Friday, July 22, 2011

Your 2011-12 (and beyond) RPI Engineers

OK, we've waited long enough.

Usually, the Institute drops its press release on incoming recruits in late May or early June, which essentially confirms the roster for the coming season. That still hasn't happened, mostly because of Allen York's departure necessitating a third goaltender and the long unsure nature of just which goaltender we'd see on campus this fall - Jason Kasdorf (who was selected by his hometown Winnipeg Jets in this year's draft) had been scheduled to replace York in 2012 and Scott Diebold (who committed after York's departure) had been noted in several places as a 2012 arrival as well. It is now known that Diebold will be arriving on campus.

We've got a pretty good idea at this point what the class will look like, so without further ado, let's take a look at the 2011-12 RPI Engineers.

Forwards
Gone: Chase Polacek, Tyler Helfrich, Bryan Brutlag, Scott Halpern and Kevin Beauregard.

Returning: Brock Higgs, C.J. Lee, Joel Malchuk, Marty O'Grady, Josh Rabbani, Alex Angers-Goulet, Patrick Cullen, Greg Burgdoerfer, Johnny Rogic, Matt Tinordi and Justin Smith.

Arriving: Jacob Laliberté, Matt Neal, Ryan Haggerty, Mark McGowan and Zach Schroeder.

It's never easy replacing a two-time Hobey Baker finalist, but the Engineers do have some guys returning and arriving that can pick up the slack a little. Polacek and Helfrich led the team in goals by a solid amount, and Brutlag was also a very solid contributor on both ends of the ice. Of the returning forwards, Higgs, Lee and O'Grady seem poised to lead offensively, and the Engineer faithful continue to hope for a return to form from Cullen, who just hasn't put up the same numbers he did as a freshman in the last two years (though the same was true of Tyler Helfrich last year, and he came out with a terrific senior season). Rogic may also be more of an offensive factor this year, while Malchuk and Rabbani will almost certainly be reliable as the grinders we've come to know and love. Throw in one of the best defensive forwards in the ECAC in Angers-Goulet and you've got a well rounded group of forwards coming back, even if the ones who got the headlines last year aren't.

Five very talented incoming forwards will almost certainly have a significant role as well, though it's always tough to know exactly what you'll get out of freshmen. Laliberté and Neal are, without a doubt, future leaders on this team and they could well be very big contributors right out of the gate, similar to Jerry D'Amigo and Brandon Pirri (though, both undrafted, they should have longer careers in Troy). Haggerty, of course, comes from the elite US Under-18 team and should see lots of ice time, Schroeder was one of the top high school players in Minnesota last year, and McGowan had strong numbers in Ontario as well. It's going to be exciting to find out exactly what these guys will bring to the table once the games get underway - especially Laliberté, who RPI fans have been waiting for with bated breath for years.


Defensemen
Gone: John Kennedy and Jeff Foss.

Returning: Nick Bailen, Mike Bergin, Pat Koudys, Guy Leboeuf and Bo Dolan.

Arriving: Luke Curadi, Curtis Leonard, and a player to be named later.

Obviously, a pair of leaders like Kennedy and Foss will be missed, but the core of the defensemen that helped make RPI successful last year will be returning, and a pair of very solid, very big recruits will be filling those skates. Curadi is simply enormous, and though scouting reports say he's not as fleet of skate as he could be, his size alone is going to make opposing forwards think twice about getting near him and his toughness is unquestioned. Bradley isn't quite as big as Curadi, but he's got the skating and stickhandling needed to be a force.

Together with Koudys, Leboeuf and Bergin, they make for an intimidating D-corps. Koudys is poised for a breakout season as he continues to blend into the college game (even as a sophomore, he's still only 18 until November), and don't forget returning All-American Nick Bailen's solid two-way ability - he's the leading overall returning scorer.

That "player to be named later?" That'll be the eighth defenseman, which Appert has said will be a walk-on determined by tryout. The early favorite would seem to be sophomore Bruce Statton, who tried out last year for the team and even played in the Cherry and White game. Statton led the club team in goals last season as a defenseman. Senior Ryan O'Neill, who was a regional all-star could also be in contention, or perhaps an unknown freshman candidate will appear. At any rate, the eighth defenseman probably won't get much ice time - he'll mostly be an emergency option if the blueliners are suffering more than one injury, the way Kevin Beauregard and Bryan Brutlag were kept in potential reserve for emergency d-man duty last year.

Goaltenders
Gone: Allen York.

Returning: Bryce Merriam and Jeremy Coupal.

Arriving: Scott Diebold.

The situation in net is usually pretty easy to break down since you're usually only talking about one or two guys. Regardless of whether Kasdorf or Diebold come to Troy in August (or an unknown third party), the starting job belongs to Merriam. Appert has said repeatedly that Merriam was recruited to be a starter, and with York gone, it is his time to shine. He's been in York's shadow for two years, but when called upon last year after York suffered an injury, he showed that while he wasn't quite York, he was a perfectly capable Division I goaltender in his own right. Now that it's his time, we should be fine with Merriam, the definition of a lunchpail goalie, in the crease.

Coupal is a great guy with a great personality (and hard-working, too, given all the work he's done for club hockey at the Institute), but his role is as the practice goaltender and the emergency third goalie. The Engineers need a more solid option directly behind Merriam, and that's where Diebold comes in. He had an impressive rookie season with Tri-City of the USHL last season, and while he probably could have used an extra year in juniors to hone his game, RPI needs another goaltender. Will he be able to adjust to the rigors of college hockey? His 2.12 GAA in a very difficult league suggests he might, but fortunately the weight of the team won't fall on his shoulders next year - he'll be afforded the opportunity to ease himself into college hockey.

When Jason Kasdorf arrives in 2012, the Engineers will have three regular game-able goaltenders for the first time since 2004, when Nate Marsters, Kevin Kurk, and Andrew Martin were together.

And speaking of 2012, here's a quick look at the current recruiting situation for future seasons as it stands right now.

Looking ahead
2012-13
Graduating forwards: Angers-Goulet, Cullen, Malchuk, Rabbani and Smith
Arriving forwards: Mike Zalewski, Mark Miller, more to come
Graduating defensemen: Bergin (maybe, he does potentially have a medical redshirt year to use)
Arriving defensemen: Chris Bradley
Graduating goaltenders: Coupal
Arriving goaltenders: Kasdorf

2013-14
Graduating forwards: Burgdoerfer, Lee and O'Grady
Arriving forwards: Jake Wood, possibly Drew Melanson
Graduating defensemen: Bailen (Bergin if he uses the redshirt)
Graduating goaltenders: Merriam

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