Preseason Top 16: #13 Ohio State
The Buckeyes burst out of the gates, going 14-4-1 in 2011 but just 1-11-4 the rest of the way (you read that correctly). Their season culminated with a first round CCHA playoff loss to Notre Dame
It was the best of times….
These next two sections should be fairly easy. The Buckeyes had a 11 game unbeaten streak from October 21 to December 3rd, tying in only one of those games.
It was the worst of times…
Pretty much the entire second half of the season was a disaster for Ohio State, suffering through a 11 game winless streak. Other than a February 11 win over Western Michigan, their last win of the season game on December 30th. Read that again.
The Coach - Mark Osiecki (Wisconsin 1990)
Osiecki was a tough defensive defenseman at Wisconsin and then had a brief NHL career, playing in 93 total games for the Flames, Senators, Jets and North Stars. He also had a career in the IHL with several teams. As a coach Osiecki was one of the more successful men behind the bench in the USHL, helping the Green Bay Gamblers win a USHL title in 2000. As an assistant with Wisconsin he helped the Badgers to the 2006 national title. He finished 3rd in the CCHA with the Buckeyes in his first season in charge before last year's second half disaster.
Notable Current NHL Alumni
Players to watch
The Buckeyes lost no one early to the NHL, which means that 7 of their top 8 scorers and 10 of their top 11 scoring forwards return from last year's team. Although the Buckeyes struggled terribly in the standings, their offense was middle of the pack in the CCHA, and should improve greatly this coming season.
Chris Crane led the Buckeyes in goals (14) and shared the team lead in points (24). Crane was thought of more as a grinder in his USHL days, but has really increased his goal scoring skills since coming to Columbus (especially in the CCHA. 14 goals is nothing to sneeze at in that league). He was the 200th overall pick in the 2010 draft and if his improvement from his Freshman to his Sophomore year is any indication the Sharks may have gotten yet another steal from the college ranks.
Max McCormick was a 6th round pick of the Senators in the 2011 draft, and he jumped to Columbus and started scoring goals immediately. He had 10 goals last year, and his .91 goals per game led all CCHA rookies. He was known perhaps a bit more for dropping the gloves in his USHL days despite being under 6 feet tall, but he has showed a lot of offensive prowess as well.
The Buckeyes also welcome back Sophomore Ryan Dzingel, who had just 7 goals but shared the team lead with 24 points. Like McMormick, Dzingel was a 2011 draftee of the Senators, being taken in the 7th round. Dzingel is under 6 foot tall and a bit on the small side, but he has a ton of skill and despite only scoring 7 goals can really shoot the puck well.
The Buckeyes were awful defensively last season, but only Sean Duddy graduates. They leaned fairly heavily on some Freshmen last year, so any improvement at all in that area should lead the Buckeyes at least to a respectable showing defensively. The best defenseman of the bunch is probably Curtis Gedig, a 7th rounder in the 2009 NHL draft.
With goalie Cal Heeter, the backbone of the last two Buckeye teams, graduated, Ohio State has brought in two highly touted netminders to try to take his place (although Brady Hjelle will certainly have something to say about that). Peter Megariotis helped lead Port Huron of the NAHL to the North Division title, posting a .906 save percentage. He also had a .942 save percentage in the NAHL's Top Prospects Tournament. He'll compete with former NTDPer Collin Olson, a 6th round pick in the most recent NHL Draft. Olson was named the best goalie at the most recent U-18 World Championships, in which the United States won the gold medal.
Up front the big recruit is Anthony Greco, who checks in at just 5'10", 180 lbs but has elite speed and great skill. He played at Shattuck St. Mary's and had 22 goals for Des Moines (USHL) last season.
Defensively the Buckeyes will get some help in the form of Craig Dalrymple, Cliff Watson and Sam Jardine. Dalrymple is the oldest of the trio, having spent the past two seasons with Powell River of the BCHL. Watson is probably the best defensive defenseman of the bunch, having excelled in that area for Sioux City of the USHL. Finally, Sam Jardine made the all rookie team in the AJHL in 2011, and backed that up with another fine season, scoring 11 goals from the blueline.
Non conference series to watch:
I don't have Minnesota-Duluth in the preseason top 16, but there's no doubt that when Ohio State travels there the first weekend of the season it will be an immediate test to see how for real they are. The Bulldogs will have a younger team than Ohio State so that could work out to the Buckeyes' advantage, but Amsoil Arena is not the easiest place to play, giving Ohio State a good early test.
This might end up being my out on a limb prediction for this year. As evidenced by the first half of last season, the team has the talent to finish in the top 3 in the CCHA and make an NCAA tournament run. But they have a way to go as well. With Bowling Green, Alaska and Northern Michigan as their first three CCHA series they have an opportunity to get off to a fast start yet again, but they finish with Western Michigan, Michigan and Miami, meaning they'll need to have a bit of a cushion before the season's final month.