Mack’s Mailbag – 2/7/14

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How would you rank the recruits over the next few years? They seem to have a lot of kids committed all the way for two or three years, but in terms of scoring, how would you rank them overall? Forget the year, just total.

This is an interesting question. Admittedly, I’ve only viewed some of these players on a limited basis, and most has been through online video feeds, which isn’t exactly the best. But, over the next three years, there are four players who I believe will make significant offensive contributions as soon as they take the ice:. 1) Pat Kramer (2016), 2) Austin Plevy (2014), 3) Brett Seney (2014/15), 4) Matt Foget (2016).

Seney is projected as a 2015, but they could move him up if they wanted to and he has had a great season in the OJHL this season. I’d compare him, if you’re a Bruins fan, to Brad Marchand. He has a lot of skill, but he also plays with an edge. Plevy is a really slick playmaker, and should be a big part of the offense right away. Kramer is probably the most skilled of the bunch, but it should also be said that Kramer is the only player I’ve seen live. Foget is younger, but is putting up great numbers as a 16-year-old in the CCHL.

You combine those guys with future years of development for players like Chris LeBlanc, Brian Christie and Hampus Gustafsson, and that could be a nice nucleus.

I’ve had a lot of questions through Twitter and the like lately about the 2010-11 team, and how this team compares and has there been a drop in recruiting because there isn’t a star like Stephane Da Costa. What people need to understand though, is that team wasn’t just Da Costa. He was a great player, but he was surrounded by guys like Chris Barton, Jesse Todd, Ryan Flanigan, Karl Stollery, Joe Cucci … and the list goes on. That team had offensive depth, and a goalie named Joe Cannata.

So it’s not just about one player. You need to have sustainable depth throughout your four lines. To me, you want three good, solid scoring lines and then one defensive/checking line, which should also include three of your four penalty-killing forwards.

Are their struggles simply some poor recruiting? You have three or four years of it in a row and it adds up to a team that can’t score. Are they doing anything to fix it?

Yes, and no. First, it hasn’t been “three or four years.” Really, it’s been one  – maybe two – years where they’ve had some misses. Good teams are always carried by their junior and senior classes, and Merrimack has had guys like Dan Kolomatis, Jordan Heywood, Brendan Ellis and Mike Collins, but then there are also players who have struggled to stay in the lineup that I’m sure the coaching staff, when they were recruited, thought would be bigger contributors at this point.

As for the recruiting moving forward, it seems they are starting to get away from certain places and are looking at new leagues for talent. In recent years they’ve gone to the NAHL quite a bit, they seem to be plucking more players from the USHL and now they’ve made some inroads into Ontario, where before they were heavily relying on Alberta and British Columbia.

Recruiting is cyclical. When they were in the BCHL and the AJHL, a lot of times it was because other teams weren’t going there. Now, especially the BCHL, is a hotbed. While I don’t know if this is true, I could certainly see a situation where maybe in the BCHL, they were getting their first or second choice, when it came to players. But with more teams watering down that market, they’re settling for their fourth or fifth choices.

How will the playoff system work this year with everyone making it but only 11 teams? I can’t seem to find that online.

Teams 1-5 will get a first-round bye. Then 6v11, 7v10 and 8v9 will be on campus sites (higher seed hosts) and it’s single elimination. After that we’re left with eight teams for the regular three-game quarterfinal series and then back to single elimination for the semifinals and finals.

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