it was one or the other this weekend for Michigan's 18-to-20-year-old hockey prospects
An eight-man recruiting class will enter Michigan this fall ready to patch some of the holes left by this spring's exodus. Though there are no players the caliber of Kyle Connor or Dylan Larkin in this class, it seemed almost certain that five of the eight would be drafted in this past weekend's NHL Draft.
Almost, but not quite. Only three of Michigan's eight incoming freshmen (and an addition 2017 prospect) were selected in the draft despite projections that had the two who went undrafted, Griffin Luce and James Sanchez, safely above the bottom of the draft.
Scouting reports for hockey prospects are typically short and published irregularly, so I thought I'd use the boom in available scouting materials to look at what you can expect from Michigan's newest draftees' games, as well as where they're likely to fit when they suit up for their first game in a Michigan sweater this fall.
Will Lockwood, RW
Third round, 64th overall- Vancouver Canucks
Lockwood's 13-20-33 scoring line in 59 games with the USNTDP is fine, I suppose. He's not going to be a revelation, but he should put up a fair but not-at-all sterling stat line in his first season. SB Nation College Hockey's Chris Dilks hints at that toward the end of his scouting report while also making him sound a lot like a third- or fourth-liner:
What I Like:
Lockwood plays with a lot of energy and effort. He's a very consistent player that always gives 100%. He creates opportunities for himself by taking away time and space from the opposition and forcing mistakes
Speed is Lockwood's best asset. He's got light feet which gives him a very quick first step and above average straight-line speed. He doesn't always use that speed to his greatest advantage, but it could be a pro-level tool if he learns how to use it better.
Lockwood wasn't a huge scorer for the NTDP this year, but when he got opportunities, he showed a nice ability to finish off plays. He'll have to show he can do that more consistently, but matched with the right linemate that can set him up, he could be a much bigger scorer.
Dilks goes on to mention Lockwood's inability to create with his hands and win puck battles; you can work on winning puck battles, but relying completely on speed is a bit of a red flag in terms of NCAA point production.
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst agrees with Dilks' assessment while also noting that Lockwood played against good competition and shouldn't have much of a learning curve at Michigan:
Lockwood is near the top of a decent list of draft-eligible sandpaper forwards thanks to excellent straight-line speed and a fearless mindset when engaging opposing skaters. He gets most of his points from a crash-and-bang style that would normally compliment line mates of the finesse variety. Lockwood, however, played most of the season with similar players, yet he was easily one of the NTDP’s most reliable and consistent in that regard.
Hockey Prospectus' Ryan Wagman sees something in Lockwood's physical game that other scouts did not and has a generally less optimistic take:
He is a good penalty killer with a decent wall game. Although well undersized, he is generally a pretty physical player and a frequent hitter. Committed to the University of Michigan, he has low upside, but plays a coach friendly game.
Elite Prospects does a nice job collecting player rankings from around the internet, and you can see Lockwood's all over the place. A few sites had him in the 70s, but others had him as low as #197. Most sites that don't rank expected him to be a mid-fourth round pick; no matter which site's rankings you prefer, he was taken higher than expected.
There's going to be plenty of room to move up with Michigan losing five of their top six forwards. I'd keep the Warren-Marody-Calderone line intact and make that the top line; Lockwood could play on the second line with Alex Kile on the opposite wing and centered by…uh, someone's going to have to learn how to play center in a hurry. Lockwood plays a similar style to Warren and could hit 15-20 points as a freshman.
[After THE JUMP: two more commits get picked]
Jalil Irvin's commitment post is here.
One of many softball-related activities that did not occur yesterday [Brian Fuller]
Severe weather delay. Most of the WCWS was rained out yesterday, so they'll try again tonight. This might be good for Michigan since starting pitcher Megan Betsa has a sore back. Michigan plays LSU at 9:30, or after the conclusion of an Alabama-Oklahoma game that was stopped in the middle of the second last night. On the other half of the bracket, Georgia continued its Cinderella run with a win over FSU; Auburn beat UCLA. Game's on ESPN2 tonight.
Harbaugh just likes it man. While nobody is denying that satellite camps are about recruiting, for Harbaugh it's also about football. Pick a report from one of these camps and you'll get some insight into Harbaugh's maniacal intensity:
During one exercise -- a one-cut drill with running backs in linebackers -- Harbaugh was so into things he completely lost track of time.
Another staffer shouted over toward him after taking a look at his watch: "Ready to rotate, coach?"
"No," he fired back with excitement. "OK, I guess so."
247's Keith Niebuhr is an Auburn reporter who was at the camp for his own Auburn-related reasons:
-The kids loved being around Harbaugh. He's very personable when he coaches these guys. It seems genuine. He speaks their language. Makes them all feel special -- even the kids that have no shot of being D-I guys.
Dude just likes football more than most people like anything. But he dislikes "soup sandwiches."
Sliiightly misplaced priorities. Let's recap events in the SEC since Greg Sankey went on his smarm offensive about satellite camps:
- Tennessee is hit with a Title IX lawsuit that alleges Baylor goings-on in Knoxville.
- Alabama fires an assistant coach because of recruiting violations. Saban further bitches about NCAA drug testing policies, implying that someone got McGary'd.
- Ole Miss is hit with a half-dozen Level 1 NCAA violations that don't even include the revelation from Laremy Tunsil that he was paid by Ole Miss employees. Contrary to the lies Ole Miss fed various credulous reporters, most of the allegations concern Hugh Freeze's tenure, not Houston Nutt's.
- Mississippi State enrolls a five-star recruit who was caught on tape beating a prone woman. They suspend him for the Southern Alabama game.
- Texas A&M loses a quarterback commit, causing an assistant coach to go on a twitter rant that causes further decommits. This one is more dumb than troubling, but it's really dumb.
The comeuppance here is truly spectacular, not that any of the various mouthpieces down south have noticed. Here's Tony Barnhart setting the last vestiges of his dignity on fire:
Had Mississippi State not taken Simmons, there was no guarantee that he could not enroll at another SEC school. https://t.co/hIf7LjctRA
— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) June 2, 2016
Hooooooly shit. Turn around and show us Sankey's hand up your back, buddy. Barnhart's descent into the SEC's personal Iraqi minister of information has reached its climax. What an ass.
Oh right and also that. Baumgardner runs down why Saban's crocodile tears about compliance are particularly funny/enraging:
Harbaugh did more than that. He called him out -- a hypocrite, actually. And I'm not sure how anyone can find fault with it.
Saban -- who has, of course, won four national titles at Alabama -- is literally in the middle of a situation where recruiting violations within his program were found. An assistant coach has been forced to resign and the school currently is awaiting the result of that NCAA investigation.
And if that were the only thing going on here, it'd probably be enough. But it's not.
Like in 2009 when a businessman paid for stars Mark Ingram and Julio Jones to go on a fishing trip. Or in 2013 when a former Alabama player was caught giving Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker impermissible benefits. Or later that same year when Saban had to fire a staffer after he paid safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Anyone remember that whole deal about the disassociated Alabama booster who continued to sell signed Crimson Tide merchandise -- from players who still were on the team -- back in 2014?
Like Ole Miss this is just the tip of an iceberg. It should be interpreted as a glimpse into a sophisticated NCAA rule violation factory that occasionally screws up. Alabama does not care about NCAA rules one iota. Saban doesn't want to know. Bo Davis's mistake was knowing.
Further Baylor fallout. Baylor's 2017 recruiting class turned into a ghost town, as you might expect. They're down to one dude. More pressingly, seven players from Baylor's already-signed 2016 class did not enroll as planned and are asking out of their LOIs. One of them is already free to pick another school because Baylor treated his LOI like a sexual assault and didn't report it to the relevant authorities. Baylor isn't releasing them yet because they're holding onto a vague hope that Jim Grobe will be able to salvage some of these guys. Survey says not likely:
The elder Cobb said it was a "good visit, but we let them know my son wants to pursue other options. His mind is made up."
"We bought in completely, and we're crushed," JP's mother, Emily, said. "And it's more than Briles. The whole environment is toxic, and there is no way a kid should have to go there."
"We were shocked and appalled when we found out Thursday the severity and widespread extent of Baylor's wrongdoing in multiple instances," Julian said. "We had no idea. Now that we know, we will not be a part of that."
Baylor has 30 days before it has to make a decision and can force the various players who want to go elsewhere to either delay enrollment or pay their own way for a year. It's unlikely it comes to that—it seems like most of the Baylor defectors have no intention of going to Waco, so Baylor would be further killing its reputation for no benefit.
This is another example of why the NLI does little to nothing for players and should be avoided if at all possible. Players can sign financial aid paperwork that locks the school in without locking the player in.
Revisiting potential NCAA involvement. I do think the NCAA is going to do something here. There's a recent precedent in which a school violated its own policies and got hit because of it: Syracuse. Syracuse had a bunch of different things go down under scofflaw Jim Boeheim. One of them was ignoring their own drug testing policy:
"Like many of the other severe violations involved in this case, the institution's actions regarding its dismissal of the written drug testing policies and procedures were aimed at preserving student-athletes' ability to compete for the men's basketball program," the NCAA report said.
Baylor's internal justice-type substances are in violation of their written policies and should be similarly actionable, since it was also in the service of preserving eligibility. Hopefully it's far more actionable than Syracuse's issues.
Uh, yeah, poke around these guys maybe. At least two of the Baylor defectors should be of serious interest to Michigan: four star OL Patrick Hudson and JP Urquidez are both high-profile players who can play tackle. That spot is a sore one for Michigan after Logan Tuley-Tillman was booted and Devery Hamilton flipped to Stanford. Michigan was vaguely involved with Hudson; Urquidez went off the board just a few months after Harbaugh was hired and did not appear to have any relationship with M beforehand.
Michigan will undoubtedly ask both about their interest once that's permissible—schools can't contact any of these guys until they are released.
A balanced schedule. A desultory hooray for Big Ten Hockey, which finally managed to put together a second half of the season for Michigan without a month and a half between games at Yost. Michigan's back half has eight games, all of them in the Big Ten, and the longest stretch without a game at Yost is three weeks. I'm slightly nonplussed by the two bye weeks Michigan has in the second half—the weekends of January 6th and 28th are open. But this is much better than the previous two years.
Adam covered the nonconference portion of the schedule when it was released. In short, it's nice for fans to get BU at Yost but other than that it's a bunch of middling-to-bad teams that won't help Michigan make the tournament if their record isn't as shiny as it was a year ago. Which… yeah. Probably won't be.
Play the penalties before extra time. If one team outscores the other in the subsequent 30 minutes of open play, then that result will trump the outcome of the penalty kicks. If extra time ends in a draw, then the game goes to the penalty winner.
That's brilliant. While the shootout does still have its unsatisfying place in the game, playing it early reduces its impact and guarantees that one team will always be frantically pressing for a goal. That change should be implemented immediately.
Etc.: Pay-to-play in US soccer is a necessity because the money has to come from somewhere. Ken Starr's personality is to the best of his ability. Seriously, can we not send him to jail? Are there not laws against this behavior? Michigan's not attending Baylor's camp anymore, it appears.
An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems.
10. Get rid of the penalty for flipping the puck out when you're in the defensive zone. This is exactly icing and should be treated like icing. The only competition for worst rule in sports is what happens when a football player fumbles and the ball goes out of the endzone.
9. Non-shootout wins are three points. The NHL is the only league in any sport in the world in which some games are worth more than others. This is so very dumb. College hockey uses a model where you get three for actually winning a hockey game, two for winning a shootout, and one for losing it. It is not an offense to God and math.
8. Widen the blue line. The blue line is a lovely demilitarized zone that is both offensive zone and defensive zone, so you can touch it and not be offsides. The puck can touch it and not exit the zone. Both of these things are good. No offsides whistle in the history of hockey has improved the experience of a neutral fan. Widening the blue line reduces these whistles.
7. In fact let's get rid of offsides whistles (almost) entirely. Instead of stopping the game, you can just continue playing hockey. An offsides team can't score. Game continues. Once team ceases being offsides you can go score.
6. And add passive offsides. If you can't tell already, I hate offsides in hockey. It boggles that if one guy is offsides then everybody is. If you're on a rush and one guy is a hair over the line, he and only he is offsides. Let him tag up; let everyone else continue playing. If an offsides player does anything other than try to get onside, I guess you can blow the whistle, you game-stopping ninny. But if offsides guy is headed for the blue line, let him get there.
5. Gradually introduce Olympic ice. Olympic ice is a lot of fun, but currently impractical for buildings not set up with a 100-foot-wide sheet already. The NHL should force new buildings to be Olympic-sized, leading to a transitional period where some rinks are small and some are wide and there are all kinds of home/away effects, kind of like baseball. Also there will be an increasing number of big rinks on which standing a guy up at the blue line is super difficult and skill is more important. College hockey already has a number of Olympic sheets, and the transition is both jarring and fun.
4. Just embiggen the goals already. Goalies won. Whether it's equipment size or improved technique, the fundamental truth about hockey over the last 20 years is that goalies win and we give up and to restore the proper tension of a hockey game we're going to admit they win and tweak the size of the goal.
Most protests about this are luddite or ludicrous. One common protest is that expanding the goal invalidates records going forward. It does not, at least any more than the various equipment advances have done so. Ken Dryden versus any modern NHL goalie is QED here:
Dryden's pads are not only smaller but infested with mice and 10-20 pounds heavier. Also he doesn't know about the butterfly. Goalies win, expand the net by the width of the posts, all CLANG events now are goals, add 2-3 per game, it's a good time.
This is important. The current state of hockey is too close to baseball, which is dumbly random, because the goalies can cover up big differences in team quality.
3. A team doesn't clear the offensive zone until the puck gets over the red line. Michigan actually experimented with this in an exhibition a few years back. It was deeply weird but it rewarded teams who could actually get ahold of the puck in the defensive zone and increased the number of shifts where one team was scrambling around defensively and it felt like the team with the puck absolutely had to score.
2. Force teams to change goalies on the fly once a period. This would be awesome.
1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on the ice without skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. The thing that hockey has lacked for far too long is a broomball player. What does the world's best broomball player look like? I don't know. You don't know. We've waited far too long to find out.
Michigan announced its non-conference schedule today, and while there are certainly better home games than last season they may not do much to bolster Michigan's tournament resume when March rolls around.
Michigan's two marquee matchups are two-game home series against Michigan Tech, which finished 15th in RPI, near the end of October and Boston University, which finished ninth in RPI, in early November. BU is a young team that returns three of their top five scorers and managed to finish as high as they did in RPI despite a rash of injuries. Meanwhile, what Mel Pearson's done in Houghton has been nothing short of remarkable:
A one-off November road tilt against Arizona State, which finished 59th in RPI (out of 60), and a two-game home series against Lake Superior State are the real anchors of the non-conference schedule. It's nice to keep some of the old CCHA connections, but two games against a team that finished 44th in RPI makes that a series that Michigan has to sweep; if they do they stay put in RPI/PairWise, and if they lose a game or two they're in trouble.
Meanwhile, a two-game home series against Union and one-off road game at Ferris State are roughly comparable to games against Ohio State. An east coast road trip in late October has Michigan take on Vermont, which finished three spots below OSU in RPI at 35th, and Dartmouth, whose 22nd-place finish in RPI puts them one spot below Penn State. In other words, the only possible RPI boost in that portion of the schedule would come from Darmouth moving up two spots in RPI in 2016-17, and that's not likely to happen considering they lose three of their top six scorers and their top two goaltenders.
The Great Lakes Invitational features a guaranteed game against Michigan Tech and then a game against either Michigan State or Western Michigan; both finished in the mid-forties in RPI and are uninspiring second-round opponents.