It’s no secret that the past few years are ones fans of the Massachusetts hockey program would like to forget.
The Minutemen have won only 13 games over the last two seasons, including five in 2016-17 under first-year head coach Greg Carvel. However, there is increased optimism surrounding the program thanks to having one of the best recruiting classes in school history slated to arrive in Amherst this September.
Des Moines Buccaneers defenseman Mario Ferraro, one of five Massachusetts recruits on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings for the 2017 Draft, is a potential difference maker.
Part of the allure in coming to Massachusetts is being part of a rebuilding effort for a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2007, its only trip.
“They’re on a big turnaround, which makes it so exciting. [Fellow recruit and potential top 10 NHL Draft pick] Cale Makar is a great player and I played with Marco Bozzo in the OJHL,” Ferraro said.
“A lot of great players are going in. It’s going to be fun. We can get it done.”
Ferraro, a native of King City, Ontario, and ranked 78th among North American skaters for the NHL Draft, is in his first year in the USHL after competing in the OJHL for the two prior seasons.
“It’s been a great experience. It’s definitely a different game. The speed and physicality,” Ferraro said. “It’s been a huge adjustment, but my teammates and coaches have really supported me.”
Ferraro’s team entered Friday’s Game 3 of the Clark Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals trailing Sioux City, 2-0, but it’s been a great season that included the organization’s first trip to the postseason since 2006. Individually, Ferraro was named to the First Team All-USHL and USHL All-Rookie Team.
“The awards mean a lot. It’s something I’m very proud of. I couldn’t have done it without the team’s success down the stretch,” said Ferraro.
An offensive-minded defenseman, Ferraro posted eight goals and 33 assists, playing in all 60 regular season games.
“My skating ability and my transition game,” Ferraro said of his strengths. “I just try to get the puck up north and get into the offense.”
Despite being known for his offense, Ferraro takes pride in his play in his own end. The year in the USHL has helped him learn some of the finer details of playing defensively.
“I like to be physical. I use my body to protect pucks,” Ferraro said. “I’ve improved my ability get body positioning on guys, especially in the corner. I think I do a better job at knowing when and when not to jump into the play.”
He tries to model his game after Los Angeles Kings superstar Drew Doughty, an offensive defenseman, also hailing from Ontario.
“He gets in offensively, but he has a lot of grit in the defensive zone. He has physicality and aggressiveness in both ends and he has a…