NZ Prep Preseason Poll

As we officially start the New England Prep School league play today; NZ releases it’s first poll of the season.

NZ Poll is not affiliated with the official standings; it is a subjective poll conducted by the NZ Prep scouting staff. This poll is updated every Monday evening throughout the season.

  1. Salisbury School (CT)
  2. Kimball Union (NH)
  3. Cushing Academy (MA)
  4. Dexter School (MA)
  5. Avon Old Farms (CT)
  6. Frederick Gunn School (CT)
  7. Berkshire (MA)
  8. St. Sebastian’s (MA)
  9. Kent School (CT)
  10. Lawrence Academy (MA)
  11. St. George’s (RI)
  12. Belmont Hill (MA)

Honorable Mentions: NMH, Tilton, Nobles, Brunswick

These rankings are more for fun at this point as there hasn’t been a NEPSAC game since March of 2020 due to COVID-19 and many rosters are just being finalized this past weekend so it’s too early to tell where each team actually stands heading into the season.

“The top 5 was consensus across the board,” said Ed Besinger, Head New England Scout for Neutral Zone. “After that, everyone’s 6-10 was quite a bit different so you could make arguments for probably 10+ teams that would fit in that range.”

Salisbury School is defending champions in 2019-2020 and have been the prep perennial power in recent years going to six of the last eight Elite 8 Finals and winning four of them. Andrew will has been not only a model for high achievement but consistency and for that reason they get the nod for this years #1 preseason ranking.

Kimball Union lost to Salisbury in the prep quarterfinals in 2020 despite leading for large stretches of the game and lost quite a bit off that squad, but Head Coach Tim Whitehead reloads every year and is right beside Salisbury in prep hockey accomplishments winning back to back to back Elite 8 titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Between the two of them they have won 7 of the last 8 NE Prep titles.

Cushing has been a talented and deep team over the past 5 season but struggle with consistency. They are older this season, they have talent in all three phases of the game and bring in former BU assistant coach Paul Pearl to head the program. Former NCAA D1 coaches has been a winning formula in the prep ranks just ask KUA and Salisbury.

Dexter has not yet won a NE Prep crown but since bringing on Dan Donato to run the hockey program they have been a contender every season making it to the Elite 8 finals in 2019 and 2015. They have been attracting a lot of the top talents in the Boston region for the past few years and are deep at every position.

Avon Old Farms is never short on talent but in recent years they’ve had to rely on a young core of talent; this year they seem to be older and heavier which will pay dividends in the later part of the season. Not only that they have the most winning coach in prep hockey history on the bench to guide the way; should be another exciting year for the winged Beavers.

The Frederick Gunn School, known by most as Gunnery, is another program that has been in the hunt every season and is coming off a win in the Small School tournament in 2019-2020. The team had a strong recruiting class and compliments returners from last seasons squad which should be a hard working, tough to play against team with scoring ability.

Berkshire School is a team to never count out; they have a winning formula and return the 2019-2020 Coach of Year winner Dan Driscoll. They get older teams that are tough to play against, they run 3+ lines and have had strong defense and goaltending play. We expect much of the same this season; a balanced, well-coached squad that plays everyone tough.

St. Sebastian’s, like Avon Old Farms, is never short on talent as they are one of the leading teams in prep hockey in NCAA D1 commitments. Initial look at the roster they look deep again this year and should be able to score goals; may be the best in the ISL if they can put the pieces together.

Kent School is a similar team to a Gunnery in that they recruit well, they are balanced in all three phases, they are tough to play against and work hard. There is never an easy game against Kent and they’ve proven that against top teams every year. They looked sharp at the Berkshire jamboree.

Lawrence has been one of the premier programs in Massachusetts for the past decade and where they gain advantage on St. Sebastians and Dexter is that they are a boarding school and get some Canadians and out of market players who help round out the squad. We haven’t seen them in scrimmages yet this year and haven’t seen a roster but Lawrence is never a team to count out. One of the most highly viewed games of the season is the Cushing vs. Lawrence Thursday night game of the Lawrence-Groton tournament; might be the coldest as well.

St. Georges is a bit of a hidden gem; a sneaky good team out of Rhode Island with a combination of size and skill. They may not be as deep as some of the teams above them but they will have a strong blue line and a good enough top six up front to play with anyone.

Belmont Hill has a new head coach in Brian Phinney, former assistant at Middlebury and at Salisbury School; he knows the winning formula after helping guide the Knights to several prep championships. He’s got talent in the net and on the blue line which will make this team hard to score on and with some opportunistic goal scoring this team could be a contender down the stretch in the ISL.

Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images