Last week, the 16th annual Boston University Men’s Hockey summer roundtable took place, where Coach Albie O’Connell and team captain Logan Cockerill addressed the team’s plans and preparations as it heads into an uncertain 2020-21 season.
We already discussed the main takeaways from the roundtable, which you can find here, so today we will be diving into what O’Connell and Cockerill had to say about some of the players on this year’s roster.
“We’re really just looking forward to getting back with the guys and being as safe as we can with the testing and everything, and making sure that we’re making good decisions throughout the first couple months.”– Logan Cockerill
Cockerill enters this season as the team’s captain after wearing an ‘A’ last year as a junior. The senior forward was optimistic about the prospects of playing this season, and expressed how he views the delayed start of the season as a good thing.
“We’re pretty excited for this year. Even though we’re pushed back at least a month for this season, right now, I’m looking at it as a big opportunity,” Cockerill said in his address to the roundtable, “We’ve got a whole month extra to get our freshmen acclimated to our system, and to be able to have that development for an extra month can be big.”
Even without taking freshmen into account, Cockerill is taking charge of a fairly young Terrier team with only seven other upperclassmen on the entire roster. There were plenty of growing pains last season, but Cockerill has big plans for this group to be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate.
“I think when we come back in the year, you’re going to see a very in-shape team, a very structurally sound team… Obviously there’s going to be a couple bumps in the road, there’s going to be some challenges,” Cockerill said.
“We’re ready for things to be different, we’re ready to kind of be able to maneuver through the differences… but the reality is we’re still gonna have ice, we’re still gonna be able to skate, still gonna be able to work out,” he continued.
The team’s leadership
“I think everyone in Finland thought everyone in the United States was dying with the media, so I think the media exposure over there was not helpful to us.”– Head Coach Albie O’Connell on Kasper Kotkansalo deciding to stay in Finland for 2020-21
Joining Cockerill in the team’s leadership are senior defenseman and 2020 All-American David Farrance as well as redshirt junior forward Ty Amonte, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo was slated to serve as another assistant captain, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Finland native decided to stay home and play with Ässät in the Finnish league.
“Losing Kasper was unfortunate… I think this was in the early stages, I think everyone in Finland thought everyone in the United States was dying with the media, so I think the media exposure over there was not helpful to us, and I don’t think he could see the light at the end of the tunnel so that’s why he ended up staying [in Finland],” O’Connell said.
Amonte, meanwhile, is returning after missing all of last season, but O’Connell shut down any injury concerns for not only Amonte, but several other Terriers who dealt with injuries last year.
“Ty’s a hundred percent. The summer lended to give us a little more time to rehab with him, [Jamie] Armstrong, with [Matthew] Quercia, even with [Cockerill]. [He] had a tough injury last year, [Jack] DeBoer had a tough injury, I know Philly [Ethan Phillips] was dinged up with his shoulder, playing hurt quite a bit of the time,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell elaborated on Amonte, claiming “Ty’s as strong and in as good a shape as ever. I think his shoulder is probably the best its been in five years. He’s been playing with a bad shoulder for four or five years, so he’s in a good spot.”
“We’re excited about the three of them, and the cream will rise to the top there for sure, but it’ll be competitive.”– O’Connell
With the departure of Sam Tucker, Nico Lynch and Vinnie Purpura, the latter transferring to Long Island University this summer, the Terriers had just one returning netminder in Ashton Abel.
Abel himself didn’t even join the team until the middle of last season. The team added two freshmen to the mix, giving this year’s goaltending group a combined total of just nine games played at the NCAA level.
“[Abel] came in last year and gave us a month of almost flawless performance. I think he’s got a good, bright future for us. I think there’s some things that he knows that he has to work out, just from a depth standpoint, but when he gets in the zone, he’s terrific,” O’Connell said about the returning netminder.
Abel posted a 3.15 goals against average and a .891 save percentage in nine games played while splitting time with Tucker. He’ll be fighting against freshmen Drew Commesso and Vincent Duplessis for playing time this season.
Commesso spent the past few years in the U.S. National Team Development Program, and profiles as one of the top goaltending prospects in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
“I’ve seen Drew play since he’s been 13, 14 years old. He’s gonna be a really good one,” O’Connell said, “He’s exciting because he’s highly, highly competitive and he’s a high-level goalie, but he’s not a project either, so we’ll get a lot of the best of him… He’s gonna be a guy that has the ability to step in and fight for it right away.”
Duplessis, meanwhile, spent last year in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), the same league Abel came from before joining BU. The Quebec native was leading the Whitecourt Wolves on a playoff run before the pandemic caused the rest of the season to be cancelled. Through six playoff games, he had a 1.99 GAA and .932 save percentage.
“[Duplessis has] played about as much hockey as most goalies that come to college hockey and he’s done really well at every level,” O’Connell said.
“When you’re looking at goalies, you wanna see how they do in playoffs and he’s had a real good run in the playoffs over the years, and you just look at save percentage over time and he’s one of the top kids in the group,” he continued.
“I think those guys are gonna have to find their way. We got a lot of returners… we’ll put the guys where we kind of think they look [good]… the biggest thing is just to get them conditioned and to bring them along slowly so we don’t have any nagging or angry injuries this year.”– O’Connell
Aside from Commesso and Duplessis, there are several other incoming players that should make an impact right away.
Among them is Luke Tuch, the younger brother of Vegas Golden Knights forward and former Boston College player Alex Tuch. It’s easy to compare brothers, but that wasn’t the comparison O’Connell was asked about at the roundtable.
Instead, O’Connell was asked about how he’d compare the younger Tuch to another former Terrier phenom: Brady Tkachuk. This is what O’Connell had to say:
“Luke’s a good power forward. He’s not afraid to bang bodies… I think Luke is a little bit physically more mature than Brady was at the time. He’s definitely a prospect for sure.”
The Terriers also have a first-round pick joining the roster, but not in the traditional sense. Jay O’Brien was selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018, before spending the following season at Providence College. Injuries and troubles adjusting to the college game limited him to just five points (2g, 3a) in 25 games.
O’Brien left the program and spent the past season with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League, where he regained form, scoring 66 points (25g, 41a) in 46 games. He also added 10 points (5g, 5a) in five playoff games.
O’Brien has experience playing on the wing and at center, so as he takes a second crack at the NCAA, this time with the Terriers, O’Connell will make sure to put him in the best position for him to succeed.
“Starting out, we’ll probably see what he looks like at both [center and wing]. I think that’s important to see what a guy looks like, especially who’s got the ability to play center,” O’Connell said, “Watching him play a decent amount in juniors and through the ranks, he’s got the ability to play center and play in three zones.”
O’Brien won’t be the only new Terrier coming from a different Hockey East program. Max Kaufman is a graduate transfer from Vermont who will add some much-needed veteran experience to this young roster.
Kaufman isn’t the type of player to light up the score sheet, but O’Connell had high-praise for the former Catamount.
“He’s a guy that’ll take the puck to the net. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got really good speed, high level of motor, high level of competitive spirit. Probably a comparative-type player would be Pat Curry, a guy that has a high engine, that works and has skill but doesn’t really take too many shifts off,” O’Connell said.
Comparing Kaufman’s leadership and work ethic to Curry’s is quite the compliment, but O’Connell took it one step further by sharing what Kaufman’s former coach at Vermont had to say about the grad transfer:
“From talking with [recently retired Vermont head coach] Kevin Sneddon, he said in his time at Vermont, [Kaufman] might be one of the best kids he’s ever had, as far as character and work ethic and leadership. I think he was going to be their captain this year before he departed, so we got a kid with that sort of cache.”
The overall outlook
“If you look around the league and see what teams have and what teams lost, I think we’re in a really good spot… I like our chances. I think we’re gonna be a top team.”– O’Connell
O’Connell did not mince words when breaking down what the Terriers bring to the table in Hockey East. He expects the Terriers to be right in the running for the Hockey East championship.
“I think we have the ability to vie for it and we’ve got young goaltending, but our goaltending could potentially be elite. I think we’ve got arguably the best [defensive] core in the league,” O’Connell said.
“Up front, we’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of speed, a lot of size, and some toughness and guys that could score. And a lot’s going to be hinging on those sophomores and the jump that they could make,” O’Connell continued.
Today, all the players mentioned above will take the ice together for the first time in an official capacity, as practices begin.
There isn’t any confident guess as to when the season will actually start, or what it will look like if it is ever played, but with everything said by O’Connell and Cockerill, it’s clear that their confidence in this group is sky high.