Last week, The Old Dog started THG’s review of Michigan Tech’s hockey roster for the 2020-2021 season that’s slated to start on November 21st at Lake Superior State. In Part 1, we looked at the prospects for this season’s freshman class. This week, we’ll take a peek at the Huskies’ forwards.
Seniors are not the core of Tech’s squad this year, with seven in total and four forwards. Two senior forwards should have an important role in what could be their final year. However, since the NCAA has decided not to count this COVID-19 year against anyone’s eligibility, it’s possible that any current senior could actually return for a fifth year.
Two seniors are likely to see the ice most nights.
Justin Misiak started his career as a Husky with a bang, scoring a big goal in 2017’s Icebreaker Tournament victory over Minnesota-Duluth—the eventual NCAA champions that season. Since then, he’s been like the Energizer Bunny for Tech, going full tilt every shift, blocking shots and making key plays. Misiak has never been a big scorer, tallying 16 goals and 17 assists over 119 games. But he’s also been assigned a checking role most nights. Could he score more this season? Possibly, if he gets more time on the first or second line, as he did late last season. No matter, he’ll be a factor for this year’s team and his manic game will inspire others.
Greyson Reitmeier has been something of an enigma for the past three years. He’s scored a few goals, played in a lot of games (113 in three years) and scored the game winner in the WCHA playoff championship against Northern Michigan in 2018 to capture the inaugural Sauer Trophy. He’s shown flashes of great play but seems invisible other nights. If this year’s underclassmen continue to develop, he may find himself sitting out more games than he has in past seasons.
The last two seniors will struggle for ice time. Marcus Russell may get in the lineup early in the season if the incoming freshmen don’t shine, and he’s a reliable hard-working winger. David Raisanen is a big body and a character player in the locker room and at practice (and a serious student as well) but he may only get a token game or two in the lineup.
The junior forwards will be the heart of the offense for the Huskies in 2020-2021. In fact, I’ll go further and say that this team will only be as good as these players. If they perform the way they could, Tech will be a real offensive power. If they don’t, it might be another grind-it-out year with many games decided by a goal in the third period.
Tommy Parrottino was the hottest player on the team at the end of last season. He had six goals in the last nine games, including four in the WCHA playoff series against NMU. He started to show a nose for the net that was rarely seen in his freshman year.
Brian Halonen played very well as a freshman (12 G, 9 A) and matched that as a sophomore (12 G, 10 A). He did get special attention from WCHA foes, though, and that may be why he didn’t score more in his second year. Nevertheless, he played like a man possessed at the end of last season, even if he wasn’t prominent on the scoresheet. He could be a big factor upfront this season.
Trenton Bliss will wear one of the “A” patches this year, and will be a pivotal player for Tech. He meshed well with Parrottino and was co-leader in scoring for Them Dogs with 12 goals and 15 assists. He was injured in the playoff series against NMU but is fully recovered. Another vital cog in the Black and Gold machine, Bliss must deliver for the Huskies this season.
Alec Broetzman tied Bliss for the scoring lead (16G, 11 A) and will be the Husky captain this year. Like Bliss, the soft-spoken Dallas-born (had to get that in) Broetzman must take the next step in his development and become a player who will dominate at both ends of the ice and in the faceoff circle. If Broetzman can tally 35-plus points this year, Tech’s offense will be exciting to watch.
TJ Polglaze has been a strong penalty killer for the Huskies, but he’s just never been able to notch any points. He may be in the lineup more often than not, but unless he can do more than he’s done in the past, he will be one of the guys who never know if they’ll dress for a game or watch from the press box.
While the junior class is critical to Tech’s season, the sophomores will also play a vital role this season. However, like all sophomores, you can’t predict if their freshman performances will improve, get worse, or stay about the same. So, this is one of the question marks coach Joe Shawhan will have to deal with.
Logan Pietila got better and better as he evolved in his freshman year. Starting with his hat trick at the Great Lakes Invitational and progressing to his series-winning overtime goal in the playoffs against NMU, Pietila was the “special sauce” in the Parrottino-Bliss line that was Tech’s top offensive threat in the second half of the season. Can he continue to improve? If he does, he could become an all-conference player and someone who opponents must spend extra effort to defend against. If that happens, and Pietila can handle that, his ceiling might be high indeed.
Parker Saretsky and Logan Ganie were teammates in juniors in the Alberta Junior league, and at times, seemed like interchangeable pieces in their freshman year. Saretsky had more points (5 G, 12 A), but in the final weeks of the season, Ganie started to show his value and notched two tough goals in the crease area in the playoffs. Like Pietila, the big question is how they’ll handle their second year in college hockey.
Jake Crespi was Mr. Hockey in Michigan in 2017, but in his first year at Tech, he had trouble finding the net (0G, 2A in 20 games). Like many freshmen, he was much better in the second half of the season and earned Shawhan’s trust in the final ten games. Again, can he continue to grow? Time will tell.
We reviewed the newcomers in last week’s column so I won’t rehash what I had to say. But Carson Bantle and Arvid Caderoth could be impact players and will be pushing for ice time—and just might be big-time scorers before the year is over.
The Old Dog’s Assessment
This is the most offensive talent that Joe Shawhan has had since he took the reins in 2017-2018. There’s more than enough for four strong lines every night. If Tech dresses 12 forwards, that means five players will be sitting, although they might dress an extra forward for some games. Broetzman, Bliss, and Parrottino should, barring injury, play every game, and Logan Pietila, Halonen, and Misiak are almost certain to play as well.
If the pre-season hype we’ve heard at THG holds, Bantle, Caderoth, Ganie, Saretsky, and Reitmeier will usually fill the next five slots. That leaves Crespi, Polglaze and Russell to skirmish for the final position. Figure that freshmen Blais Richartz and Nick Nardella will also be in that mix, with Raisanen likely to play in special situations—and there will be eleven Husky forwards who’ll need to play their best if they want to get into (or stay in) the lineup.
In the defense-oriented, tight-checking, goaltender-centric WCHA, you don’t rise to the top winning 2-1 and 3-2 games every night.
The Huskies could have an explosive offense if things fall right and if that happens, Them Dogs will be in the mix for the McNaughton Cup. If they don’t, then the Huskies might again have trouble getting a top seed in whatever playoff format the WCHA might choose in this far-from-normal season.
Still, on paper this looks like Tech’s best offensive roster in a long time, potentially better than 2015 McNaughton Cup winners led by Tanner Kero. From my distant vantage point in Texas, the Old Dog can’t wait to see how this unfolds.