2012-13 Bucky's 5th Quarter WCHA Preview

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

With big time changes on the horizon, 2012-13 will mark the final season of the WCHA with national powerhouses like Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Denver. Who will take home the MacNaughton Cup? That remains to be seen.

The times they are a changin'.

After this season, Wisconsin and Minnesota are bolting the WCHA for the new Big Ten Hockey Conference. Same with schools like North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, and Minnesota-Duluth to the newly formed NCHC.

While the WCHA will continue to live on, it certainly will never be the same. Events like the year-end 'Final Five' conference tournament have been an annual destination stop for thousands of fans across the country who come together to celebrate the greatest college hockey league in the nation.

In the final year of the current WCHA, expect there to be a season long celebration of the WCHA as we know it.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers won the regular season championship last season, and are projected by both the league coaches and media to repeat as MacNaughton Cup champions. You won't hear an argument from this writer.

As always, there are new faces and new stories to track this season. Stars from the league like Justin Schultz (Wisconsin), Jaden Schwartz (Colorado College), and Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth) are no longer around to rack up points seemingly at will.

New faces like Mike Reilly (Minnesota), Jordan Schmaltz (North Dakota), and Nic Kerdiles (Wisconsin) are the next batch of stars ready to make their mark on the the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

2012-13 WCHA Team Finish Projections:

1.) University of Minnesota Golden Gophers

As previously mentioned, Minnesota is the defending WCHA regular season champion. The Gophers also went on a run last year in the NCAA tournament, reaching the Frozen Four for the first time in seven years.

While Minnesota certainly lost a few players to graduation, their losses aren't devastating by any means. Up front the two big names that you won't see back are seniors Jake Hansen (38 points), and Taylor Matson (23 points).

Those two forwards will be missed, but not as much as goaltender Kent Patterson. The senior goaltender wasn't as strong down the stretch for Don Lucia's club last year, but Patterson was one of the best goaltenders in the WCHA over the past few season.

As always, the Gophers bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the country. This year they are headlined by a pair of defensemen in Mike Reilly (Penticton Vees, BCHL), and Brady Skjei (US NTDP). Skjei was picked in the first round of the NHL draft by the New York Rangers, and Reilly is the offensive threat from the blue-line that Gopher fans have been craving.

The man in goal who is projected to replace the departed Patterson will be incoming freshman Adam Wilcox. The South St. Paul native split his time last season between the Green Bay Gamblers and the Tri-City Storm posting solid numbers in the USHL.

The incoming freshmen are nice, but the reason why most have the Gophers projected to win the league are the players that they return. Minnesota returns a stable of defensemen highlighted by Mark Alt and Nate Schmidt.

Up front you can expect Kyle Rau, Erik Haula, and pre-season WCHA player of the year Nick Bjugstad to terrorize WCHA goaltenders all season long.

On paper things look great for the Gophers this season. That said, we all know how important the goaltending position can be. If Minnesota can stabilize their play between the pipes, don't be surprised to see Don Lucia hoist the MacNaughton for the second consecutive season.

2.) University of North Dakota

It seems like we're always picking North Dakota to finish high. I suppose that's because they always do. I don't expect anything different this year, as we've got North Dakota finishing second in our pre-season projections. In fact, the thought was even entertained at projecting them to finish first, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

UND lost just three seniors off the roster last season, but their biggest hit came from an early departure up front. Of course the player I'm talking about is Brock Nelson, who gave up his final two seasons at North Dakota to sign with the New York Islanders. Nelson recorded 47 points last season, including a crazy 28 goals.

The other losses for North Dakota included senior blue-liner Ben Blood, senior forward Mario Lamoureux, senior goaltender Brad Eidsness, and junior goaltender Aaron Dell who signed in the ECHL.

UND restocked the cupboard nicely, adding a freshman that should be familiar to Badger fans in Jordan Schmaltz (Green Bay, USHL). The Verona, WI native was a one time Badger recruit before backing out on his verbal when Wisconsin assistant coach Mark Osiecki left the Badgers for the head job at Ohio State.

Two other freshmen to keep an eye on this season for UND are forward Drake Caggiula (Stouffville, OJHL), and goaltender Zane Gothberg (Fargo, USHL). Caggiula has seen practice time playing on some of the top lines early in the pre-season, and Gothberg will challenge transfer goalie Clarke Saunders from Alabama-Huntsville for the top job between the pipes.

One of the bigger story-lines this season for North Dakota will be the return of forward Rocco Grimaldi to the lineup. The California native was the number one recruit in the country last season, but missed the year due to a knee injury. If Grimaldi can come back off that knee injury to 100% this season, he could be the WCHA breakout player of the year.

In additon to Grimaldi, the North Dakota offense will be headlined by Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. They also return one of the most underrated players in the league in Carter Rowney who registered the quietest 33 points in the country last season.

Like the Gophers, North Dakota has a major question mark in goal. In my opinion, whichever team can find the answer quicker this season is going to be skating round the ice with the MacNaughton cup come the end of the season.

3.) University of Wisconsin Badgers

In my opinion no other player in the country meant more to his team last year than Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz. The two-time Hobey Baker finalist played 30 minutes a night, and was the most potent threat on the power play that I've seen in some time.

Schultz will certainly be missed, but the good news for the Badgers is that he's the only player who played major minutes that they have to replace. Wisconsin also lost senior defenseman Eric Springer, and sophomore forward Jason Clark, but neither loss is considered crippling.

Mike Eaves will try and replace his star blue-liner with a pair of incoming recruits from the USHL. The Badgers have added Burnsville native Eddie Wittchow (Waterloo, USHL), and White Bear Lake's Kevin Schulze (Omaha, USHL). Obviously neither player is Justin Schultz, so it's going to take a collective effort from the returning defensive core.

The Badgers expect sophomore Jake McCabe to help ease the blow of losing Justin Schultz. McCabe played a lot of minutes as a freshman and once again is expected to be a major piece on the Wisconsin power-play. UW also returns senior captain John Ramage, who is looking to bounce back from an up and down junior campaign. Also, don't forget about Frankie Simonelli, who quietly has become one of the better two-way blue-liners in the league.

Up front the Badgers are as loaded as they have been in a while. They didn't lose a notable forward, and bring in two of the more exciting freshmen recruits in the country. Of course I'm talking about Nic Kerdiles (US NTDP), and Morgan Zulinick (Salmon Arm, BCHL). Kerdiles is seeing time on the top line with Mark Zengerle, and Zulinick is playing on the wing with Derek Lee. Both are expected to be immediate contributors this season.

Wisconsin didn't score a ton of goals last season, but I expect that to change this year. Junior Mark Zengerle is the leading returning scorer in the entire country, and he could flirt with the 60 point plateau this season. Also, don't be surprised to see Michael Mersch top the 20 goal mark.

In goal the Badgers return one of the more exciting duo's in the conference. In the second half of last season, Joel Rumpel was arguably the top goalie in the WCHA. He'll be back for his sophomore season, and will be relied upon quite heavily as the Badgers adjust to two freshmen on their back end. Backup Landon Peterson played better than his numbers suggested, and will see plenty of action to keep Rumpel fresh.

4.) St. Cloud State University Huskies

For a team snake-bitten with injuries throughout the season, the Huskies of St. Cloud still managed a top half finish in the WCHA in the 2011-12 campaign. It started with the nagging injury to star goalie Mike Lee, and got even worse when senior forward Drew LeBlanc broke his leg against Wisconsin.

Lee eventually returned to the lineup, posting excellent numbers with a .930 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Lee gave up his final season in St. Cloud to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes who owned his draft rights.

In addition to Lee, the Huskies also lost forward David Eddy (25 points) who signed a free agent contract with the Calgary Flames. St. Cloud also lost senior forwards Jared Festler (34 points), and speedster Travis Novak (25 points).

The good news for the Huskies is that Drew LeBlanc received a medical red-shirt to return for his fifth season. Along with player of the year candidate Ben Hanowski, the Huskies should be one of the higher scoring teams in the WCHA in 2012-13.

The Huskies recruiting class is headlined by a pair of forwards. Minnesota boy Joey Benik has played the past few seasons with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, and continued his ridiculous scoring pace that people said wouldn't carry over from Minnesota high school hockey. SCSU also adds assist machine Jimmy Murray from the Omaha Lancers (USHL).

Defensively, St. Cloud lost just one defenseman to graduation in Sam Zabkowicz. For the first time in years, expect the Huskies to have one of the better defensive cores in the entire conference. It all starts with Nick Jensen, but Kevin Gravel has improved, and a pair of sophomores in Andrew Prochno and Jarrod Rabey are potential All-conference picks with what they bring offensively from the back end.

Without Mike Lee back in the net, you can expect sophomore Ryan Faragher to carry the load between the pipes. Thrown into the fire last season, Faragher played above expectations. He'll be one of the biggest keys this season for the Huskies.

5.) University of Denver Pioneers

When looking at the WCHA, it seems like there are certain tiers of teams. Minnesota and North Dakota are on the top tier, while St. Cloud and Wisconsin are on the next level. The third tier is where things start to get a bit more merky, but we're taking Denver to lead this group.

The Pioneers finished third in the WCHA last season, but there might not be a team in the league that lost as much as they did. Certainly no one lost as much as they did due to early departures.

Up front Denver lost a trio of talented underclassmen. Drew Shore (Florida Panthers) and Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) were two of the most talented forwards in the WCHA last season, and both gave up eligibility to sign pro deals.

They also lost the ultra talented Beau Bennett, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins despite two injury riddled seasons with Denver. Luke Salazar (30 points) was also lost to graduation.

The Pioneers freshman class is headlined by a pair of legacy recruits. Quintin Shore—who is the third Shore brother to suit up for Denver—follows his older brothers path from the US NTDP. Defensively, the Pioneers add Nolan Zajac (Omaha Lancers), who is the younger brother of former North Dakota star Travis. Nolan's father Tom played for Denver in the 70's.

Up font look for Nick Shore to lead the club in scoring this season picking up the slack for his departed older brother. Shawn Ostrow and Ty Loney also are expected to make jumps offensively this season.

Defensively, there are two names that stand out. Joey LaLeggia grabbed headlines last year recording 38 points as a freshman, but many who watched the Pioneers down the stretch thought that fellow freshman Scott Mayfield was the better player. Regardless, both are outstanding players and will play big time minutes this season.

In goal the Pioneers finally have a healthy Sam Brittain. Along with guys like Joel Rumpel from Wisconsin and Josh Thorimbert from CC, Brittain is expected to be an All-Conference type goaltender once again this season. Juho Olkinuora played well in relief of Brittain last year, and is one of the better backups in the WCHA.

6.) University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks

UNO's home ice hopes came down to the final weekend last year before they finally lost out to St. Cloud State. The Mavericks were quickly handled in the playoffs by the Huskies, and were sent to the offseason with a bad taste in their mouths.

Since Dean Blais has taken over in Omaha, the Mavericks have started to recruit a higher level of player. Unfortunately, that means that puts UNO in the same boat with other powerhouse WCHA programs who lose players early to the National Hockey League.

The Mavericks were the victims of two early departures this past offseason, as they lost second leading scorer Terry Broadhurst (36 points) after he signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. They also lost impressive rookie Jayson Megna, who signed a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins after a 31 point rookie season in Omaha.

Thankfully for the Mavericks, they didn't lose much else off last years roster. Senior Alex Hudson was kicked off the team early in the season, and they also lost freshman goaltender Ryan Massa who left the program and won't be back.

Like I mentioned, Blais has been able to bring in impressive freshmen every season during his tenure in Omaha. That continued once again this season. The Mavericks freshman class is headlined by defenseman Brian Cooper (Fargo, USHL), and goaltender Anthony Stolarz (Corpus Christi, NAHL). Unfortunately for UNO, they lost committed recruit Alex Broadhurst, who ended up in the OHL.

Look for a trio of talented juniors in Matt White, Ryan Walters, and former Wisconsin recruit Brock Montpetit to lead the charge up front for the Mavericks this season. I would also expect Josh Archibald to rebound with a better season after completely disappearing after last years World Junior Championship.

Defensively look for freshman Brian Cooper to play major minutes, and giant blue-liner Andrej Sustr to continue to shrink the defensive zone.

Freshman goaltender Anthony Stolarz has just as good of a chance as any to see major ice time between the pipes. The Mavericks return John Faulkner, but he had a let down junior season after an above average sophomore year.

7.) Minnesota State University Mavericks

Some may be surprised with our choice of Minnesota State in the #7 hole, but we think that the Mavericks are a team on the rise in the WCHA. Last season MSU showed flashes of brilliance but didn't have the leadership to sustain it for an entire season.

There has been a coaching change in Mankato, and the long tenured Troy Jutting has been replaced by Nebraska-Omaha assistant Mike Hastings. The change is expected to rejuvenize a program that has been getting walked over in the WCHA for a number of seasons.

While losses of seniors Michael Dorr (19 points), Joe Schiller (18 points), and Justin Jokkinen (13 points) will have an effect, the Mavericks were led by their underclassmen on both ends last season.

Up front a pair of talented freshmen in J.P. LaFontaine and Matt Leitner led the team offensively, with sophomore Zach Lehrke right behind them. That trio is one of the more talented sets of forwards in the WCHA, and will lead the Mavericks for the next couple of seasons.

Additionally, MSU adds a really talented incoming freshman forward in Teddy Blueger from Shattuck St. Mary's Prep. The Latvian native recorded 88 points last year at Shattuck, leading them to another USA Hockey national championshp. The Pittsburgh Penguins liked enough of what they saw out of Blueger to select the 6'1 center in the second round of the NHL draft.

Defensively, Zach Palmquist was one of the more impressive freshmen in the WCHA last season. Unfortunately he was overshadowed by some other talented freshmen, but Palmquist will be one of the leaders on this young Mavericks squad.

Between the pipes senior Phil Cook returns for one last season in Mankato. I've always thought that Cook had the capability of stealing a game at any time, and he proved that last season against Wisconsin. If he can find some consistency, this team will be challenging for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

8.) Colorado College Tigers

I'll admit, it feels super weird ranking the Tigers so low this season. Colorado College has annually been one of the stronger teams in the league, but for some reason I'm not loving the Tigers this season.

With that in mind, there's always a team that I seem to rank super low that goes on to have an outstanding season. Last year it was Minnesota, as I believe I ranked the Gophers 8th or 9th and they went on to win the WCHA. So don't sweat this ranking CC fans.

Starting with what the Tigers lost, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jaden Schwartz. I never thought that Jaden got the credit for what he provided to the Tigers offense. Sure, he got a lot of love, but I thought that he was the most talented player in the WCHA last season. After CC was eliminated, Schwartz signed with the St. Louis Blues who had taken in him in the first round of the NHL Draft.

Up front, the Tigers also lost senior forward Nic Dineen (26 points). Dineen never jumped out on the score-sheet but I thought he was one of the more underrated players on CC's roster during his career.

One of the men that will be relied upon to help out the offense lost will be freshman forward Hunter Fejes. The 6'1, 192 pound winger out of Shattuck St. Mary's is expected to be an immediate contributor for the Tigers. The Phoenix Coyotes selected the Alaska native in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

While CC lost Jaden Schwartz, they return his brother Rylan who many had expected would sign a free agent NHL deal in the offseason. Rylan is expected to be one of the top forwards in the WCHA this season, but will certainly miss having his younger brother feeding him the puck.

Two other guys that you can't forget about up front for the Tigers are Alexander Krushelnyski (try spelling that without looking), and Scott Winkler. Both wings could see big time jumps in points if they play with Schwartz this season.

Defensively the Tigers will be without the services of Gabe Guentzel, who as one of the most talented blue-liners in the WCHA over the past four seasons. Guentzel was very talented on both ends of the rink, and will be missed.

Thankfully for the Tigers, they have another talented blue-liner that can produce offense from the back end. In my opinion, Mike Boivin is one of the best defensemen in the league, and will be an All-Conference guy at the end of the season. Don't be surprised one bit if he tops the 30 point mark this season.

One of the biggest advantages for the Tigers this season is what they have between the pipes. They are one of the few teams in the league with returning goaltenders that can be relied upon. After presumed starter Joe Howe faultered last season, Josh Thorimbert took over the number one job and ran with it.

Expect Thorimbert to get the majority of the starts, but Howe is still very talented, and should push Thorimbert all season long.

9.) Michigan Tech University Huskies

The surprise team of the 2011-12 WCHA season was Michigan Tech. The Huskies brought in a new coach when they replaced Jamie Russell with longtime Michigan assistant Mel Pearson. The move paid dividends immediately, as the Huskies finished 8th in the WCHA.

We have the Huskies finishing in a similar spot this season, but admit that this club has the potential for more. While we don't see anything crazy like Tech finishing in the top four, home ice is a realistic goal if they can find an answer in goal to replace the departed Josh Robinson.

Robinson was one of the better goalies in the WCHA last season, and was the biggest reason why the Huskies went on a run to the WCHA Final Five last season. The Huskies will also have to replace leading scorer and Superior native Brett Olson (30 points).

Offensively, the Huskies will rely on a pair of talented sophomores who didn't look like freshmen when they burst into the WCHA last year. Of course I'm talking about David Johnstone (29 points), and Blake Pietila (24 points). Ryan Furne and Jacob Johnstone will also help carry the load offensively for Tech this season. Don't forget that the Huskies expect to see a healthy Milos Gordic this season, which would give their offense another boost.

The Huskies offense is also expected to see a boost with incoming freshman Jujhar Khaira (Prince George, BCHL). Khaira was one of the most dynamic players in the BCHL last season, recording 79 points in 54 games for Prince George. The Edmonton Oilers were so impressed, they selected Khaira with the 63rd pick overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Defensively, look to see Steven Seigo step up in his final season in Houghton. Seigo is one of the most offensively gifted defensemen in the WCHA, and could be a 30 point producer for the Huskies this season.

Between the pipes, Kevin Genoe seems like he's been at Tech for 8 years. Genoe was Robinson's main backup last season, but the Huskies also bring in talented goalie Phoenix Copley who split time in the USHL last season between the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Tri-City Storm.

Like almost every team in the WCHA, the success of the Huskies this season will be finding a stable option between the pipes.

10.) University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs

Unfortunately in doing rankings like this, some teams aren't going to be rated as highly as their fans think they should be. UMD is probably that team for me this season. I fully expect to get some hate mail from Bulldog fans, but not every team can be picked for home ice.

Minnesota Duluth was one of the toughest teams for me to rank this season, especially with their success over the past two years. Obviously they won the NCAA title two years ago, and finished second in the WCHA regular season race last year.

I don't necessarily believe that the Bulldogs are going to be bad this season by any means, but I truly believe that the teams that I've ranked in front of them are just a little bit better. That said, it won't surprise me one bit if the Bulldogs finish with home ice. That's how close I think the teams are from 5-10 in the WCHA this season.

Starting with departures, I have to note that the Bulldogs lost Hobey Baker winner Jack Connolly. The Duluth native was an offensive dynamo the past four seasons for the Bulldogs, and they will truly miss what he can do with the puck on his stick. He was a treat to watch, and it's sad to see guys like him graduate.

In addition to Connolly, the Bulldogs lost 53 point producer Travis Oleksuk who was probably the most underrated 50 point scorer in the history of the WCHA.

The Bulldogs also suffered a major early departure, losing J.T. Brown after just two seasons in a Bulldog uniform when he signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Lighting. You can't blame Brown for taking the money as a college free agent, but he would have been dynamic as a junior this season had he stayed.

One of the ways that UMD will try and make up for the losses up front will be with hyped freshman forward Austin Farley from the Fargo Force of the USHL. Farley was one of the more electric 17 year old's in the USHL last season, leading Fargo in scoring with 59 points.

Two other forwards to watch this season will be sophomore Caleb Herbert, and senior Mike Seidel. Both players hit 30 points last season, but it remains to be seen what they can do when they are relied upon to be the teams leading scorers. They both played in the shadows of some pretty talented offensive guys last year, but must produce if UMD wants to win games this season.

The Bulldogs also have an elite defensive recruit coming into town. Of course I'm talking about Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Andrew Welinski. A third round NHL Draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Welinski is one of the top 10 recruits in the WCHA this season and is expected to play big time minutes right off the bat.

Welinski will be relied upon largely due to the fact that the Bulldogs lost defenseman Brady Lamb (31 points) who signed with the Calgary Flames after four solid seasons at UMD. Senior blue-liner Scott Kishel may not have been the most consistent defenseman for the Bulldogs, but UMD will also miss the 18 points he chipped in last season.

I would expect Wade Bergman to take the next step in his development for the Bulldogs, and carry the load as Minnesota-Duluth's #1 defenseman this season. He has more to bring to the table offensively, and UMD is hoping that comes out as he steps into a larger role with the loss of Lamb.

In goal the Bulldogs lost senior goaltender Kenny Reiter. While I was never a huge fan of Reiter myself, he was at least a stabilizing presence between the pipes for the Bulldogs the past few seasons. Now UMD is left with former Wisconsin recruit Aaron Crandall who had an .855 save percentage last season, and incoming freshmen Matt McNeely from Cedar Rapids (USHL) and Alex Fons from Alexandria (NAHL).

None of those options should make anyone feel good about what they've got between the pipes in Duluth at this point. I've been surprised before, but goaltending is more than likely going to keep the Bulldogs out of home ice this season.

11.) Bemidji State University Beavers

Bemidji State had a decent 2011-12 campaign, but couldn't get over the hump finishing in 9th place in the WCHA. The Beavers were solid at home, being swept in their own barn just once.

Going back to those tiers of teams I had previously talked about, the final tier that we have projected in the WCHA is between Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage. In reviewing what both teams have coming back, we just don't think that either has the firepower to jump up into home ice.

Up front the two major losses for the Beavers were seniors Shea Walters (26 points), and Ben Kinne (22 points). Both were relied upon for major minutes for BSU last season, and will be tough to replace.

Thankfully for Bemidji, they return leading scorer Jordan George. The Madison native is one of the most underrated players in the league and recorded 31 points last season despite not receiving much help. George is a smaller type forward, but has an incredible ability to find open spots on the ice. If he can find some linemates with the ability to get him the puck, he will have a chance at an All-WCHA type season.

Unfortunately, the Beavers don't have much going on besides George. Radoslav Illo is an NHL draft pick and has the potential, but seems to dissapear at times. He must take a giant step for the Beavers to have success this season.

The Beavers don't have very many big name recruits coming in, but they do have proven scorers like Markus Gerbrant (Fort McMurray, AJHL), Phil Brewer (Burlington, OJHL), and Cory Ward (Aberdeen, NAHL), set to come in.

Bemidji also lost senior defenseman Brad Hunt, who is one of the best players ever to put on a Bemidji State uniform. Hunt could produce points from the blue-line, recording 26 last season on a team that didn't score very much.

Another major question for the Beavers is between the pipes. Dan Bakala was one of the better goalies in the WCHA during his career, and carried the Beaves for long stretches of time. Freshman Andrew Walsh posted respectable numbers with a .915 save percentage, and he'll be relied upon heavily this season to be the Beavers go-to-guy.

12.) University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves

Unfortunately when making pre-season projections, with someone being picked first, someone has to be picked last. This year we're projecting the Seawolves to finish last in the league for the second consecutive season.

Last year Anchorage struggled to win games, finishing just 5-22-1 in league play, and winning just nine games overall. I don't see much of an improvement this season, as the Anchorage roster is lacking the talent to compete with many of the top teams in the league night in, night out.

The Seawolves won't return three of their top four point producers from last season. UAA lost Curtis Leinweber to graduation, Eric Sheid who decided to return to the USHL, and Mitch Bruijsten for academic reasons. Additionally, wingers Sam Mellor and Mark Pustin won't be back with UAA this season.

That creates some major holes for a team that struggled to score goals last season. The Seawolves return leading scorer Matt Bailey, but he's going to need help if UAA plans on climbing out of the cellar this season.

One of those guys that may help is incoming freshman froward Blake Tatchell. The 5'10, 162 pound forward was a big scorer in juniors, and last season recorded 86 points (42G, 44A) with the Battlefords North Stars. Tatchell's performance last season earned him league MVP honors in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Between the pipes you should expect to see juniors Chris Kamal and Rob Gunderson split time once again. Neither one of them produced outstanding numbers last season, but they were hung out to dry on a number of occasions. Both have the ability to steal a game, and are ironically two of the most experienced goalies in the WCHA this season.

2012-13 WCHA All-Conference Projections

First Team:

F-Danny Kristo-North Dakota

F-Mark Zengerle-Wisconsin

F-Nick Bjugstad-Minnesota

D-Nick Jensen-St. Cloud State

D-Joey LaLeggia-Denver

G-Sam Brittain-Denver

Second Team:

F-Ben Hanowski-St. Cloud State

F-Rylan Schwartz-Colorado College

F-Erik Haula-Minnesota

D-Nate Schmidt-Minnestota

D-Mike Boivin-Colorado College

G-Joel Rumpel-Wisconsin

Third Team:

F-Corban Knight-North Dakota

F-Matt White-Nebraska Omaha

F-Jordan George-Bemidji State

D-Scott Mayfield-Denver

D-Wade Bergman-Minnesota Duluth

G-Josh Thorimbert-Colorado College

Freshman Team:

F-Rocco Grimaldi-North Dakota

F-Nic Kerdiles-Wisconsin

F-Jujhar Khaira-Michigan Tech

D-Jordan Schmaltz-North Dakota

D-Andrew Welinski-Minnesota Duluth

G-Zane Gothberg-North Dakota

WCHA Player of the Year: Mark Zengerle, University of Wisconsin

WCHA Defenseman of the Year: Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State University

WCHA Rookie of the Year: Rocco Grimaldi, University of North Dakota

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