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By John Lachmann
Miami went smaller and faster with the recruits it brought in last off-season, and with the four players that signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday the RedHawks will continue that trend next fall.
While most of the freshman that joined the team for 2012-13 are forwards, three of the four RedHawks-to-be are defensemen.
Johnny Wingels, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton will join the Miami blue line, and forward Anthony Louis rounds out the NLI group.
A press released issued by Miami said that all four will join the RedHawks for the 2013-14 season.
Wingels is the younger brother of former RedHawk and current member of the San Jose Sharks Tommy Wingels, and Joyaux is Miami freshman defenseman Chris Joyaux's brother.
Johnny Wingels is playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL this season where he has four assists and a plus-1 rating in 11 games.
Matt Joyaux has two goals and five assists in 22 games for Powell of the British Columbia Hockey League – the league current Miami senior Curtis McKenzie played in prior to his arrival in Oxford.
Hamilton and Louis are both with the U.S. Under-18 National Development Team based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Hamilton has one assist in six games, and Louis has played two games and Miami coach Enrico Blasi said in a press release that "he will remind you a lot of (Hobey Baker winner) Andy Miele".
So how does the lineup look for next season?
Barring any early departures, commitment reneges or late surprise commits (and there is actually a good chance neither of the former two will happen for the first time in a while), Miami is losing forwards Marc Hagel, Curtis McKenzie and Steve Mason and defensemen Garrett Kennedy, Joe Hartman and Stephen Spinell.
Currently Miami has 15 forwards on its roster (and Kennedy could play the wing in a pinch). With three graduating and Louis coming to Oxford next fall that gives the RedHawks 13.
Blasi will probably bring in two more forwards or with an overloaded blueline next season have one of those guys available to play up front.
Hagel and McKenzie have been regulars in the lineup, so that will leave two forward openings (Mason has one assist in four games this season and is essentially 14th on Miami's forward depth chart, so his graduation essentially will not impact who dresses each night).
Since Blasi compared Louis' playing style to that of Miele, there is a good chance he takes one of those spots immediately. That also opens up a spot for both junior Max Cook and freshman Alex Gacek.
Cook has played much better this season and has been in the lineup for nine games this season, recording two assists. Gacek has improved since the beginning of the year and has a goal in seven games.
Both were able to dress each night because of injuries to McKenzie and sophomore Alex Wideman, but with both healthy there is not a spot for both.
Freshman John Doherty, who was injured prior to the beginning of the season, has not played but has talent and could be in the mix for playing time.
Regardless of how the final couple forwards play out, Miami will a very talented, very deep corps in 2013-14.
On defense, the talent and depth will be there as well but the RedHawks will definitely miss the size of Spinell and Hartman.
Chris Joyaux and fellow freshmen Taylor Richart and Matthew Caito should definitely be in the lineup each night, but that leaves three spots for sophomore Ben Paulides, freshman Michael Mooney, Hamilton, Wingels and Matt Joyaux.
There is a good chance Matt Joyaux may sit at first, and Blasi will probably either rotate who sits unless he moves one of his defensemen to the wing like he did with Tomassoni a couple of years ago to get him playing time.
Next year's blueline corps will consist of one junior (Paulides), four sophomores and three freshmen. No seniors.
In addition to being one of the youngest defense corps in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Miami's blueline will undoubtedly be one of the smallest. Hartman is the RedHawks' tallest defensemen at 6-3 and Spinell is the biggest at 6-2, 216 pounds.
Just four of the RedHawks' defensemen will be six feet or taller, with two being 6-0, one at 6-1 and the tallest – Paulides – at 6-2. Their average height will be 5-11.
Paulides is also the only member of that group over 195 pounds (he is listed at 209 on the roster on Miami's site).
Eighty percent of returning defensemen on the other seven NCHC teams will be six feet or taller, and three teams – Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha – have at least six returning defensemen six feet or taller, not counting any incoming freshmen in 2013-14.
UNO has four blueliners 6-3 or taller – 6-3, 6-4, 6-6 and 6-8. Miami will be the only team in the conference without a defenseman that tall.
All of the 13 combined returning blueliners on UMD and North Dakota are at least six feet tall.
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