Commentary

Week 5 of INCH's A to Z series

Originally Published: September 4, 2009
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 someone you ought to know. INCH moved down the alphabet in Week 5, from Q to S.

Look back: Week 1: A-C | Week 2: C-G | Week 3: G-M | Week 4: M-P

Steve Quailer

Northeastern
So. | F | Arvada, Colo.

Northeastern

Key Statistics: Quailer earned Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors and was the Huskies' rookie of the year after posting 10 goals and 25 points, good for third and fourth on the team, respectively. The Montreal Canadiens' third-round pick in 2008 returns as Northeastern's second-best offensive threat behind junior Wade MacLeod.

What He Does: At 6-foot-3 and just 185 pounds as a freshman, Quailer might look like the teen who sprouted up too quickly. His hockey sense and skill level have helped him overcome any awkwardness, and he can utilize his reach effectively along the wall and in front of the net.

The Bigger Picture: Coach Greg Cronin's teams are known for off-ice dedication, and Quailer has been a weight-room regular to put muscle on that tall frame, staying on campus for the first half of the summer. The Huskies will expect much more from him as a sophomore, including a potential position switch to center. There he'd have added defensive responsibilities and need to take faceoffs, but his intelligence on the ice should make the transition easier -- and could make him even more dangerous offensively with more room to work.

Northeastern assistant coach Sebastien Laplante on Quailer: "He was a relative unknown a few years back playing midget hockey in Colorado. He did a very good job adjusting to the USHL and, again, a very good job stepping in as a freshman here. He's a very smart kid on the ice and that allows him to make those leaps from one level to the next."

Marcello Ranallo

UConn
So. | F | Burnaby, British Columbia

[+] EnlargeMarcello Ranallo
Steve Slade If Marcello Ranallo can use his size and shooting skill more often, he will do big things this season.

Key Statistics: Ranallo was a solid find by coach Bruce Marshall, playing in every game in his inaugural collegiate season. He produced six goals and 22 points as a freshman, the fifth-best point production for a Husky rookie all-time and 13 more than his next-closest classmate. Ranallo's 22 points ranked third on the team, and his minus-3 rating tied for team-best. In Atlantic Hockey, Ranallo ranked eighth in freshman scoring and sixth in rookie assists. Ranallo scored only twice and had nine points in 20 games after New Year's Day.

What He Does: Ranallo has such a nice shot and quick release that Marshall wishes he would use it more often -- last season Ranallo took only 64 shots on net. Ranallo has good size at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds but does not make a big physical presence on the ice, even though he has the strength to do so. He protects the puck well and is a strong skater. Marshall used Ranallo on one of his top lines last season, but he had little consistency with evolving partners. Ranallo played on five different line combinations after New Year's, spending eight games with Jason Krispel and Corey Jendras and seven games alongside Matt Pedemonti and Chris Ochoa.

The Bigger Picture: Marshall won't mind if Ranallo starts to play a bit more selfishly and becomes the go-to guy rather than the playmaker. Ranallo has the gift of tongue -- he speaks English, French and Italian -- but he remains a quiet kid. Marshall admires the way Ranallo carries himself and wouldn't mind having a bunch just like him.

UConn coach Bruce Marshall on Ranallo: "You don't have to worry about him academically or socially. Hockey-wise, he shows up every day, works extremely hard and has a tremendous skill set -- just believing in it will elevate his game. His best hockey is ahead of him.''

Bryan Rufenach

Clarkson
Jr. | D | Cameron, Ontario


Key Statistics: Rufenach was Clarkson's highest-scoring defenseman as a sophomore with nine goals and 18 points in 34 games. Three of his goals were power-play goals and seven came in ECAC Hockey contests.

What He Does: The seventh-round NHL draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 has the offensive talent and puck-moving ability that many teams are looking for in this era of hockey, as the game has opened up. That being said, defensemen are still primarily responsible for the defensive end of the rink and Rufenach can improve in that aspect of his game. He was a minus-6 in the two ECAC Hockey playoff games against Union last spring.

The Bigger Picture: Rufenach arrived at Clarkson as a young freshman and in many respects probably wasn't ready for his freshman season with the Golden Knights. To his credit, he showed great improvement as a sophomore, increased his core strength and skating and started to be more of an impact defenseman. He's still got room to improve in areas of consistency and decision-making, and has time to take strides in those areas.

Clarkson coach George Roll on getting Rufenach to balance offensive abilities with good decision-making: "When he jumps into the play and is seeing the ice well, using his hands and making good decisions offensively, that's when he's at his best. We need him to be good at both ends. That's what it's going to take if he wants to play at the next level."

Luke Salazar

Denver
So. | F | Thornton, Colo.


Key Statistics: Fulfilling a childhood dream of wearing the Pioneers' sweater, Salazar went right to work with the puck. He tied for the team lead with 15 goals as a freshman and finished second in the WCHA in game-winning goals with five. He was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week twice.

Denver

What He Does: As a newcomer to college hockey, Salazar said he was just hoping to crack the lineup of the team he followed growing up. Then, with an almost embarrassed tone in his voice, Salazar said, "I ended up doing a little better than that." How about two goals and an assist in his first collegiate game, as the Pioneers upended Notre Dame in their 2008-09 debut? Playing alongside star forward Tyler Bozak much of the year, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Salazar was able to use his hockey sense to get open in the offensive zone and be in the right place at the right time when loose pucks appeared near the blue paint.

The Bigger Picture: As recently as two decades ago, it was a rarity to see a kid from Denver, or anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region, on a Division I roster. Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky credits the 1995 arrival of the Quebec Nordiques (now known as the NHL's Colorado Avalanche) as the catalyst for a youth hockey boom in the region that can be seen today in the form of locally grown DU standouts such as Salazar (Thornton), Tyler Ruegsegger (Lakewood) and former Pioneer J.P. Testwuide (Vail), along with highly touted incoming freshman Drew Shore (Cherry Hills). Salazar had a proven track record of putting the puck in the net while playing junior hockey in Texas and had Division I offers elsewhere, but decided to put his abilities to the test and attempt to crack the DU lineup. His gamble has paid off handsomely for the Pioneers thus far.

Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky on Salazar: "Luke was the most pleasant surprise of our freshman class last year. While other guys like [Patrick] Wiercioch and [Joe] Colborne got more notoriety, Luke played well and learned quite a bit about what he has to do to stay successful in college hockey."

Eric Sefchik

Army
Sr. | C | Brooklyn, Ohio

[+] EnlargeEric Sefchik
Army Athletic Communications Eric Sefchik should be at his peak in as a senior.

Key Statistics: Sefchik is one of those collegiate players who broke in slowly at the Division I level and improved his game each season after. He saw sparing time as a freshman, netting two goals and an assist in 18 games. During Army's run to a regular-season title when he was a sophomore, Sefchik put up three goals and 10 assists in 34 contests. He enjoyed a breakout season as a junior, centering a top line with all-star Owen Meyer and solid youngster Cody Omilusik -- Sefchik ranked third on the team with nine goals and tops in assists with 20. He is one of only four Army players to have reached 20 assists over the past six seasons. He failed to score on the power play but he did set up 12 man-up goals. Sefchik posted 22 goals and 34 assists in 53 games with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Junior A Hockey League.

What He Does: Sefchik has good ice vision and the ability to slow the action down. Coupled with good hands, Sefchik has become a top playmaker in the league. Sefchik has committed himself to intense off-ice training in recent years, and that has dramatically helped his game.

The Bigger Picture: It's likely that Sefchik will once again center the line with Meyer and Omilusik, and you can expect him on the ice for power plays, shorthanded situations and important faceoffs. As important on the ice as he is off the ice, Sefchik has the respect of his teammates as he was voted the Black Knights' sole captain this season. That is a critical role at the Academy, where military life and academics can be a strain on any athlete, and Sefchik's positive demeanor and calm disposition will be a great aid to the coaching staff.

Army coach Brian Riley on Sefchik: "Every team has those guys who don't get the respect they deserve because they are not flashy and don't put up the numbers the elite players do, but we are a much better team with 'Cheeks' in the lineup than without. Certainly this will be his best year."

Jay Silvia

Holy Cross
So. | LW | Burlington, Mass.


Key Statistics: Silvia finished off a strong rookie season with 14 points after New Year's Day and posted a pair of two-goal efforts in a three-game playoff series loss to Rochester Institute of Technology. He posted 11 goals and 10 assists in 38 contests, ranking fourth on the Crusaders in points, third in goals and seventh in assists. Among Atlantic Hockey rookies, Silvia ranked ninth in points and sixth in goals. Nine of his points (including four goals) came in nonconference action. Silvia scored four times on the power play, four unassisted goals and two game winners. He was a minus-2 for the season. Silvia played three seasons with the Belmont Hill School in the New England prep leagues, earning all-star status each year. He had 52 goals and 36 assists in his career, led by a 24-goal, 16-assist effort as a junior.

What He Does: Silvia earned a job as a third-line winger at the outset of last season and impressed the coaches enough to get a spot on one of the top two lines by Thanksgiving. Silvia has really good hands and protects the puck well. He doesn't have a big slap shot, but he does have a hard snap shot and a quick release. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, but he's not a real banger. Silvia sees the ice well and is a good playmaker.

The Bigger Picture: Silvia played the left side with center J.P. Martignetti for most of the new year, 12 games with Everett Sheen and the last six with Brodie Sheahan. There was also a February stretch when he played with three other centers as coach Paul Pearl juggled his lineups. Pearl said he isn't sure what his line pairings will be at the outset this season, though he expects Silvia to see plenty of ice time. Pearl said once Silvia improves his quickness, he can become a dominating player.

Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl on Silvia: "He was a kid we were really excited to be getting. We like Jay, we love his game and really think he's a good player. We will utilize him as much as we did in the second half last year. He was one of the best players on the ice that weekend against RIT."

Shane Sims

Ohio State
Jr. | D | East Amherst, N.Y.


Key Statistics: After compiling a modest offensive output (1 goal, 10 assists) and a disappointing defensive record (minus-12 rating) during his freshman season in Columbus, Sims emerged as a two-way force during his sophomore campaign, helping the Buckeyes improve by 10 wins last season. The New York Islanders draft pick was an integral part of Ohio State's power play, scoring five of his seven goals with a man advantage. He also showcased solid playmaking ability with 17 assists, ending the year with a 7-17-24 line in 42 games. To top off his increased offensive effectiveness, Sims also improved his plus/minus rating to an impressive plus-13 -- tied for tops in the Buckeyes' defensive corps.

OSU

What He Does: The most notable piece of Sims' increasingly well-rounded game is his shooting ability, which coaches, teammates and scouts drool over. And while he is best known for unleashing slap shots and one-timers from the blue line, Sims can also distribute the puck skillfully and intelligently. Perhaps the most underrated part of his game is his deceptive speed, which allows him to lead the Buckeyes' transition game when necessary and close gaps on opponents quicker than expected to make plays defensively.

The Bigger Picture: Ohio State was an extremely young team last year and made great strides after a slow 2-5-1 start. While the Buckeyes' players and coaches were happy to end the season with a 23-15-4 mark and an NCAA tournament appearance, they are looking to make the next step into the CCHA's top four and to advance further in the postseason. After falling behind quickly to Boston University in the NCAA tournament, giving up three first-period goals en route to an 8-3 defeat, quicker starts will be key for Ohio State -- both in the season and individual games. Sims will be counted on to help set that tone. Sims will be expected to be physically and skillfully assertive to point the Buckeyes' compass in the right direction from the get-go.

Ohio State assistant coach Jason Lammers on Sims: "I think that what makes Shane special is that he has a rocket of a shot, an absolute bomb. He's a great passer and when he plays assertively he is one of the best defensemen in the league."

Derek Stepan

Wisconsin
So. | F | Hastings, Minn.

[+] EnlargeDerek Stepan
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDerek Stepan used his summer to train with Team USA.

Key Statistics: Stepan is the top returning scorer for the Badgers, having finished second on the team offensively as a rookie. He notched 24 assists and 33 points, which placed him in the top four among WCHA rookies. He also filled a special teams role for Wisconsin during much of the season, scoring two shorthanded goals during one penalty kill versus North Dakota in March.

What He Does: New York Rangers fans might have been struck by a sense of deja vu when the team called Stepan's name in the summer of 2008, picking the natural scorer 51st overall in the NHL draft. It was apparently part of a family tradition for the Stepan clan, as the Rangers picked Derek's father Brad in the fifth round of the 1985 draft. Like all of the Badgers, Derek struggled a bit early in the 2008-09 season, but learned fast and was the team's hottest source of offense late in the year, leading the team with 20 points in Wisconsin's final 20 games. The Badgers won four of their last five games and captured third place in the WCHA's regular season and postseason, but just missed an invite to the NCAA tournament.

The Bigger Picture: While he was learning the game that now occupies so much of his life, Stepan admits that skating didn't come naturally and he needed extra work to develop the mobility needed to make him a complete player. Stepan also learned ways to capture and control the puck without being the biggest player or fastest skater. As his skating skills grew, his self-taught puck-control abilities became that much more effective. Along with much of his Wisconsin team, Stepan spent a good portion of the summer in Madison, working hard on and off the ice to improve strength and stamina. Another part of his summer was spent in Lake Placid, attending the training camp and tryouts for Team USA's entry at the 2010 World Junior Championship. With an extra season of skill development under his belt, Stepan is working toward spending a holiday break in Saskatchewan and one April weekend in Detroit.

Stepan on the abrupt end to his freshman season with the Badgers: "Everybody had a crappy feeling in our stomachs and a crappy taste in our mouths knowing it was over and how close we were. You win one of those games in overtime or hit an empty-netter here or there and we'd be in [the NCAA tournament]. So I think you'll see a pretty detail-oriented hockey team this season."

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