Last Friday ASU hockey released its roster and head coach Greg Powers was not afraid to call it the most talented and deep team he has ever had. His latest recruiting class landed on the roster 14 times along with 8 returning seniors.
"It was completely by design," Powers said. "We have a great group of seniors and I wanted to bring in a really good core of kids that could learn form a group seniors that I trust and know how to do things the right way."
Kale Dolinski, Colin Hekle, Danny McAuliffe, and Brian McGinty all return for their senior year after being the top four scores on the team last year. Heckle has been impressed so far with the fresh talent coach Powers has added.
"To have them all be as talented as they are is just incredible," Hekle said. "It's going to be a jump up even from last season being ranked number one for so long."
The freshmen cover every position and come from all over the North American hockey junior leagues. Defenseman Drew Newmeyer was playing in the USHL for the Indiana Ice last year, while forward Michael Cummings and defenseman Jarrod Levos played for the Phoenix Knights in the WSHL last season. The abundance of fresh talent means that Powers won't be naming starters anytime soon.
"We're really going to work through this week and the rest of next week," he said. "Whoever is working harder is probably going to be the ones that make it in. Right now it's up in the air. Anyway we go we can't lose."
It's worth noting this is the first year ASU hockey will be composed entirely of Powers' handpicked players. Hekle is quick to point out how much the team has grown since he first arrived on campus.
"I think the difference between this year and any other year that I've been here is just our depth and our pure skill," he said. "It's ridiculous this year."
One small surprise on the ASU roster was the absence of last year's primary backup goalie Corey Frank. Last season Frank posted a 2.26 GAA and .92 SV% in 9 games. Those stats were actually slightly better than starter Joe D'Elia's 2.38 GAA and .91 SV% in 31 games.
Frank's backup duties will fall to either Lucas Felbel or Robert Levin, who both impressed Powers in training camp enough to pick them over Frank.
"They're young, I love how they play, they're aggressive, and they battle," said Powers. "I think both of those kids showed me they could be starters at this level consistently. We obviously lose Joe after this year so it was a perfect transition to bring in two young kids."
Much like the starters, the special teams are yet to be decided by Powers. The wealth of depth means the Sun Devils won't be in much trouble regardless of who goes into the penalty box for penalty kills.
Sophomore defensemen Jordan Young will be the quarterback of ASU's power play at the very top of the umbrella offense. Heckle will likely join Young along the blue line as the Sun Devils' power play continues to run the umbrella and overload. Young and Heckle are the only shoe-ins for the power play unit and Powers plans to fill the other spots as practices and the regular season go on.
"I'm not sure who is going to be on power play one or power play two, but we're going to have an overload and we're going to have an umbrella like we always do," he said. "When everyone is hotter at the time we'll have a power play one, but Jordy will be on the umbrella and Heckle will likely be on the overload up top."
We'll get our first look at the loaded ASU hockey team in action September 20th against San Diego State in Tempe.