of another conference when they come calling? It was a no-brainer decision. Now they've got to figure out how to operate with six fewer scholarships. Does that mean they're "contracting the program?" Of course not! Strangely enough, Niagara can't just show up on the CCHA or the ECAC's doorstep and demand entrance just because they want a full complement of scholarships. It doesn't work that way.
And then there's UB, which could build a major D-I contender in no time. The backward thinking common in state government suggests a lack of funding is the problem. Top officials haven't caught on to the idea that strong hockey programs often turn a profit. Just ask Michigan.
OK, sure. Ask Michigan. Then ask, oh, I don't know, practically anyone else. There are a lot of strong hockey programs that are nowhere near turning a profit. What makes you think that UB, which would be starting off with no hockey pedigree whatsoever other than that of their region, and zero college hockey credibility, would turn a profit at any time in the next 50 years? Look at RPI. It's true, Albany's not a major hockey hotbed. It's not even where it was 15 years ago. But RPI's at least got its college hockey pedigree to play with, and we're not even close to turning a profit, even when we were winning national championships. UB doesn't even have that. So how exactly are they supposed to be a "major D-I contender in no time?"

My fantasy: Canisius and Niagara leave Atlantic Hockey, which has 12 teams but only one automatic bid. Ivy League schools band together, as they do in other sports. Toss Canisius, Niagara, RIT, UB, Mercyhurst, St. Lawrence, Clarkson and perhaps Syracuse, if it also wakes up, into a new conference.

It seems like a natural.

(headdesk) (headdesk) (headdesk)

First things first. "Atlantic Hockey has 12 teams but only one automatic bid?" NO WAY! So does the ECAC! So did the CCHA for the last 10 years! So will the WCHA (by the numbers, the best top-to-bottom league in the nation) next season when they expand to 12 teams! Hockey East's only got 10 teams but hey, they've only got one automatic bid, TOO!

People playing "create your own conference" is such a pet peeve of mine, especially when its done haphazardly and especially when you toss in teams without existing programs, like you could point your finger and say, "hey, you. Start a program, NOW." We've already gone over why that's silly. It's something of a running joke on the message board that uninformed newbies start trying to split Harvard off from the rest of the Ivies and put them into Hockey East, or put both Alaska schools in the same conference (they're split for a reason), or... you know, create other mash-up conferences that revolve around nothing but geography and disregard everything else, including traditional rivalries and associations. Clarkson and RPI were rumored back in the 1980s to be part of the Hockey East split, but they stayed put to maintain their associations with the Ivies. Why would Clarkson leave Cornell and Harvard behind for... Canisius, Buffalo, and Mercyhurst?

By the way, Syracuse "if it wakes up" isn't starting a men's program any time soon. They got a generous donation with a mandate to start a hockey team, and they cut a bunch of programs in order to start... a women's team. And where's Robert Morris, while you're at it? They've got a rink on campus, they've got an association with a professional team, and they fit geographically. I'd think they'd be the kings of that league, right?

Bucky, is this new league of yours going to get more than one automatic bid? If so, I'd like to know why. I mean, is it purely on the awesome factor? Help me out here.

Here's the long and the short of it. Bucky's right about Buffalo having all kinds of potential for college hockey, but the enthusiasm needs to be a little more muted, because none of the reasons he gave for the potential or the speed with which that potential can be reached are in any way reasonable.

And come on, Bucky! Where's the mention that the Frozen Four was in Buffalo in 2003. Where's the mention that Buffalo had an unsuccessful bid for the 2013/2014 Frozen Fours? The many Division III programs in Western New York? Come on!

Homework. Please, writers, do your homework before you start talking about something on this kind of scale.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In Case You've Missed It...

The Record's Ed Weaver has written a blog entry which seems to definitively put to rest most of the remaining questions about next year's coaching staff and recruit class.

Here's the quick and dirty recap.
* Nolan Graham will indeed be the next assistant coach at RPI, replacing Jim Montgomery.
* Jacob Laliberté doesn't appear to be coming in - and it's a maturity issue. His status for 2011 is up in the air, but he would have to return to junior A hockey, whether in the CJHL or elsewhere, in order to remain eligible.
* Patrick Koudys is indeed coming in a year earlier than initially expected, as we reported earlier this week.

* Johnny Rogic is coming - not that we doubted it per se, it's just that Weaver provides the first independent confirmation of his commitment.

Since we haven't had a solid discussion on Rogic yet, here are a couple of highlight videos to show some of his stuff.

Rogic is apparently something of a fan favorite at Alberni Valley. He has his own fan club on Facebook based out of Port Alberni. Here's an isolation shot of him scoring a goal from down low.

This one shows off some of his solid speed - the relevant segment begins about 40 seconds in.

* RPI may be close to a commitment from Penticton defenseman Bo Dolan. He's a 1990 birth year, which means he still has another year left to play junior A. Whether he would be incoming this year or next year is unknown. The defensive corps needs to at least replace Erik Burgdoerfer, Peter Merth, and Christian Jensen, that's accomplished by bringing in Leboeuf, Koudys, and Bailen. Mark Zarbo, who appeared in one game last year, may be functionally replaced by Kevin Beauregard, who we understand practiced on the blueline in the latter half of the season. Whether Dolan would come in this year or next year depends on whether Appert wants a replacement for Bryan Brutlag (who's now a forward) this year or wants Dolan to come in for 2011-12 with Curadi and Quinn to replace Brutlag, Kennedy, and Foss all at once.

Thinking long and hard about it, if RPI can land Dolan, 2010 might make the most sense. Dolan's addition would give the Engineers a total of seven defensemen, eight if you include Brutlag, nine if you include Beauregard. In that sense, Dolan would replace Brutlag as a primary defenseman, Brutlag would be semi-replacing Mark Zarbo as an emergency backup, and Beauregard would be semi-replacing Garett Vassel as a forward who was available for duty on the blueline when absolutely needed. That's the depth at defense that the Engineers need going into 2010-11, considering that they seem to be all set in the scoring and goaltending arenas.

But it's all moot until Chris Heisenberg lets us know that Dolan will be an Engineer.

Like Bailen and Curadi, Dolan likes to scrap. He won't be able to do that in college, but fighters in juniors generally translate into tough hitters in the NCAA. In this clip, Dolan (#22) takes down a guy who's got a couple of inches on him, hanging in there even though he's getting wailed on:

Another Dolan fight, this one another back and forth affair until Dolan (#4) puts the guy on his backside:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Evolving Picture

Well, it's only been a week since we laid out the amorphous situation that the men's program finds itself in as we move into the summer, but already we are finding some answers.

Nothing has been confirmed by RPI yet, but the understanding right now is that Nolan Graham, RPI class of2003, will be coming aboard as the replacement for Jim Montgomery among Seth Appert's lieutenants.

Graham notched 27 goals and 50 assists in 140 games during his four years in Troy before moving on to a three-year career in the minor leagues, splitting time in the ECHL during his first pro season with the Alaska Aces and the Long Beach Ice Dogs before playing two years for the Lubbock Cotton Kings of the CHL. After hanging up the skates, Graham returned to his hometown of Nanaimo, B.C., where he joined the staff of the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers as an assistant coach. During his three-year tenure, the Clippers won the Fred Page Cup in 2007 as BCHL champions. In March 2009, he took the reins of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in Port Alberni, B.C., as head coach and general manager, signing a deal through 2012.

Under Graham, the Bulldogs succeeded right away, finishing at the top of the BCHL's Coastal Conference with a record of 45-12-1-2, turning around a team that finished with a record of 16-36-1-7 just a year prior, and taking the Bulldogs to the BCHL semifinals.

The 30-year-old Graham is slightly younger than assistant coach Bryan Vines, which dispels the idea that Appert was necessarily looking for an older, more experienced assistant that some thought put recent alums like Graham, Kevin Broad and Union assistant Ben Barr out of the running. But given Graham's four-year record as a coach and his already existing connections to RPI, it's possible that he could be the perfect fit.

Two other questions were solved regarding the myriad recruiting issues that we mentioned last week. On Saturday, the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reported that Nick Quinn would indeed be playing for Montgomery and the Dubuque Fighting Saints next season alongside Luke Curadi. This is a pairing that should excite RPI and Dubuque fans alike - both are very strong defensive recruits with big upside. Dubuque fans will get a season of solid defense from a pair of big guys, RPI fans will hopefully get two freshmen defensemen to replace John Kennedy and Jeff Foss in 2011 who will have already played together under a coach who knows what they'll be expected to do at RPI - meaning they should be ready to hit the ground running when they arrive at a level we might not normally associate with a freshman.

Quinn's confirmed move to Dubuque opened questions about the team's defense for next season, but those questions were answered pretty quickly as Patrick Koudys' name popped up in the campus directory on Sunday, all but confirming that he will be on campus for the 2010-11 school year, a year earlier than expected. When the puck drops in October, Koudys will still be two months shy of his 18th birthday. This starts the clock early for the young defenseman, but he brings some immediate size and skill - not to mention, some required depth - to the RPI blueline. He may spend his first year or two getting up to speed and filling out his massive frame, but hopefully he'll develop into the solid prospect that he's been expected to become. It also means there is still at least one more defenseman that will be needed for 2011, but there's plenty of time to worry about that.

With Quinn confirmed to be coming in 2011 and Koudys now confirmed to be joining Burgdoerfer, Bailen, Leboeuf, Tinordi, and Higgs, that leaves just two more question marks among known recruits - Jacob Laliberté and Johnny Rogic.

Let's touch on Rogic first. He played last season for Alberni Valley and was coached by Nolan Graham. Is that another hint that he might be on his way to Troy? We didn't find out about Rogic through Chris Heisenberg until after it was known that Jim Montgomery was leaving Troy. Perhaps Graham's candidacy for the RPI job was a deal-sealer? At any rate, we may be finding out soon about Rogic.

Laliberté, on the other hand, now suddenly has more questions. We know he's not the second recruit in Iowa, and even though Montgomery has now said he's looking to stock his team with scorers, Laliberté is unlikely to be one of those forwards. The USHL has a cap on the number of international players that a team can have, and Quinn makes two in Dubuque already - the other being a Swedish defenseman that is bound for Cornell in 2011. Plus, while it's exciting to have a guy with RPI connections as a head coach in the USHL, this is ultimately Montgomery's team. He might nudge some uncommitted talent in our direction, but it's their choice as to whether RPI is the right fit - he doesn't suddenly create a "pipeline to Troy." Additionally, his goal is going to be to develop talent and win hockey games, not to be a development ground for RPI.

So what are Laliberté's options for next season?

1) Troy. The best-case scenario. That puts him in the fold.
2) Major junior. The worst-case scenario. That puts him out.
3) A return to Cornwall. Probably the second worst-case scenario. Laliberté has already dominated the CJHL for two years running. There's really not much more room for growth in Cornwall.
4) A move to the BCHL or the USHL. These leagues are generally more competitive and better development grounds for college-bound players, especially the USHL. If Laliberté doesn't come to Troy this year, this is the second best option. Either league would move him out of his local comfort zone and allow him to continue to grow as a player before coming to RPI.

In the long run, whether it's this year or next year, college is probably the best route to professional hockey for Laliberté. Laliberté has been variously listed at 5'9" or 5'10". That's pretty short for the NHL. But look at the route the shortest players in the NHL have taken. Brian Gionta? He's 5'7" and had four dominant years at Boston College. Martin St. Louis? We all remember how much his 5'9" frame tortured the ECAC while he was at Vermont - and he was undrafted. Zach Parise? 5' 11" out of North Dakota. Remember 5' 10" center Todd White from Clarkson? He's had a 12-year career in the NHL after being undrafted. The list goes on and on - a disproportionate number of smaller North American players in the NHL came through the college ranks.

Laliberté compares favorably to another small player who lit up the CJHL - St. Cloud State's Ryan Lasch, a 5' 7" forward who just finished his collegiate career as the all time leading scorer in SCSU history. That's no mean feat, and he lit up Cornell's Ben Scrivens at the Frozen Four skills competition just for good measure. Lasch was overlooked because of his size by major junior (and a number of college programs), but now he might be on his way to a professional career thanks to the gaudy numbers he put up in college, and in one of the toughest leagues in the nation to boot. Laliberté has a chance to keep from being pigeonholed at the next level as being too short if he comes to RPI.

Some questions answered, some still yet to be solved, but the waiting game continues.