First half in review: Midseason Player Grades

With the second half of the season kicking off on Thursday, we took some time to reflect on the year up to this point. We’ll have a couple more things coming out later this week, but for today, we present to you: first-half grades!

There’s really no scientific accuracy to our grading scale, but the three of us (Sarah, Judy and Andrew) each compared our individual grades for each player. The grades you see below are the rough average of our three grades.

Statistics were a factor, but we also considered expectations entering the season, improvement from last season and off-ice intangibles in our grades. We’ve also taken time to explain why we gave the grades we did, which you can read more in-depth below.

Feel free to debate, agree/disagree or otherwise discuss our grades in the comments below! We’d love to hear what you guys think.

Forwards:

Robbie Baillargeon:
B
Baillargeon hasn’t quite had the offensive improvement yet this year that we might’ve expected, but he hasn’t made any game-altering mistakes either. He’s an extremely conservative player, but that’s probably been one of his biggest downfalls so far. He played much more aggressively and physically against Quinnipiac in the final game before break, which I think is a good glimpse into his potential. If he continues that play through the second half, that would be a huge and necessary boost for the team. — SK

Bobo Carpenter: B+
Well, to quote A.J. Greer, “he wins draws.” Carpenter looks much more comfortable at center than at wing, and has looked more calm and refined in recent games. If anything, he’s looked overeager at times, but that’ll improve with maturity as the season continues. — SK

Ryan Cloonan: B+
For me, at least, Cloonan is hands down the biggest surprise this season. He wasn’t the most heralded member of BU’s freshman class coming in, but he had an absolutely remarkable start to the season, earning himself a top-six position. He’s quick and crafty, and though he’s quieted a bit after his strong start, he’s still added an element that this offense might have otherwise been missing. — SK

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson:
A-
One of the most engaging players on the ice wherever he is, Forsbacka Karlsson is a competent, two-way center who contributes in all facets of the game. Whether it’s at even strength or on special teams, he’s incredibly deft with his stick, no matter the zone, and makes at least one play a game that leaves me just shaking my head. For me, the freshman has probably been my favorite player to watch so far this season. —JC

Jordan Greenway:
B/B+
Greenway started out on the first line in the first few games of the season, but he never really found a rhythm. Even with a bump down to the second unit, he still just lacked the touch to finish plays. Quinn noted a few times Greenway was missing a “killer instinct.” Like a lot of young power forwards, the freshman has taken time to adjust to the more physical college game, but ever since Red Hot Hockey against then-No. 16 Cornell University, Greenway has picked his play up a notch or two. He finished the first half strong with six points in the final five games, and his use of the body to protect the puck, especially below the goal line, is what really stood out. He’s my player to watch in terms of stepping up in the second half. — AB

A.J. Greer: C+
It seemed like everyone was waiting for the moment for Greer to break out. Would it be the one-time strike against the University of North Dakota in the Frozen Four? Or maybe the goal he had at this year’s Red Hot Hockey? Neither of those moments, or any others for that matter, proved to be the one that got Greer going. Whether or not the Kimball Union Academy product wasn’t a good fit in BU’s system is beside the point. He got time toward the end of his tenure on the Terriers’ first line, but never played above the level of a fourth-liner. His final point total speaks for itself — 17 points in 55 NCAA games. He left the team and put BU in a tough position. He’s a young and promising player, but it’s hard to find a positive with a player who does that. — AB

Tommy Kelley: B
Kelley hasn’t had a ton of time in the lineup this year and shouldered his way in mostly due to necessity with injuries, but the junior has definitely made the most of it. In his six games suiting up, he stayed on pucks and worked hard up and down the ice, even netting his first goal in almost two years during the team’s loss to the University of Vermont on Dec. 4. — JC

Matt Lane: A-
It’s been thrilling to see how much Lane has really come through during his senior year. He’s tied for a team-best plus-10, and has already matched his goal total from last season (eight). Lane also gets personality points from us — not really in the “we think he’s a good guy” sense (though he is), but it’s clear that his attitude has a positive impact on this team. We have a joke about how we feel like we only talk to Lane after the team loses, but whether post-victory or post-loss, Lane is always positive yet realistic. He’s a mature, calming presence that this young team needs, especially on the ice in the absence of Grzelcyk. — SK

Dillon Lawrence: Incomplete
It was nice to see him get a bit of playing time against Quinnipiac, and he didn’t look half bad, either. I’m not sure how much more we’ll see him out on the ice this year, particularly considering BU’s brought in second-half reinforcements at forward, but Quinn mentioned after the Quinnipiac game that he’s been playing well in practice — though added that he may lack some confidence. He’s a perfectly fine player, though, and if he keeps building up the confidence he needs to earn playing time, then that’s all the better. — SK

Mike Moran:
B
A guy that’s never going to light up the stat sheet, Moran has done probably what you would’ve expected going into the season as the team’s fourth-line center. He brings a good energy to the game and is a strong veteran presence to have on the penalty kill. It’d be nice to see him tally or goal here or there, but that’s not what you have him out there for. — AB

Danny O’Regan: A-
He started the year off as the team’s first-line center, taking over for the departed Jack Eichel, but O’Regan has found a home on the wing. It never seems to be flashy, but O’Regan remains an important contributor to the offense. His team-leading 19 points are tied for sixth in Hockey East, while his 10 power-play points are tied for fourth in the conference. It’ll be paramount for BU to have O’Regan continue to play well, particularly depending on injured players’ post-break prognosis. — AB

Ahti Oksanen:
A-
Last year, it took until BU’s 18th game for Oksanen to score his ninth goal. Through 18 games this year, Oksanen has nine goals. A lot of the talk before this season was that Oksanen’s numbers would decline with Eichel going to the NHL. But his 16 points say otherwise. He doesn’t have the best hands and isn’t close to being the fastest skater on the team, but his ability to shoot the puck is unmatched on this team. It’s hard to find someone better than he is on one-timers for BU. The only concern is the upper-body injury that he suffered against then-No. 2 Quinnipiac University. While a source told the blog before the break the team was hopeful for his return on Jan. 7, it’s unclear as of yet whether he’ll actually be ready. — AB

Nikolas Olsson: B
If Red Hot Hockey taught us anything, it’s that Olsson can change the entire makeup of a line. Slotted in on freshman center Bobo Carpenter’s right, the sophomore tallied helpers on each of the two goals his linemates scored during the evening. Olsson brings a physical presence to the game but also has a level of skill that gives him the ability to generate legitimate chances on net. However, upper-body injuries following hits he’s thrown have caused him to miss a total of seven games this season, including the most recent three before the break. As soon as that line that was so successful against Cornell started gelling, he was out again in the following game against the University of Vermont. Physicality is obviously an important element of his game, but it’s also gotten in his way thus far. — JC

Chase Phelps: B
No real complaints concerning Phelps’ play in his sophomore season, and he’s even been given more responsibility as a regular on the penalty killing unit so far. With some line shuffling during Connecticut weekend, the winger was tasked with jumping up a spot or two and performed admirably in a tough situation as well. — JC

Nick Roberto: Incomplete
We won’t see him this season, as the team announced his suspension for the remainder of the year due to an investigation of gambling activity. — SK

Defensemen:

Brien Diffley: B-/B
It’s been an odd year for Diffley. He was a staple on defense last season, pairing with Somerby just about every game. Before this year, he was considered by some scouts to be a potential 2015 NHL draft pick. With freshman Charlie McAvoy emerging, though, it’s been harder for Diffley to find a permanent role on the D corps. He’s been in and out of the lineup, even shuffling to forward for a game when BU found itself shorthanded. Instability aside, Diffley hasn’t been too bad, but hasn’t done all that much to stand out on a crowded blue line. — AB

Brandon Fortunato: B+/A-
I think we’re all holding our breath for the day that Fortunato finally gets a penalty. It hasn’t happened yet, but he’s not the most physical player anyway. Which is fine — he’s not a big guy, and he compensates for that by using his speed and sly skill to his advantage. Most importantly, he’s more willing to shoot this year, which was definitely our biggest frustration with him last season, and it’s paid off — he’s become one of the league’s top-scoring defensemen. —SK

Matt Grzelcyk: A- (but sort of incomplete)
The captain’s season has just been injury nightmare after injury nightmare. In his first game back after offseason knee surgery against Northeastern University on Nov. 6, Grzelcyk found himself down on the ice being aided by a trainer for quite some time. That turned out to be nothing, but not too many games later, Grzelcyk was down on the ice again – hurting the opposite knee — and a “setback” in practice put him out even longer. In the time that’s he played healthily, he’s been terrific both skill-wise and confidence-wise for BU. It’s a shame, for him and the team as a whole, that his senior season has been marred so badly. — SK

Brandon Hickey: A-
Hickey continues to do Hickey things. Following a rookie season in which he established himself as one of the best defensemen on the team, the sophomore has followed up with a second year of dependable play. He is an always reliable option from a defensive standpoint and is also willing and able to help facilitate offense as well. —JC

John MacLeod: C+/B-
After a solid freshman campaign, MacLeod looked primed to build on his success at the beginning of this year. He appeared faster and more comfortable joining the offense. But at times, and as games wore on, the sophomore reverted to some of the undisciplined play he succumbed to at the start of his rookie season. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the way MacLeod has played as a whole this year in his continued role as a stay-at-home defenseman, but of all returning players, he looks the most to have lost a step. —JC

Charlie McAvoy: B
Much was to be expected of McAvoy when he arrived at BU this fall, but the projected first round pick, who turned 18 two weeks ago, has struggled a bit adjusting to hockey at the collegiate level. He showcased early that he’s a talented puck-moving defenseman, earning a spot on the top power-play unit, but the defensive side of his game needed some fine-tuning. The last few weeks have indicated signs of just that. In his past handful of games, the blue liner has looked more responsible in his own zone and shown improved judgment when starting and joining rushes. Collectively, we gave McAvoy a B for the first half, but I gave him a B/B+ because I believe he’s trending upward and will continue to do so after the break. — JC

Doyle Somerby: A-/A
Since his freshman year where he led the team in penalty minutes, Somerby has continually improved his game. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who’s sounder in the defensive end. He makes smart plays and his size speaks for itself. Mostly thought of as your typical stay-at-home defenseman, Somerby has added some offense with three goals and five assists. But why he really gets the A in our book is that he’s done a lot of this without captain Matt Grzelcyk. He’s established himself as a good player and a solid leader. — AB

Shane Switzer: B/B+ (but also, sort of incomplete)
Switzer was the player where the three of us had the most disagreement grading-wise, but it’s hard to give a full assessment given his limited ice time. I admittedly tend to be a bit more on the pro-Switzer (#FreeSwitzer ?) side, personally. But from what I’ve seen so far, Switzer has made very few, if any, significant mistakes, always has clean passes, and is suitably physical without being stupid about it. With a depleted bench, Switzer should get more playing time in the second half, and whether that’s at defense or even forward will remain to be seen, but he should thrive at either position. — SK

Goaltenders:

Connor LaCouvee: B+
I’ll admit I was initially nervous about LaCouvee being the team’s best option at goaltender when Sean Maguire had a few rough starts to begin the season. But he’s looked a whole lot sharper than I think any of us anticipated, and has come up big time and time again for BU — he keeps his team in games, and stopped a penalty shot earlier this season. Even if he lets in a few goals, he’s able to stay calm enough and keep the game from getting out of control. On top of that, we can always count on him for some hilarious postgame quotes — and a fun celly here and there. — SK

Sean Maguire: B
The start to Maguire’s season was a little bit less than ideal but was to be expected after the netminder missed a year due to concussion. And understandably, as the year has progressed, the senior is still working his way back to form. He looks more comfortable and dialed in between the pipes and is improving with each start he makes. This was most recently highlighted by a stellar outing against an undefeated Quinnipiac University team. The Bobcats tested Maguire a total of 37 times, but he was able to earn the win and safely turn aside all but one shot that beat him for a goal. —JC

Max Prawdzik:
Incomplete.
He hasn’t gotten any time in net, which is understandable, given the competition and experience ahead of him. He absolutely gets an A from all three of us, however, for how his hair always looks perfect. Seriously, even after he’s had a helmet on for an entire practice, his hair always seems to be in place. We’re jealous. — SK

Coaching staff: B
If you’d told us before the season started that this team would have a 9-6-3 record at winter break, then we probably would’ve been pretty surprised at that number of losses. But after 18 games of watching this team, 9-6-3 — and within the top 15 in Pairwise — honestly feels a bit generous. We’re possibly a bit spoiled with having last year’s team as a point of comparison, but this year’s team has seemed uninspired at many points, and we generally just don’t feel as optimistic about this team’s ability to come back from deficits.

After a rough weekend against Michigan, Quinn blamed himself and his staff for the team’s unenergetic and “lethargic” play that led to a loss. We aren’t going to blame uninspired play entirely on the coaching staff — coaches can yell and stress focus all they want, but ultimately the players are accountable there.

But to an extent, there have been some head-scratching games where one would expect the team to come out with energy, yet somehow come out flat. That’s not to say they’ve done this every game, because BU has had some big wins this year, but that’s what makes this year a bit frustrating. Some of the lineup decisions have been questionable (read: A.J. Greer on the first line that one time, and some confusing defensive pairings), at least to us, and we wonder if that has had any significant effect on the ice.

We certainly understand the injury bug and growing pains, and we absolutely understand that this team doesn’t have the cheat code it had last year. But there’s no reason why this team, even with a depleted roster due to injury or suspension, shouldn’t be playing a whole lot better. And to be fair, the team has looked considerably better as the season’s progressed — save the loss on Dec. 4 to Vermont — so most of this may be in the past. Props to Quinn and Co. for guiding his team to some marquee wins, particularly the most recent one against Quinnipiac, but we aren’t entirely convinced that the team’s completely turned the corner yet. — SK/AB

Grading the Terriers: Scoring depth helps Terriers to 4-2 win over Huskies

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Offense: A-
The key to the BU offense Friday night was its scoring depth, which is something new for the Terriers. The last time a forward on BU’s third or fourth line scored an even-strength point was Feb. 11 against Harvard, when freshman forward Mike Moran scored.

However, the Terriers got goals from bottom-six forwards senior Jake Moscatel and freshman Matt Lane Friday night, Those, coupled with goals from usual suspects — senior Wade Megan and freshman Danny O’Regan — helped the offense to a four-goal night.

It was not just that the Terriers were scoring, but they were creating good scoring chances. BU had 37 shots on the night and seemed to carry the pace of the game through the first and third periods.

Defense: B
It was a much better night for the Terriers defensively in terms of keeping the Huskies away from the front of the goal. BU coach Jack Parker pointed to that area as a weak point in BU’s 5-6 loss to Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot and praised his team’s effort at keeping the Huskies away from grade A scoring chances Friday night.

Senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka was beaten cleanly by the speed of Northeastern forward Cody Ferriero on the Huskies’ first goal, but BU’s defense was overall strong for the circumstances it went through in the game. Junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan left the game early in the second period when he separated his shoulder and will likely be out for the rest of the season. Junior defenseman/forward Matt Ronan will have to step into the lineup in Saturday night’s season finale.

Goaltending: B+
With fellow freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor out for the rest of the season, Sean Maguire is in a position to step up and make a name for himself as BU’s goaltender. With his 31-save performance Friday night, he has now made 117 saves in his past three starts, which is good for a .944 save percentage.

The key to his performance Friday night was his rebound control, as he had one of his better games of the season at holding onto the puck. The Terriers will rely on Maguire to be at the top of his game in the final game of the season in search of a top-four seed in the Hockey East tournament. The Powell River, British Columbia native has performed better at Agganis Arena this season, recording a .937 save percentage at home with only a .912 save percentage on the road.

Special Teams: B-
Neither team took many penalties in the game, but neither team scored with any of their man advantages. Northeastern’s power play looked better than the Terriers’ did though, as the Huskies moved the puck well and got several scoring chances on the power play.

After a strong weekend on the power play against the University of Vermont, BU was relatively unsuccessful at creating scoring chances Friday night. However, its perfect 3-for-3 penalty kill performance helps the Terriers to a B- rating.

X-Factor: Start of the third period
The Terriers carried a slim 2-1 lead into the third period and had almost let Northeastern tie it several times to finish the second period. However, a strong start to the third period — including goals from O’Regan and Lane in the first six minutes of the frame — gave BU the insurance it needed to hold its lead.

Scoring late in games is nothing new for O’Regan, who leads the team with seven goals in the third period. Lane’s goals have tended to come late in games as well this year, as two of his three goals have come in the final frame of regulation.

Grading the Terriers: Special Teams fails as Terriers lose 3–1 to UNH

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Offense: C–
The Terriers piled up 46 shots on goal in the game, but a lot of those came from outside of good scoring areas. Part of that was due to the strong defensive play by UNH, but senior captain Wade Megan said that the team was not doing a good enough job of getting forwards in close to the goal.

The only goal that BU scored came from freshman forward Danny O’Regan, but it was more a result of a nice play by freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. The young blueliner weaved through the UNH defense before firing a low shot to DeSmith’s right pad, where it kicked out to O’Regan’s stick and up an easy goal.

Not all of the forwards had bad games though, including sophomore right wings Yasin Cissé and Evan Rodrigues. The two combined for seven shots and a plus-1 rating on the game and created several scoring chances for themselves.

Defense: C
BU’s defense struggled to break the puck out of the zone in the affair, and two defensive zone turnovers led to the first two goals. UNH’s offense had an aggressive forecheck on the defense, which led to several takeaways, especially in the first period. BU allowed a season-high 20 shots in the first period, two of which went past freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor.

The defense settled down as the game went on, but a lot of that had to do with how often the Wildcats were on the penalty kill. Still, there were far fewer Grade-A chances in the second and third periods than there were in the first period.

Goaltending: B+
While O’Connor allowed two goals in the first period for the first time this season, the freshman stood out again as a strong final line of defense for the Terriers. The Toronto, Ontario native held the Wildcats to only two goals in 20 shots in the first period before making 15 saves over the next two periods.

Neither goal he allowed was particularly O’Connor’s fault. The first one was on an open shot from the slot after a turnover on a breakout. The second was jammed through his five-hole after another defensive-zone turnover, with no defenseman clearing UNH forward Maxim Gaudreault away from the goal.

Fellow freshman Sean Maguire played well in his first win of his career on Friday, but O’Connor remains the No. 1 option with another good performance on Sunday.

Special Teams: D–
Special teams killed the Terriers’ opportunity to win the game Sunday, as the team went 0-for-7 on its power-play opportunities. The power play did not even make scoring chances on its opportunities, struggling to hold onto the puck when it was pressured and consistently losing the puck in its own zone. In fact, UNH spent a lot of time with the puck in BU’s defensive zone and had a few scoring chances of its own during BU’s power plays.

The only reason why the Terriers did not get a failing grade for its special teams is that it killed off both of the Wildcats’ power plays. Still, this was the worst special teams performance of the season by the Terriers, and it cost the team a chance at tying the game or even winning it.

X-Factor: Sluggish start
BU came out of the locker room without any tenacity or focus to start the game, and UNH jumped on the early opportunities. The two early goals were a result of mental mistakes, as BU players either waited too long to make a decision or immediately made the wrong one. These types of mistakes are due to not being prepared for the game according to BU coach Jack Parker.

“When we’re hanging on a little too long it’s because we’re not ready to play,” Parker said. “We got the puck on our power play I betcha ten times with complete control in the half and just turned it over. Just let them come up and bump us off the puck while we were hanging on and dusting pucks.”

Grading the Terriers: BU defense gets an A in win over Merrimack

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff 

Offense: B
The top line of Wade Megan, Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues did its job and led the Terriers in terms of scoring. Megan scored a goal and two assists, Rodrigues scored a goal and Hohmann added an assist as the trio all were plus-3 on the night. No other line was on the ice for a point, but the second line chipped into the shot total as Matt Nieto and Sahir Gill combined for five shots.

BU will still be looking for more production out of its bottom two lines though, particularly the third line. Wesley Myron and Yasin Cissé have been held without a point on the season and neither of them did much with the puck offensively Friday.

Defense: A
Matt O’Connor had to make 34 saves on the night, but a lot of the shots that came his way were from outside of good scoring areas thanks to the BU defensemen. Through two periods, Merrimack only had three grade-A scoring chances, and BU was doing a good job of clearing away any loose pucks in the slot.

The defensemen contributed on the offensive end as well, especially the freshmen. Ahti Oksanen scored his second goal of the season on a one-time slap shot to kick off the scoring for BU. Fellow freshman Matt Grzelcyk had his second multi-assist game of the season Friday, including a perfect indirect pass off the boards to send Megan in for the second goal of the game.

Jack Parker also praised Sean Escobedo for his play in all three zones of the ice, calling him “terrific” on the night.

Goaltending: B+
While the defense did succeed in keeping the puck away from O’Connor for most of the night, the 6-foot-5 freshman was there to stop the puck when he needed to. Perhaps his best save came in the first period, when he barely got a piece of a Brian Christie shot at an open net with his glove.

Still, O’Connor was not perfect. He got caught looking for a pass on a shot from a bad angle in the corner that ricocheted off his arm and into the net for Merrimack’s only goal of the game. O’Connor also misplayed the puck two or three times behind his own net, which led to defensive-zone turnovers for BU.

Overall though, O’Connor further solidified himself as the leader in the Terriers’ starting goaltender competition.

Special Teams: B-
The Terriers allowed a power-play goal, but it was not necessarily because of a defensive breakdown. Escobedo was keeping Heffernan to the outside of the shooting area, but a quick, surprise shot beat O’Connor for the power-play goal. Other than that, the Terriers were solid on the penalty kill, killing three opportunities.

BU was unspectacular on the power play though, and while it controlled the puck well at times, it never opened the Merrimack defense up for a good scoring opportunity.

X-Factor: Staying focused on the task at hand
While beating Merrimack in North Andover is not an easy thing to do nowadays, the Terriers could have easily gotten caught looking forward to Sunday night’s showdown with Boston College.

Last season, BU fell to the Warriors in overtime the Friday before its first matchup with BC before topping the Eagles 5–0 on the road. The team looked like it was involved in the game for the full 60 minutes Friday, and won the weekend’s first game, unlike last year. With that out of the way, BU can now direct its attention on the No. 1 Eagles, who are coming off a 3–1 win over No. 7 Notre Dame.