The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s hockey team didn’t get much offense from its defense last season.
Engineers coach Seth Appert hopes he has rectified that problem.
Three of the seven recruits who will join the Engineers this season are defensemen who are offensive-minded. They are Bradley Bell of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Sudbury Nickel Barons, Michael Prapavessis of the Ontario Junior Hockey League-champion Toronto Lakeshore Patriots and Jared Wilson of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers.
The Engineers’ blueliners had just 11 goals last season. Appert knows that is an area his team needs to strengthen.
“It’s something we’ve been aware of for years,” Appert said Thursday. “You see it with other programs in college hockey. I saw it at Denver, and I saw it here with Nick Bailen for three years. In the two years he was an All-American, we were in the national tournament and in second place [in ECAC Hockey] and a top-15 program in the country. Elite, puck-moving defensemen is where the game is moving a little bit.”
Prapavessis has the best impressive statistics. He had 11 goals and 66 assists in 71 games for the Patriots. He was named the top defenseman of the Canadian Junior “A” Hockey’s Royal Bank Cup tournament.
“He had a fantastic year and earned a lot of accolades and a lot of NHL draft attention because of that, and all rightfully so,” Appert said. “It’s even more impressive with his age, that he’s doing that as a 17-year-old this year. He’s a very highly intelligent defenseman at both ends of the ice.”
Bell was limited to 42 games by injuries. Still, he had 11 goals and 16 assists for the Nickel Barons.
“Bradley’s very gifted,” Appert said. “He moves the puck extremely well. He’s a great passer, and has a heavy shot. He has a high upside from the back end, both offensively and defensively. Even though he’s a 17 year old, he’s a big, strong kid. He’s really put together.”
Wilson, who is 6-foot-3, collected eight goals and 35 assists in 79 games for the Vipers. He also bring some toughness to the blue line.
“There’s time he’s a hard-nosed, mean, physical defender,” Appert said. “He also has a good offensive element. He moves the puck very well. He’s got a real bomb of a shot on the power play from the blue line.”
The forwards coming in are Kenny Gillespie, who had 15 goals and 19 assists in 51 games for the U.S. Premier Hockey League’s Jersey Hitmen; Viktor Liljegren, who collected 23 goals and 30 assists in 68 games for the North American Hockey League-champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs; Drew Melanson, who had 22 goals and 35 assists in 71 games for the U.S. Hockey League’s Waterloo Black Hawks, who played in the USHL final; and Louis Nanne, who five goals and five assists in 40 games for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. Nanne is the grandson of Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne, who played for the Golden Gophers and Minnesota North Stars and later was the coach and general manager of the team.
Appert said goalie Jason Kasdorf is 100 percent and will be ready to play this season.
Kasdorf’s season ended after two games when he suffered a dislocated right shoulder in practice Oct. 15. He had surgery to repair the injury.
“He would have been ready [to play] in April,” Appert said.