Jim Madigan and his staff are at it again. For the 3rd time in 4 weeks, Northeastern has picked up a commitment from Canada. First it was forward Mike McMurtry, a ’92, from the CCHL. Last week, it was defenseman Dustin Darou, a ’91, also from the CCHL. The latest pick up is another defenseman, Jarrett Fennell, a ’91, from the OJHL.
The big news from this is that the Huskies now have 4 defenseman slated to come in next season, joining the 6 defenseman that are returning (as of now). While it hasn’t been officially announced, it is all but certain that Anthony Bitetto is leaving. His not so cryptic tweet basically confirmed that. Luke Eibler could leave, but there has been absolutely no talk of that so far. The others should be back, unless they decided to transfer.
So it looks like NU will have 10 defenseman heading into next season:
- Luke Eibler, Jr.
- Drew Ellement, Sr.
- Drew Daniels, Sr.
- Josh Manson, So.
- Dan Cornell, So.
- Ben Oskroba, So.
- Mike Gunn, Fr.
- Colton Saucerman, Fr.
- Dustin Darou, Fr.
- Jarrett Fennell, Fr.
So what is Madigan doing? It seems to me like he is just throwing darts and hoping one or two guys work out, kind of like Dan Cornell this year. Or there is the scary possibility that Luke Eibler is leaving with Bitetto and NU is in need of bodies. That would be very bad. But there may be more to this.
Saucerman suffered an ACL injury around Christmas. The fact that Madigan has picked up two defenseman since then makes it seem like Saucerman will not be ready for this season.
There is also the possibility that one of these guys moves to forward to even out the numbers. The two candidates for that are Josh Manson and Drew Daniels. Daniels, like his brother, originally came to Northeastern as a forward. He played one game there this year when injuries left the Huskies with a shorthanded lineup.
Here’s the deal with Daniels: there is a reason he was moved to defense. He put up 8 points as a forward freshman year. He put up 9 in his sophomore season splitting time between forward and defense. He had 7 this season playing only defense. Basically, he is useless as a forward. And he isn’t really the guy you are looking for as a 4th liner. And the biggest thing with Daniels is that he has done really well since moving to defense. Moving him back would weaken the D and not really improve the forwards.
Manson played forward a bit in Juniors, but like Daniels, he really took off when he moved to defense. He got off to a rocky start in his freshman season, but besides the Beanpot game, he played much better in the second half of the season. I think if he stays on defense, he will be much better next season. But, he did show flashes of offensive talent once he got more confident towards the end of the year.
So this situation is definitely one to watch. There is still the possibility that somebody else leaves. But as it stands, there is going to be a logjam to get into the lineup. As a whole, this defense doesn’t look that great. Eibler is great. Him and Bitetto formed a great partnership in there freshman season. When they split up this season, things went in different directions for the two. Bitetto was a mess and Eibler was the best defenseman on the team. The Huskies need him next season. Ellement and Daniels are solid defenseman. Then its a huge question mark. You have 3 sophomores, none very proven. Oskroba got almost no time this season. Cornell did, but seemed to fall off towards the end. Manson is probably the only one you can pencil in the lineup for next season. Then you have 4 freshman. Freshman defenseman usually have a rough go of it in Hockey East. If 1 or 2 can step up, that’d be great, but thats not something you want to be relying on. Its a long way off, but defense may be a problem area for Northeastern next season. But ideally, this would be the defensive pairings:
Oskroba, Darou, Fennell
If Eibler leaves, disregard all of this and begin panicking.