A week ago I took part in the 3rd Annual WCHA Blogger & Website Preseason Poll as one of 18 participants and thought it would be a good idea to break down my own picks for the final year of the conference as we know it going from 12 to 1. Sneaking in with home ice is the St. Cloud State Huskies, who finished in the same spot last yaer.
The (other) Huskies have one of the feel-good stories in the league this year as fifth-year senior Drew LeBlanc comes back from a devastating leg injury suffered last season. LeBlanc was averaging more than a point per game before the injury and his return coupled with senior captain Ben Hanowski (Penguins) and his 23 goals give St. Cloud State a solid one-two scoring threat.
St. Cloud, however, will be looking for more secondary scoring. The Huskies lost points with Travis Novak and Jared Fester graduating and David Eddy signing a pro contract.
In goal the Huskies lose Mike Lee but Ryan Faragher, who played well during the three month stretch Lee was out, and Finnish import Rasmus Reijola (who was just cleared Wednesday) are more than capable to replace him. They'll also have the help of a mature defensive corps led by Nick Jensen (Detroit Red Wings) and Andrew Procho.
One thing that seems to hurt St. Cloud almost annually are injuries to key players and unfortunately for the Huskies, the M*A*S*H* unit claimed its first victim when heralded freshman Joey Benik broke his leg in practice last week. It is unknown how long he will be out but should not require surgery.
For a team looking for secondary scoring, getting Benik, who scored 114 points last year with the Canadian Junior "A" champion Penticton (BCHL), back can't hurt.
Agree with the picks? Disagree? Sound off below.
You can follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.