UNH Recruits: Plans for 2015-16 Season
The 2014-15 hockey season ended on a high note for UNH fans last week as NHL rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. On this stormy summer day in mid-June, it's tempting to think we've entered the "off-season". But in the world of 21st-century hockey, the seasons tend to blend together for professional and amateur players. This coming weekend, the NHL will conduct the 2015 Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers. Four UNH recruits - Marcus Vela, Mike Robinson, Liam Darcy, and Joseph Masonius - are hoping to hear their names called in the mid to late rounds.
Meanwhile, all the UNH recruits are busy preparing to join new teams or to return to their current teams. This article provides the latest information on each recruit's plan for the 2015-16 season. I'll begin with two 2017 or '18 UNH recruits who recently participated in Tryout Camps for teams in the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Jason O'NeillIn early May, 18-year-old Jason O'Neill (DOB: 3/23/97), a 5'11", 170 lbs., left-shot forward, was drafted by the Madison Capitals in the third round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, O'Neill scored 19 goals and 27 assists in 33 games for the 18U Skipjacks Hockey Club in the United States Premiere Hockey League. O'Neill is from Odenton, Maryland and he recently graduated from high school.
Last week, Jason O'Neill participated in the Madison Capitals' tryout camp. When the camp was over, O'Neill earned a spot on the Capitals' 30-player protected list. In August, he will return to Madison for their training camp. By opening day of the USHL season, all teams must trim their active rosters down to 23 players.
Eric EspositoIn May 2014, Eric Esposito (DOB: 8/24/1998), a 5'11", 165 lbs., right-shot forward, was drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 16th round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, Esposito had a breakout year as a sophomore at Loomis Chaffee Prep School in Windsor, Connecticut. He scored 18 goals and 14 assists in 26 New England Prep School games. His older brother Alex, a University of Vermont recruit, scored 5 more points than Eric and was Loomis Chaffee's leading scorer.
Eric Esposito, who hails from West Haven, Connecticut, participated in the Youngstown Phantoms' Tryout Camp last week. He has earned a spot on the Phantoms' 23-man active roster. While that's great news for Eric, he won't be relaxing anytime soon. Esposito, who turns 17 in August, will participate in the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp in Williamsville, NY this weekend. He also competed in the Select 16 Camp last summer and the Select 15 Camp in 2013.
2016 UNH RecruitsLiam Blackburn will return to the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL for a third season. As a 17-year-old rookie in the 2013-14 season, Blackburn scored 19 goals and 28 points in 53 games. Last season, he increased his goal scoring to 23 and nearly doubled his assists up to 53. During the regular season, he tied for 6th in BCHL scoring and posted the third most assists. Blackburn (DOB: 6-8-1996), a 5'10", 167 lbs., left-shot center from Prince George, British Columbia, signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the University of New Hampshire during the early signing period last November.
Patrick Grasso will return to the Des Moines Buccaneers for his third full season in the USHL. Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996), a 5'7", 152 lbs., right-shot forward from Des Moines, Iowa, scored 9 goals and 25 assists in 60 games last season. He was the 5th leading scorer on the Buccaneers squad.
Nick Nonis will return for a second season with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL. In his rookie season, the 6'3", 195 lbs. left-shot defenseman scored a game-winning goal and added 6 assists in 56 games. Nonis (DOB: 12/19/1995), a 2014 graduate of Governor's Academy, lives in Hampton Falls, NH.
Brendan van Riemsdyk, the Rookie of the Year in the United States Premiere Hockey League last season, will return to the Islanders Hockey Club for one more season. His 29 regular-season goals were the 4th highest in the USPHL. In 2013, BvR (DOB: 1/28/1996) was drafted by the Sioux City Musketeers in the 4th Round of the USHL Draft. However, after graduating from Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, he chose to play in the USPHL. Brendan van Riemsdyk is a 6'5", 183 lbs. left-shot, left-winger who hails from Middletown, NJ.
2016 or 2017 UNH RecruitsJoseph Cipollone is committed to play for the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League in the 2015-16 season. The recent graduate of the South Kent School will attend the Vipers' Camp later this summer. Last season, Cipollone (DOB: 3/29/1997), a 5'10", 165 lbs., left-shot center, was the second-leading scorer for the Selects Hockey Academy 18U team. In 28 United States Premiere Hockey League games, Cipollone scored 22 goals and 36 assists. He was drafted by the Bloomington Thunder in the 7th Round of the 2015 USHL Draft. However, he chose not to attend Bloomington's Tryout Camp. Joseph Cipollone is from Purchase, NY.
Liam Darcy, who just graduated from Berwick Academy, will play for the Islanders Hockey Club in the USPHL next season. Over his four-year career at Berwick, the 5'10", 174 lbs., left-shot defenseman scored 20 goals and added 55 assists. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Darcy as the 204th North American skater eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. Back in 2013, Liam Darcy was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 6th Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He did not attend Green Bay's recent Tryout Camp having chosen to play his junior hockey in New England. Liam Darcy (DOB: 2/26/1997) is from South Berwick, Maine.
Justin Fregona, a recent graduate of St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario, is committed to play for the Langley Rivermen in the BCHL next season. Fregona lead the St. Andrew's Saints in scoring last season with 34 goals and 43 assists in 57 games. In Fregona's junior year, Warren Foegele - current UNH Wildcat and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick - was St. Andrew's leading scorer with 58 goals and 49 assists. Fregona (DOB: 5/29/1997), a native of Mississauga, Ontario, is a 5'7", 154 lbs., right-shot forward.
Charlie Kelleher will be returning to the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the USPHL next season. Last season, Kelleher was hampered by a bout of mononucleosis but still managed to score 13 goals and 22 assists in 40 USPHL games and was selected to the USPHL All-Star team. Kelleher (DOB: 2/4/1997), a 5'8", 195 lbs. right-shot forward, recently graduated from Longmeadow (MA) High School. In 2013, Charlie was selected by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the 3rd Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He chose to play for the Junior Bruins organization and continue his high school education in Longmeadow. Charlie is the younger brother of UNH's high-scoring Tyler Kelleher.
Aaron O'Neill will be entering his third season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL next fall. In April, 2013, Green Bay used it's first round draft pick to sign the 15-year-old O'Neill (DOB: 5/5/1997) to a tender contract. Aaron, who just turned 18 and graduated from Ashwaubenon (Wisconsin) High School, played in 32 games in his first season with Green Bay. Last summer, he underwent shoulder surgery and missed the first month and 1/2 of the 2014-15 regular season. The 5'11", 170 lbs., right-shot center posted a goal and an assist in the remaining 41 games.
Mike Robinson, the 6'4", 200 lbs. goalie from Bedford, New Hampshire is committed to play for the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the United States Premiere Hockey League next season. Last season, in his junior year in high school, Robinson (DOB: 3/27/1997) played every game for Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School Hockey Conference. While the team struggled with a record of 7-16-2, Robinson posted a Save Percentage of .902 and a Goals Against Average of 3.20. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Mike Robinson as the 8th North American goalie eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. He will travel to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida this weekend for the NHL Draft. In May, Robinson was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 7th Round of the USHL Phase II Draft. However, he did not attend Lincoln's recent Tryout Camp and does not plan on playing in the USHL next season. Robinson did participate in USA Hockey's Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in early May.