Opposing players to watch for the 2019 men’s hockey season


PITTSBURGH — The men’s hockey team stands for the national anthem against Bowling Green on 10/12/18 (David Auth/RMU Sentry Media).

Jonathan Hanna, Assistant Sports Editor

After the release of the 2019-20 Robert Morris men’s hockey team schedule, the intrigue of the potential NHLers that may come through the doors on Neville Island got to me. So, similar to last year, I went through and found the NHL prospects and bloodlines that the Colonials will face this year.

Atlantic Hockey Conference Prospects:

Matthew Berkovitz – Defense – Army

Drafted: 2014 – Round 5 – 123rd overall – Anaheim Ducks

Drafted out of high school in 2014, the now junior defenseman played his first collegiate games in a Black Knights uniform last season. In 39 games, Berkovitz recorded one goal and nine assists, good for ninth on the team; and third among defensemen.

A young defensive corps for the Ducks could see Berkovitz crack the lineup of Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego in the coming seasons.

Jakov Novak – Left Wing/Center – Bentley University

Drafted: 2018 – Round 7 – 188th overall – Ottawa Senators

Novak, a seventh-round pick of the Senators, was a Colonial killer last year with four points in five games. Novak stands at 6’3”, 201 pounds and had a knack for the net during his freshman season, scoring 15 points in 37 games with the Falcons.

Only a sophomore, Novak still has some time to grow to crack the prospect threshold of a rebuilding Senators lineup.

Garrett Metcalf – Goaltender – Mercyhurst University

Drafted: 2015 – Round 6 – 179th overall – Anaheim Ducks

Although Metcalf hasn’t had a starting role yet with the Lakers, only playing in 15 games over his two seasons (all last year), he showed potential last year, posting a 3.28 goals-against average, and a .902 save percentage.

However, with goalies like Lukas Dostal (2018 – Round 3 – 85th overall) and Anthony Stolarz (2012 – Round 2 – 45th overall) in the system for Anaheim, the path to the NHL seems slim for Metcalf.

Atlantic Hockey Conference Bloodlines:

Matt Tugnutt – Center/Right Wing – Sacred Heart University

Son of Ron Tugnutt (537 NHL games with DAL, PIT, EDM, MTL, QUE, CBJ, OTT)

Although his father may have made his name as a solid NHL goaltender; posting a career .895 save percentage and 3.05 goals-against average, Matt is bucking the norm, scoring goals instead of stopping them. In 66 career games with the Pioneers, Tugnutt has 42 points (16 goals, 26 assists).

Joel Kocur – Left Wing – American International College

Cousin of Joey Kocur (820 NHL games), Barry Melrose (300 NHL games) and Wendel Clark (793 NHL games)

With 1,913 NHL games and 759 points in his bloodline, one would expect the senior Yellow Jacket to be adept at finding the net. However, during the course of his three years at AIC, Kocur has only 39 points scored (18 goals and 21 assists). This season, Kocur will be the captain of the Jackets.

Non-conference Players:

Nikita Pavlychev – Center – Penn State University

Drafted: 2015 – Round 7 – 197th overall – Pittsburgh Penguins

A 6’7” forward from Yaroslavl, Russia, Pavlychev has slowly grown more and more accustomed to the speed of the American style of play, scoring 29 points (14 goals and 15 assists) last year with the Nittany Lions. Before that, the bulky Russian had only scored 27 points in 71 games.

Pavlychev’s senior year will be one to watch for Penguins fans, as his development could place him as a key bottom-six forward for Pittsburgh in the coming years.

Evan Barratt – Center – Penn State University

Drafted: 2017 – Round 3 – 90th overall – Chicago Blackhawks

Another Penn State prospect, Barratt has had a successful career so far with the Nittany Lions, scoring 61 points over two seasons. Barratt also hasn’t been shy representing his country in the World Junior Championships. In 2016, Barratt helped the USA U-18 team win gold, scoring six points in seven games, while last year, the American U-20 team took home silver in Buffalo, New York. Last year, Barratt was also named a first-team B1G Ten All-Star.

When it comes to pro potential, Barratt seemingly has was it takes, scoring in a tough B1G Ten conference. Also helping Barratt is the aging of the Blackhawks core of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Kevin Wall – Right Wing – Penn State University

Drafted: 2019 – Round 6 – 181st overall – Carolina Hurricanes

Drafted this year after a solid 64 point season with the Chilliwack Bruins of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Wall will be taking his talents to University Park, PA as a member of the Nittany Lions for the upcoming season.

The native of Rochester, New York, will have four years to try and crack a stellar Hurricanes pipeline represented by players such as Ryan Suzuki (2019 – Round 1 – 28th overall), Jack Drury (2018 – Round 2 – 42nd overall), Janne Kuokkanen (2016 – 2nd Round – 43rd overall) , Stelio Mattheos (2017 – Round 3 – 73rd overall) and Julien Gauthier (2017 – 1st round – 21st overall).

Demetrios Koumontzis – Left Wing – Arizona State University

Drafted: 2018 – Round 4 – 108th overall – Calgary Flames

Although only an NCAA Division I team since the 2015-16 season, Demetrios Koumontzis hasn’t let that stop him from being the highest draft pick in school history (Joey Daccord was drafted in the 7th round in the 2015 draft by the Ottawa Senators). After his first season in the desert, Koumontzis scored 20 points (4 goals and 16 assists) in 35 games.

When it comes to the chance at the big leagues, Koumontzis’ 5’10”, 183-pound frame won’t be out-bodied in the league, and Koumontzis told media last year after a Flames Development Camp “I love making plays, I love hitting people with the puck.” In Calgary, Koumontzis joins a crowded young winger group of Matthew Tkachuk (2016 – Round 1 – 6th overall ), Sam Bennett (2014 – Round 1 – 4th overall), and Jakob Pelletier (2019 Round 1 – 26th overall).

Austin Lemieux – Right Wing – Arizona State University

Son of Mario Lemieux (NHL Hall of Famer, 915 games played, 690 goals, 1033 assists, 1723 points)

When Robert Morris travels to Tempe, Arizona, this winter, they will be playing against the son of a Penguin legend. Born in Sewickley, Austin Lemieux possesses a similar frame to his father, standing at 6’4”, 190 pounds. After being redshirted his freshman season as a Sun Devil, Lemiuex scored 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in 35 games last year.

During his 2016-17 season in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) with the Islanders Hockey Club, Lemieux was named the USPHL Premier Forward of the Year and USPHL Premier Most Valuable Player.