The popular sports team adage the best defense is a good offense could hold true for Lake Superior State this season as the Lakers return a significant amount of their scoring production from last season and are primed to be one of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's (WCHA) top scoring teams if not nationally.
With no disrespect toward the Lake State's defensive corps, the Lakers do return seven of their top nine points leaders from a season ago as the group accounted for 64.6 percent (186-280) of LSSU's points production along with 64.1 percent (66-103) of the squad's goal scoring and 46.5 percent (86-185) in assists.
Headlining the list of returnees is senior J.T. Henke along with juniors Diego Cuglietta, Gage Torrel, and Anthony Nellis. The four along with sophomore Max Humitz provide Lake Superior State with an impressive offensive arsenal to compensate for the loss of 2016-17 LSSU scoring leader Mitch Hults, who was tabbed as the team's Most Valuable Player and earned second-team All-WCHA recognition a season ago. Cuglietta, Torrel, and Nellis were part of a sophomore class which concluded 2016-17 ranked eighth in the nation among their second-year peers with a combined 135 points on 52 goals coupled with 83 assists.
The Lakers' top returning scorer from last season, J.T. Henke produced a career-high 30 points on 10 goals and a team second-most 20 assists in 36 games for the 2016-17 season. He tied for seventh among the WCHA's top points getters while ranking 83rd nationally in assists per content (0.56 agp.). While Henke enjoyed a banner season a year ago so too did Diego Cuglietta, who generated a team third-most 25 points on 12 goals and 13 assists which were all personal career single-season bests. Playing in 35 games, Cuglietta concluded 2016-17 ranking in a 21st-place tie among the league's leading points producers and tying for 15th-place honors in conference scoring. Like Henke and Cuglietta, Gage Torrel is coming off his most productive season in a Laker jersey as the 2017-18 team assistant captain set career highs in points (22) and goals scored (14) while skating in all 36 Lake State outings. His 22-points output tied for fourth most in team scoring and his 14 tallies placed him in a tie for sixth place in goal production on the WCHA charts. Anthony Nellis was yet another Laker who dispelled the "sophomore jinx" with career-high offensive numbers last season, totaling nine goals and 13 assists for a squad fourth-best tying 22 points.
A 2016-17 WCHA All-Rookie Team selection, Max Humitz hopes to continue his progression after turning in a highly-productive campaign in his initial season in the collegiate ranks. Humitz, who was the 2016-17 season winner of LSSU's Most Outstanding Freshman Award, netted a team second-most 13 goals to go along with seven assists for a league seventh-highest 20-points season total in 36 games. Not only did Humitz place in a tie for ninth among the WCHA's leading goal scorers, but he tied for runner-up honors in conference overall power-play markers with seven and shared fifth place in freshman scoring on the league's leaders list. Humitz also was recognized as the WCHA's Rookie of the Month for January last season.
Lake Superior State certainly has a number of players who are poised for breakout seasons and primed to double their offensive production with sophomore Brayden Gelsinger and junior Josh Nenadal being two of those. Gelsinger scored five goals in 36 encounters to go along with 10 assists for 15 points in his first collegiate season and ended the 2016-17 campaign ranked tied for ninth in team points. Nenadal equalled his season's output from the previous one with six points on three goals and assists apiece in 35 2016-17 season matchups after notching six points with five goals and a helper in 38 games for the 2015-16 season. Adding to the mix are sophomore Bryan Basilico and junior Jake Hand, who each recorded three points in 11 and 22 games, respectively. Basilico posted two goals and an assist while Hand was credited with three assists to account for his season's points production.
Junior C.J. Hayes along with sophomores Ian Johnston and Brendan McKay will all be competing for increased minutes on the ice this upcoming season. Hayes posted a goal in 16 outings while both Johnston and McKay skated in 11 and 12 contests, respectively. The trio are part of a returning 12-letterwinner group which generated 72.8 percent (75-103) of the Lakers' goal scoring and 65.9 percent (190-288) of the squad's points a season ago.
Two new faces arriving on the scene in freshmen Chase Gamelin and Hampus Erikkson also figure to make their presence known on the ice. Gamelin is returning to his hometown after playing the past two seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17) with the Brookings Blizzards of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and racked up 17 points on seven goals and 10 assists in 53 appearances this past campaign. Erikkson, an imposing figure at 6-6 and 211 pounds, put up big numbers in juniors this last season by registering 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points in 57 contests for the NAHL's Fairbanks Ice Dogs.