There is a reason that BYU is the preseason favorite in the eyes of the RMLC coaches. The Cougars were a young squad last season, and they still managed to finish the season as a quarterfinalist. Heading into 2017, BYU looks as scary as ever. They return an attack line that put up 146 combined points last year despite being entirely made up of underclassmen.
Led by 2016 Rookie of the Year Chris Severson (59 points), the Cougars’ offense should be one of the scariest in the entire league. On defense, Harrison Wardle (1st team All-RMLC) leads a unit that will need to replace its goalie, but returns a strong core that also includes arguably the best LSM in the nation in Max Neser.
Finding a flaw in BYU on paper is pretty difficult, and this team should only get better as its underclassmen pick up the game even more. BYU will likely start the season as a top five team, and I would be shocked if they don’t finish the season the exact same way.
2. Cal Poly
The Mustangs lost twice last year, by a combined five goals. One of those losses just so happened to be in the national championship. While it stings to have gotten so close without bringing home the trophy, Cal Poly should return as good as ever, and hungrier than ever before.
The Mustangs were shockingly young for a national runner-up last year, and that should prove to make them even more intimidating this year. They should be returning every single 1st team All-Conference player they had last season. That includes attackmen John Corbolotti (3rd team All-American) and AJ Guralas (1st team All-WCLL), giving the Mustangs one of the best attack lines in the nation.
That’s good news for a team that should dominate possessions, as they return FOS Austin Lord (2nd team All-American) as well as one of the stingiest defenses in America, led by goalie Sean Pihl (2nd team All-American) and defenseman Gideon Baum (1st team All-American). Just those players alone would make Cal Poly a contender, but that’s just the cream of a very deep crop.
If anybody is primed to steal the national championship back from the SLC, it’s Cal Poly. The Mustangs should be incredibly hard to break in 2017.