The hits just keep on coming for Northeastern with the news that rising Junior Luke Eibler will not be returning to the team next season. The news, which was first reported by Kristin Kim on Twitter, was confirmed to Husky Hockey Blog by a team source earlier today. Eibler is 8th Husky to leave the program this summer.
Eibler, a Michigan native, came to Northeastern after a year in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms. In his first year at NU, Eibler found himself paired with another freshman, Anthony Bitetto. The two of them combined to put together a pretty impressive campaign. Bitetto was the one who got the Hockey East accolades, but Eibler was a solid defenseman in his own right. He managed 3 goals and 10 assists, but more importantly, he finished 2nd on the team with a +12 rating.
Eibler returned to NU for his sophomore season despite interest from the NHL, namely Washington. During this past season, circumstances forced the coaching staff to break up the Bitetto/Eibler pairing. The change did not slow down Eibler. He had just 1 goal and 7 assists, but his +10 rating was again second best on the team. Down the stretch, it became clear that Eibler was the best defensive option on the team. Losing Bitetto earlier this summer was unfortunate. Losing Eibler is a catastrophe. Northeastern has been hit with many losses this summer, but with the exception of Steve Quailer, none of those losses were extremely detrimental to the team. This one is. Eibler has been underrated in his time here and over the past 2 years has really developed into a solid defenseman. The defense is now a gigantic question mark at best.
The Huskies have just 5 defenseman on their roster now, plus 4 recruits coming in. Senior Drew Ellement is really the only sure thing. Sophomore Josh Manson really came on in the second half of last season. He should also be in the lineup every night. After that the Huskies have Junior Jake Hoeffler (4 career GPs), Sophomore Ben Oskroba (9 career GPs) and Sophomore Dan Cornell, who walked on to the team and played very well in the first half, but struggled towards the end of the season. As far as recruits go, Mike Gunn should step right into the lineup. After that, its anyone’s guess. Former Lowell commit Colton Saucerman has missed most of this season with a torn ACL. Then there are two kids coming from Canadian leagues that don’t typical put many kids in Hockey East. Jarrett Fennell comes from the OJHL and Dustin Darou, who was once committed to Michigan, comes from the CCHL. One thing all 4 of these recruits have in common is age. Darou and Fennell are both ’91s. Gunn and Saucerman are ’92s. All 4 will come with every chance of working their way into what has become a wide-open lineup. Freshman defenseman generally struggle in Hockey East, but Madigan is hoping that he can buck that trend by bringing in some older guys.
One thing is for sure. Its been a rough summer for Northeastern and we are only in April. Next season can’t come soon enough.