Alex Weiermair University of Denver

DU Hockey’s 2023-24 Freshmen Class Announced, Analysis

The University of Denver hockey program announced its incoming first-year class, marking one of the largest freshmen classes for head coach David Carle in recent years.

The Pioneers welcome one (1) goaltender, four (4) defensemen, and five (5) forwards to Magness Arena as the program looks to capture its tenth National Championship and second in the last three years.

“We’re excited to add these 10 players to our roster for next season and believe these new Pioneers will fit into the culture of our team,” said Carle in DU’s release. “This class features versatile players that will be key contributors to our program for years to come, and I’m looking forward to seeing these student-athletes continue to build on our Pioneer legacy on the ice and in the classroom.”

Last year, the Pios signed seven first-year players to the hockey program, with Aidan Thompson notably earning top-six minutes as the season progressed. The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2022 third-rounder was a point-per-game player, finishing with 10 goals and 22 assists in 32 games played.

Freshmen Tristan Lemyre, Rieger Lorenz, and Jared Wright played in bottom-six forward roles, but all look poised for expanded minutes in 2023-24.

Here is the freshmen class for the upcoming season and my thoughts on each player.


Freddie Halyk

  • D.O.B.: Aug 27, 2003
  • Place of Birth: Cochrane, AB
  • Height: 6’6″
  • Weight: 220 lbs
  • Catches: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: With Magnus Chrona moving on, the Pios will likely turn to senior Jack Caruso and junior Matt Davis for the lion’s share of starts between the pipes. However, Halyk could see a limited sample size in certain situations. The Alberta native already has a massive frame, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 220 pounds. He spent last season in the AJHL split between Lloydminster and Camrose, acquired by the latter in January for the team’s second-half run. With Camrose, Halyk posted a 2.63 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage with a pair of shutouts in 20 games.


Cale Ashcroft

  • D.O.B.: Aug 05, 2004
  • Place of Birth: St. Albert, AB
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: Ashcroft is a mobile defenseman who led all Tri-City Storm blueliners with 37 points (eight goals, 29 assists) and played in all 62 games last season. While he went undrafted following his only season in the USHL, the 19-year-old will have the opportunity to garner the attention of NHL scouts with a promising first year on campus. He stands at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, and skates very well. Ashcroft was more of a puck facilitator for Tri-City but features a bomb from the point and showcased it on the power play.

Garrett Brown

  • D.O.B.: Apr 04, 2004
  • Place of Birth: San Jose, CA
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 192 lbs
  • Shot: R
  • NHL Rights: WPG (2022 – Fourth Round)

Analysis: At 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, Brown has the build you look for along the blue line. The San Jose native has good mobility for his size and likes to jump into the rush, supporting the forwards, often trying to finish on the backdoor. He spent the 2022-23 season split between Sioux City and Waterloo in the USHL, tallying a combined three goals and 15 assists for 18 points. Brown is more of a facilitator than a scorer and features a simple but heavy wrist shot from the point. He’s a smart creator who will often make the safe pass on the breakout or in the offensive zone. Defensively, he uses his size to win puck battles in his own corner and does not shy away from contact in open ice. He gained some experience on the penalty kill in Waterloo, and while he is still learning positional awareness, Brown uses his stick to take away passing lanes and applies pressure when he sees an opportunity.

Boston Buckberger

  • D.O.B.: Jun 01, 2003
  • Place of Birth: Saskatoon, SK
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 172 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: Originally committed to Wisconsin, Buckberger flipped his commitment to DU at the tail end of the 2022-23 season after Tony Granato was let go and replaced by former Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings. He’s entering the program as an older freshman, turning 20 in June, as he needed a little more time to develop before making the jump to the collegiate level. The Saskatoon native stands at 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, and spent last year in a leadership role with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, tallying 45 points (nine goals, 36 assists) in 62 games. He’s a highly-intelligent and crafty blueliner who made a name for himself as more of a passer, tied for the most power-play assists (18) in the USHL among defensemen. Buckberger rarely shoots from below the dots and utilizes shiftiness to create pockets, faking out the opposition before firing a quick release on net.

Zeev Buium

  • D.O.B.: Dec 07, 2005
  • Place of Birth: San Diego, CA
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: The younger brother of DU junior defenseman Shai, Zeev Buium completed his two-year residency at the United States National Team Development Program, tallying 40 points (five goals, 35 assists) in 63 games during the 2022-23 season. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Buium is an undersized blueliner, but he is a highly-skilled setup man. The younger Buium consistently creates plays but also shows the willingness to jump into the rush. He is entering his draft year and is projected to be a first-round pick, with scouts believing he will fill out his frame while growing another inch or two. Buium recently participated in the World Junior Summer Showcase and has a strong potential to represent Team USA at the 2024 World Juniors.


Kieran Cebrian

  • D.O.B.: Mar 31, 2003
  • Place of Birth: Denver, CO
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 194 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: Like Buckberger, Cebrian is joining the DU hockey program at age 20 after spending three seasons with the Tri-City Storm. With 16 goals and 31 assists in 61 games, Cebrian’s 47 points were tied for the second-most on Tri-City’s roster in 2022-23. He’s a big-bodied forward – 6-foot-2, 194 pounds – who does most of his damage below the dots. The Denver native establishes a strong net-front presence, either cleaning up loose pucks on second-chance opportunities or re-directing shots from the point. Cebrian is a player that Tri-City relied on in all situations and won over 54 percent of his faceoffs last year.

Sam Harris

  • D.O.B.: Oct 14, 2003
  • Place of Birth: San Diego, CA
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: MTL (2023 – Fifth Round)

Analysis: Harris is one of those players you hate playing against but love having him on your team. Despite being 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, the San Diego native exudes physicality. He’s a menace on the forecheck and skates into the dirty areas of the ice. Harris fights for every inch on the ice, featuring a tremendous motor, despite not having top-end north-south speed. Like others before, he turns 20 in October and was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round of the 2023 NHL Draft. Offensively, he does much of his damage around the net, cleaning up loose pucks, but he has the ability to create his own shot in the offensive zone, skating around defenders until a pocket opens.

Peter Lajoy

  • D.O.B.: Feb 27, 2002
  • Place of Birth: Evergreen, CO
  • Height: 5’7″
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Shot: L
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: Having spent the last three seasons in the North American Hockey League, Lajoy joins DU as another undersized, overage first-year player. The Evergreen, Colorado native is listed at just 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, and had just four points (two goals, two assists) in 37 games for the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks last year. He’s a scrappy forward who welcomes physicality, especially in the corners. Because of his size, he has the propensity to take the brunt of hits in open ice. Offensively, he is not much of a shooter, and most of his shots last season came in transition from above the dots and before he was greeted by the opposition.

Miko Matikka

  • D.O.B.: Oct 26, 2003
  • Place of Birth: Helsinki, FIN
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 201 lbs
  • Shot: R
  • NHL Rights: ARI (2022 – Third Round)

Analysis: Arguably the prize of David Carle’s 2023-24 freshmen class, Matikka is a big-bodied forward who can skate, pass, create plays on his own, and is strong around the net. The Finnish forward’s NHL rights belong to the Arizona Coyotes, but Matikka will look to leave his mark on NCAA hockey before turning pro. He spent last season split between the USHL’s Madison Capitols and Waterloo Black Hawks, acquired for the latter’s second-half and postseason run. He tallied a total of 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in 58 games, displaying a strong combination of passing and scoring touch. Matikka uses all of his 6-foot-3, 201-pound frame to generate powerful shots on net and physically imposes his will in puck battles.

Alex Weiermair

  • D.O.B.: May 10, 2005
  • Place of Birth: Los Angeles, CA
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Shot: R
  • NHL Rights: N/A

Analysis: Weiermair did not garner the national attention like his NTDP teammates Ryan Leonard, Will Smith, and Gabe Perreault, mainly playing in a bottom-six role in Plymouth. The Los Angeles native tallied 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 55 games with the U18 team in 2022-23. Most of his offense came in transition last season, carrying the puck into the attacking zone, pulling up and firing a shot on net, or supporting a rush. With the puck on his stick, Weiermair has quick hands to navigate around or through traffic, beating his opponents with finesse rather than physicality. That is not to say he will not go into the corner to win a puck battle, but Weiermair relies on using his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame to shield defenders from the puck rather than outmuscle them.

Top photo (Alex Weiermair) courtesy of USA Hockey, Videos courtesy of InStat

4 thoughts on “DU Hockey’s 2023-24 Freshmen Class Announced, Analysis”

  1. This looks like a solid group. They should be peaking when the NCAA regionals return to Loveland for the 2025-26 season. Until then, they will have to tough it out in Fargo and other distant locales to advance.

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