By John Lachmann
Miami’s preseason game is today, and coach Enrico Blasi has just started formal practices, so much about the team is still up in the air in terms of who will play and on what line, etc.
But it’s never too early to take a look at the team, who’s returning, who left and who is coming in and where they could fit in.
A more in-depth look at the team will be forthcoming next week after the RedHawks have the exhibition game under their belt.
Here’s a glance at the 2013-14 Miami RedHawks:
Gone: Marc Hagel, Curtis McKenzie, Steve Mason.
Returning faces: Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, Jimmy Mullin, Sean Kuraly, Cody Murphy, Blake Coleman, Kevin Morris, Alex Wideman, Max Cook, Alex Gacek, Bryon Paulazzo, John Doherty.
New faces: Anthony Lewis, Devin Loe, Justin Greenberg.
Despite only losing two starting forwards (Hagel and McKenzie), those players will be sorely missed. McKenzie had his best season in 2012-13, and Hagel, who transferred to Miami before his senior season, provided veteran leadership and a defensive presence the RedHawks sorely needed.
But 10 of Miami’s 12 starting forwards are back, a group that should score a lot of goals, which leaves just two spots for some talented players.
Kuraly, a sophomore, really turned it on late last season and could really take off in 2013-14. And Mullin, a junior, was a bit inconsistent and kept shifting lines, but he got on track the final 10 games or so and should pile up the points this season.
As for the vacancies, Anthony Louis was the Chicago Blackhawks’ sixth-round pick this year. I saw him play for U.S. National Development Team, and the kid has some serious offensive talent.
He created scoring chances constantly the last two periods of that game. His defense was a little behind his offense at that point, but he still has to be a favorite to play nightly.
That leaves one spot for senior Bryon Paulazzo, sophomore John Doherty and freshmen Devin Loe and Justin Greenberg. Paulazzo has shown flashes of brilliance but his scoring has been inconsistent – like Mullin, he changed lines frequently in 2012-13 – and he seemed to get into Blasi’s doghouse.
Doherty played five games last season and did a lot of good things, but he may fall victim to Miami’s numbers game, especially if Paulazzo or one of the other two incoming freshmen impress in practice and the exhibition.
I haven’t seen either Loe or Greenberg play, so it will be interesting to see how both look on Saturday. Or if one or neither play, I guess that will be telling about where they are on the depth chart as well.
Loe had a solid year for Fairbanks of the NAHL. He scored 26 goals and set up 24 more in 59 games, and added a goal and four helpers in six playoff games.
At 20, he’s one of the older freshmen, and often those players acclimate to the college game quicker, both skill-wise and physically.
Greenberg also had a quality season in the NAHL, recording 25 goals and 32 assists in 60 games with Texas. He played six playoff games, scoring once and picking up a pair of helpers.
Greenberg, a 19-year-old Texas native from the same Dallas-area suburb as Coleman, scored the winning goal in the Robertson Cup final in 2011-12. At 5-feet-8, he’ll fit in well this version of the RedHawks.
The bottom line is: Miami has 15 forwards who either shown themselves to be capable of cracking the lineup on a nightly basis or have impressive resumes, but only 12 can start. That’s a very good problem to have for the team, but not so fun for the players who are scratched.
Gone: Joe Hartman, Stephen Spinell, Garrett Kennedy.
Returning faces: Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux, Taylor Richart, Ben Paulides, Michael Mooney.
New faces: Matt Joyaux, Johnny Wingels, Trevor Hamilton.
The size of Hartman and Spinell will be missed, and Kennedy was a solid sixth D-man who would’ve stood in front of a canon to block a shot.
This is the biggest question mark for Miami, which lost three veterans and is left with three sophomores who started last year as freshmen.
Joyaux, Caito and Richart are all sophomores who should occupy three of the top spots. Caito’s talent is off the charts, and Joyaux was very solid in his own end.
Richart came in as an 18-year-old and held his own on the third pairing.
Miami has two other returning defensemen, but neither saw much ice time in 2012-13.
Paulides, a junior, is a big question mark entering this season, having tallied one assist in just 12 games last season. Miami could certainly use his size on the back end, but he was also in Blasi’s doghouse last season.
Mooney, a sophomore, logged six games in 2012-13, and at 6-feet-1 he could also be an asset on an undersized defense corps.
The freshmen will also be in the mix for the remaining three starting spots.
Hamilton was Louis’ teammate on the USNDT last season, rolling up a goal and eight assists. I saw him play once and in that very limited sample he looked like he pretty good playmaking ability but still needed to get stronger.
That was nine months ago, and he was only 17 at the time. He has tons of upside and should get better each season.
Wingels, younger brother of former Miamian and San Jose Shark Tommy Wingels, logged just 24 games with Chicago of the USHL and missed the second half of the season with an injury.
He’s just 5-feet-10 but is solidly built like his brother at 185 pounds. His injury prevented me from seeing him play last season (I was going to see his home game the Saturday before the Soldier Field game last season), so I can’t comment on his strengths.
I also haven’t seen Matt Joyaux play. He’s 5-feet-7, which is REALLY small for a defenseman – even on this team – but he had four goals and 12 assists in the BCHL last season, the league that produced Curtis McKenzie.
Overall the defense corps has potential but is very young and very small playing in a conference with bigger players and better teams.
Returning faces: Ryan McKay, Jay Williams, Anthony Jacaruso.
New faces: None.
Between the coaching and recruiting of Blasi, Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia, Miami has yet to experience a season with even average goaltending, and this season promises to be better than most.
Expectations were very high for sophomore Ryan McKay as a freshman last season, but he met them. He posted a 13-7-2 record with a video game-like 1.39 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage.
He still has to be the favorite to log the majority of starts this season, but fellow sophomore Jay Williams had a sensational freshman year as well, especially considering his numbers his final year of juniors were mercurial.
Williams was thrown into the starting role when McKay was injured early in the season, and he got better every game. He finished 12-5-3 with a .924 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA.
This season could be more of challenge for the RedHawks’ netminders without a veteran defense corps in front of them.
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