#7: Merrimack College Warriors
Reasons for Optimism:
Merrimack returns the most offense of all Hockey East teams (with 91% of their offense returning), including their top 10 scorers. Merrimack also has an excellent goaltender in Sam Marotta, who had a .925% SV and 2.28 GAA.
Reasons for Pessimism:
Merrimack’s offense was only 7th in the league last year, and with so many strong teams this year, they’ll need their offense to really step things up to make a fight of it.
Merrimack has a high upside in this league. If Marotta plays as well as he did last year and the offense improves, they could be fighting for the top spots. However, BC, Lowell, Providence and Notre Dame all look like very formidable foes and BU and UNH always compete. I placed Merrimack in 7th in large part because I have my doubts that by the time playoffs roll around the Warriors have managed to hang onto a top seed in this tough league.
#6 Boston University Terriers
Reason for Optimism:
As the expression goes, BU doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The terriers attract so much toop-tier talent year after year that even when top scorers and top goalies leave, they stay near the top of the pack. BU can count on an excellent goalie in Sean Maguire (and Matt O’Connor has good stats as well). BU can count on a solid defense and dynamic offense.
Reason for Pessimism:
Boston University returns just over half of their total offense from last year, by far the lowest in the league. They’ll need to see a lot of new production from their incoming players as well as returning players in order to stay where they were last year (and even then they went 15-10-2 in league play). In addition, the departure of Jack Parker and a new coach is always a wrinkle, an uncertainty for the Terriers.
In a previous year, the Terriers would probably be talked about as a top-4 contender. However, BC is always a top team, Lowell shows no signs of slowing down, Notre Dame has a lot of potential, and teams like Providence and UNH showed a lot of promise last year. With BU needing to boost their offensive output by a such a high amount, and with such talent around them, I don’t think they’ll be a top-4 team this year.