Around the Big Ten: Week 1 (Hockey)
The 2021 hockey season is nearly underway for one of the most competitive conferences in college hockey and there are plenty of talking points.
Michigan and Minnesota are ranked as top-five teams in the nation according to USCHO.com’s poll. Wisconsin and Notre Dame also feature in the poll’s top-20.
The Michigan Wolverines carry one of the most exciting stories in the Big Ten heading into this season with the amount of NHL draft picks they have returning.
Only four collegiate players have been drafted first overall in the NHL entry draft and Wolverine’s Owen Power was the first in 15 years. Not only did Power receive this prestigious honor, but he is also returning to play his sophomore season at Michigan.
Joining him will be fellow sophomore and the 2021 NHL entry draft’s second overall selection, Matt Beniers. Beniers is a perfect model of the modern-day center, featuring speed, shiftiness and high skill in the offensive zone.
Another notable Wolverine is incoming freshman Luke Hughes, brother of talented NHLers Quinn and Jack as well and the fourth overall selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Challenging the Wolverines for Big Ten dominance and possibly a national title down the line will be the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Minnesota was predicted to win the Big Ten conference in the Big Ten Hockey Coaches Poll despite Michigan’s returning NHL draft selections. The Gophers bolster plenty of returning talent as well, including 2020-2021 Hobey Baker award finalist and Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, Jack LaFontaine.
Wisconsin will look to contend in the Big Ten and move on after losing star forward Cole Caufield to the NHL by leaning on sophomore goaltender Cameron Rowe. Rowe was named to the preseason All-Big Ten second team after posting a .933 save percentage last season.
Notre Dame has made the last five NCAA tournaments under the direction of head coach Jeff Jackson. The Fighting Irish’s participation was cut short in 2021 due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Fighting Irish feature two returning seniors who received preseason Big Ten honors.
Forward Graham Slaggert scored seven goals to go along with 18 assists last season. Defenseman Spencer Stastney scored five goals which tied for the Big Ten lead for defensemen.
Michigan State head coach Danton Cole will look to stifle conference flows with the defensive style of play the Spartans have been known for over the past couple of years.
Penn State will try to recapture the magic that was cut short in the 2020 season with newly named captain Paul DeNaples. Other than a small group of players using their extra year of eligibility, the Nittany Lions will roll with a squad plentiful with underclassmen.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will look to mesh together quickly with nine new players on the roster. Freshman defenseman and 2020 second-round pick Mason Lohrei highlights the newcomers.
This season will certainly be one of the most exciting in recent memory with the amount of pro-level talent playing in the Big Ten.
Maclain Young is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.