Shayne Gostisbehere

Back to Class: Is the ECAC actually strong this year?

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. ET as No. 11 Dartmouth takes on Vermont. 

When it comes to picking out potential NCAA tournament teams, most eyes go right to the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East. The early part of this season has made some eyes start taking a look at the ECAC.

Last week’s poll saw four teams in the USA Hockey/USA Today Top 15: Union (7), Dartmouth (11), Cornell (12), and Yale (13). The Top 20 also had Quinnipiac and Harvard in the mix. Is the conference sometimes referred to as the “EZAC” actually underrated this year?’s Brian Sullivan thinks so.

Sullivan points out the number of NHL-drafted players at the top of the goal scoring leaderboard as well as the current (and very, very, very early Pairwise Rankings) would place all six teams in the field of 16 with two No. 1 seeds.

It’s way too early to start dusting off the Pairwise crystal ball, but things are off to a good start for the ECAC. Then again, it’s a conference known for tearing each other down through the year and dashing each other’s NCAA hopes in the conference tournament.

Like Sullivan says, however, if the league can land four teams in the NCAA’s, call it a win for a conference that has sent just two teams to the Frozen Four since 2003.


Jerry York watch: Kudos to Boston College coach Jerry York for taking one out of two against BU this weekend and tying Ron Mason’s NCAA coaching wins record. They’ll go to Providence to take on the Friars on Friday night to possibly break the record then. USCHO has a nice look back on York through the years.

Frozen Fenway coming back?: It looks like another outdoor college hockey festival at Fenway Park in Boston will be back in 2014. CHN says they’re looking for final approval and a BC vs. Notre Dame match-up seems likely.

Kerdiles back: Nic Kerdiles’ first two games back for Wisconsin went well. He finished the weekend against Denver with two assists and missed out on a goal thanks to a shot being tipped in. More importantly? Two upset wins for the Badgers over the soon-to-be former No. 5 Pioneers.

Hockey Humanitarian Award: Nominations are out for the Hockey Humanitarian Award and you can put your favorite college hockey player worthy of recognition in for consideration until December 14. Get on that.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado