For most Husky fans, it’s no secret that head coach Joe Shawhan has spoken extensively about the need for him and his staff to improve recruiting. Bringing in talented players provides the foundation for any college hockey program and is necessary to achieve any level of success. Over the past several years, Michigan Tech’s recruiting has been inconsistent at best. Last season’s freshman class marked a solid improvement with the additions of Anaheim Ducks prospect Kyle Kukkonen and the presumptive heir to goaltender Blake Pietila’s throne in Max Vayrynen. Still though, the Huskies must continue to improve on recruiting if they are going to be able to reach a new level of success. On paper, it appears Michigan Tech has taken yet another step forward on the recruiting trail as Joe Shawhan, Jordy Murray, and the rest of the staff have done an excellent job putting together a seven-player class headlined by junior stars, familial connections, and even more Finns. Without further ado, let’s meet the incoming freshman class for 2023.
6’0”, 174 Lbs
Kiekko-Espoo (U20 SM-sarja)
Most years it feels as though the main question surrounding Michigan Tech teams is “Where is the offense going to come from?”. Max Koskipirtti is going to be a big part of the answer moving forward. A highly skilled centerman, Koskipirtti starred for his junior team in Finland and was given opportunities to shine with Finland’s national junior team as they evaluate their options for the next World Junior Championship. At this point, expect to see a lot of Koskipirtti early on. He’s likely to begin amongst the top 6 forward group and receive a healthy dose of powerplay time. Koskipirtti will immediately inject high end skill and talent into this Michigan Tech lineup and hopefully provide some of the secondary scoring that has been sorely lacking over the past few seasons.
5’11”, 163 Lbs
Lahti Pelicans (U20 SM-sarja)
The second of two Finnish forwards set to arrive in Houghton in the fall of 2023, Lauri Raiman is a skilled winger whose best asset is his high-end skating. He has long been viewed as one of the top 2004 born Finnish players, as evidenced by him making Finland’s roster for the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championships. Although Raiman had a solid season with his junior team, there might not be a path to immediate top 6 minutes with Michigan Tech next season. Still though, Raiman is an extremely talented player and should be a top 6 staple and a key contributor in the future.
6’1”, 183 Lbs
Des Moines (USHL)
A former high school star in Minnesota, Bartle is a modern power forward who has spent the past two seasons with Des Moines in the USHL. Most Michigan Tech fans have heard head coach Joe Shawhan describe his love for players with “hard skill”, and Bartle fits that description to a tee. Bartle is a strong player along the boards and has the hands and quick release to suggest he will be a key contributor and relied upon goal scorer at the collegiate level. As with most young power forward types, consistency has been hard to come by for Bartle. He flashed this year on an admittedly below average Des Moines team but was also very streaky at times. Unlocking consistency in Bartle’s game will be a huge focus for the Michigan Tech coaching staff over the next couple of years, and if they succeed Bartle could be yet another key top 6 player for the Huskies.
6’0”, 187 Lbs
Sioux Falls (USHL)
Thanks to a stroke of good fortune, Michigan Tech was able to secure a commitment from Isaac Gordon late in the recruiting cycle for this upcoming season. Gordon, who had a very strong rookie season in the USHL, eclipsing 20 goals and 40 points, was originally a Michigan State commit but flipped his commitment to the Huskies after being informed that there would not be room for him in East Lansing next season due to Michigan State’s large influx of forwards from the transfer portal. Gordon is the type of natural goal scorer that programs like Michigan Tech are rarely able to bring in. Gordon has a heavy shot with an excellent release and should bring a much-needed spark to the lackluster Michigan Tech powerplay, as he scored 10 of his 22 goals from the bumper spot on Sioux Falls’ powerplay. As with Max Koskipirtti, expect to see a heavy dose of Gordon from the moment he sets foot on campus. Gordon will undoubtedly be a top 6 and powerplay staple right from the get-go and he will be a go-to scorer throughout his Michigan Tech Career.
6’1”, 181 Lbs
Yes, you read that correctly. Michigan Tech will have a fourth Pietila on the roster this season. The younger brother of twin sensations Logan and Blake, Chase has enjoyed a stellar three year USHL career, culminating in his best offensive season yet and a USHL championship with Youngstown. Pietila has been touted as the best defensive recruit Michigan Tech has had in quite some time, and he absolutely looks the part. I had the privilege of seeing Pietila play in person during the USHL’s Eastern Conference final this season and I was absolutely blown away. Pietila is a strong skater and excellent puck mover, and has even taken a massive step offensively over the past season. Pietila is also dominant in his own zone. During the game I attended, Pietila won several 1 on 1’s with this year’s potential Hobey Baker favorite and presumptive 2024 NHL Draft first overall selection in Boston University commit Macklin Celebrini. The expectation was that Pietila would blossom into a true number one defenseman at the collegiate level at some point during his Michigan Tech career, but I believe he may be ready for that distinction as soon as this season. Discipline may be the only concern with Pietila’s game, as he racked up 125 penalty minutes in just 60 games this season. In my opinion, Pietila is the best player in what seems to be a very strong class. Expectations will be very high immediately, but after seeing him play in person I have no doubt that Chase will be up to the task.
5’9”, 181 Lbs
The first thing to know about Nick Williams is that despite being just 5’9”, he plays much bigger than his size. Williams has never seen a puck battle that he doesn’t want to engage in and has little to no issue with heavy forecheck pressure from bigger forwards. Williams is a solid puck mover and is a very competent defender. Despite not fitting the typical mold of a shutdown defenseman, Williams was exactly that for a very good Youngstown team this season. Williams likely won’t be a powerplay guy at the next level, but expect him to be relied upon heavily in even strength and short-handed scenarios. In my live viewing, Williams’ skating didn’t look the strongest, so there may be a bit of a learning curve as he adjusts to the pace of D1 hockey. Because of this, I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see Williams feature much as a freshman, though his ability to play his off side may provide him with an easier path to minutes than some of Michigan Tech’s other defenseman. Even if he doesn’t play much early on, there is still every chance that Williams becomes a top 4 defenseman during his time in Houghton.
6’2”, 170 Lbs
Cameron Moger doesn’t provide the wow factor that some of the other names in this class do, but bringing in players like him is extremely important for any college hockey program. Moger is described by his general manager in Coquitlam as being a high IQ defender, and that is exactly what Michigan Tech needs from its depth defenseman. Moger may not end up being anything more than a depth or bottom pairing piece for the Huskies, but injuries and poor play happen, so having a steady and reliable player such as Moger that can be called upon is still very important. Michigan Tech is going to have a very deep defensive group next season, and Moger is going to be a big part of that depth.
Overall, this incoming freshman class seems to be the best that the Huskies have put together since the 2018 class that included Trenton Bliss, Brian Halonen, Colin Swoyer and many other phenomenal players. That class made up the core of Michigan Tech’s 2021-22 NCAA tournament team, and the pressure will be on for this group to reach those heights and hopefully raise the bar further. Over the past decade, Michigan Tech’s hockey program has experienced something of a renaissance, receiving multiple national tournament bids and regaining relevance in the college hockey landscape. While this uptick in form has been great fun for Husky fans old and new, the time is now to take yet another step and begin to truly compete on a national stage. Recruiting well is the first step to being able to make another leap, and this class might be talented enough to lead Michigan Tech back into national prominence. Next time, we’ll take a look at players that the Huskies have received verbal commitments from and will be headed to Houghton in future years.
Photo credit via Michigan Tech Hockey on Twitter.
Nathan is currently a student at Michigan Tech, studying Engineering Management. He cultivated his love for the game over a 10 year youth hockey career and is excited to bring his passion to Tech Hockey Guide and Michigan Tech hockey. While not at school, Nathan resides in the Chicagoland area