The UConn men’s hockey team announced the last four members of its incoming freshman class on Wednesday, welcoming Jacob Flynn, Ryan Keane, Yan Kuznetsov and Harrison Rees. Those four, along with Carter Berger, Matej Blümel, Vladislav Firstov and Eric Linell — who the team announced in late 2018 — make up the Huskies’ full 2019 class.
The class features one goaltender, four defenders and three forwards. Berger, Blümel and Firstov were all selected in the 2019 NHL Draft while Kuznetsov is currently projected to be a first round pick in the 2020 draft.
The headliner is Firstov, who became the second-highest pick in program history — behind only Tage Thompson — when the Minnesota Wild picked the Russian with the 42nd overall pick. Firstov “is said to have an NHL-ready shot and is an elite skater with an explosive stride” according to Wild.com’s Brian Halverson and should be an instant-impact player for the Huskies.
However, he isn’t the only elite prospect to come out of Russia. Kuznetsov is the top defenseman in the class, even if he’s only coming to Storrs at age 17. He’s a strong skater and will also bring some much-needed offense to UConn’s defensive unit.
Blümel, meanwhile, is a speedster on the ice, part of what got him picked 100th overall by the Edmonton Oilers. According to DraftSite.com, that speed also makes Blümel a dangerous player on the penalty kill.
The final draftee of the class, Berger is another two-way defenseman for the Huskies who is a strong passer and plays well on the power play.
Moving to the net, Keane may not be the most decorated incoming freshman, but he is one of the most important. With Adam Huska’s departure to the pro ranks, Keane will be a third goalie on the roster and should compete with Bradley Stone for the backup job behind incumbent starter Tomas Vomacka. The Lewisville, Texas native isn’t huge at 5-foot-9 but he’s played well in the NAHL, winning Goaltender of the Year in 2017-18.
Flynn is the sole player in New England from the class, hailing from Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He’s also the only player to come directly from high school as the defenseman played at Thayer Academy.
Rounding out the class are Eric Linell, a forward from Great Neck, New York and Harrison Rees, a defenseman from Oakville, Ontario. Both players come to Storrs having spent the last few seasons in the junior league circuit.
With the loss of seniors Miles Gendron, Karl El-Mir and Max Kalter along with notable underclassmen Huska and Phillip Nyberg, UConn will need the freshman to contribute from the start but as a whole, they won’t be thrown into any critical roles out of necessity like last year’s freshman class.
Speaking of recruiting, UConn earned a commitment from Johnny Mulera, who was previously committed to Providence, according to Mark Divver. Mulera will be part of the Huskies’ 2020 class along with John Spetz, one of the top defenseman in the class.
Mulera is described as small but talented — similar to current Husky Jonny Evans — but his role at the next level is still tough to project.