We’ve turned the page on July and are into August, which means the Bemidji State fall semester is about to start (Aug. 16 is the official first day of classes).
Hockey season’s still a little farther out (the women start Sept. 30 with a two-game series at Syracuse) but I have some updates today. Both involve Beaver defensemen turning pro.
First: Recent BSU graduate Ivana Bilic signed with the Connecticut Whale of the NWHL on Sunday afternoon.
Last season’s WCHA Defensive Player of the Year (who somehow was only good enough to be on the All-WCHA Third Team. Yes, that voting decision still baffles me) was BSU’s top scoring defender and second-leading scorer in 2016. She scored three goals and a career-best 19 assists for 22 points.
Looks like she will make $14,000 a year for her first pro contract, according to Jashvina Shah (who provides a handy roster breakdown of all four teams in the NWHL below).
— Jashvina Shah (@icehockeystick) August 1, 2016
It looks like Bilic will be the first Beaver alum to go pro in two-year-old the NWHL (although Brent Cizek pointed out that Hayley Williams, who played one season at BSU before transferring to play at Robert Morris and eventually Miami, played for the Buffalo Beauts last season).
The Whale play in North Branford, Conn., and have a pretty cool Hartford Whalers-inspired logo and color scheme. They were 13-5-0 last season and finished second in the league.
The other piece of BSU defense-related news comes in the form of men’s player Ruslan Pedan.
It was announced Monday that he was foregoing his final year of NCAA eligibility to join HC Sochi of the KHL.
Just from an experience standpoint, Pedan’s departure is huge. Although his point production dropped off since his freshman year (he went from 13 points in 2013-14 to 10 his sophomore season to 9 last year), he was a workhorse for the Beavers — he didn’t miss a game in three seasons — and was becoming a much more consistent defensive player.
Now Pedan will return home to Russia, leaving the Beavers without a senior on the blueline.
(FWIW, Schlossman thinks he’s the first NCAA player to leave for the KHL.)
If I'm not mistaken, he is the first NCAA player to leave early to play in the KHL. https://t.co/O8Cbx1r0Zk
— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) August 2, 2016
Graeme McCormack, BSU’s captain and power-play general, graduated this spring.
The other defenseman on the roster who would have been a senior is Carter Struthers, who transferred to the University of Ottawa. Brett Beauvais will be the most experienced defender on the BSU roster (as a junior) and the rest will be either sophomores (four returners) or a freshmen (two coming in, by my count).
UPDATE: It looks like Struthers is staying at BSU for the 2016-17 season and not transferring to Ottawa, as that school had previously reported in a press release earlier this month:
False alarm. I've decided to stay at BSU for my senior year. #Beavs
— Carter Struthers (@Strutsy) August 2, 2016
Even though Struthers hasn’t played since his freshman season (suiting up for seven games in 2013-14) and has endured some injuries, the Beavers will be glad to have him back, simply for added depth on the blueline. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound defenseman has some obvious size and is an imposing presence back in the defensive zone.
So, to recap: The Beavs will have six returning defensman. Beauvais is still going to be the most experienced as a rising junior. Then there will be four sophomores who formed something of a rotation last season (Dillon Eichstadt, Justin Baudry, Ian Janco, Dan Billett), and also Struthers. I think there will also be at least one, possibly two incoming freshman.
It will be interesting to see how BSU’s defense actually does play out when the season comes around.