Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Lincoln Stars 2007-08 Preview

Lincoln is coming off a tough series against Sioux Falls, in which they were swept. They had a very solid team, but the defense and goaltending just wasn't there come playoff time. Steve Johnson recently signed a contract extension, so he should be set and ready for next season. Let's take a look at what he will be working with.

Key Departures:
Colby Cohen-60 points.
Jared Brown-71 points.
Carter Camper-71 points.
Stephen Schultz-30 goal scorer.
Dan Lawson-One of the best defenseman in the league.

Goalies (2):
Bryce Christianson (1987) - Bryce was acquired from Tri-City prior to the trade deadline and he performed well.
Bryan Hogan (1988) - Right now, it's just a possibility that Hogan could return.

Goalie Evaluation:
Christianson came over and quickly found relied upon in many situations. Hogan's numbers fell quite a bit after a stellar rookie campaign. Christianson is an excellent goalie who Steve Johnson can build around and Hogan is the same type of player. But whether Hogan stays or not is the question. If he stays, Lincoln has one of the better goalie duos in the league, but if he leaves, they still have a viable option in Christianson without a guarantee of a solid backup.

Defense (4):
David Brack (1987) - Brack wasn't all that productive, but he found himself playing forward often.
Matt Bartkowski (1988) - Bartkowski currently has a scholarship for 2008, but that could change to next fall.
Ross Henry (1990) - One of Lincoln's better defenders, and quite young.
Ryan Lowery (1988) - Lowery was supposed to be headed to CC this fall, but will instead play another year of juniors.
Kyle Follmer (1987) - Another successful season in the USHL. Will be 3rd year vet.

Defense Evaluation:
Lincoln could return a good core of defense, but will have to hope Bartkowski stays another year. Getting Lowery back will be a huge boost and Henry should continue to be one of the better defenders in the league. Brack and Follmer may or may not be back due to age.

Forwards (10):
Rick Carden (1988) - Carden had a decent rookie year and should build on that.
Eric Lake (1988) - Lake was hampered by injuries, but should be healthy for 08.
Patrick Johnson (1989) - Johnson looks like he will be headed to college in 09. One of the better rookies in the league.
Joe Miller (1987) - Not much production in Sioux Falls, but had an excellent time with Lincoln.
Jason Gregoire (1989) - Chance he could return, but it looks like he will be at DU in the fall.
Brandon Bollig (1987) - Nearly doubled his 05-06 point output.
Danny Baco (1988) - Slowly maturing.
Justin Crew (1989) - 4 points in 10 games isn't too shabby.
Mike Hull (1988) - Hull will be a 3rd year vet and could lead this team.
Travis Erstad (1988) - Loads of offensive potential. Could lead team in scoring.

Forward Evaluation:
Lincoln could easily boast the best returning group. Johnson and Erstad are young, but will be offensive forces next fall. If Gregoire does indeed stay another year, he should see significant ice time and could find himself atop the league in scoring. Lincoln will have quite a few players who could be great leaders in Bollig, Baco, and Hull. These three will be 3rd year vets and know what it takes to win at this level.

Futures Evaluation:
Lincoln boasts talented kids such as Tyler Kieffer, Jared Festler, and David Toews. Yes, Toews is the younger brother of North Dakota star Jonathan Toews. Kieffer nearly made the Cedar Rapids roster last summer, but opted to play his high school hockey. Kyle St. Denis is another star in the making. He averaged over a point per game in the BCHL as a 16 year old rookie.

Overall Evaluation: B+

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