UConn men’s hockey’s incoming class is finally official. On Monday, the Huskies’ introduced 16 new players, made up of four transfers and 12 freshmen. It’s an offense-heavy group with 12 forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender.
“We’ve got a lot of numbers coming in but we also have quality players too,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh told The UConn Blog. “I think we have a lot of guys who are going to compete for playing time up front.”
After reaching the Hockey East championship game last season, UConn lost 15 players in total — Jonny Evans, Marc Gatcomb, Jarrod Gourley, Darion Hanson, Jachym Kondelik, Kevin O’Neil, Carter Turnbull, Ryan Wheeler, and John Wojciechowski to graduation; Carter Berger, Cassidy Bowes, Gavin Puskar, Artem Shlaine, and Sasha Teleguine to the transfer portal; and Vlad Firstov to the Minnesota Wild.
To replace those departures, the Huskies will add transfer forwards Ty Amonte (Boston University), Adam Dawe (Maine), and Justin Pearson (Yale) as well as Andrew Lucas (Vermont) to provide immediate reinforcements along with a large group of freshmen that features forwards Jake Black, Mark D’Agostino, Tristan Fraser, Tabor Heaslip, Huston Karpman, Jake Percival, Samu Salminen, Ryan Tattle and Matthew Wood; defensemen Thomas Messineo and Jack Pascucci as well as goaltender Arsenii Sergeev.
A 5-foot-11, 174-pounder with a right-handed shot, Amonte spent the first five years of his career at BU where he found success early on but has struggled with injuries since. Over the last three seasons, he’s played a total of 24 games and only collected two goals and five assists. UConn believes that if Amonte can stay healthy, he’ll be an impact player up top. Even if he doesn’t, Amonte will provide veteran leadership and a different perspective to the youthful squad.
A longtime favorite of Cavanaugh, Dawe is 5-foot-8, 161-pound ball of fire who plays with a mean streak. Though he only had six goals and five assists last season, he led Maine in points with 14 (five goals, nine assists) during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Dawe thrives as a passer so with a strong surrounding cast, the Huskies are banking on him to re-find the success he had earlier in his career.
Like the other two transfer forwards, Pearson is a reclamation project for UConn. He had three goals and eight assists last year but his 14 goals and 24 points were second-most for Yale in 2019-20 — and more than then-Bulldog and future Husky Kevin O’Neil — before COVID wiped out the next season and left the Bulldogs with a weak roster. The 6-foot-1, 185 power forward is a good fit for UConn’s roster and style of play, which the team hopes will facilitate a bounce back.
The crown jewel of the class, Wood is the Huskies’ best recruit ever. Cavanaugh compared his shot to Alex Ovechkin and UConn legend Tage Thompson while The Athletic projected him to go ninth overall in its most recent 2023 NHL Mock Draft. As a 16-year old, Wood led the BCHL — arguably the best junior hockey league in North America — with 45 goals and 85 points. While he’s still young (he doesn’t turn 18 until February), he has the size (6-foot-3, 194 pounds) to hold up at the collegiate level.
“He’s still young and he’s going to be competing against a lot of men,” Cavanaugh said. “There will be nights where he may struggle but overall, I think he’s just too of a good hockey player.”
A late addition to UConn’s freshmen class, Salminen was originally set to join the defending national champion Denver Pioneers before running into admissions issues. Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, Salminen is a 6-foot-3 center who was taken in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils. He’s expected to play immediately and could even factor into the power play early on in his career.
A native of Pomfret, Connecticut, Black is a natural goal scorer who totaled 41 scores in 60 games with the NAHL’s Johnston Blackhawks last season. The one knock on the 5-foot-11, 181-pounder is his lack of experience at a high-level junior league like the USHL or BCHL, which means the jump to the collegiate level could be more difficult.
Another Connecticut native out of North Branford, D’Agostino challenged himself in the BCHL last season and collected 13 goals and 12 assists in 54 games for the Powell River Kings. Listed at 6-feet, 161 pounds, he’s one of the oldest freshmen at 21 years old.
Fraser is a two-way forward out of West Vancouver and the BCHL, where he finished with 20 goals and 37 assists in 49 games with the Nanaimo Clippers. He’ll provide the Huskies with size (6-feet, 181 pounds) and versatility (he can play center or wing) up front.
A Texas native, Heaslip played for new UConn assistant Mike Pereira at Avon Old Farms. Though the freshman is on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Cavanaugh described him as a “fireplug” who will raise the level in practice every day.
The elder statesman of the freshman class — he was born Feb. 7, 2001, making him older than Nick Capone, Chase Bradley and Ryan Tverberg, to name a few — Karpman is a true power forward. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, and racked up a mind-boggling 215 penalty minutes in 54 games with the NAHL’s Minot Minotaurs.
The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Percival is from Avon, Connecticut and played with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, where he had 15 goals and 24 assists in 59 games last year. Even though those numbers don’t jump out, UConn is high on the freshman and view him as a player who can step into the lineup from day one.
A three-year veteran of the BCHL with the Coquitlam Express, Tattle is coming off a 23-point, 37-assist season in juniors. The 5-foot-10, 174-pounder from Port Moody, British Columbia should compete for a spot in the lineup this season.
Although the former Vermont captain transferred to UConn after three seasons in Burlington, Lucas is listed as a junior on the Huskies’ roster. He’s an offensive defenseman who led the Catamounts with 15 points as a freshman (five goals, 10 assists) and had the second-most points on the team this past season with 13 (three goals, 10 assists). Considering Lucas only played on rebuilding squads, UConn is hoping he’ll excel with a better roster around him.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Messineo is best known for his skating ability — a source once described him as an “explosive skater” with “electric feet” and “huge upside”. He’s originally from Westwood, Massachusetts but played with the Chilliwack Chiefs in the BCHL last season, where he had three goals and 12 assists in 31 games.
Pascucci profiles similar to current UConn captain Roman Kinal. Both are the same height (6-foot-2), nearly the same weight (Kinal is listed at 190, Pascucci 194), and each regarded strong, physical defensive defensemen. Pascucci comes from North Andover, Massachusetts — Cavanaugh’s hometown — and had one goal and eight assists with the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers last season.
The latest player in UConn’s Russian pipeline, Sergeev is a top goaltending prospect. He was taken in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames and earned USHL Goaltender of the Year after a 30-6-2 campaign in which he finished with a 2.08 goals against average, .918 save percentage, and six shutouts — all of which led the league. Sergeev will compete with sophomore Logan Terness for the starting job this year.