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. Eighth this year is Minnesota State, who have undergone changes
The (other) Mavericks are the only WCHA team to have a new head coach and honestly, there is plenty to like about the team.
After Troy Jutting was reassigned (he eventually found his way down to Omaha as one of Dean Blais' assistants), Minnesota State-Mankato hired UNO (and former Gopher) assistant Mike Hastings to be the new boss behind the bench. Hastings might be a first-time college head coach but he brings with him nearly 20 years of junior and college coaching experience.
He also gets to work with a young, talented team.
Although the Mavericks lost Justin Jokinen and Michael Dorr to graduation last year, a trio of underclassmen in Matt Leitner, JP LaFontaine and Teddy Blueger (Pittsburgh Penguins) will lead up front. Zach Palmquist turned heads as a freshman defenseman last season and with another solid recruiting class on the horizon, they likely won't be alone soon.
Minnesota State-Mankato does have upperclassmen leadership. Senior Phil Cook returns in net and co-captain Eriah Hayes always seems to be one of those players who flies under the radar. This is a team that challenge for home ice after finishing 11th in the WCHA last year but at the same time, there are depth issues with both the forwards and defense. Hastings should get them to play better but the Mavericks need to stay healthy as well.
Agree with the picks? Disagree? Sound off below.
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