After signing five players in December to National Letters of Intent, the Ohio State Men's Hockey Team is at it again. Land-Grant Holy Land's confirmed that Victor Bjorkung and Kevin Miller have signed their NLIs and will join the team as freshmen for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Christian Lampasso will join the team as well as a preferred walk-on.
Bjorkung is probably the most unique of this trio of new Buckeyes. He's a Swedish defenseman and played in his native country on the big ice until the 2012-13 season when he came to the United States to join the Fargo Force of the USHL. He's bounce around the USHL over the next couple of years, playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede before finally ending up with the Chicago Steel, where he'd become an alternate captain during the 2013-14 season, which is probably a good sign due to the unfair rap Europeans in hockey get for being soft and not showing leadership. Also interesting, besides his nomadic background is the fact that he's already 21 years old. Hockey players typically don't start school until they're 19, but Bjorkung is a fully grown man at this point, or at least should be. Per Ohio State, he is 6'1 but only weighs 168 lbs. That's a tiny bit concerning as it's ripe for questioning how much he's going to fill out if he's already 21. But his offense has been on the upswing since joining the USHL as his point totals increased from 6 points in 26 games during his rookie season to 16 in 34 in his sophomore campaign and finally to 19 points in 40 games this past season. He seems to have figured it out the last couple of seasons but at his advanced age, again, it's hard to tell how much he'll improve on the offensive end. And he probably needs the offense if he's going to survive with his slight frame.
Kevin Miller is another foreigner, though from the much more familiar Alberta, Canada. He's by far the most developed of the three physically as he stands at 5'11, 182 pounds (and he won't be 20 until July). He's a left winger coming out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he played for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (they really like naming Alberta teams after the oil industry huh? The Oilers, the Oil Kings. I'm sure there are more somewhere). Miller ranked third on the team last year with 54 points during the regular season. He would go on to add 17 more in 17 postseason games, where he shared the team's playoff MVP award, before they fell in the North Division Final in seven games. Miller could easily make a big impact in a checking role for the Buckeyes next year as his size is NHL caliber already.
Lampasso is a more traditional NCAA hockey prospect. He hails from Amherst, New York and has come up through the USHL, most recently with the Lincoln Stars. A lefthanded centerman, Lampasso is more physically developed than Bjorkung, even at only 20 years old, standing at 5'10, 165 pounds. His offense jumped tremendously in his last season in the USHL playing for the Stars. In the 2012-13 season, playing for the USHL Des Moines Buccaneers and the Sioux City Musketeers, he scored a combined 24 points in 53 games. During the 2013-14 season, however, Lampasso scored 40 points in 57 games, so his offensive game could still have some potential in it yet. His penalty minutes almost doubled, however, going from 38 to 76, which is far from a positive sign unless it can simply be attributed to having more minutes due to increased productivity. But if his offensive game keeps improving and the penalty minutes can be tamed, there's no reason Lampasso can't be a solid, 2nd-3rd line player for the Buckeyes for 4 years. And most importantly, he has dreads. Sick flow.
The trio joins the late 2014 signee group that included Big Ten Tournament hero, goalie Christian Frey; likely future draft pick, forward Nick Jones; German defenseman via Muskegon Janik Moser; NHL Central Scouting Preliminary 2014 North American Ones to Watch list member, forward Luke Stork; and the Madison New Jersey native with a pretty great first name (he's my new favorite player), forward Matthew Weis.
Frey would be the only one to join the team during last season, taking the place of the departed Collin Olson, and leading the team to the Big Ten Ice Hockey Championship Game, which the Buckeyes would lose to Wisconsin in overtime. He finished tied for 6th in the country in Save Percentage in his first season. The other four of that class will be joining the team in the upcoming season.
This group likely doesn't have the (unexpected) star power that Frey brought. Or the potential of Jones or 2015-16 recruits and Edina High teammates Miguel Fidler and Tyler Nanne. But there are potentially big contributors here, even during the upcoming season. Nobody could have expected Frey to come out and almost take the Buckeyes to a conference title, so don't sleep on these guys, either. They could be a big help in Steve Rohlik's second season behind the Ohio State bench and into the future.