Pete’s Pond: QU’s highest-ever NHL draft pick Ty Smilanic hits transfer portal, players leaving and returning, plus incoming freshmen for 2022-23

Peter Piekarski, Sports Editor

Losing to Michigan in the Allentown regional final meant two things for Quinnipiac: a failed mission and a period of uncertainty surrounding the Bobcats’ roster for next season.

The questions mainly revolved around what the graduating seniors would decide to do, whether they would return for a graduate year, head to the transfer portal or sign a professional contract. Over two weeks since that game, many of those speculations have been answered.

Forward Ty Smilanic, the highest-drafted player in Quinnipiac history, appears to have his sights set elsewhere for next year. After an underwhelming second half to his sophomore season, Smilanic will likely end up on a team focused more on offense now that he’s in the portal. The goal probably is to bolster his collegiate stats before potentially signing his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

That’s just speculation as of now, but this season was a downward trend for Smilanic. After a strong freshman campaign, he opened his sophomore season as a driving force for the offense. In his first 16 games, he scored eight goals and four assists. However, over the next 25 games, Smilanic scored just five goals and added six helpers.

Adding salt to the wound, save for Smilanic’s two-goal games against Harvard and St. Lawrence, he only managed to score four goals in 20 games against ECAC Hockey opponents.

Likely, the injury he suffered at the IIHF tournament in late December lingered and affected his play for the remainder of the season. His nightly impact disappeared as the fastest and most explosive player on the team played like a ghost in the second half.

It’s a crushing blow for Quinnipiac as the talent and skill Smilanic possesses is something the Bobcats rarely have at their disposal. Smilanic was drafted in the third round of the NHL draft. To put that into perspective, Quinnipiac competed against a Michigan team with nine players drafted in the third round or higher. Losing a player of that caliber negatively impacts future recruiting for the school.

Additionally, a couple of depth pieces in junior forward Ethan Leyh and sophomore defenseman Nick Bochen will wear new threads next season as they transferred to Bentley. Two freshmen, defenseman Jack Babbage and forward Liam McLinskey, also intend to play elsewhere after seeing little to no ice time. Babbage recently committed to UNH.

The foreseeable moves centered on graduate student transfers defensemen Griffin Mendel and Brendan Less and forward Oliver Chau, who signed professional deals.

Both Mendel and Chau signed amateur tryout contracts with the Chicago Wolves and Tuscon Roadrunners of the AHL, respectively. Less signed an ECHL deal with the Worcester Railers HC.

Captain and forward Wyatt Bongiovanni is one of two seniors yet to announce if they’re returning to QU. (Daniel Passapera)

Graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr hit the transfer portal after backing up freshman Yaniv Perets. Now headed into his sixth year of college hockey, St. Cyr likely wants a starting role or just more starts overall. In the 13 games that St. Cyr played, he allowed only 14 goals and had a .936 save percentage.

Fortunately for Quinnipiac, familiar faces are set to return and give the team another year of contending status. Firstly, Perets will be back between the pipes for the Bobcats after a historic freshman season. Perets passed up the opportunity to sign a professional deal, instead deciding to return for a second year with the Bobcats.

Then the ball started rolling as one senior after another decided to come back. Likely holding leadership roles are forwards Ethan de Jong, Mike Lombardi, T.J. Friedmann, Desi Burgart and defenseman Zach Metsa.

Forward Wyatt Bongiovanni and defenseman Marcus Chorney are the only seniors to be undecided.

Three players from other schools that entered the portal are confirmed to be joining Quinnipiac next year. Graduate student defensemen Jacob Nordqvist from Lake Superior State and RPI’s Jake Johnson add more veteran presence on the blue line.

The third addition is Collin Graf, a freshman forward from Union who fills a crucial gap for Quinnipiac by potentially receiving first-unit power-play time with a right-handed shot. Graf finished the sea- son on a heater, scoring six goals and dishing out nine assists over the final 17 games.

As for the incoming freshman class, 16 of the 18 starting lineup slots are taken with only two forwards spots left. With Bongiovanni still undecided, ice time will be limited for them. Although, a couple of the freshmen could immediately make an impact during their first season.

Cameron Levasseur

Forward Sam Lipkin enters Quinnipiac following an impressive season in the USHL as the captain of the Chicago Steel. Lipkin is still playing in the USHL playoffs, but as of publication, he’s 14th in the league among forwards for points with 33 goals and 30 assists in 54 games. He also ranks 11th in the league in points per game (minimum 30 games played).

It’ll be tougher to crack the lineup on defense, but don’t be surprised if defenseman Matthew Campbell makes some appearances. In his first full stint in the BCHL, Campbell collected 11 goals and 28 assists in 52 games, the fourth most among defensemen.

The backup goaltender position is up for grabs now with St. Cyr transferring. Freshman Noah Altman didn’t receive any time in net this season. The 6-foot-7 goalie out of California will need to beat out incoming freshman Chase Clark for a share of starts next season.

Clark posted excellent stats for the New Jersey Hitmen in the NCDC during 2020-21, but this year has not been as consistent in the USHL. The Washington Capitals’ 2021 sixth-round draft pick also has considerable size with a 6-foot-6 frame. At this point, it’s a coin toss who earns the backup role.

Last offseason Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold referred to all the transfers as “chaos.” This time around there’s less confusion about moving parts for this Bobcats roster. With so many returning players, Pecknold should have an easier time implementing his culture in order to contend for next season.