Brandon Naurato may not have been able to explain it, but his new line mates had all the answers.
After three years of bouncing between the third and fourth lines, and even the scratch list, the senior forward approached his locker before Tuesday’s practice to find a red practice jersey, signifying his promotion from the third line to the second. He has spent the last two practices skating with senior Travis Turnbull and sophomore Louie Caporusso.
Naurato said he wasn’t sure what he did during the preseason to earn his new assignment, but Caporusso offered a number of reasons.
“I love playing with him,” Caporusso said. “He’s able to find the ice and he’s able to make great passes. He’s got an unbelievable one-timer. He’s got great hands. He’s able to feed the puck very well.”
Turnbull and Naurato have played on the same line before, so it shouldn’t take long for the two housemates to get reacquainted on the ice. Turnbull said Naurato’s assets are his hockey IQ and shot accuracy.
“He’s a smart player,” Turnbull said. “He’s got one of the best shots around. I think if everything comes together, he’s going to be a real good player for us. It’s important for him to convert his (scoring) chances.”
Lineup shuffling is common early in the season and the coaches maintain that no decision is set in stone. They promoted Naurato largely because of his offensive potential and expectations that he’ll improve upon last season’s 18 point total.
The Livonia, Mich., native showed flashes of what he can bring to the second line after Wednesday’s practice, refining his shootout technique and firing one-timers against sophomore backup goalie Shawn Hunwick. Naurato said his development as a two-way player will determine whether or not he’ll keep his spot on the second line.
“I need his work ethic to be higher than it’s ever been,” coach Red Berenson said. “If he’s working hard on the puck, winning the races to the puck, winning the races coming down to our zone, if he’s a better working player, he’ll be fine.”
Berenson said he hasn’t always been pleased with Naurato’s “game-to-game work ethic” or consistency throughout his career, but bumping him up to the second line shows how highly Berenson regards his offensive skills. While the coaching staff may be banking on Naurato’s scoring potential with this lineup change, Naurato’s role on the team will ultimately depend on his versatility.
“He knows he needs to practice his skating and his endurance, the other parts of the game,” Berenson said. “So if you just worry about one part of your game, you have a one-dimensional player. And if you’re not a 50-goal scorer, I can’t afford to have a one-dimensional player. So that’s a bit of a knock on him, and he’s trying to overcome that.”
Injury update: Freshman defensemen Brandon Burlon is day-to-day after twisting his ankle Tuesday during a drill. Berenson said the coaching staff will have more details today. … Sophomore defenseman Tristin Llewellyn is also day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms suffered after taking a check during Tuesday’s practice.