Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pipeline 2014: A Bunch of College Kids

It's becoming increasingly difficult to predict things when it comes to recruiting, but without a doubt, there's one thing that never changes - recruiting is element number one dictating success in the future, and even if it's getting harder to pinpoint exactly when that future is coming, the grander look at things offers a glimpse of what is to come.

Welcome to Without a Peer's annual pipeline feature, which takes a close look at the future of RPI hockey by running down the details of players who have made their commitments to don the Cherry and White in the near future.

This season, we have profiles of ten players, all of which we are expecting to be a part of the next two classes at the Institute - the Class of 2018 and 2019, respectively. Who's coming when... well, that's a tough one to nail down, especially when it comes to the defensemen. With four defensemen anticipated to graduate in 2014 and 2015 - Guy Leboeuf, Bo Dolan, Luke Curadi, and Curtis Leonard - the Engineers have five blueliners ready to come in during that time period, three of which are either 18 or turning 18 this year, making it a bit difficult to hammer down exactly who is coming when. We'll get to that within.

The ever-changing demands at forward weigh heavily as well. In 2009-10 at the start of the season, the Engineers had 18 forwards on their roster. A year later, it was down to 16. This season, there are only 15 forwards, meaning that there are only three scratches up front on any given night. It's not a very strong cushion for injuries, which increases the likelihood of additional players coming on board soon - maybe.

Big ups as always to Reilly Hamilton, who for the fifth straight year did up some awesome looking graphics for each incoming recruit. The recruit's current jersey number is followed by their position and their birth year. The "projection to replace," as in years past, is an attempt to visualize where they will fit onto the roster compared to contemporary recruits and graduating/departing players, and isn't necessarily a direct correlation of talent, play style, or output expectations.

Bear in mind also that none of us have actually seen any of these recruits play, a lot of this is a fusion of scouting reports, statistics, and observation from afar coming together to produce the best look we can provide of the future of RPI hockey.

Doing this a bit different this year - rather than strictly list every recruit in the order of their commitment and expected arrival, let's take a look at each position individually.


Team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Projected to replace: Johnny Rogic

Appearing in our pipeline feature for the third time since his commitment in January 2011, we thought at this time last year that we'd be seeing Melanson in Troy in time for the current season. For the second straight year, we got the call wrong on a forward we thought we'd see sooner rather than later - in 2012, we predicted Riley Bourbonnais would be at RPI in time for the 2012-13 season, and of course he's only now in his freshman year.

Melanson's signing of a National Letter of Intent in late 2012 seemed to indicate that he was bound for Troy in 2013, but apparently there's not a hard and fast rule mandating that a signed NLI results in matriculation the following school year. However, it's at least a decent indication that 2014, previously long expected to be his arrival time, is in the cards after all.

Starting last season as a 17-year-old in the USHL, Melanson had a 13-16-29 line with the Omaha Lancers, not bad for a guy who was younger and smaller than most of the other players in the league. Even still, it was good enough to be 4th on his team in scoring. Some NHL scouts suggested last year that he had reached his upside, but he has shown growth since then. This season, Melanson is operating at nearly a point per game on a much better Waterloo team than the Omaha squad he was with last season (although Omaha is now back in their usual spot near the top of the USHL).

The word on Melanson has always been that he's got good speed and he's got a scoring touch. Now that he's certainly finding that scoring touch at the next level, hopefully there's more growth in his future when he comes to RPI. The only major knock on him for the last three years has been his lack of size, but that seems to be changing as well. He's gained weight to the tune of about 25 to 30 pounds since our last check in, and while there's still some room for improvement there too, it's more in line with what to expect from a freshman of his height. All in all, exciting things are hoped for with Melanson.

Team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Projected to replace: Brock Higgs

We've been excited about Tironese basically ever since he committed in May 2012, and there's been very little to change that opinion in the intervening time period. The big change this season for Tironese is certainly his change of scenery.

Originally expected to see a third season with the Alberni Valley of the BCHL - where it was thought that he would be one of the top point producers in the league after putting together 57 points in 51 games for the Bulldogs - Tironese was instead drafted in the 1st round (10th overall) of the USHL Draft by Green Bay, an unexpected turn of events. Most junior teams won't take a player in the first round that they don't know will be coming to play for them the following season.

What followed was a series of events that landed Tironese in Green Bay under the tutelage of Derek Lalonde. After attending Green Bay's preseason camp along with SLU recruit Ryan Lough (who also played for Alberni Valley), the Bulldogs placed both players on the trading block, essentially forcing both players to either play for Green Bay or be traded within the BCHL. In both players' cases, it was clear that Seth Appert and Greg Carvel preferred that they go to the USHL, so both made the difficult decision to go to Wisconsin rather than stay in British Columbia.

The USHL is a bump up from the BCHL, which is a decent league itself, and while he's not scoring at the same clip he was with Alberni Valley, that is to be expected to some extent playing on a team consisting entirely of guys who will be playing Division I hockey in the near future - the same isn't necessarily true in the BCHL. Regardless, as with Melanson, he's producing over three-quarters of a point per game, which is a benchmark for what you want to see - a point per game in the USHL would be better, but it's not terrible. The higher quality play he's seeing with the Gamblers will hopefully ensure that Tironese, who isn't afraid to get physical (as the penalty minutes show), will be better prepared for the level of competition that comes with playing in Division I.

In the past we've called Tironese a blue-chip prospect and so far there really isn't anything that has led us to believe that he won't be.

Team: Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Projected to replace: Matt Tinordi

When Nanne committed on Thanksgiving night 2013, it meant a reuniting of a player with a former coach and with a former teammate, but it also meant a pretty decent splash for the Engineers, landing a player from a well-established hockey clan and a 2012 draft selection of the Minnesota Wild.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it's probably because his grandfather is a US Hockey Hall of Famer with the same name; Lou Nanne was a star for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota North Stars in the 1960s and 1970s, later becoming the North Stars' coach and general manager. He captained the 1968 US Olympic team and was one of the architects of the Miracle on Ice, pushing the US Olympic Committee to hire Herb Brooks as the coach of Team USA.

We scouted Nanne as one of the then-uncommitted players on Appert's Ivan Hlinka team in 2011 and came to the conclusion that "had Gophers written all over him." That appeared true when he committed to Minnesota over Boston College and Harvard a month later. But in the two years that passed since that commitment, Nanne endured harsh criticisms on social media that his place at Minnesota (and drafting by the Wild) owed more to his grandfather and father, both Minnesota alums (and his father a Wild scout), than his own ability. In September 2013, Nanne decommitted from the Gophers after having spent a season in the BCHL, his first full year away from the state he grew up in. Noting that if his talent was legitimate, he'd find another Division I program soon enough, Nanne said he was determined to make his own name for himself. Two months later, he decided to become an Engineer.

Coming to RPI not only gets Nanne out of the bright but demanding limelight of Minnesota, it reunites him with Appert, who coached him three summers ago in the Czech Republic, and Parker Reno, who was a classmate of Nanne's at Edina High School until Nanne left after his junior season to play for the Penticton Vees in the BCHL last season. His commitment came just a few week after his return from double shoulder surgery that kept him sidelined for most the early season. He's just getting back into the swing of things, which explains his somewhat bare scoring line. Injuries also impacted his time at Penticton, unfortunately.

Under Appert at the Hlinka tournament, Nanne scored a goal and two assists in four games played. In Penticton last season before his injury, he had a line of 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 45 games, slightly behind Tironese's pace on a team that the previous season had just about the greatest year in the history of Canadian junior hockey, losing only 4 games out of 60 on their way to the Canadian national championship. He does project as a goal-scorer at RPI, assuming that he's able to come all the way back from his injury woes. If he does, we don't think he'll have any problems silencing the doubters (who'll probably start shrieking "EZAC," but that argument's getting weaker and weaker as time goes by).

As an aside, Nanne's younger brother Tyler, a defenseman, committed to Ohio State this month. He's a contender for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey award given to the top high school player in the state.

Team: Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL)
Projected to replace: Mark McGowan

We learned about Fornaris shortly after our pipeline feature ran last year when he committed last February. At the time, he was playing for Northfield Mount Herman, a prep school in western Massachusetts. Last year, he was the Hoggers' leading scorer as a junior.

The expectation with Fornaris was that he might play another year at NMH and then hit the USHL for a year before coming to RPI, but after making the Cedar Rapids roster through tryouts, he stayed on in juniors rather than returning to prep. Being in the top junior league certainly has its advantages, but unfortunately Fornaris hasn't gotten the regular ice time that is needed to grow. It's kind of a catch-22 situation, since he could have returned to NMH, but he was already reaching the heights of what was likely to be achieved at prep school, but he would have at least been getting some good ice time. At the very least, he's hopefully gaining through participation in practice at the higher level.

If there's one thing that Fornaris has shown throughout his career thus far, it's the ability to grow at the next level. After showing dominance in Florida at the high school level - admittedly, a place where hockey is still in development but is quickly growing - he went north to NMH after making an appearance at a USA development camp in Rochester, the only player from the Sunshine State to earn an invite in 2011. At NMH as a sophomore, he had some growing pains but quickly became a top scorer. There's a local player that had almost the same experience that you might have heard of - Shayne Gostisbehere. He went from playing in Florida to developing in a New England prep school to basically becoming the best player Union's ever developed.

US Hockey Report calls him a "decent skater who really relies on his hands to beat defenders and make opportunities for himself." That's probably true, especially considering that his size would probably otherwise make it pretty difficult to go up against a physical defender.

Since his commitment, there has been some debate over whether he was coming in 2014 or 2015, but after Nanne's commitment and given the way his debut USHL season has played out, Fornaris is almost certain to be coming in 2015. With any luck, he'll be back in the USHL next season a year older and getting more of an opportunity to contribute. We'll be keeping our eye on him, hopefully his upward trend continues.


Team: Austin Bruins (NAHL)
Projected to replace: Curtis Leonard

Making his third appearance since committing (in December 2011), Manley has been something of an enigma to observe until this season. For the last two years, he was at a prep school in Connecticut where it was difficult to track his progress. We caught a glimpse of him last year in the USHL, where he played a handful of games for Waterloo, and this year we thought he'd get a full season with the Black Hawks in preparation for his arrival in Troy.

Indeed, Manley arrived in Waterloo for the pre-season camp, but the Black Hawks had a glut of defensemen on their roster and ultimately, Manley did not make the cut for some reason or another that hasn't really been made clear. Waterloo apparently maintained their rights to him in the USHL, but instead of returning to the Selects Academy at South Kent in Connecticut, Manley went north to Minnesota to play for the Austin Bruins in the lower-level NAHL.

While Manley is the recruit we've known about for the second-longest amount of time behind Melanson, there's still a lot we don't know about him, and as a matter of fact, he's still the youngest known commitment for the Engineers by a couple of months over some of the other 1996 birthyears. He's been expected to be a 2014 arrival since his commitment a little over two years ago, so until that changes, we're keeping him on that line, but don't be too shocked given the number of defensemen on this list if it does change. It could make more sense to give Manley another full year of juniors before coming to play college hockey, since he's got a bit more time to develop than some other recruits do. Manley doesn't turn 18 until this coming July. Unless promises have been made to have him at RPI in 2014, an extra year might actually make the pieces fit together better.

Manley's season is playing out kind of similar to that of Melanson last year - a 17-year old playing on a team with all older players, and in Manley's case many of them are much older. He's getting plenty of ice time, but the Bruins have a rather high number of 1993 birthyears on the team, and Manley is the second youngest player on the roster by two days over the youngest. He may get the playing time but he certainly doesn't seem, sight unseen, to be getting the opportunity to show off his puck-moving skills.

A best case scenario for Manley could be a return to juniors next season, hopefully with Waterloo, and an arrival at RPI in 2015 about a month after his 19th birthday. A lot of it rides on what kind of promises were made when he committed.

Team: Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL)
Projected to replace: Luke Curadi

Sometimes, when a recruit commits, you know right away that it's a big "get." Other times, you slowly accumulate reasons to believe that an exceptional player is coming down the pike, and Prapavessis is certainly shaping up to be the latter. When he committed to RPI in February 2013, it wasn't immediately apparent what the Engineers would be picking up. We knew his brother, Matt, was at Bemidji State already, and that he was from the same hometown as juniors-to-be Travis Fulton and Phil Hampton.

But has time has progressed, Prapavessis has proven to be a very solid recruit and a potential blue-chip prospect for the Engineers. When he missed out on making the Lincoln Stars roster this summer (they'd drafted him in the 6th round of the 2012 USHL Draft), he looked like he might be something of a project. But since then, he's done nothing but shine. He leads OJHL defensemen in assists by a mile, and he's currently in the top five in the entire league in that category, an impressive feat for a blueliner.

His strong play earned him a place on the Canada East team for the World Junior Challenge this past November. While the team struggled in losing all five of its games during the competition, Prapavessis by most accounts performed admirably, picking up a pair of assists in five games. Hockey Canada, in listing him as one of three "players to watch" from Canada East, described Prapavessis as having "tremendous vision, an excellent passer who makes the smart and simple play." They also praised his hockey sense, along with his skating and shooting abilities. The Patriots have praised his abilities as a power play quarterback and his two-way abilities.

Before committing to the Engineers, Prapavessis was a 10th round selection by the Saginaw Spirit in the 2012 OHL Draft. This past November, with his stock continuing to rise, Saginaw dealt his rights to the London Knights for a 15th rounder in 2015, and if Prapavessis plays for London, a 5th round pick in 2016 - a good indicator of the worth they think he has. The Knights apparently made the trade with the thought that Prapavessis is still very likely to come to RPI, but one thing that should make Engineer fans nervous is London's reputation for showing utter disregard for college commitments when they are pursuing a player that they want in the fold. In fact, the Prapavessis trade led College Hockey Inc.'s Nate Ewell to quip that "'[o]btained by the (London) Knights' has to be among my least favorite phrases."

His play this season has led Prapavessis to become the highest rated RPI recruit on the NHL central scouting bureau's midterm rankings at 137th among North American skaters. He has a shot at being drafted in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in late June - he is one of only three OJHL players listed in the rankings.

We'll have to see what that development does to RPI's plans for the recruit who appears to have shown the most growth over the course of the season. Ideally, the Engineers would probably like to see Prapavessis playing for Lincoln next season in the USHL (and we're sure Lincoln would love to have him, too) ahead of a 2015 arrival, but if Appert feels London is likely to try and swoop in and convince Prapavessis (who turns 18 in a couple of weeks) to break his commitment, he could be brought in for the fall instead. It's worth mentioning that his coming to RPI doesn't necessarily preclude his eventual playing for London, as playing in the NCAA doesn't close the door to playing in the CHL - though the reverse shuts the door on the NCAA. London (perhaps especially London) could come just as hard after Prapavessis even if he's already in Troy.

Team: Fargo Force (USHL)
Projected to replace: Bo Dolan

When Moore committed to RPI in May 2013, it made the headlines in Northern Minnesota. Having captained Section 7AA powerhouse Duluth East to their 5th consecutive sectional championship and state tournament appearance, longtime Duluth East coach Mike Randolph called Moore "one of the best defensemen that I’ve ever coached."

Moore's high school bonafides came as an outstanding power play quarterback. Last year, he produced 19 goals and 30 assists for the Greyhounds, 10 of those goals coming on the power play on his way to being named Area Player of the Year by the Duluth News Tribune. In three seasons of high school play, he amassed 125 points in 92 games. In that sense, he projects well as the full replacement for Nick Bailen as a short-of-stature but offensive-minded defenseman who has dynamic ability with the man advantage.

Unfortunately, Moore's gap year of junior play hasn't been terribly productive, likely due to the two teams he's playing for using him in a fashion that may not gel with his style. In 20 games for the Sioux City Musketeers between the tail end of last season (after the high school season ended) and the early parts of this year, Moore didn't register a single point. After being claimed off waivers by Fargo, he's seeing more ice time, but has only the two goals to show for it. There's a question of whether his lack of size has been a hindrance in the USHL with these teams. Bailen himself had a very successful USHL career at 5'9", but it's hard to compare the two on different squads. Fargo, it should be mentioned, is in last place in the league by a country mile.

After committing, Moore told the News Tribune that Appert had offered him "from day one of (his) freshman year to run the power play and be the quarterback coming up the ice." He projects to be paired with a stay-at-home defenseman at even-strength, which could see him united with former rival Parker Reno, who faced off against Moore in each of the last three Minnesota state tournaments.

Since his commitment, Moore has always been expected in Troy this coming fall. The difficult season he's enduring opens the door to potentially making that 2015, but it's tough to say that would be a situation that would be amenable to Moore, given his comments about the role's he's expecting to have at RPI. Anything's possible, but we'd expect to see him on campus sooner.

Interestingly enough, Moore's father, Skeeter, played for Minnesota-Duluth from 1983 to 1987. Yup, you can do the math - he was part of the UMD team that fell to RPI in that epic triple-overtime game in the 1985 Frozen Four.

Team: Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
Projected to replace: Guy Leboeuf

Wilson committed to RPI in September 2013 while playing for Alberni Valley, reportedly turning down an offer from Cornell in the process, where he would have been a prototypical Big Red defenseman given his size. Instead, he's bound for Troy, where he projects to fit in very well with what we've seen from Appert recruited defensemen, especially with Appert's proclivity for getting d-men involved offensively. As with former teammate Evan Tironese, Wilson left the Bulldogs this season albeit through a trade rather than by changing leagues.

Like Prapavessis and Moore, Wilson also has a solid amount of offensive capability from the blue line. Around the time he committed to the Engineers, Wilson was touted by the US Hockey Report as having a chance at being an NHL draft pick in 2014 due to his size and talent. The Alberni Valley Times suggested that his play during the BCHL Showcase in September drew the attention of NHL scouts. Although he's not ranked in the midterm rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (only eight BCHL players are).

He also clearly has some size, which is why we're projecting him as Guy Leboeuf's replacement specifically. He could certainly afford to gain some more mass, but as Red Auerbach used to say, you can't teach height. It's not uncommon for incoming freshman to have the need to put on some more lean muscle, so it's not a major hangup here.

When he was traded from Alberni Valley to Vernon, Wilson led the BCHL in scoring among defensemen. He no longer has that distinction as the Vipers, a more rounded team this year than the Bulldogs, do not seem to need to lean on him as much for offensive output. However, he does remain among the top defenseman scorers in the league. He earned a spot at the Canada West selection camp for the World Junior Challenge, but didn't make the final roster.

We should see Wilson get the opportunity to play right away when he arrives on campus, likely with some pairings with upperclassmen - he could be a perfect compliment to a player like Curtis Leonard or Chris Bradley. We'll definitely get some chances to see time on the power play for sure, perhaps even matched along the blue line with Moore or Prapavessis to create a double threat from the point.

Team: Sudbury Nickel Barons (NOJHL)
Projected to replace: Andrew Commers

When Bell committed in September 2013 shortly after Wilson, it was apparent that Seth Appert was stocking up on defensemen with a demonstrated scoring touch. With Bell, it came with a pedigree that had already attracted some serious interest from OHL teams. According to the Sudbury Star, Appert invited Bell to take a look at campus after seeing his play in the Canada East tryouts for the World Junior A Challenge.

Bell is already playing in his hometown with the Nickel Barons, and has the opportunity now to continue playing in his hometown into major junior if he so chooses. Just a couple of weeks ago, Bell became the third RPI recruit to have his rights traded as the Mississauga Steelheads dealt him to his hometown Sudbury Wolves after having acquired his rights in the 3rd round of the 2012 OHL Draft, indicating Mississauga's high hopes for Bell ahead of his RPI commitment. The Wolves seem to have similar aims with Bell, saying that they "coveted" him in the 2012 draft, calling him "physically strong" and an "outstanding skater."

The Steelheads seem to have made him an offer to play in the OHL this season, but he passed on that offer to return to the Nickel Barons with the intent to draw a scholarship offer from an NCAA team. That the Steelheads were interested in him, at his size, as a 17-year-old speaks volumes on what their expectations were for him. That they dealt him to Sudbury probably means that Mississauga believes he's going to college, that Sudbury traded for him probably means they think they can attract him as the hometown team.

Bell's low game total from this season is likely due to an injury, since he didn't play in any games between early November and early January, a layoff spanning almost two full months. He missed 14 games during that stretch. As his numbers show, however, he has the capacity to provide offensive spark in much the same way Prapavessis, Wilson, and Moore all seem to have - in fact, like all three, he's been described as a potential power play quarterback.

Of all RPI's committed defensemen, Bell seems at first glance the least likely to come in 2014 given his age, his more recent commitment, and his injury issues this season, but one never can tell anymore. He's listed in many different places, especially articles about the trade to the Wolves, as a 2014 arrival. He himself said that he was committed for the 2014-15 on Twitter shortly after it became known that he was planning to become an Engineer. However, there are also several different outlets, including long-time college hockey recruiting guru Chris Heisenberg, that indicate that he could be a 2015 arrival.

At the very least, it seems highly unlikely that Bell arrives with either one of Manley or Prapavessis in August, given the expectations that Moore and Wilson are virtual locks to be coming in next season. The threat of a major junior team swooping in to sign a committed player has spooked more than one college program into bringing players to school earlier than previously expected, and he's been listed since his commitment as either 2014 or 2015. Practically a coin-flip at this point.

That really leads on to this bonus segment here.

Whither the defense?
There's so much going on with the defensemen - all of which are at least listed as potential 2014 arrivals, if not basically confirmed - that it's worth taking a good hard look at the situation on the blue line.

Here's what the current situation is in the back.
Seniors: Bo Dolan, Guy Leboeuf
Juniors: Luke Curadi, Curtis Leonard
Sophomores: Craig Bokenfohr, Chris Bradley, Phil Hampton
Freshmen: Parker Reno
Recruits: Bradley Bell, Charlie Manley, Meirs Moore, Michael Prapavessis, Jared Wilson

That makes for a total of eight defensemen currently active. That was also true in 2013, as Reno replaced Nick Bailen on the roster. All five defensemen that have been recruited have, in one place or another, been listed as potential or thought to be confirmed arrivals for 2014 - but there's only two players graduating. Throw in the uncertainty over major junior interest in potentially poaching Bell and Prapavessis, and there's a real conundrum when looking at who's coming when.

Looking back on the recent history of rosters, Appert has had as many as 8 defensemen on the roster and as few as 6, which is a bare minimum (2007-08, Garett Vassel was an emergency backup). Dan Fridgen frequently carried as many as 9 defensemen on his rosters, the last time being in 2004-05. Two of those players saw only nine games between them that year (Jake Schuster, who left the team, and Ryan Swanson, who became a regular the following season).

So it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Engineers could go to nine defensemen, especially considering that there's an open spot available on the roster since Andrew Commers' departure last summer. Unless someone has plans to leave the team for the pros or otherwise, that in fact seems to be the plan, which is why we've got Bell, a defenseman, listed as a replacement for Commers, a forward.

It can be said with some certainty that Craig Bokenfohr, who has competed (as a top player) on the varsity golf team the past two seasons, is not on an athletic scholarship - he would be ineligible to play Division III golf while on a Division I hockey scholarship. There's been some murmuring on the Internet that perhaps he might leave the team to focus on golf, but that's kind of irrelevant. Since he's not on scholarship he could stay available as a 10th option on defense - he's only appeared in six out of 59 games since his arrival, or about 10% of games. So let's just leave that alone.

That means that, if he really wanted to, Appert could probably have the leeway to bring in up to four of the defensemen that have been recruited. That seems unlikely.

Making things more difficult is the fact that, technically, none of the five defensemen that have been recruited absolutely have to be on campus next year. None of them will turn 21 until after next season is over, which is the cutoff for when players start to lose eligibility if they remain in juniors.

Wilson, out of all of the recruited defensemen, has the combination of age and performance that would suggest that he's pretty much confirmed to be coming to Troy this fall. That's about the only thing we think is a given.

Moore and Manley have not been listed as potential 2015 arrivals anywhere that we've seen, but given the tough seasons each has had in their respective situations, deferrals wouldn't be exceptionally shocking, especially for Manley given his age.

Bell and Prapavessis are both having tremendous seasons, but are putting up their numbers in Ontario. That doesn't mean they won't be successful, but the trend in recent years has been to try and get players into the USHL or the BCHL before coming to RPI. In a perfect world both of those guys would get that chance next season, but the threat from the OHL certainly could make 2014 arrivals for one or both of these guys possible.

Our guess? Wilson, Moore, and Bell, with the possibility of Prapavessis as well depending in part on what current players are doing. In the aforementioned perfect world, we see Wilson, Moore, and Bell in Troy, while Prapavessis goes to Lincoln and Manley to Waterloo, then both arrive in 2015 as 19-year-olds with a USHL season under their belts.


Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Projected to replace: Scott Diebold

Seth Appert is 2-for-2 in recruiting top-end goaltenders at least a year or two out from their arrivals, having essentially hit home runs with Allen York and Jason Kasdorf. His third entry in this area looks very ready to eventually be in that same mold. Appert likes his goaltenders big, and he's had them with York (6'3") and Kasdorf (6'4"), getting one even bigger now with Dillon, who committed in September 2013.

Playing for his hometown Grizzlies, Dillon has helped position his team at the top of the BCHL standings. Although the Grizzlies take the pressure off him by scoring a ton of goals, Dillon's numbers are among the best in the league as well. As with Wilson, Dillon earned a call to the Canada West try-out camp for the World Junior Challenge but didn't get selected for the final roster. He did, however, get a ranking on the NHL's midterm sheet from Central Scouting, 26th in North America. Dillon is the top ranked goaltender from the BCHL and the tallest goaltender in the world with a ranking.

Like Prapavessis and Bell, Dillon's strong play in juniors has drawn enough attention from major junior teams to result in a speculative rights trade - in this case, with Dillon hailing from the Western Hockey League's territory. Just days after Prapavessis' rights were dealt in Ontario back in November, the Swift Current Broncos sent Dillon's rights as part of a trade to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Dillon certainly looks like the presumptive heir to Jason Kasdorf, with whom he might get to spend a season (or two, depending on Kasdorf's play and his redshirt) learning from as part of an understudy freshman season, which is how York spent his freshman year and how it appeared Kasdorf was intended to spend his freshman campaign last year.

Since none of RPI's three goaltenders are graduating or leaving this year - Kasdorf is coming back, mark it down in pen - Dillon certainly isn't going to be in Troy until August 2015, he's about the only recruit that we can pretty much know that for sure. The three questions to watch with Dillon: will he join York and Kasdorf in being drafted prior to his arrival, will the Oil Kings make a play for him, and what's the plan for next season? There are worse fates than a second season in the BCHL, but will Appert do as he did with Kasdorf and make a play for him to get to the USHL? We'll find out.


As always, we end with a quick glance two and three seasons down the road, looking generally at where recruiting is at this point in time. The ambiguity over the forwards and goaltenders in the coming seasons has to deal with medical redshirts - Zach Schroeder has one and thus has eligibility through 2017, and Jason Kasdorf is practically guaranteed to receive one, which would extend his eligibility through 2018. Whether either player uses the extra year is difficult to know until it happens, in the recent past Joel Malchuk used his redshirt to play a year beyond what he would have otherwise, Mike Bergin did not. Schroeder will be an academic senior next year and Kasdorf an academic junior, but will be redshirt junior and sophomore respectively.

Leaving: 1 goaltender, 2 defensemen, 4-5 forwards
Currently incoming: 1 goaltender, 1-2 defensemen, 0-1 forwards

The situation here with forwards is a little bit disconcerting, since ideally we'd have at least two forwards that we know for sure are going to be replacing a core part of the current makeup of the team, those forwards who are currently juniors. Don't be surprised, however, if we start learning of some commitments in the next month or two, based on recent examples.

Leaving: 0-1 goaltenders, 3 defensemen, 4-5 forwards
Committed: none

This is the Class of 2020, FYI. Yeah. Sneaks up on you quick, doesn't it?

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