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Five of the NAHL’s 10 leading scorers from the 2019-20 season are set to join Atlantic Hockey next season and will bring high offensive expectations to their respective programs.
A pair of prominent defensemen will join the offensive individuals in AH next season, adding a mix of puck-movement and at-home styles.
The seven pending freshmen are spread across five AH teams and will receive varying roles with their new programs based on team needs, roster turnover, and overall success from the 2019-20 season.
The Purple Eagles’ will bring in defenseman Josef Mysak from the Austin Bruins, where he recorded 59 points (18 G, 41 A) in 152 games over three seasons. Mysak developed swiftly in the NAHL and in 51 games in 2019-20 his 14 goals and 36 points were second and fifth in the league, respectively.
The Czech’s strong play earned him the honors of NAHL (Central) Defenseman of the Year. Mysak will turn 21 just before the NCAA season kicks off and has the makings to be a solid two-way defenseman for the Eagles.
A quick transition to the NCAA will help the Eagles build off an 8-4 finish to last season, doubling their wins from their 22 games between Oct. 18–Jan. 18. This time next year, the Eagles will be adding 2019-20 NAHL leading scorer Christian Gorscak; the future is bright.
After an ugly 5-29-2 season, the Lakers need help up and down the roster. Enter Noah Kane, cousin to NHL superstar Patrick Kane, who tied for first in NAHL scoring as a rookie in 2019-20.
With 64 points in 54 games, Kane was a nightly threat and showed off his playmaking as his 44 assists were third among all skaters. Kane’s leadership went beyond the scoresheet as team captain in his rookie season.
“Noah has made tremendous progress throughout this season and his leadership and dedication have earned him the ‘C’ and he’s used that all season long to become the player and leader he is today,” Maine coach Nolan Howe told NAHL.com.
That type of leadership will go a long way at Mercyhurst, where he will develop alongside lifelong friends and help add to the win column in 2020-21.
With seven seniors on their way out, the Colonials will be relying on a lot of internal improvement throughout the lineup. Add in recruit Matt Guerra, who finished third in NAHL scoring last season, and the Colonials have a chance to build in 2020-21.
Guerra led the NAHL with 45 assists last season and with 63 points, he finished just one point back from a share of the scoring title with Kane. Similar to Kane, he’ll be in a position for a big role with a struggling program and has the ability to be an immediate difference-maker.
His ability to make those around him better with great vision and superior passing will help uplift his linemates and surrounding team.
A slow end to the season saw Army finish fourth in Atlantic Hockey and with the loss of its two leading scorers and five additional seniors, there is a lot of ice time up for grabs in 2020-21.
The addition of Mitch Machlitt and Lincoln Hatten, who finished fourth and sixth in NAHL scoring, respectively, will be instrumental in filling that ice time. The pair each broke out in 2020-21 and will be relied on to repeat their offensive output at the NCAA level.
Machlitt’s 62 points (24 G, 38 A) had him in a tight race for the scoring title prior to COVID-19 while Hatten’s 61 points put him in touch, too. Machlitt will bring a balanced attack to the offense with the capacity for a dangerous pass as much as a dangerous shot.
Mitch Machlitt's 21st birthday present: A penalty shot goal. pic.twitter.com/Aw7BJpBf13— @NAHLTitans (@NAHLTitans) January 16, 2020
Hatten’s breakout year saw him finish second in goals with 27 goals in 50 games. A quick, accurate shot had him repeatedly on the scoresheet and with the chance to play alongside Machlitt, the duo could be a terror for AH teams next season.
A surging 13-3 end to the season earned AIC its second consecutive conference title and with a pair of catches, the rich get richer. But a tradeoff of 10 seniors means there is a lot of work ahead for a three-peat.
The addition of Kyle Jeffers and Sam Miller could be a stopgap for expected holes from the loss of half the roster, including goaltender Zackarias Skog. Jeffers finished ninth in NAHL scoring last season with 57 points in 48 games (23 G, 34 A). It was a second consecutive 20-goal, 50-point campaign for Jeffers, who’s shown he’s ready for the next level.
Joining Jeffers at AIC, Miller finished second in defensive scoring, while his 16 goals paced all blueliners during his first season in the NAHL. The loss of three senior defensemen at AIC will give Miller an in to earn big minutes and show off his two-way game as he develops.
The above list is not an extensive inclusion of all NAHL players joining Atlantic Hockey next season, but simply a highlight of standout names making the jump in 2020-21.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.