The following is a glance at Minnesota State's players for the 2012-13 season. Today focuses on the forwards.
Minnesota State returns its top four scoring forwards from a year ago in Matt Leitner, Jean Paul LaFontaine, Eriah Hayes and Zach Lehrke. Last season, Leitner, LaFontaine and Hayes played together most of the season and were an excellent group, but that trio was broken up for Sunday's exhibition game.
With the talented Leitner centering Chase Grant and freshman Bryce Gervais, and the underrated Lehrke taking the spot between LaFontaine (an all-WCHA rookie team pick last year) and Hayes, the Mavericks look like they have some real offensive depth up front.
"We've got four lines that all can put the puck in the net," Leitner said after his four-point game against Lethbridge. "As a team we feel we can throw anybody out there."
Having Grant back from a season lost to injury certainly helps (he had 20 points as a freshman in '10-11), and this year's rookie class of Gervais, Teddy Blueger, Brett Knowles and Dylan Margonari has been highly touted since they signed their NLIs last November. Gervais had a three-point game in the exhibition, and Blueger, a second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, showed some flash, including a pretty no-look pass to set up a power play goal. But it was the lesser-hyped Margonari who turned some heads, as he showed some speed and a pretty shot for a goal before leaving the game with a minor injury.
The 6-4, 210-pound Hayes is playing for his senior season as well as for what's to follow (he'll be a free agent); everything points to him being be motivated by both prospects. Johnny McInnis took a big step forward last year, earning and then keeping a spot as a solid two-way player. J.P. Burkemper has shown promise in the past when he's been healthy (he was held out Sunday to rest a minor injury).
Coach Mike Hastings said on Sunday that, when healthy, the Mavericks have enough depth to play four lines. Who will fill in the lineup? The Lethbridge game began with Margonari, Max Gaede and senior Eli Zuck on the fourth line, with Mankato native Corey Leivermann, Charlie Thauwald and Taylor Herndon not getting in the game until the second period.
Minnesota State forwards (2011-12 stats)
Matt Leitner, so. (38 games, 11-18—29)
Jean-Paul LaFontaine, so. (38 games, 13-15—28)
Eriah Hayes, sr. (36 games, 13-11—24)
Zach Lehrke, jr. (35 games, 13-10—23)
Johnny McInnis, jr. (37 games, 8-7—15)
Eli Zuck, sr. (35 games, 4-10—14)
Max Gaede, so. (30 games, 3-4—7)
J.P. Burkemper, jr. (17 games, 2-3—5)
Corey Leivermann, jr. (21 games, 1-0—1)
Charlie Thauwald, so. (7 games, 0-1—1)
Chase Grant, so. (5 games, 0-0—0)*
Teddy Blueger, fr.
Bryce Gervais, fr.
Taylor Herndon, fr.
Brett Knowles, fr.
Dylan Margonari, fr.
* = medical redshirt