The new broom at RPI, who also goes by the name of head coach Dave Smith, is definitely sweeping clean. While it’s certainly not unusual for a new coach to want to bring in his own recruits and make the team “his” as quickly as possible, it seems like the roster changes are happening at RPI even more quickly than is usually the case. Whether that’s a good thing or not – and RPI fans are certainly hoping it is – remains to be seen. For the moment, let’s just take a look at precisely what the changes are.
There were six non-graduating players on the roster at the end of last season who were not on it opening day of the current season. Two of those, Lou Nanne and Drew Melanson, let it be known that they were finishing their degrees and had decided to leave early, with their decisions most likely made before Coach Smith came on board. Two more were walk-on players who never played – forward Sam Rappaport and practice goalie Liam McBain. The remaining two non-returnees were senior-to-be Bradley Bell and junior-to-be Alex Rodriguez. As far as I’m aware, no explanation was given for them leaving the team. Bell is still a student at RPI; Rodriguez is not.
Then, after the recent conclusion of the first semester, two more departures were announced. Freshman forwards Troy York (a Smith recruit) and Gavin Payne (an Appert recruit) both left RPI and are playing D-III hockey now. Once again no explanation was given. York played in nearly every game; Payne only made the lineup twice.
A new player has been added to the roster just recently too. Donovan Ott comes to RPI from the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL and will presumably start playing this weekend. Another transfer currently on campus, Mike Gornall, will have to wait until next year to play because he came from another NCAA school, North Dakota. As far as numbers go, these two players can be considered replacements for York and Payne.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. Chris Heisenberg’s very thorough college recruits web page shows ten incoming freshmen for RPI next year so far – six forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. Since there are only three seniors graduating (two defensemen and one forward), Coach Smith is either increasing the roster size by a whopping seven players, or more players will be departing. I’m presuming it will be the latter.
What does this mean for RPI hockey? The only thing I can say with certainty is that I would hesitate to get too enamored about any of the players currently on the roster, especially any of those who don’t seem to be getting a lot of playing time. Beyond that, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, and hope for the best.