Preseason Top 10s

November 26, 2007 on 10:41 pm | In analysis | 9 Comments

I usually eschew preseason polls. I don’t know enough about individual players, who’s back from last season, and the like. I prefer to wait for the first two weeks of results to provide some data. And I used to feel bad about ranking without seeing games, but hey, I see about two games per year now, so I might as well go ahead.

I’m putting these out there for discussion and debate, not because I think they’re infallible or because I’m particularly attached to any comparisons. I’m also splitting public schools into their Public A and Public B classifications, as we will for the state tournament.

Without further ado, the Preseason Top 10s (educated guesses included):

1. Delbarton – No, I’m not biased. Delbarton is absolutely stacked. I don’t even have room to list all the players here – I recognize at least nine names off the top of my head.
2. St. Augustine Prep – The Hermits do return several experienced seniors, especially with Kevin Crowe, Dave Macalino, Ryan Mara and Zach Stern up front, but we’ll see how they develop on defense.
3. CBA – New coach, same talented Colts. Mike Zuppe and Trevor van Riemsdyk are a solid pair to lead the defense corps, while senior Mark Rivera leads the forwards.
4. Seton Hall Prep – I never know anything about Seton Hall Prep before the season, but the Pirates can always skate, and they should return Matt Meisenbacher in goal and forwards Marcelo DeAngelis and David Rose.
5. St. Peter’s Prep – With Kyle Palmieri gone to the national team, forwards Tim Miller and Bryan Robinson will be asked to carry the load.
6. Bergen Catholic – I haven’t heard a lot about the Crusaders either, but they should return sophomore Carlo DiPiazza at forward, among others.
7. Don Bosco Prep – The Ironmen continue rebuilding with a strong crop of freshmen – it’ll be interesting to see which ones step up to join junior defenseman Ayrton Doerr, senior forward Dan Fredeman and sophomore forward Connor Leen.
8. Montclair Kimberley – MKA returns everybody and has scheduled like it expects to be a contender. Four of the Cougars’ top forwards – John Ciardi, J.R. DeVita, John Phillips and Brian Purcell – return, and they also picked up transfer Brian Saling from Verona.
9. Pope John – Coach Todd Drevitch moves up from Mountain Lakes and inherits a crew that could include senior forward John Hero and junior goalie Stephen Messina.
10. Bishop Eustace – Seniors Tom Lynch and Alex Wooley are among the Eustace returners, and you have to figure they had a reason for agreeing to move to the Gordon Conference.

Public A
1. Randolph – Yes, returning forward Chris Tamminga is expected to miss at least half the season due to injury, but defenseman Matt Nowicki also returns, and the Rams always have more than enough skaters to take just about any public school.
2. Ridge – Another perennial powerhouse, the Red Devils return some talented forwards, including Keith Macey and Brett Kiliyanski, and Bill Foard on the blue line.
3. Montgomery – The 2006 public runner-up has reliable senior Ian Healey in goal and standout forward Willie Irving among the returnees.
4. Morris Knolls – Getting tired of these schools yet? Knolls returns senior defensemen Scott Graham and Donnie Nicholls, while sophomore forward Albert Abaunza should lead the offense. The Golden Eagles also roster two freshmen in front of junior goalie Tyler Rideout, who is more than capable of stealing a game.
5. Bridgewater-Raritan – Another team with a deep cast of skaters, the Panthers have a new coach but return senior defensemen Eric Kenney and Donny Pelligrino. John Richardson should step in capably in net.
6. Fair Lawn – I hear rave reviews about Fair Lawn, even from reliable sources. The Cutters boast one of the state’s most complete public forwards in junior Travis Ritter and two terrific goalies in sophomore Colin Lemay and junior Dan Ivanir. Sophomore Tyler Novielli is another one to watch, and Fair Lawn has respectable depth.
7. Middletown North – The Lions have a big and experienced junior class, including Richie Meyers, Joe Vega, Brian Kirk, and Ron Connors. If they can survive all the private schools on their schedule, the Lions should be a player in the states.
8. Hillsborough – Finally in the Red Division where they belong, the Raiders return veteran backstop Eric Visnovsky in goal, Chris Korenczuk on the blue line, and the forward trio of Corey Defranco, Joe Kubrak, and Chris MacPhee, among others.
9. Watchung Hills – Stuck in the White Division, the Warriors lost Elie Klein but still have plenty of skill. Junior goalie Dan Schroeder was the team’s MVP last year, and Watchung Hills returns two key seniors each at forward (Alex Kong, Mike Lundberg) and defense (Brandon Lipke, Matt Gunther). Tough schedule, too.
10. Brick – I don’t know a lot about these guys, but plenty of coaches said to watch out for them. An experienced group, the Green Dragons are led by Andrew Ball and James Murphy.

Public B
1. Wall – Somebody has to start out with the bullseye on its back, and I might surprise a few people with this choice. The (Crimson?) Knights have high-scoring forward Tim Margadonna and fellow forward Frank Stagliano back in addition to strong goalie Eric Stohrer.
2. Chatham – A heavy favorite to take the first-ever Public B title, the Cougars will rely heavily on experienced senior Paul Ughetta (even I remember watching him) and junior defenseman Dave Ashenfelter. If sophomore Charlie Boles can handle the load in goal, Chatham’s strong league schedule should make the Public B playoffs seem pretty simple.
3. Hopewell Valley – Another highly-touted team this year, with a new head coach in Paul Merrow. Seniors Andrew Scannella and Tom Rush are the Bulldogs’ top guns, but I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about HoVal yet.
4. Northern Highlands – After a ridiculous one-loss season last year, I’m not sure what to expect from the Highlanders. They return defensemen Evan Hershman and Michael DiNardo, and steady defensemen go a long way in the NBIAL. Andrew Milanesi and Brian Halpin return at forward.
5. Verona – I’m ranking them fifth, but who knows if the Hillbillies will even qualify for the tournament. Playing in the tough Central Red, senior forward Anthony Dellefave, junior defenseman Brett Radosti, and senior goalie Gerard Martell have their work cut out for them.
6. Glen Rock – The Panthers should be very competitive in the Northern Red, carrying plenty of momentum from back-to-back championship seasons, just like Hillsborough. Sophomore Jimmy Kinney is a forward to watch for the Panthers. I’ll be interested to see if they can skate three lines in the Red Division; Glen Rock is the fourth smallest hockey-playing public school in the state.
7. Jefferson – The Falcons were a game away from the public quarterfinals last year, and Dean Combos led the state in scoring as a junior. Younger brother Luke Combos returns as a sophomore. Not much of a non-league schedule at the moment, however.
8. Indian Hills – The Braves dropped below .500 last year while playing tough competition, but Indian Hills should be contenders behind goalie Anthony Tabbacchino and forward Ryan Larkin.
9. Kinnelon – A bit of a dark-horse, the state’s second-smallest hockey-playing public (probably the smallest once Robbinsville has a full school) has been making strides for several years in a row. I believe Tom Mongelli, Mike Crampton and George Huber are back, which should provide an experienced nucleus.
10. Mountain Lakes – It starts to get thin down here. The third-smallest hockey-playing public has never had a very deep bench. The Mennen Division schedule should prepare the Lakers for any challenge, but I don’t know if they’ll even be able to qualify. I would expect Zach Cohen and James Putney to lead the offense.

Teams I left out
Just to be fair, here are a few more publics that should be competitive: Steinert, Vernon, Tenafly, WWPN, Rumson-Fair Haven, Ridgewood, Ramsey, Clifton, West Essex, West Milford, Middletown South, Toms River South, Ramapo, Pequannock, and Manasquan.

There you have it. I’m ready for Saturday. Let the debates begin and, please, play nice.


  1. John,
    Do you have a list of the teams that will be considered Public A or Public B? Also, what was the cut-off for student enrollment that put teams into each group? Thanks!

    You are still doing a great job.
    Thank you for your work and dedication!

    Comment by Louis DeVenuto — 27 November 2007 #

  2. Good rankings, maybe a post about top senior recruits and rising juniors? that could be interesting

    Comment by Steve — 27 November 2007 #

  3. i think the conferences should be set up according to school size just like football, instead of geographic locations. for example, it is hard for a team like verona (only using for example) to compete against group 4 schools like ridge who have thousands of kids in the school when verona barely has 400. how can a small school make into the group B playoffs when all there conferance oppenents are group A schools?

    Comment by Joe — 27 November 2007 #

  4. In response to Louis, and to save Jon the time, this is copied from his last post regarding the set-up of Public A/B: “Hamilton (10-12 enrollment 1,013) will be in Public A and Nottingham (enrollment 1,010) will be in Public B.” In other words, anything 1,013 or higher will be Public A, and anything 1,010 or below will be Public B.

    Thanks for the rankings Jon, can’t wait to see how the season plays out. I wasn’t happy when I found out about the split-up of public schools, I always liked the fact that hockey only ever had ONE state champion (okay, technically two, but still). Hopefully it will all work out.

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Jim — 28 November 2007 #

  5. I’d still like to see an overall public ranking to see how “B” teams previously in the Public Top 20 stack up against the “A” teams, particularly those they’ll be playing that are out-of-division.

    Are you still doing a NJ Top 20 for HNIB and will we still see that ranking here?

    JY: I’ll probably try to do an overall Top 20 and then the three Top 10s I just did. Hopefully I can find the time.

    Comment by Kevin — 28 November 2007 #

  6. Excellent upgrades to the site
    Jon we salute you!

    Comment by Smitty — 28 November 2007 #

  7. ganss does not go to bergen catholic anymore

    Comment by eric — 28 November 2007 #

  8. of course you would, KEVIN

    Comment by Larry — 2 December 2007 #

  9. how do you feel about mka losing to ramsey 4-0, do they still belong in the top 10?

    Comment by bill — 3 December 2007 #

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