Playoff Projections; Key Matchups; Player of the Year Candidates

Instead of our weekly Top 15 poll; we decided to take a look at the playoffs if the season had ended today (2/20/20). We take a look at the current seedings, we breakdown what the remaining schedule looks like; who is on the bubble, who has the best chances to rise and fall and what the key matchups are down the stretch. Below we take a look at the most impactful games left for playoff implications and list our candidates for Prep Player of the Year.

Elite 8

The Home Teams

These 4 teams have been the best four teams for the majority of the season; they all bring their own skill set to the table but these are the 4 most talented teams in the league. Kimball Union also deserves to be in this pack but they have lacked consistency so they’ll likely be on the road for their first playoff game in the Elite 8.

Salisbury vs. Avon have a major matchup this upcoming weekend which will have major seeding implications and Salisbury will also face Hotchkiss so running the table would likely put them as the #1 seed come playoff time. Lawrence has both St. Mark’s and St. Sebastian’s left on the schedule which gives them an opportunity as well to hold that spot. Dexter doesn’t play a playoff team the rest of the way so unless the teams above them stumble they are likely looking at #3 or #4 in the seedings. Avon has Salisbury on the road and then Canterbury and Loomis and at home so they’ll have to win at two one to keep home ice but three wins could propel them up the ladder.

  1. Lawrence  
  2. Salisbury
  3. Avon Old Farms
  4. Dexter

The Rest of the Field

Hotchkiss has 3 games remaining on the schedule but only Salisbury is a playoff bound team so Hotchkiss has little to gain moving up in seedings but they also have little to lose. They are highly likely going to seed between 5-7 for the Elite 8 and given the talent of teams 1-4 it shouldn’t matter a ton who they face. Nobles & Greenough has Governors, Belmont Hill and Milton; all games which can boost their RPI but won’t do much, if anything, for their JSPR ranking and therefore they are likely to stay somewhere between 5-7 in the Elite 8 field. Kimball Union is the dark horse and they have one of the most important games in the entire prep calendar facing Cushing Academy in their last game of the season. Cushing is on the outside looking in with a real chance to get into the Elite 8 field and KUA is holding on for dear life after a loss to New Hampton last week and a recent tie to Proctor. Their playoff fate could come down to that last game of the season. They played earlier this season and it was a 3-2 game in favor of the Wildcats. Brunswick is in a bit of tough situation; they are currently in the Elite 8 but face two teams outside the JSPR rankings so they will be cheering for KUA at the last game of the season because a Cushing win could be trouble for them. Brunswick would also benefit from a strong finish by Kent to give that win more juice.

5. Hotchkiss

6. Nobles & Greenough

7. Kimball Union

8. Brunswick

Large School

Parity Play

This is the most challenging playoff group to handicap as very little separates #1 from #8. Cushing is on the bubble of the Elite 8 and a win against KUA may be just what they need to get there but if they stay in Large School they’ll be the slight favorite. It’s a diverse set of teams coming from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Cushing is young and talented; Berkshire is older and more disciplined; St. Sebastian’s doesn’t quite have the depth but several high end prospects who can change a game; Loomis is more balanced and deep not relying on any one player; Thayer and Kent are both feisty and play tough and Milton and Exeter have played the top teams tight but haven’t been able to close out games. It’s not an exaggeration to say anyone in this field can beat anyone. All the remaining teams have at least one and most have two games against playoff bound teams with the exception of Exeter who may need to run the table to stay in the playoff race. At this point nobody has really “locked” up a home ice in this pool as a lot will change this upcoming weekend and into next week.

  1. Cushing
  2. Berkshire
  3. St. Sebastian’s
  4. Loomis Chaffee
  5. Thayer
  6. Kent
  7. Milton
  8. Exeter

Small School

A lot still on the line

Like the Large School, there isn’t a clear separation in seedings. These could all be flip flopped by the time playoffs starts. Millbrook, St. Mark’s, New Hampton and Groton are all nearly shoe-ins for the playoffs but their seedings are not a lock. Going into the season Gunnery and Tilton looked like teams who would compete for the Elite 8 but if the season ended today they’d be on the road in the small school. However, they both have depth and difference makers and come playoff time that matters a lot. If either of those teams get hot they could run away with this. Proctor had a big tie against KUA and they’ll face Lakes Region rivals New Hampton and Holderness. Running the table for them would set them up nicely for the playoffs and with some luck could garner them home ice. Rivers is currently sub .500 and will face Exeter, Middlesex and Brooks down the stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive. Pomfret looms as a team that has a real chance to get into the playoffs after beating Gunnery last night and will face Millbrook this week.

  1. Millbrook
  2. St. Mark’s
  3. New Hampton
  4. Groton
  5. Gunnery
  6. Tilton
  7. Proctor
  8. Rivers

10 Most Impactful Games Remaining

#1 Cushing @ Kimball Union – could determine who makes Elite 8 and who doesn’t

#2 Avon Old Farms @ Salisbury – both are locks for Elite 8; but this has seeding implications

#3 St. Mark’s @ Lawrence – St. Mark’s last chance to quality for Elite 8 and Lawrence trying to stay at #1

#4 Gunnery @ Brunswick – Gunnery trying to gain home ice and Brunswick trying to stay in Elite 8 race

#5 Rivers @ Exeter – both teams are last seeds in Large and Small School – loser could be bumped out

#6 Lawrence @ St. Sebastian’s- Lawrence trying to hold top spot and St. Seb’s making a run for Elite 8

#7 Millbrook @ Pomfret – Pomfret trying to claw their way into playoffs and Millbrook trying to hold the top spot

#8 New Hampton @ Cushing – Both teams looking to climb seedings; Cushing has Elite 8 potential

#9 Salisbury @ Hotchkiss – Salisbury has its eyes on #1 and Hotchkiss trying to stay #4-#6 range

#10 Milton @ Thayer – Milton trying to stay in the Large School race and Thayer trying to earn home ice

Other Notable Matchups:

Belmont Hill @ Nobles 2/21

Loomis Chaffee @ NMH  2/22

New Hampton @ Proctor  2/22

Deerfield @ Exeter  2/22

Millbrook @ Berkshire 2/26

Kent @ Deerfield  2/26

Thayer @ Milton  2/26

Loomis @ Avon   2/29

Groton @ St. Mark’s 2/29

Berkshire @ Gunnery  2/29

Nobles @ Milton 2/29

Thayer @ St. Sebastian’s  2/29

NZ Prep Player of the Year Candidates

Leading the Pack:

John Fusco; Defense; Dexter

Henry Wilder; Goalie; Hotchkiss

Sullivan Mack; Forward; KUA

Lucas Mercuri; Forward; Salisbury

In the Hunt:

Alex Jeffries; Forward; Gunnery

Aidan Thompson; Forward;  Berkshire

Ian Moore; Defense;  St. Mark’s

Lukas Gustafsson; Defense; Cushing

Dark Horses:

JP Turner; Forward; Avon Old Farms

Casey Severo; Forward; Nobles

Riley Duran; Forward; Lawrence

Liam Connors; Forward; St. Sebastian’s