Photo credit: AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
If you thought that the University of Denver hockey team’s run to their eighth national title a few months ago was a wild ride, come this October, buckle up. The 2017-18 Pioneers might be even better than the 2017 National Champions. Crazy? Sure. Implausible? Absolutely not.
Earlier this week, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reported that star sophomore center Dylan Gambrell has decided to return to the Pioneers for his junior year. Until this announcement, there was some uncertainty whether he would sign an entry-level deal with the San Jose Sharks, the team that drafted him or return to school.
“When it came down to it, there was no wrong decision, I think,” Gambrell told Chambers in a phone interview. “Obviously, we’re at a great place in Denver. We have a phenomenal coaching staff. Our team is right up there with the best, obviously. But for me, it was a great opportunity in San Jose. It’s what you work for as a player your whole life. You want to make it to the NHL. I took a lot of advice, talked to a lot of people. I took my time with the decision because I didn’t want to rush it and have emotions taking over.”
With Gambrell’s decision now in the rearview mirror, the 2017-18 roster is beginning to take shape and it will be one that is now guaranteed to include three of the best players in all of college hockey in Henrik Borgström, Troy Terry, and Gambrell. In other words, DU fans are going to continue seeing the same incredible hockey from the top two lines they got used to in 2016 and 2017.
“For our team next year now, it will definitely be the most dynamic offensive team in my tenure here, and I’m excited to see how hard we can become to play against,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery told Chambers. “If we can combine those two things, it could really, really be an exciting year.”
Thanks to Gambrell’s decision, the full 2017-18 roster is coming into clearer focus with about two and a half months until the season starts. As it stands now, below is the very preliminary 2017-18 roster (“Fr” denotes incoming freshmen):
Borgström, Terry, Gambrell, Tyson McLellan, Liam Finlay, Colin Staub, Logan O’Connor, Jarid Lukosevicius, Rudy Junda, Jaakko Heikkinen (Fr), Jake Durflinger (Fr), Ryan Barrow (Fr), Jack Doremus (Fr), and Kohen Olischefski (Fr)
Michael Davies, Erich Fear, Blake Hillman, Sean Mostrom, Tariq Hammond, Adam Plant, Ian Mitchell (Fr), and Griffin Mendel (Fr)
Tanner Jaillet and Dayton Rasmussen (Fr)
It’s fully expected that there will be some minor additions and potential subtractions to the roster between now and October, but at the moment this is the general shape the 2017-18 roster will take.
The long and short of it is this team is going to be incredibly good once again and on paper, they will likely enter the season as the favorite to win the national title.
It’s important to take accolades and signs like this with a very large grain of salt, though. After all, it is only July, so don’t start booking April trips to St Paul just yet. This team lost last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner and much of its heart and soul in players like Matt VanVoorhis, Emil Romig, Evan Ritt, and others to graduation. In short, at risk of stating what is completely obvious, national titles can’t be won in July.
That said, things are coming together quite nicely for the Pioneers’ quest to repeat and win their ninth national title, which would tie them with Michigan for most all-time. Denver will have all the right pieces in place come October. All they’ll have to do is get on the ice and execute the way Montgomery knows they can.
Can’t be too hard, can it?