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With the NCAA 2019-20 regular season nearing the end, the field of remaining teams will continually shrink in the coming weeks as conference tournaments start up ahead of the national tournament and the Frozen Four.
The elimination from contention from the national stage will be coupled with the end of many up-and-coming players’ seasons across college hockey, but several underclassmen have displayed their importance for their programs’ futures, beginning in 2020-21.
Freshman Elias Rosén is fourth in team scoring for a breakout Beavers team that sits at 18-8-4 overall and is in good position for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with a current national ranking of 13th.
Rosén has 21 points (4 G, 17 A) in 29 games this season and is becoming increasingly confident with 12 points (2 G, 10 A) over his past 12 games.
The Beavers have gone 10-1-1 in that span, as Rosén has become a focal point for the program on both sides of the ice.
The Bulldogs have fallen on hard times since a 20-win season in 2015-16, but they appear to have hit rock bottom with a 7-22-2 overall record this year.
Even so, Jake Willets and Blake Evennou have shown promise during their rookie seasons with the Bulldogs and the pair of freshman defensemen will become key pieces in 2020-21 when four senior blueliners graduate this spring.
Their contributions have gone a long way after the loss of WCHA Rookie of the Year, Cooper Zech last spring, after the freshman signed with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
Willets leads the team in scoring with 20 points (3 G, 17 A) in 31 games while Evennou is tied for fifth with 13 points (1 G, 12 A), a standing that will see him bumped to the third-best returning scorer next season.
The duo will have a chance to lead the blue line into the future next season, where three other freshmen and one sophomore will join them as one of the youngest bluelines in the NCAA.
Lake Superior State
After a breakout 23-13-2 season last year, the Lakers have gone 10-20-4 and are on the verge of losing senior Max Humitz, who has a team-leading 17 goals and 27 points in 34 games.
But sophomores Ashton Calder, Pierre-Luc Veillette, as well as freshman Louis Boudon, have given the Lakers something to be excited about next season. Calder is second in team scoring with 10 goals and 21 points and is on pace to be the team’s top returning scorer next season as a junior.
Veillette will also become a bigger part of the offensive formula in 2020-21 after a breakout year with 19 points (9 G, 10 A) this season, good for fourth on the team. He’s come a long way since an eight-point (2 G, 6 A) campaign in 2018-19.
Boudon is fifth in team scoring with a modest 19 points (4 G, 15 A) as a freshman. Boudon was fifth in assists and eighth in scoring in the NAHL last season.
If they can continue their development together, the trio could be a spark for Lakers in 2020-21.
Seven of the Huskies’ top eight scorers are underclassmen this season and have carried the team to an 18-14-3 overall record.
With just four seniors, the bulk of the current roster will return next season, and it’s safe to assume at least a handful of these underclassmen will find the next gear in 2020-21.
The youth will go a long way next season in helping the Huskies get back to the 20-win mark they had in each of their four seasons between 2014-2018, during which they earned three trips to the NCAA tournament.
With the expectation that this could finally be the Mavericks’ year, the men from Mankato face significant turnover this spring with seven seniors on the roster, including their three top scorers.
But there’s a reason Mike Hastings’ program continues to dominate the regular season (26-4-2): sustainability. Hastings has proven to be a strong recruiter and has underclassmen in place to offset any threat to consistent winning.
Goaltender Dryden McKay leads the underclassmen into the future as one of the best netminders in the NCAA with a 25-3-2 record. The sophomore leads the nation with a 1.37 GAA, eight shutouts, and an .867 win percentage. His .939 save percentage is second.
Congratulations to @drydenmckay for equaling the #WCHA single-season shutout record with his 8⃣th whitewash of the season. The blanking was also the 1⃣2⃣th of his career, which is a new @MavHockey record.— WCHA Men's Hockey (@WCHA_MHockey) February 9, 2020
🧱🧱🧱🧱🧱🧱🧱🧱#WeAreWCHA | #TraditionStartsHere | #HornsUp pic.twitter.com/A3JvCgbs87
Meanwhile, freshmen Lucas Sowder and Nathan Smith have recorded 23 and 20 points, respectively. Add in sophomore Julian Napravnik, who’s a goal shy of matching last season’s stat line of 8-13–21, in 12 fewer games, and the trio is a solid bet to carry the offensive load next season.
The nation’s leading goal-scorer, Griffin Loughran, has recorded 21 tallies through 31 games as a sophomore with the Wildcats and is helping the team approach its third-straight 20-win season with a current 16-12-4 mark.
Loughran’s 36 points put him at 16th in points per game nationally, as he has stepped up after the loss of three of the team’s top four scorers from last season.
Add in Vincent de May, a sophomore with 14 goals and 24 points of his own, and the Wildcats could make for some trouble in the WCHA next season with a sufficient supporting cast.
Live-stream these players and all of their WCHA colleagues right here on FloHockey, before the regular season ends.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.