Week 1 of INCH's A to Z series

Fall sports are barely getting practices started, but Inside College Hockey's experts are already looking to winter. With their eyes on players who will make a difference this season, they begin their A to Z series this week. Today we learn our A, B, C's.

Nielsson Arcibal

American International
So. | F | Vista, Calif.

Key Statistics: It didn't take long for Arcibal to post his first collegiate goal, but scoring did not come easy the rest of the way. He played in 32 of AIC's 35 games last season, producing three tallies and a team-high 11 assists, all coming in league play. He ranked fourth on the team in points and second among those in the Class of 2012. In Atlantic Hockey, Arcibal ranked 15th among rookies in points and ninth in assists. He has a good pedigree, having played for the NAHL champion Texas Tornado in 2004-05. He produced 11 goals and 15 assists in one season with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL.

What He Does: Though the numbers don't reflect it, Arcibal has a tremendous work ethic and is a two-way hockey player. He can play wing, but center is his best position. Arcibal moves the puck well, is an adept passer and has a seemingly innate understanding of the game. Arcibal is strong on the penalty kill, but he is going to have to do better than scoring once on the power play. Also, he needs to improve his minus-24 rating.

The Bigger Picture: Arcibal played on one of AIC's top two lines for most of his freshman season, and that should continue in future seasons. His work in the weight room has helped put some muscle on his 5-foot-9 frame. Coach Gary Wright is counting on Arcibal to pick up his offensive game and contribute some more points, especially in goal scoring. Arcibal should play a vital role as AIC looks to build on a disappointing five-win season.

AIC coach Gary Wright on Arcibal: "We felt that he was a pretty big impact player for us. He is a guy who really comes to play. If he can get to that next level as a player, he has to develop some of his offensive skills. We are hoping that now that he has a transition year under his belt, he will continue to improve."

Alex Beaudry

So. | G | Cumberland, Ontario

Key Statistics: Beaudry joined the Friars at midseason and made his first start the day after his first practice. Less than a week later, he had three wins under his belt, matching Providence's total from the first half of the campaign. He (and the team) slowed from there; he finished 4-10-4 with a 3.50 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage.

What He Does: Beaudry challenges shooters and boasts athleticism and mobility. Perhaps best of all -- given the whirlwind of a situation he faced in January -- he has what coach Tim Army calls a "great demeanor" and ability to fit into any situation.

The Bigger Picture: Goaltending has been the Friars' biggest issue in Army's tenure, and it came to a head in early December of last year. Faced with inexperience and an injury to Ryan Simpson, Providence plucked Beaudry (pronounced BOO-dree) from the CJHL. Now that he enters a season with his feet firmly under him and familiarity with the school, the team and Hockey East, Beaudry may give Army the stability between the pipes that has been lacking throughout the coach's tenure. Other options exist, including incoming ex-Junior Bruin Russ Stein, but Beaudry is the favorite to retain the No. 1 role and return the Friars to the Hockey East playoffs.

Providence coach Tim Army on Beaudry: "He played four games in eight nights when he first joined us and gave us a real shot in the arm at the time. But he became a little overwhelmed at that point. I think he still played well, he was just a little inconsistent. … He showed some really good things in his game. The biggest thing will be that he knows the environment now."

Nick Bonino

Boston University
Jr. | F | Unionville, Conn.

Key Statistics: Bonino had a breakout season as a sophomore with 18 goals and 50 points, and many fans remember him as the player who scored the game-tying goal for BU in the national championship game against Miami University. His shot from the right wing knotted the score with 17 seconds left in the third period, just 43 seconds after he had the primary assist to pull the Terriers to within one. They went on to win in overtime and earn the program's fifth national title.

What He Does: Bonino is a big-time scorer and playmaker -- not usually the type of player we traditionally profile in our A-Z series -- but his case is special because he's the only one of BU's six top scorers from last year due back on campus this fall. Colin Wilson signed a pro contract, and seniors Chris Higgins, Brandon Yip, Jason Lawrence and Matt Gilroy (who also signed a contract) have exhausted their eligibility. As one of the most dynamic offensive talents in Hockey East, Bonino can expect to see a lot of defensive attention from opponents this year.

The Bigger Picture: Bonino, a junior, will serve as an alternate captain on a leadership group that also includes junior defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk as captain and senior defenseman Eric Gryba as the other alternate. Bonino said that they were lucky to learn from previous captains and team leaders and that the culture of last year's national champs was one of team accountability. Younger players weren't afraid to speak up when they saw things headed in a direction they didn't like. Continuing to stress team accountability is one of the goals for 2009-10.

Nick Bonino on his expectations for this season: "Every player wants to pass their previous year's points, but what I was most proud of last year was plus-minus at plus-29 and not getting scored on a lot. We lost a lot of firepower, but my focus is going to be to play as well as I can defensively and let the offense come from there."

Francois Brisebois

Jr. | F | Montreal, Quebec

Key Statistics: Brisebois played in all 37 games for Colgate as a sophomore and had seven goals and 17 points on the year. It was a modest spike from his 10-point freshman campaign. Four of his seven goals came on the power play.

What He Does: Brisebois was recruited as a good skater and highly skilled player and spent most of last season on one of Colgate's top two offensive lines. He finished the year by scoring three points in the last two games of Colgate's playoff series at Quinnipiac and was playing on a line with Ethan Cox and Austin Smith. All three of those players will return to Colgate this year and will be expected to provide offensive support for All-American David McIntyre.

The Bigger Picture: One of the best compliments that can be paid to Colgate coach Don Vaughan and his staff is that almost all their players show vast improvement from year to year during their time with the Raiders. After slow starts to their careers in terms of point scoring, the likes of Jon Smyth, Kyle Wilson and Jesse Winchester turned into all-league players. Time will tell whether Brisebois will be the next among Colgate's players to make that step, but he should be given every opportunity to do so as a potential top-6 forward for the Raiders this season.

Bryan Brutlag

Jr. | D | Lakeville, Minn.

Key Statistics: Brutlag was Rensselaer's leading scorer among defensemen as a sophomore last year, with three goals and 14 points. It was a modest improvement over his 12-point freshman season. Brutlag logs tons of minutes for the Engineers and plays the point on power-play units. Two of his three goals were PPGs.

What He Does: Brutlag is at his best when he is moving the puck and using his excellent skating stride to join the play and contribute to RPI's offense. The key for Brutlag is knowing when to make those plays in transition and when to rein things in.

The Bigger Picture: Brutlag joined Rensselaer's program straight out of high school three years ago after graduating from Academy of Holy Angels in Minnesota. He won't turn 21 until late February of his junior campaign. With that knowledge, the RPI coaching staff was prepared to suffer through some growing pains as Brutlag's game matured both in a mental and physical capacity. He played his best hockey in the second half of his sophomore campaign and is on the verge of being one of the best offensive defensemen in ECAC Hockey this year.

RPI coach Seth Appert on the challenge for offensive-minded defensemen: "To make a comparison to baseball, if you look at the greatest home run hitters, they all had a great deal of patience. They waited for their pitch. It's the same trait that offensive defensemen need to have, and Bryan is getting better at waiting for plays to develop instead of forcing things every time he steps on the ice."

Brandon Burlon

So. | D | Nobleton, Ontario


Key Statistics: An ankle injury kept Burlon out of the first six regular-season games of his freshman season at Michigan, but it didn't take look for the New Jersey Devils' second-round pick to hit his stride. The sophomore-to-be notched 15 points on five goals and 10 assists and compiled an excellent plus-17 rating in 33 games. Burlon's impressive efforts were rewarded with a spot alongside classmate David Wohlberg on the CCHA's All-Rookie Team.

What He Does: "What doesn't he do?"s might be the more appropriate question, as the 6-1, 190-pound blueliner is praised by his coaches for being the total package. Burlon drew favorable comparisons with Michigan alumnus and Boston Bruins rearguard Matt Hunwick for his exceptional skating ability, hockey sense and calculated but effective offensive playmaking. This versatility allows Burlon to be an effective player in all facets of five-on-five and special teams play.

The Bigger Picture: It didn't take Burlon long to adjust to the college game, and his maturity and willingness to adapt and improve his game will serve him well in a program that has produced more than its fair share of big league defensemen. Heading into his sophomore campaign, Michigan's coaching staff would like to see Burlon continue to develop his offensive talents and to help him become a more physical defenseman by engaging players earlier rather than simply anticipating their next move. Additionally, Burlon will become an even more attractive pro prospect as he progressively takes on more of a leadership role among the defensive corps and the team in general.

Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers on Burlon: "Brandon came in, and we were eager to get him on the ice and in the lineup, but he missed the first six games because of an injury. His first game was in Alaska, and we realized pretty quickly that we had a special defenseman. He didn't miss a beat, and that's tough to do for a freshman defenseman."

Jeff Caister

St. Lawrence
Sr. | D | Mississauga, Ontario

Key Statistics: Caister has missed only one game in his three-year college career, and that came in only the second game of the season in 2009, when the Saints were still trying to figure out what they had in terms of personnel. He had two goals and seven assists for the Saints and played in 37 of 38 games.

What He Does: Although he had just nine points this past season, he wasn't counted on to be a big scorer among St. Lawrence blueliners with the likes of Matt Generous, Zach Miskovic and Jared Ross back on the blue line. But he still played 20 minutes a night and played the point on SLU's top power-play unit. He showed that he can contribute to the offense by recording an impressive 47 points through his first two college seasons, which were spent at Wayne State. That included a three-goal, 28-assist campaign as a sophomore for the Warriors in 2007-08 that helped get him noticed as Wayne State's second-leading scorer and sent on his way to Canton, N.Y., to continue his college playing career.

The Bigger Picture: We mentioned Generous, Miskovic and Ross. Throw in Shawn Fensel and St. Lawrence lost four standout senior defensemen after last season. It'll be up to emerging seniors Caister and co-captain Derek Keller to take on even bigger leadership roles and increased ice time for the Saints in the absence of the four graduated veterans.

St. Lawrence assistant coach Bob Prier on Caister's arrival at St. Lawrence: "We saw him quite a bit during his junior career with Milton, and we knew we were getting a good player, and we knew he came from an excellent coaching staff at Wayne State because of the relationship between our former assistant Chris Wells and Bill Wilkinson at Wayne State. Jeff's been a very good offensive player at every level, but he turned out to be far better defensively and far tougher than we expected."

Joe Cannata

So. | G | Wakefield, Mass.

Key Statistics: Cannata started 21 games as a freshman for the Warriors and went 7-11-4 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He helped Merrimack post a conference GAA under 3.00 for the first time in Hockey East.

What He Does: The U.S. National Team Development Program product from nearby Wakefield, Cannata was one of only seven current collegians taken in June's NHL entry draft (sixth round, Vancouver). He's a butterfly goaltender with good size (6-1, 200) and athleticism -- an excellent baseball player before committing to hockey, he's blessed with the hand-eye coordination all goaltenders want.

The Bigger Picture: In an impressive class of freshman goaltenders in Hockey East -- two of them reached the Frozen Four, after all -- Cannata could easily be forgotten, but not by Warriors fans. He didn't turn 19 until Jan. 2, and given his age, there's good reason to expect his best efforts lie ahead. With that in mind, coach Mark Dennehy challenged Cannata to "train like you've never trained before" this summer. Who knows where it will lead, the coach told his star goaltender -- both for the 2009-10 Warriors and for Cannata's future.

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy on Cannata: "I've been lucky enough to recruit or coach some very talented goaltenders, including Jon Quick at UMass and Dave Stathos at Princeton. Joe has as much if not more potential than all of them."

Fred Cassiani

Lake Superior State
So. | F | Toronto, Ontario

Key Statistics: Cassiani began to make a name for himself throughout a solid freshman season in which he teamed up with then-seniors Josh Sim and Troy Schwab for most of the year. The trio wasn't the largest in stature, with Cassiani and Sim standing at 5-10 and Schwab at 5-8, but it had a big impact on an offense that ranked in the middle of the CCHA. Cassiani more than pulled his weight among his elder linemates, scoring 11 goals and notching 10 assists in 39 games.

What He Does: The sophomore rarely has a size advantage when competing for the puck, but Cassiani's anticipation and aggression when pursuing the puck give him a more prominent presence than his height may suggest. Cassiani is able to play at such a high level because of his offseason work ethic, which helped him make an immediate impact upon his arrival in Sault Ste. Marie, scoring two goals in his first conference game against Ohio State.

The Bigger Picture: Although Cassiani will skate with different wingers this coming year, coach Jim Roque seems confident the sophomore will slide into an increased role easily. Cassiani will center a power play unit and kill penalties for the Lakers, and will most likely be paired with some speedy wingers who complement Cassiani's consistently high pace.

Lake Superior coach Jim Roque on Cassiani: "[Cassiani] was a pleasant surprise last year. He played with two seniors for most of the year, and played very well. He just brings a lot of energy, works really hard and is really competitive. He is very clever at anticipating the puck and very clever with the puck, and even though he is only 5-10, he plays a lot bigger than he is."

Jordy Christian

St. Cloud State
So. | F | Moorhead, Minn.

Key Statistics: As a freshman, Christian jumped right into the competitive fire, playing in all but one of the Huskies' 38 games and notching 15 points. His first goal at the National Hockey Center was the winner in a December clash with Minnesota State.

What He Does: With the explosive Ryan Lasch as an example, newcomers on the Huskies know that physical stature is not required to be a dominating offensive force in St. Cloud. Still, Christian spent his freshman year and the ensuing summer working on his collegiate career in the classroom, on the ice and in the weight room, determined to add needed muscle to his average-size frame. The Huskies coaches admit that he was a good fit with the team's other three impact freshman forwards (Drew LeBlanc, Jared Festler and Travis Novak) and expect him to take another step forward as a sophomore.

The Bigger Picture: If Christian ever wanted proof that hard work on the ice produces rewards, he would need to look no further than the Olympic hockey gold medals won for Team USA by his grandfather Bill in 1960 and his uncle Dave in 1980, or the NCAA title his father, Ed, won at North Dakota in 1982. Born in Oregon, Christian came late to organized hockey but was never at a loss for friends in the game or legendary stories about great players on different branches of his family tree. After a minor knee surgery in April, he's spent the warm months coaching hockey camps; playing games; and working his legs, core and upper body hard, determined to make a positive impact and win more battles for the Huskies as a sophomore.

Huskies coach Bob Motzko on Christian: "Jordy has great hockey sense and a natural feel for the game that gives him a chance to take that next step. He has a special hockey knack for making plays. There's no question that bloodlines seem to be a great factor in his favor."

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