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WCHA Predictions: #4 - University of Denver Pioneers

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. Fourth this year is Denver, a team who finished third in WCHA last year and made the NCAA Tournament.

Every year the Pioneers seem to reload rather than rebuild and this year's team is no different. While Drew Shore (Panthers), Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) and Beau Bennett (Pittsburgh Penguins) all left school with eligibility remaining, DU return plenty of firepower.

Drew's brother Nick Shore (Los Angeles Kings) is the leading returning scorer with 41 points last season along with defenseman Joey LaLeggia (Edmonton Oilers) and Ty Loney. Shawn Ostrow is a two-way forward who still chipped in 21 points last year while a third Shore brother Quentin should complement them well as a freshman.

(Drew signing early leaves the Reillys of Minnesota as the lone WCHA brother trio.)

Along with the scorers, Denver have three goalies capable of starting in the WCHA between Sam Brittain (Panthers), Adam Murray and Juho Olkinuora. Each played more than ten games last year although Brittain should receive more of the load after recovering from knee surgery last year.Throw in LaLeggia, who might be the best defenseman in the WCHA, with Scott Mayfield and David Markowski on defense and the Pioneers can win on both ends of the ice.

It will be a challenge for them to keep home ice after losing Drew Shore, Zucker and Bennett but the pieces are in place to do so.

Agree with the picks? Disagree? Sound off below.

For more Denver hockey coverage, check out SB Nation Denver. You can also read up on the WCHA and college hockey at Western College Hockey and SB Nation's NHL hub.

You can follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.