Miami’s 2021-22 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks – six freshmen, two sophomores and a pair of seniors. Six are transfers.

Miami coach Barry Schutte (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

As associate head coach, Barry Schutte, along with fellow associate Eric Rud, played a major role in landing the newest class of MU hockey talent, which is more transfer-laden than any in recent history.

“The nice thing about all these kids is they all had lots of options, and there were lots of kids in that portal, but when you look at the upper eschlan of kids in the portal who could go into a program and make an immediate impact the first year, we feel like we won out on a lot of those kids,” Schutte said.

Part II of our interview with Schutte focuses on the newest RedHawks.

THOMAS DASKAS

COACH’S INSIGHT:

– Miami coaches also have excellent relationship with NAHL Lone Star’s coaches, and Lone Star had high praise for him

– Has been on the Miami radar since playing bantam for Belle Tire in Detroit

– Late bloomer

– Because of COVID, coaches were able to binge watch his shifts and have a better gauge as to what makes him tick on the ice

– Was a first liner for Air Force and logged time on both the power play and penalty kill

VFTG: Daskas transferred in from Air Force. He played NAHL the year prior but was averaging a half point a game with Air Force, so albeit a small sample size he posted good stats before transferring to Miami.

SCHUTTE: He did. He played with Ludvig Persson in the North American League in Lone Star, and when Thomas made the decision to enter the transfer portal, Ludvig was, hey, I played with him last year, he’s a good player, he’s a great kid, he’s worth a phone call.

We needed to get bigger, stronger, faster, more talented, more skilled, and he fit that mold. 6-(feet)-2, creates offense in all situations, can be trustworthy in all situations who’s a big time person who wants to be a pro who operates like a pro every day. He’s a young man that I think will continue to grow immensely over his time here because he is a late bloomer – there’s not a lot of that anymore with the young recruiting – but he’s the definition of it, for sure.

P.J. FLETCHER

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Team knew little about him before the transfer portal opened

– Very good skater

– Offensive-minded with good instinct

– Another forward who’s big and strong

VFTG: Fletcher played 30 games for Quinnipiac in 2019-20 and registered six assists, entered the transfer portal and had a solid season with Dubuque (16-18-34).

SCHUTTE: P.J., honestly we didn’t know anything about him until you’re watching and scouting players and here he is. He’s the definition of the young recruiting mistake. He was in a hurry when he was younger, maybe made a decision too soon. Maybe went to college a year too early and it’s hard and didn’t like the fit and it wasn’t what he thought it would be. No one’s fault, just wasn’t what he was looking for at that time.

We’re excited to see what he can do, now that he has his second lease on life.

CHASE GRESOCK

COACH’S INSIGHT

– From Columbus area so staff has been familiar with him for some time

– Wore a letter for Merrimack as a sophomore and junior

– Another outstanding student, he would’ve been eligible for no-wait transfer regardless of the COVID rule

– Teammate of Joey Cassetti at Merrimack

VFTG: Gresock comes with three years of college experience at Merrimack and is a proven scorer. What are your thoughts on him?

SCHUTTE: He can shoot a puck like others can’t. He can score you that goal – he’s not going to need 10 chances to score that goal. You give him two, three, four quality chances each night, there’s a good chance he’s going to score one.

He’s a heavy player, like he’s hard on the puck, solid on the puck, he uses his body really well. Really smart. But his biggest asset is his shot. And he can flat out score goals.

MICHAEL REGUSH

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Scored 23 goals at Cornell while not on a primary scoring line

– Graduated from Cornell in three years with a 3.95 GPA

– Has extremely high hockey IQ and would be an excellent coach some day

– Expected to be an immediate leader

VFTG: You mentioned Regush earlier. He’s someone who scored 23 goals at Cornell, so obviously he can light the lamp as well.

SCHUTTE: He’s like a Mack truck. He’s a big, strong kid who is really, really smart, and he’s relentless. He’s the definition of what we want to be. We want to be relentless on our effort and on pucks. We want to increase our competition level. He’s that kid that if you take your foot off the gas for that half second and you think you beat him in that battle or the foot race or that stick battle, think again because he’s not quitting, he’s going to fight you for it until the death.

RED SAVAGE

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Skating is underrated

– Consistent

– NHL scout said he was the highest-rated penalty killer in the draft

– Even-keeled

VTFG: Last among the forwards is Red Savage. All of the scouting reports have praised his defensive play and hockey IQ. But he was outstanding offensively in 2020-21. He recorded 42 points in 46 games the U.S. National Development Team and went 10-10-20 in 22 games vs. USHL competition.

SCHUTTE: He really did and it’s underrated because his numbers are coming with very little power play time. Talking to the USA coaching staff, he really didn’t get on the power play until the second half of the year because they didn’t have a strong enough net-front presence. He just does everything right. Kids today, they have the skills and they can skate, and they do this and they do that. What Red does is he plays hockey. He reads and reacts and makes the right decision 99 percent of the time, which puts him in the right position to succeed the majority of the time. He’s always making the right decision: With the puck, right decision; right decision without the puck – what we call it is: He plays winning hockey.

We’re glad we’ve been able to surround him with some older guys because going into last year, we were looking at this year going holy shit, will this put the weight of the world on this young 18-year-old? Now he doesn’t have to do it alone, and we truly feel like our top nine will be good enough to fight anyone, anyime, anywhere. And he’ll be a big part of that.

He knew his dad was here, obviously, his older brother is here. I think the two of them have a healthy competition amongst themselves which brings out the best in both of them.

He’s a kid that if you watch him play the game and watch him shift-in, shift-out and his decision-making and his skill set, you’re going to appreciate his game. You’re going to learn to love it. It’s not necessarily one that’s going to have a massive flash and get your attention real quick, but it’s one you’re going to grow to appreciate, night-in, night-out, which is exactly what I think Detroit felt about him and why they took a chance on him.

WILL CULLEN

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Head coach Chris Bergeron and Schutte recruited Cullen and coached him for a one season at Bowling Green

– Confident

– Super aggressive

– Late bloomer

– Wants to turn pro and trusts coached to help that transition because of previous relationships

VFTG: Of the three new defensemen coming in, Cullen should make an immediate impact as a senior transfer. Cullen’s offensive ability is well documented, so after having just one impact D-man that proved capable of running a power play last season in Derek Daschke, how nice will that be to add a veteran blueliner than can quarterback the man-advantage?

SCHUTTE: For sure. And we think we have guys that can do that, they’re just young. Will, he has things that you can’t teach. It’s a little bit of risk-reward, but usually there’s way more reward. We feel like adding Will it will take some pressure off Derek, it’ll be another legitimate threat on the back end every time he’s on the ice.

Will’s an exciting player to watch. He’s going to get your attention. People will notice him.

NICK DONATO

COACH’S INSIGHT

— Makes subtle unsexy blue-collar plays

— Very impressive two-year stint with Tri-City of the USHL

VFTG: Donato has the reputation as a solid stay-at-home defenseman, and he’s already logged two full seasons in the USHL with Tri-City. What’s your take on him?

SCHUTTE: Nick, he’s an unreal kid. The USHL is the hard league and it has the most talent. The top college talent is coming from that league, and Nick proved he can play against anybody, anywhere, anytime. He’s really smart, he’s strong and he understands what his strengths and weaknesses are plays within them.

We’ve got a lot of defensemen back there and it’s going to be hard for the young guys to find their way. But in the end, the opportunity over the course of four years for a guy like Nick will be huge because he’s a guy that you’re going to be able to put over the boards – in the end, when he hits his stride – and you’re going to trust and have confidence that he’s going to dominate that guy or that line. He’s that type of reliability.

ALEX MURRAY

COACH’S INSIGHT

— Grew up in Cincinnati

— More offensive-minded earlier in his career

— Late bloomer

VFTG: Speaking of defensemen facing depth chart issues, Alex Murray has made major strides in his points totals in his three years with Lone Star of the NAHL, and he’s another blueliner who will be fighting for ice time this season.

SCHUTTE: Like Nick, those two are going to fight everything they get this year, but in the long run, they’re both going to continue to grow and develop and get better. Alex has got good feet, he’s really smart – his overall skill set is above average for sure. Now he’s undersized but he doesn’t put himself in predicaments. We’re very cautiously optimistic about (Murray and Donato) over the long run.

LOGAN NEATON

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Aware of Neaton’s game since he played at home in Michigan

– Had studs in front of him each of the past two years, including a late transfer that killed his opportunity in 2020-21

VFTG: Logan was limited to 220 minutes played the past two years with UMass-Lowell, and it’s obviously hard to get any kind of rhythm with that workload. Winnipeg thought enough of him to select him in the fifth round of 2019 NHL draft after watching him play juniors in western Canada, so the talent is clearly there.

SCHUTTE: Logan Neaton is the type of kid you want to marry your daughter. He’s a big-time person, and he has a ton of talent. We think it’s a question of: When does his hit his stride, and not if he hits his stride.

We felt like last year we were hoping that would have a 1a and a 1b in our net. Ludvig (Persson) was going to be pretty good, not knowing how good and how soon he would get there. We would like to have two guys that can play. Miami has proven to do that over the years. Now, does one play 65 percent and the other play 35 percent? Maybe. It plays itself out. We’re hopeful that the two of them can continue to challenge and push each other and bring the best out in each, and hopefully they can be a part of – we’re hoping – one of the best goaltending tandems in the league.

HENRIK LAURSEN

COACH’S INSIGHT

– Played catch-up last season due to an early injury

– Outstanding student

– Excellent work ethic

– Grew up in Florida but moved to Michigan on his own as a 16-year-old to pursue hockey career

VFTG: Last is Henrik Laursen, who didn’t see much ice time on a struggling Lone Star team. How does he fit into the Miami goaltending situation?

SCHUTTE: He’s that kid that wanted an opportunity. He knew that in all reality we had our two guys that were going to fight for the net, day in and day out. That’s, in all reality, the situation he walked into. But he also knew, and believed in himself that I think I have a chance in the long run to be a competitive goalie at the collegiate level. I’m not there just yet, but I do think I can be that guy to help push and challenge and raise the standards and expectations of Miami hockey every day. And over the course of the next 1-2 years, can he grow and develop his game as a late bloomer? Will he earn himself and put himself in a legitimate 1-2 spot over the next couple years? Time will tell on that.

VFTG: Finally, this is your third year with the team. With another big class of kids coming in that were mostly players that you and the other coaches have brought in, does it finally feel like your team and not just one you inherited?

SCHUTTE: We’re getting closer to that. Our seniors are the only group that have played for another coaching staff, and I think by this point they’ve heard it loud and clear and that they’ve chosen to step up to the challenge. I hear what you’re saying coach, and what we want to do around here and what Miami hockey’s all about, but I could’ve gone somewhere else but I chose not to because I want to be a part of the solution and help advance this forward.

I can tell you the vibe, the attitude, the energy, the personality of the group, is definitely starting to come around and feel more like a team that we would coach. And the roster, when it comes to the bigger, stronger, faster, more captain-type leadership group, it’s starting to feel more like our team, and at the end of the day, guys are going to have to pick a side now. The competition is deep in all three areas, and where as a year ago or two years ago maybe, there’s 10 guys with us and 18 against us when their last year was half and half, we do feel like probably 85, 90 percent of the guys are on board and there’s a couple of guys that have to make a decision each day. Are you going to join us here or what? But they’re good kids – it’s just hard. I think we’re getting closer. We’re not quite there but with the ability to recruit those older kids who can have a bigger impact, I certainly think that speeds that along.

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