Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Changing of the Rearguard

Defenseman Brian Strait, who had been named co-captain of the 2009-10 Terriers, will forgo his senior year and has signed a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Strait, who was the Pens third-round draft choice in 2006 and is one of the most highly regarded prospects in their organization, took more than a month to make the difficult choice between a fourth year on the Terrier blueline and moving to the next level. Pittsburgh executives strongly felt it was time for Strait to join the pro ranks.

While expected to spend next season with the Pen’s AHL team in WilkesBarre/Scranton, Strait will attend the NHL team’s training camp and have an opportunity to make the big club. We’ll update this post when the Penguins officially announce the signing.

Strait’s departure along with Matt Gilroy’s graduation means that BU’s top defensive pairing from last season must be replaced. Highly regarded right-shot defenseman Max Nicastro, a third-round Detroit pick in the 2008 NHL draft is expected to claim one spot.

The newest member of the recruit class is Ben Rosen, a 5-11, 175 lb. left-shot defenseman from the South Shore Kings. Rosen, a 1989 birthdate, was the top-scoring defenseman in the EJHL last season with a 10-42-52 line in 45 games, earning a spot in the league's all-star game. In his first season with the Kings (07-08) he was a teammate of BU's Kevin Gilroy and scored 31 points. The previous year he was with Des Moines/USHL where for part of the season, he was a teammate of Ryan Ruikka. Rosen had originally been headed to Brown where his brother Dan is a goalie. He reportedly decommitted a few months ago and now has signed on with the Terriers.

Looking forward
From a St. Louis Blues fan site, we have a scouting report on another 2009 recruit, right wing Alex Chiasson , who was #34 among North American skaters in the final Central Scouting rankings.

Chiasson Scouting Report -- Started the season as more of a
puck protection power forward, but ended the season with a distinct physical presence ... drives the net off the half boards or from behind the net ... able to shield the puck with stick-handling prowess, long reach, positioning, and sheer effort of fighting through checks and sticks ... does need more acceleration with the puck for better separation in tight places to ensure success at higher levels ... confident stickhandler who is patient with the puck and can handle it across his body well ... has a hard wrist shot and a heavy slapshot ... makes crisp, accurate passes and is dangerous along the half boards and end boards with centering passes ... is effective on the power play ... additional lower body strength will give him the power and low center of gravity to become almost unstoppable ... committed to Boston University for 2009-10 season.

Looking back
If Strait plays for Wilkes Barre/Scranton next season, he may find a familiar face there. Bryan Ewing, who was rookie of the year and a first team all-star, for Pittsburgh’s ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. His play earned him a call-up to the AHL club and he should get a chance to move up next season. New England Hockey Journal looks back at Ewing’s first season as a pro. John Curry, the Baby Pens goalie for the past two seasons, is expected to compete for the backup goalie job on the NHL level.

Skating Down Under
Hockey season has just begun in the Australian Ice Hockey League, where a pair of ex-Terriers have relocated. Eric Thomassian and Craig Sanders are currently the top scorers for the Canberra Knights and accounted for all the goals in a recent 3-1 win over the Sydney Ice Dogs.

Re-upping in Belfast
Last September, we posted about 1994-95 Terrier MVP Steve Thornton becoming player-coach of the Coors Belfast Giants of the British Elite League. After a successful season behind the bench, and on the ice (17-48-65), including success in the 2009 Challenge Cup, Thornton will return for a second season as coach. Once again, he’ll have ex-Terrier Shane Johnson as his assistant and mainstay on defense. Johnson, who like Thornon played for BU’s 1995 National Champs, will begin his ninth season in Belfast.

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