Hockey East cooks with many potential Bakers

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Hockey East cooks with many potential Bakers

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

The Hockey East is one of the deepest talent pools in the nation. Six teams are currently peppered throughout US College Hockey Online's Top 20: No. 10 Boston College, No. 12 Maine, No. 15 New Hampshire, No. 17 Vermont, No. 18 Massachusetts and No. 20 UMass-Lowell. Boston University is also receiving votes.

But a better example of the caliber of athletes playing in the Hockey East is in the number of Hobey Baker Award candidates the league houses. To even be considered, the Hobey Baker site writes that a player must "exhibit strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game.''

Lofty standards for any student athlete.

Which is exactly why it's so impressive that 20 of the 70 preliminary candidates were plucked from Hockey East teams. Each is special in his own way, but all possess a standard for excellence that has placed them in this elite group.

See who made first cut.

BOSTON COLLEGE: JUNIOR FORWARD BRIAN GIBBONS
Quick Hits: 26 games played, 10 goals, 25 assists, 35 points, 1.35 pointsgame, 2 game winners, 3 power-play goals, 1 short-handed goal
Coach knows best: "He's a very explosive hockey player for us," Jerry York said. "He has terrific quickness and plays at a high tempo. He has outstanding stick skills, which I like. He competes really hard. He can hit you pretty hard for a 170-pounder. Hes clearly one of the elite players in our conference."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Earned Hockey East Co-Player of the Week Honors, Nov. 9. Is the 2009-10 recipient of the Schiller Family Scholarship.
Also flying high: Cam Atkinson - So - F - 26GP, 17G, 14A, 31Pts, 1.19PtsGm, 1GW, 7PP, 1SH
BOSTON UNIVERSITY: JUNIOR FORWARD NICK BONINO
Quick Hits: 21GP, 6G, 18A, 24Pts, 1.14PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "He's the key guy on our offensive end this year, no doubt about it," Jack Parker said. "Nick Bonino is a Hobey Baker candidate, he's an All-America candidate and he's an All-Hockey East candidate and nobody knows about him. He's as good a player as there will be in college hockey."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Scored his 100th career point in a three-assist performance in a 6-2 victory over UMass on Jan. 29. Bonino ranks fourth in career points (103) among current Hockey East players. Bonino is currently riding a seven-game point streak (1g, 11a). He also has at least one point in 14 of his last 16 games.
Nipping at his heels: Kevin Shattenkirk - Jr - D - 26GP, 4G, 17A, 21Pts, 0.80PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 1SH

MAINE: SOPHOMORE FORWARD GUSTAV NYQUIST
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Gustav is our leading scorer and can change the course of a game in a moment. He is one of the premier players in the country," said Tim Whitehead. He is a dynamic offensive player who has improved tremendously on defense as well. He's fun to watch and can bring you out of your seat with his creativity. He is not only a skilled player, he is a gritty competitor who wins a ton of loose pucks.
Highlight reel: Named Athletic Republic Hockey East Player of the Month for December. He had scored at least one point in 10 straight games between Nov. 20 and Jan. 15. Over that span, Nyquist had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Is currently tied for 4th in scoring and 4th in assists, nationally, as well as in Hockey East play.

MASSACHUSETTS: JUNIOR FORWARD JAMES MARCOU
Quick Hits: 27GP, 9G, 32A, 41Pts, 1.52PtsGm, 1GW, 3PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "I think, clearly, James is one of the most creative players in all of college hockey. His ability to see the ice, create space and make plays is uncanny," Don "Toot" Cahoon said of Marcou. "He rises to the occasion and he does it in big moments. He stirs the drink. He finds guys in a variety of ways. People do all sorts of things to eliminate him, but he's savvy. He's found a way to get it done."
Highlight reel: Ranked 2nd overall in scoring, 1st in assists. Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award thanks to 119 points on 31 goals and 88 assists in 101 games. Oct. 12, Named Hockey East Player Of The Week, Nov. 3, Named Hockey East Player Of The Month, Nov. 10, Named HCA National Player Of The Month Runner-Up
Another sharp shooter: Justin Braun - Sr - D - 27GP, 3G, 19A, 22Pts, 0.81PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 0SH

UMASS LOWELL: JUNIOR FORWARD SCOTT CAMPBELL
Quick Hits: 28GP, 9G, 14A, 23Pts, 0.82PtsGm, 1GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Scott just gets better and better," said Blaise MacDonald. "He's strong, sees the ice, has a high hockey IQ and can play in any situation and play well."
Highlight reel: Riverhawks scoring leader. Named Athletic Republic Co-Player of the Week, Jan. 11, after tallying five points on a goal and four assists in two tough Hockey East road games. Campbell assisted on both UMass Lowell goals in a 2-2 tie at New Hampshire and scored once and assisted on two other goals in a 6-5 overtime win at Northeastern.
Swooping in: David Vallorani - So - F - 28GP, 9G, 13A, 22Pts, 0.78PtsGm, 2GW, 1PP, 0SH
Nick Schaus - Sr - D - 26GP, 4G, 18A, 22Pts, 0.84PtsGm, 0GW, 3PP, 0SH

MERRIMACK: FRESHMAN FORWARD STEPHANE DA COSTA
Quick Hits: 23GP, 11G, 22A, 33Pts, 1.43PtsGm, 0GW, 4PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes just got a great feel for the conceptual part of the game, for space, for time, his heads always on a swivel, Mark Dennehy said. The game is moving a lot slower for him than it is for the rest of the players. He has incredible awareness.
Highlight Reel: The only recipient of the Hockey East Rookie of the Month honor this season. Da Costa scored five goals in his second career game. He also had an 11-game scoring streak earlier this season. Currently, he continues to lead all rookies nationally with 1.38 points per game. Overall, he's ranked 5th in the conference and 8th nationally with 29 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: SENIOR FORWARD BOBBY BUTLER
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes one of our captains and hes leading by example," said Dick Umile. "Hes a goal scorer, we knew that coming in and hes got stronger and learned how to play at the defensive end."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Hockey Humanitarian Nominee, Frozen Four Skills Challenge nominee. Named Hockey East Co-Player of the week, Nov. 16 and Jan. 11. Named Hockey East Player of the Month for November. Butler has scored a point in 21 of 27 games. In league play he ranks 1st in scoring, 1st in goals, and 4th in assists.
Clawing to the top: Brian Foster - Sr - G - 26GP, 12 Wins, 10 Losses, 4 Ties, 81 Goals Against, 1549 Minutes, 3.13 Goals against average, 0 Short handed, 758 Saves, .903 Save percentage; Blake Kessel - So - D - 26GP, 6G, 24A, 30Pts, 1.15PtsGm, 1GW, 2PP, 0SH

NORTHEASTERN: JUNIOR FORWARD WADE MACLEOD
Quick Hits: 25GP, 10G, 12A, 22Pts, 0.88PtsGm, 3GW, 4PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "MacLeod's a special player," said Greg Cronin, "but also has to get more visible.
Highlight reel: MacLeod has notched five points in NU's last two contests. MacLeod had a six-game scoring streak between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16. Over those six games, he gathered eight points, including four goals and four assists. MacLeod recorded his 75th career point with a goal against UMass Lowell on Jan. 9. He takes 84 career points (35-49-84) into tonight's game versus Massachusetts.
Hot on his trail: David Strathman - Sr - D - 26GP, 3G, 7A, 10Pts, 0.38PtsGm, 1GW, 0PP, 1SH; Kyle Kraemer - Sr - F - 26GP, 10G, 10A, 20Pts, 0.76PtsGm, 2GW, 4PP, 0SH

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE: SOPHOMORE GOALIE ALEX BEAUDRY
Quick Hits: 24GP, 8W, 14L, 2T, 61GA, 1365Min, 2.68GAA, 0SH, 698SV, .920SV
Coach knows best: We had a number of goalies that we were evaluating, and we liked Alex the best his academic ability, his age, and his desire to get to school just kind of fit," Coach Tim Army said. We thought he was good. He was the guy we wanted."
Highlight reel: Ranked 1st in save percentage and 2nd in minutes in the league. Nationally, Beaudry is tied for 12th in save percentage. Named Hockey East Co-Defensive Player of the Week, Oct. 12, Nov. 2, and Jan. 18. When he earned the honor most recently, Beaudry averaged 35 saves and posted a 2-1 record, a 2.34 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in three games. He was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for October. Beaudry finished the month with a 4-2 record, a 2.01 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. On Oct. 21 he stopped a career-best 47 shots, including 20 in the third period, at No. 17 UMass.
Keeping in step: Matt Bergland - So - F - 27GP, 9G, 9A, 18Pts, 0.66PtsGm, 2GW, 0PP, 0SH; Mark Fayne - Sr - D - 27GP, 4G, 13A, 17Pts, 0.62PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 0SH

Mary Paoletti is on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.