Well, its about that time. The time when windshields get iced over in the mornings, when autostart sales blow through the roof, and when Fairbanks-area residents start to ramp up preparations for the bleak winter that lies ahead. But in midst of those otherwise unhappy scenes, one thing shines through. It's hockey season baby!
I know I haven't posted much (err…anything...) this summer, but this blogger has been one busy guy. I'm actually writing the start of this post from a flight back to Fairbanks. That's right, I paid the $7 for inflight wifi to make sure you all could take in a good preseason post about your Nanooks. Donations are always accepted ;).
But onto the good stuff.
This upcoming season is going to be about defining Alaska Nanooks hockey. It's a new team as we lost a lot of guys that played a lot of important roles last year, including 3 out of our 4 captains. While we will not be able to replace some of these guys outright, but the holes they left gives opportunities for others to step up and expand their roles.
And with the departure of the seven seniors last season, we welcome in nine new freshmen who will challenge the upper classmen for playing time. It may be a little early to tell, but from highlights I've seen and stories I've read, it sounds like newcomer Marcus Basara could emerge from the start much like Tyler Morley did last season as a routine starter. With the departure of Taranto, the Beck and Kunyk line needs a winger and he could be the guy. He's got great speed and control, and has some size to back it up (6-0, 187). Could fill that spot pretty seamlessly if he's ready.
And with Tyler Morley's transition to center over the course of last season, his brother Brandon now joins us with some solid seasons at wing with the Coquitlam Express in the BCHL, I wouldn't put it past them to be paired together, probably with Nolan Huysmans on the other side for some additional experience as he's played with Morley a bit this past season.
The only defenseman the Nanooks lost last season was Kaare Odegard to graduation, and the coaching staff is bringing in Justin Woods for the 8th man on the blue line. I've watched Justin play a number of games during his time with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, but I don't think he was ever 6'2" like he's listed now. If his bio page is accurate, and he still has the same speed and aggression he had with the Dogs, this could be very interesting. I can see him pairing with Richard Coyne nicely, assuming the experiment with Coyne at enforcer forward concludes.
But the Nanooks--in my humble and potentially biased opinion--return what will be the best defensive corps in the league this season. And likely near the tops in the country. While the numbers didn't shake out in their favor last season, somewhat due to some injuries and the development of a freshman goaltender. This season is a whole new ball game. Colton Parayko and Michael Quinn will likely continue as the top defensive pairing, but don't forget about Trevor Campbell. He's probably personal favorite of the crew as an all around player. And he tied both Quinn and Parayko with 17 points. But the guy doesn't just take opportunities either, he can create them for himself. He'll take the puck and drive the entry and the rush and work the lanes to create any opportunities for passing and shooting lanes that he can. Parayko has that same ability, and over the course of last year he has refined that quite a bit to see the ice better and make smarter decisions with the puck.
Look for Justin Tateson to also emerge as a threat this season as well. He didn't crack the lineup much last season, playing for just 16 games. I know he's had some blunders, but I also know he's worked a lot in the offseason to earn a spot in the lineup. As a junior, I suspect he's playing with a chip on his shoulder, and with a new season he can use the opportunity to prove himself.
Now with the Blue/Gold game upcoming, we'll get a good look at these nine freshman and get a good measure of their skills. Granted, the guys aren't really going full speed and they're not going to lay anybody out for obvious reasons, but at the same time, if one of them gets one past Keeney high glove side, I'm going to take notice.
Remember, for those of you that have renewed your season tickets, they will be available at the Patty Center to pick up during the Blue/Gold game. Otherwise, the Patty Center ticket office will have them after this weekend. Then Saturday, October 5th is the exhibition game against UBC at the Carlson Center before opening the season at the Kendall classic in Anchorage.