Last Tuesday evening, patrons were able to have an off-the-record chat with head coach Joe Shawhan. One of the many questions asked was about the upcoming roster. Joe admitted that his plan in this new environment with players able to leave without sitting out a season was to expand his roster and build from within to fill voids left by departing players. The hope with this thought process is to build a culture that creates accountability, making players want to stay and not let down their teammates.
As part of this discussion, we went through all the changes to the roster which led to my first update to the recruiting grid since last August. The first item to discuss is 5th year players that are returning. Michigan Tech will take advantage of the NCAA’s covid rules with last season not counting as one of the 4 seasons a player can play by having Justin Misiak and Mark Sinclair return for a 5th college hockey season. Misiak is a great spark plug and on-ice leader who will be great to have back. Sinclair is a great 1A goaltender to have in a season that should have pretty high expectations. Sinclair’s attitude fits right in to the role of backing up to-be junior Blake Pietila, and it makes life easier on Shawhan and company to find a netminder that can compete right away from the transfer portal.
Speaking of the transfer portal, there were departures and arrivals as part of this new dynamic in NCAA hockey. Michigan Tech lost TJ Polglaze to upstart St Thomas, and Carson Bantle to Wisconsin. Bantle is a big loss from a recruiting standpoint, the Arizona Coyotes draft pick was expected to do big things in Houghton. Nevertheless, the Huskies dipped into the portal and found three players to add to the roster this coming season. The first to commit was BU forward Matt Quercia. His stats don’t paint the greatest picture, but he transfers with up to 3 years of eligibility remaining and he’s big, listed at 6′ 3″ 203 lbs. The Huskies followed that up by adding senior blueliner Michael Karow from BC, who’s also a draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes. He could see plenty of time on defense as an experienced left handed option which Michigan Tech to fill the void of Tyler Rockwell, who opted to not play a 5th season with the Huskies. The last transfer is the promising young Australian forward, Tyrone Bronte who’s coming from Alabama-Huntsville after they decide not to play this season without a conference.
Coach Shawhan admitted that the UAH staff reached out to MTU after the announcement to see if there was a place for Bronte on the Huskies. His skill and speed on the struggling Chargers team shined through in just about every game I watched. As a freshman, Bronte finished second on the team in goals and lead the team in assists and points. He also plays Center, where Michigan Tech has really struggled to recruit quality players. Hopefully his speed up the middle will help change that for the Huskies.
Lastly for this piece, we discuss the players joining the Huskies as freshmen. The class is projected to be five players with three forwards and two defensemen.
Let’s start on the blueline, where the Huskies will add Grant Docter and Trever Russell. Docter committed while starting his Senior season with Minnetonka where he ended up being a finalist for Mr. Hockey Minnesota. He bounced around junior hockey playing for Madison, Des Moines, and Muskegon in the USHL before finally finding success this season in the NAHL with the Minnesota Wilderness. He will hope to get an opportunity early as a left handed defensemen with offensive upside. Russell, on the other hand, hails from Tennessee (the Misfits will need another new flag) and has spent the last 2 years developing in the NAHL. He’s a right shot and bigger, checking in at 6-2. We’ll see how things shape up, but neither will be expected to contribute right away.
There are a trio of forwards coming in with local prospect Alex Nordstrom, who spent his first year of junior hockey in Alberta before spending the last 2 seasons as more of a role player in the USHL. He definitely has a scoring touch that can hopefully be developed at the D1 level over the next four seasons. Next up is Levi Stauber, the son of Pete Stauber, a former teammate of Joe Shawhan at LSSU. Stauber committed as a pretty highly regarded recruit out of Duluth Marshall where he participated in the High School Elite League but he’s never really replicated his high school success in junior hockey, scoring around a third of a point a game over 150 in the BCHL and NAHL. The last forward to commit in this group is also the most likely to make an impact as a freshman. Joe hinted at this addition in an earlier JSH and I do believe we had Marcus Pedersen on our shortlist for patrons on an episode of Chasing MacNaughton, but Pedersen is big (6’3″) and has produced in the Swedish J20 League, where Arvid Caderoth came from. In 60 games over the last two seasons, Pedersen has put up 25 goals and 29 assists. For comparison Caderoth’s line over a similar period was 76 games, 18 goals, 39 assists.
All told, these changes will result in a 32 player roster (19 forwards, 10 defensemen and 3 goalies). That is a massive roster, but Shawhan seems to think this is the direction to go to allow for internal protection from transfer portal departures and hopefully create competition and continue to grow the culture in a way that players want to be a part of the program and not let down their teammates by transferring. Only time will tell if this roster will succeed in the way Joe wants or if it will create issues trying to find playing time for everyone. With a roster this big, at least 7 forwards and 3 defensemen in street clothes every night and 10 players will not traveling for road games.
I do tend to agree with Joe’s comments on both our zoom chat and this week’s Joe Shawhan Hour on Mix 93. With what the Huskies have put together and their general lack of turn over, Michigan Tech should be fighting until the end for the MacNaughton Cup. Anything less than a top 3 finish will be a disappointment in my eyes. I can’t wait for October to see how things come together this season for Michigan Tech.
Featured Image courtesy of Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography