Commentary

Week 3 of INCH's A to Z series

Updated: August 21, 2009, 4:23 PM ET
By Inside College Hockey

Inside College Hockey's A to Z profiles feature players worth knowing in 2009 from every Division I team. These guys aren't necessarily the best players or the biggest names, but each is someone you ought to know. INCH moved down the alphabet in Week 3, from G to M.

Look back: Week 1: A-C | Week 2: C-G

Gabe Guentzel

Colorado College
So. | D | Woodbury, Minn.


Key Statistics: Guentzel looked as if he belonged on a college hockey rink right from the start as a rookie, leading all first-year Tigers in games played (36), assists (14) and points (17). He was named CC's rookie of the year, an award named after legendary coach Bob Johnson.

[+] EnlargeGabe Guentzel
Casey B. GibsonGabe Guentzel led Colorado College in points, assists and games played in his stellar freshman campaign.

What He Does: Coach Scott Owens tried some mixing and matching on the CC power play last season, pairing newcomer Guentzel with veteran rear guard Brian Connelly on the points during power plays. The duo of lefties turned out to be a big hit, as Guentzel recorded all three of his rookie-year goals with the man advantage. Most importantly for Gabe in an on-going Guentzel family rivalry, his first collegiate goal came Oct. 11, more than a month before his brother Ryan, who will be a junior forward at Notre Dame, got his first collegiate goal.

The Bigger Picture: It's one thing to have your parents stop by college to check up on you now and then. It's quite another thing when Dad moves in. Gabe's father, Mike (an assistant coach at Minnesota for 14 seasons), moved his son to Colorado Springs a year ago and quietly interviewed for a job with the Tigers while he was visiting. In September, Mike joined the CC staff, coaching the Tigers' forwards. Owens likes to joke that it was a pretty nice package deal for CC hockey. Gabe, who was surrounded by all things Gophers as a youth hockey player, said he knew he didn't want to follow his father to Minnesota and hoped to chart his own course in college. Instead, it was the father following the son, which has worked out well so far.

Colorado College coach Scott Owens on Guentzel: "Gabe plays hockey with a passion and competes every time he steps on the ice. Combine that with his skill package and you get a very good defenseman. He's got good vision and good hands and one of the better one-timers on our team."

Brady Hjelle

Minnesota Duluth
So. | G | International Falls, Minn.


Key Statistics: It was a year spent mostly learning through practice and observation for Hjelle. As the backup to All-American Alex Stalock, he saw action in two games, posting a 1.50 goals-against average and a .941 saves percentage. His only collegiate start was a 4-2 win over Frozen Four semifinalist Bemidji State on Jan. 17.

What He Does: Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin jokes that UMD defensemen are going to have more work to do this season with Hjelle between the pipes instead of Stalock, who never saw a loose puck he didn't want to handle. "I'll play the puck sometimes, but nothing like him," said Hjelle, who is more of a stay-at-home goalie and calls himself a bit of a butterfly, although he doesn't automatically drop when the puck is shot.

The Bigger Picture: After a successful year of junior hockey which included helping Team USA to a bronze medal at the World Junior A Challenge and a spot on the USHL All-Star team, Hjelle came to college hockey knowing that, barring an injury, he would be Stalock's understudy. He spent last year at UMD absorbing as much as he could from facing the Bulldogs in practice, and observing the quirks of the opponents' rinks, learning what to expect from the different fans and where the bad bounces were. His favorite time was a trip to the Kohl Center, where Hjelle watched "thousands of fans barking at Al the whole game" and thought how awesome it would be to be on the ice. Come October, Hjelle will get his chance.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin on Hjelle: "Brady got better and better as the year went on, constantly improving in practice, and learning a little bit from Mr. Stalock. He's proven everywhere he's been that he can stop the puck."

Mike Hoeffel

Minnesota
Jr. | F | North Oaks, Minn.

Key Statistics: Hoeffel played in 35 of Minnesota's 37 games as a second-year player, missing a pair while he was with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. He led the Golden Gophers in power-play goals with six and was a member of the WCHA's All-Academic team.

[+] EnlargeMike Hoeffel
Josh Holmberg/Icon SMIMike Hoeffel's added weight should make him even harder to cover this season.

What He Does: After a season with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan, Hoeffel made a nice impact upon returning to his home state. He saw action in all 45 of his team's games as a rookie and was a member of the WCHA Final Five all-tournament team. Standing 6-foot-2 and more than 200 pounds, Hoeffel possesses a deadly shot if he chooses to release the puck from beyond the circles, but coaches would prefer he take up valuable space in front of the opponents' net and generally be a hard guy to play against. To that end, he's added a dozen pounds of bulk and muscle over the summer.

The Bigger Picture: Hoeffel and many Minnesota fans agree: The past two seasons, when his team is a collective six games over .500, have been subpar by Gophers standards. That may explain why nearly every returning Gopher stayed near campus over the summer, going to school and meeting at 7:30 a.m. most days to work out together, "getting our chemistry and our attitudes right," Hoeffel said. One of the bigger changes in Gopherland that Hoeffel anticipates as he works to grow into the power forward role is the addition of Grant Potulny to the Minnesota coaching staff. Potulny crashed the net in overtime of the 2002 NCAA title game and was rewarded with the national championship game-winner. That's a lesson Hoeffel and many Gophers are eager to learn from their new coach.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia on Hoeffel: "He's made a jump in both of his first two years and has an opportunity to play an increased role for us offensively. He needs to continue to learn to be a power forward, which means being strong on the puck, going hard to the net and getting more of those dirty goals around the blue paint."

Dave Jarman

Sacred Heart
Sr. | F | Toronto, Ontario


Key Statistics: Jarman has been the picture of consistency through three seasons in Fairfield, netting 11, 12 and 11 goals for the Pioneers, but more is expected of him this year. He finished second to Bear Trapp in team points -- Jarman had 29 points. Two goals and nine points came in non-league action, and Jarman closed strong with points in his last eight games and 11 of his last 12 outings last season. Jarman has 34 goals and 85 points in 109 career games, with nine goals on the power play. His 22 points as a freshman ranked sixth on the team and his 34 points as a sophomore ranked third. Jarman was a 2006 playoff MVP for the Georgetown Raiders in the Ontario Provincial League.

What He Does: Jarman has been a first- or second-line center for much of his collegiate career, and he's always played on the power play and penalty kill because he possesses good hockey sense. Jarman uses his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame well and is strong on his skates. He handles the puck well and has the ability to make plays as well as finish them off. His defensive play is very strong, and he is an exceptional faceoff man.

The Bigger Picture: Big gunners such as Alex Parent, Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Bear Trapp are now gone, and now it's Jarman who is expected to step up and become a difference-maker, and that certainly means scoring more than a dozen goals. Coach Shaun Hannah has encouraged the senior to shoot more this season. Jarman tends to have slow starts and comes on strong in the second half of the season; Hannah says he needs to get out of the gate strong this year, although it's unclear whom Jarman will be skating with at the outset. Hannah believes Jarman has pro potential.

Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah on Jarman: "This year will be a special year. He will put everything together. He has leadership ability. He's hungry [to be a big scorer] and ready for it. He has the right mentality to be that type of player. He is very competitive."

Denny Kearney

Yale
Jr. | F | Hanover, N.H.

Yale

Key Statistics: Denny Kearney has been a consistent point producer through his first two campaigns. He was fourth on Yale in scoring with 31 points as a sophomore and had 22 points as a freshman. He's never missed a game in his Yale career and had two seven-game point streaks in 2008-09.

What He Does: Kearney is equally adept at scoring and setting up teammates. He's used on the penalty kill and fits the mold of the type of forwards that seem to run 12-deep on Yale's four lines. He's a great skater and has good offensive sense without sacrificing defensive responsibility. He fashions himself as a playmaker and sets up on the half-wall and down low on Yale's power-play units. Kearney had four points on six total Yale goals in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series win over Brown.

The Bigger Picture: As Yale increased its talent in recent years, players like Kearney helped get the Bulldogs back to the NCAA tournament as part of the best year in program history. Now that he's a junior, he and other classmates will be expected to take on a bigger leadership role and develop consistency in New Haven. The Bulldogs' challenge this year is to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. Growing up in an Ivy League town and following ECAC Hockey throughout his life has given Kearney an appreciation for the tougher times in recent Yale history.

Yale coach Keith Allain on Kearney: "He was good as a freshman and even better as a sophomore. The great thing about him is that he's an offensively talented player but he can also kill penalties."

Blake Kessel

New Hampshire
So. | D | Verona, Wis.


Key Statistics: Kessel compiled six goals and seven assists as a freshman defenseman, including three power-play goals and three game-winners. Five of his goals and 10 of his points came after Dec. 1. His point total was the best for a UNH freshman defenseman since 2002.

What He Does: Kessel has developed outside the spotlight that shines on older brother Phil -- whom INCH profiled under the headline "The Next One." But that's not to say the defenseman in the family is unheralded. Blake Kessel entered UNH after earning USHL Defenseman of the Year honors. He has shown the type of two-way game that you'd expect from someone who patterns his play after Ryan Suter, the former Wisconsin star and current Nashville Predator.

The Bigger Picture: Kessel's six goals as a freshman were more than the rest of the Wildcat defense combined, and 23-assist man Kevin Kapstad is gone to graduation. Now that he's established himself as a reliable player in his own zone, Wildcat fans can expect to see more offensively from Kessel as a sophomore. UNH hasn't had a truly dynamic offensive defenseman since Brian Yandle -- who jumped from six points as a freshman to 28 as a sophomore.

Blake Kessel on his famous older brother, to The New Hampshire: "He and I are best friends so it really doesn't bother me that much; I don't even mind being called 'Phil's little brother' as long as he puts up like 50 goals. Some guys might think it's a little awkward or whatever, but I actually like it. It gives you some insight into what the world is like."

Alex Killorn

Harvard
So. | F | Montreal, Quebec


Key Statistics: Killorn had a steady freshman year for Harvard with six goals and 14 points. He played in 30 of Harvard's 31 games. Five of his goals came on the power play. He also had 23 penalties, all minors. His 14 points were tied for fourth best on the Crimson.

[+] EnlargeAlex Killorn
dspics.comHarvard will look to Alex Killorn for clutch performances again this year.

What He Does: Killorn is a playmaker, but showed a bit of a scorer's touch with those six goals. Two of those came in a pair of Harvard's most important games -- a 4-3 Beanpot loss to Boston University and a 4-2 win at home over Cornell. In that Beanpot game, Killorn was the player who set up Alex Biega for his shot that found the net just after the third period expired, showing that the Harvard coaching staff trusts him to come up with big plays late in games.

The Bigger Picture: On a Harvard team that struggled to score goals, Killorn will be looked at as a guy who should increase his production as a sophomore. The coaching staff asked him to work on his shooting over the summer, and with that improvement, he can be a dual threat on the half-wall during Crimson power plays. One of the biggest lessons he learned as a freshman was how to use his teammates effectively.

Alex Killorn on turning things around at Harvard in 2009-10: "We didn't win one road game last year and we want to win on the road. I think our senior leadership is good and there's a different morale on the team this year. We should be fine."

Dan Lawson

Vermont
Jr. | D | Oak Forest, Ill.


Key Statistics: Lawson tripled his rookie year point production with eight goals and 10 assists as a sophomore, leading Vermont defensemen in scoring. His plus-17 shared the team lead and he was the team's Most Improved Player.

What He Does: For as long as hockey is played in the Green Mountain State, Lawson will be remembered as the guy who shot the puck through the net to get the Catamounts to the 2009 Frozen Four. That goal against Air Force, his second of the game, certainly goes down as one of the program's biggest strikes -- but if all he had was a heavy shot, we wouldn't profile him here.

The Bigger Picture: Lawson is an imposing figure, a guy whose 6-foot-3, 252-pound frame was 31 pounds bigger than anyone else in Hockey East last season. More than a linebacker on skates, however, he clearly has some offensive skill to complement his size and physicality. The Catamounts will look to build upon last year's success without Viktor Stalberg, Peter Lenes or Dean Strong, but Lawson and the entire defense return, along with goaltender Rob Madore. With the big guns gone, there will be more pressure on Lawson's broad shoulders in 2009-10.

Lawson, when asked after the Air Force game whether he'd ever put a puck through the net before: "No, no, not that I remember. A couple got stuck in old nets with some loose twine. I never dreamed about putting a puck through the net. I didn't do it until now."

Mike Louwerse

Minnesota State
So. | F | Brooklyn Park, Minn.
 


Key Statistics: Louwerse started fast with two goals in the season opener and finished as the Mavericks' top-scoring rookie last season, matching his 13 goals with 13 assists. He led the team with nine power-play goals and was in the top 20 in the nation in points per game by a freshman.

What He Does: After just four games in the 2007-08 season, Louwerse needed a pair of sports hernia surgeries and took a medical redshirt, forcing him to start all over in 2008-09. Looking back, both he and coach Troy Jutting agree that was the best thing that could've happened, as he might not have been physically ready for the college game two years ago, coming directly from the Minnesota high school level. The extra year gave him a head start on a marketing degree and a chance to hit the weights, establishing a strong base which makes it harder for opponents to move him away from the front of the net when the Mavericks are on the power play.

The Bigger Picture: Louwerse's coaches, teammates and a growing army of fans in southern Minnesota love what he did as a rookie, especially on the power play, where Mike manned the back door all season. Now he's looking to take the next step offensively, aiming for more five-on-five production and becoming, in his head coach's words, "effective in all zones of the rink." Last season there was a natural on-ice chemistry that developed when Louwerse and Ryan Galiardi were paired, so look for a reunion there. The Mavericks will feature a dozen seniors and juniors on their roster this season, giving reason for hope that veteran leadership and an influx of sophomore spark from players such as Louwerse will mean the return of home playoff games to Mankato.

Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting on Louwerse: "He had a great year as a freshman, scoring 13 goals, but now he needs to round off his game. Offensively, Mike is very intuitive. He has a great feel for the game and knows where he needs to be and when he needs to be there."

Billy Maday

Notre Dame
So. | F | Burr Ridge, Ill.

Notre Dame

Key Statistics: Maday was a key cog in the nation's most efficient power play as a freshman, with seven of his 14 goals coming with a man advantage. Known for his offensive instincts and ability to help the players on his line make plays, Maday helped generate chances for the "ugly" goals that made the Fighting Irish so successful last season by leading the team with 108 shots.

What He Does: The sophomore-to-be is praised by coach Jeff Jackson for his reliability at both ends of the ice and killer instincts that allow him to take the right shots and find his teammates in the right places. Maday played the point on the power play effectively, contributing offensively without sacrificing the ability to cover the transition game.

The Bigger Picture: Notre Dame was extremely effective at both ends of the ice last year, and while they have a strong corps returning, Maday and his teammates will be counted on to make up for some of the lost offense. He'll likely continue to play on a line with Kevin Deeth and Calle Ridderwall, with whom he had great chemistry last year -- partially due to the fact that he and Ridderwall were midget hockey teammates with the Chicago Chill.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson on Maday: "He has good instincts and a good shot, and we used him on the off-point which is difficult for a forward to do, especially a freshman forward. He was able to contribute right away on the power play and wasn't responsible for any short-handed goals -- he makes the players around him better. [This season,] I'd like to see him take another step in his five-on-five play and continue to develop his overall game."

For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.