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  • Uncertainty in NCAA's elite, room for improvement for the rest


    Last week, I wrote about three of the teams we'll be following this season and what we should be looking for. I noted some troubles facing the Gophers, some better days on the horizon for the Badgers, and some continuity up top for the Bulldogs. This time, I'll wrap up our coverage and get us set for tonight's action with a preview of four other teams in the midwest.

    We'll kick today off with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

    North Dakota has plenty of weapons with which to replace those two, though, and I think this is a real chance for Boeser to prove his work as an individual and a leader on the team. Look for their names a lot this season and for an almost-guaranteed postseason run.

    Next up, the Minnesota State Mavericks.

    They'll try to repeat as co-heir to the MacNaughton Cup this season by building on what was on paper a satisfactory-if-unimpressive performance. They did their jobs and did them admirably, but the Mavericks are staffed by a more limited group of prospects than teams like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

    They'll rely on individual progress made by Brad McClure. You may know Brad from such movies as "Hockey! It's the Thing You're Watching!" and "Get Your Simpson's Reference Out of My Head!"

    McClure turned in a solid season in 2015-2016 and found chemistry with Center C.J. Franklin. The pair is a year older and with it maybe a year more mature. That maturity is something they needed last year to anchor a team that's not particularly deep on forward but finds scoring when they need to. That'll be huge for them as other teams in the WCHA take a step forward.

    Speaking of other teams in Minnesota, the St. Cloud State Huskies have something to prove but also have lost a lot over the summer. The graduation of many of their top players has left a vacuum both in the scoresheet and in the locker room.

    I don't doubt that SCSU has the fortitude to make waves in college hockey. The interesting thing will be to watch what tools they bring to the table to do so.

    Lastly, let's catch up with the Bemidji State Beavers.

    In the same way that every college team has to contend with the competing forces of graduation and college matriculation, so too do the Beavers have to deal with a pretty one-sided loss of good defensemen this past summer.

    While they have some consistency in their forward corps in the likes of Brendan Harms (who I legitimately think is a good player) and Gerry Fitzgerald Jr. (whom has shown a lot of promise but I still don't have a great feel for), the Beavers have lost some of their best minute-eating defensemen, leaving a big hole in front of Michael Blitzer, who was solid at times last season, but lacks some of the composure needed to be a true asset.

    Blitzer is good enough to take the Beavers where they want to go, but how good he feels and looks in the crease will be dictated largely by the quality of the defense in front of him. Without a better view of that team, it' hard to tell if BSU will take the much-awaited step forward this season or if they'll sink into the background yet again.


    With this, I think we're just about set to start the NCAA season. Look for updates from me on Twitter @real_jackvt and @hwcollegepuck.

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