College hockey fans around the country are keeping a close eye on the transfer portal these days, as it positively or negatively affects roster management in many college programs. So far, the defending NCHC regular season champion Denver Pioneers have yet to lose any players to the transfer portal as of March 30th, nor have the Pios added any transfers to next year’s roster. But the offseason is still young and the portal doesn’t close for another seven weeks.
We told you about the departure of Carter Mazur to an NHL contract signing and about other DU signings including Justin Lee and Kyle Mayhew to AHL contracts. So far, 212 players have entered the portal and 50 of those transferees have already landed on new teams at different schools, raising some valid questions on social media about the portal recruiting process and rules. Northeastern leads the nation in portal losses with nine players lost while UMass-Amherst and Miami are right behind with eight players in the portal. CC has seen seven players enter the portal.
According to The Grand Forks Herald’s 2023 men’s college hockey transfer board maintained by Brad Schlossman, NCHC teams currently have 30 outgoing players in the portal and have already brought in five new incoming players via the portal. Three NCHC teams have been hit particularly hard in the NCHC with portal losses to date – Colorado College, North Dakota, and Miami. However, it’s safe to expect more portal entrants and additions until the portal closes on May 18th.
Turning our attention to ‘that team down south’, CC senior goalie Matt Vernon (2.57) entered the portal, but with no takers, elected to sign a minor league deal in the ECHL after looking over his shoulder at the rise of freshman goalie Kaiden Mbereko. CC forward Noah Prokop is a two-time portal entrant, heading to the second-season St. Thomas (Minn.) University program in the CCHA next season. Two other CC defensemen and three forwards have joined Vernon and Prokop in departing the Tiger program, although one of them, Connor Mayer, decided to pull himself out of the portal and return to CC.
Up north, in an unprecedented exodus, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks lost their entire defensive corps – eight players – from last season, highlighted by the portal exits of Brent Johnson, Luke Bast, and Cooper Moore, on top five defensemen lost to the usual pro signings and graduations. Thus, UND will be reliant on the portal and incoming recruits to rebuild its entire eight-man defensive corps this offseason. North Dakota has already added two players from the portal after losing six. Goalie Ludvig Persson (3.67 GAA in 2022-23) left Miami to fill the Fighting Hawks’ hole in goal after the exit of net minder Jacob Hellsten (2.72) via the portal, and Garrett Pyke, the defender and captain from Alaska-Fairbanks will join UND on the blue line. Expect plenty more portal additions for UND.
Miami was also hit hard, losing its starting goalie (Persson) and two solid forwards in Red Savage (10g/5a) to Michigan State, and Joe Cassetti (7/7) via the portal. Three other Redhawk forwards joined the pair in the portal, along with two defenders, Alex Murray and Nick Donato. The Redhawks have already since added seldom-used UMass forward Ryan Sullivan (2/1) and Long Island defender Spencer Cox (1/12) to fill some of these holes.
Western Michigan has lost three seldom-used players to the portal while St. Cloud, Omaha, and Minnesota-Duluth are losing two players each to the portal so far. Minnesota Duluth’s big loss is NHL first-rounder forward Issac Howard (6/11) to Michigan State (where he rejoins his former US National Team Development Program coach Adam Nightingale). UMD also loses bottom-six forward Luke Mylymok (5/8) to Niagara, where he will join his brother on the Purple Eagles’ roster.
Omaha lost solid sophomore defender Davis Pennington (1/15) and an excellent sophomore second-line forward in Cameron Berg (10/14). St. Cloud has lost forward Chase Brand (3/4) and seldom-used defender Brady Ziemer to date.
Over the next few weeks, look for Denver to perhaps comb the portal to replace some of the production of Carter Mazur, Justin Lee, and Kyle Mayhew, but the Pios have a strong freshman class coming in that should fill most, if not all, of the holes. DU head coach David Carle, however, has not been particularly active in adding players from the portal in recent years, adding just three total in the last two years combined. Cameron Wright joined the Pios from Bowling Green as a grad transfer ahead of the 2021-22 national championship campaign. Tristan Broz transferred from Minnesota and Casey Dornbach joined from Harvard ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Some of the top-producing forwards remaining in the portal are the aforementioned Berg from Omaha, Long Island forward Patriks Marcinkevics (6/21), Joey Larson (13/14) from Northern Michigan, and Ryan Naumovski (9/17) from Niagara.
We have no word yet on DU’s all-NCHC defenseman Mike Benning’s status at DU, whether he will turn pro with Florida or return for his senior season at DU.
Top photo of Jakob Hellsten credit: North Dakota Athletics