The OHL Draft Was Apparently Relevant Enough To Warrant A Post

The OHL Draft Was Apparently Relevant Enough To Warrant A Post

Submitted by Brian on April 9th, 2018 at 12:23 PM

This was a UV bullet and now it's 900 words, so now it's a post.

Yes, folks, the OHL draft has come and gone, and since Michigan is provisionally recruiting like gangbusters in the 2020 hockey class it once again becomes an event with great import for M hockey fans. Michigan commits:

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Perfetti (right) barely fell

Cole Perfetti: 1st round, #5, Saginaw. Perfetti barely fell, which is usually real bad news. In this case there is a glimmer of hope because Saginaw has close to a complete roster for the year and OHL teams get compensatory picks if their first rounder is "defective," the OHL's charming term for a player who doesn't report. Rolling the dice on Perfetti doesn't cost them much; if he doesn't report they get the sixth overall pick in next year's draft, when they need it more. For now the Saginaw GM is playing coy and pretending the USHL doesn't exist:

"He has committed to Michigan, and there is a recruiting process for us. But when you talk about elite skill like this, the risk is worth the reward. And personally, I think he's too good to wait two years to play at this level."

OHL teams can trade defective picks and keep that compensatory pick, so we'll know if this was a flier or a plan in September. If Perfetti's immediately traded for a bushel of picks to another OHL outfit he's gone. This is the most likely outcome.

FWIW, Saginaw took former M commit Blade Jenkins and got him after one NTDP year. That might have been more desperation than anything else as Jenkins struggled immensely in the USHL, scoring 5 points in 34 games, and just 8 in 56 overall. He's up to 44 in 68 in an OHL he's found more tractable and is once again draftable.

Antonio Stranges: 2nd round, #21, London. Ugh. London has the resources to acquire players not otherwise headed for the OHL. Stranges is talented enough and London has enough players for this to be a flier. Stranges did tweet out something after he got picked—and then deleted that, hopefully once a strong Michigan advocate in his inner circle cocked an eyebrow at him.

Stranges has been invited to the NTDP, which usually announces its new U17 team in late April, so it won't take long to know which way he's going. FWIW, plugged in persons still think NTDP:

It is unusual for an NTDP kid to not follow through on a college commitment, because there's no wait to get into the tougher league and "hockey plus college" is better than "hockey and college later if you don't play 18 months pro."

Owen Power: 2nd round, #22, Flint. On the other hand, Flint is a league-owned mediocrity with little appeal. Power is safe unless and until he gets traded. There are no compensatory picks outside of the first round, so there's no timeline. Power was likely to be a top 5 pick until he committed, so his drop indicates that the OHL took it at least somewhat seriously.

Jacob Truscott: 5th round, London. London again but deep enough in the draft that it's a flier for a guy with Truscott's quality. He's also an NTDP invite.

Mitchell Smith, 5th round, Saginaw. This would be shrug territory except for the article that the local paper put out when Smith committed to Michigan:

"One thing you learn about hockey is that it has a huge network. You have to choose the right people to believe, the right people to trust. To have people like Brendan and Brian [Kischnick] giving advice is invaluable."

And if that means ultimately choosing to play college hockey, Michigan is not a bad destination.

"Michigan presented us with a good situation … basically he would have a chance to play right away," Tim Smith said. "And a Michigan education is pretty nice too."

The Kischnicks mentioned are father and son, the younger is Smith's D-partner. Kischnick committed to the OHL route after being picked in the sixth round and sent back to AAA this year. If that's the advice the Smiths are listening to, he gone. Also Smith is from Saginaw.

Cole McWard: 11th round, Kitchener. Patrick Guzzo: 13th round, Oshawa. Flier territory. Kitchener used to be a London level threat but has dropped off the radar recently.

Andrei Bakanov: N/A. Bakanov was widely expected to be a top ten pick but was not eligible for some reason or another despite having played his most recent two years of junior in OHL territory. The reason is probably "didn't bother to apply":

He's likely be a USHL tender.

UPSHOT

Michigan's likely to lose Perfetti and Smith; what's left over is still Michigan's best class in forever as long as Stranges sticks.

Rise Of The Unverified, Voracious Machines

Rise Of The Unverified, Voracious Machines

Submitted by Brian on October 31st, 2017 at 12:22 PM

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there's an onion article about this [Patrick Barron]

Funny how that works. Brandon Peters, rumored to be aloof and disconnected, is now a Cool, Even-Keeled Leader:

"Brandon's kind of always been the same, sort of even-keeled," senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said after Saturday's game.

"It's just Brandon. I don't think he gets too high or too low, and I think that's a good thing to have when you're a quarterback."

He is also studious and paying attention.

"He's been preparing since camp," Gary said. "I walk by the quarterback room, I peep in just to mess with him. He's in his books and he's paying attention.

"Just how he prepared, I knew when he got his chance he was going to do what he did (Saturday)."

After he throws an interception he will return to being aloof and disconnected, and then he will throw a touchdown with a steely nervelessness, and then he will take a sack because of the crushing ennui he endures in his day to day life, and then he'll have a third down conversion that shows mankind is doomed because robotkind is superior. Looking forward to it. Except for the part with the interception.

Congratulations to men's soccer. They're the Big Ten champs after a barn-burning final day that saw Michigan pass three other teams, including their opponent Maryland, with this double OT(!) Francis Atuahene goal:

They had four wins last year. Quite a turnaround for Chaka Daley. Michigan is 12th in the NCAA's version of RPI for soccer and might be in line for a first-round bye in the 48-team College Cup, depending on how the Big Ten Tournament goes. They will host Northwestern or Rutgers in a first-round game Sunday at 1 PM.

Michigan Soccer Now has more details; if you care about UM soccer at all you should be following them. Also here is the Daily's Kevin Santo:

Billy Stevens still hadn’t let go of the trophy.

Not when he got on the bus to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Not when he landed in Detroit. Not for the bus ride back to Ann Arbor, either. He said he couldn’t let it out of his sight.

And really, can you blame him?

A steady, sustainable uptick. BISB's been unable to Opponent Watch because sometimes his job strangles him by the throat but he did put together this little, encouraging graph of Michigan's line yards this year:

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At this point it's more about maintaining that number than continuing to improve it. Last year's #1 team in line yards was somehow UNLV with 3.8. Michigan is approaching an effective maximum. Michigan's surge has taken their rushing game up to 21st in S&P+, so Michigan now has three good to very good aspects (rush offense, rush and pass defense) and one terrible one (pass offense). The PSU game knocked Michigan's defense out of the top ten; they're now 15th.

Is there a Haters Gonna Hate ladder? This guy is in strong contention for greatest hater in the world:

"I tolerate everything except racists and Tom Brady" is strong work.

Exit Jim McElwain. I have never had a better take than "Jim McElwain's response to the shark thing proves he's going to fail." That is right up at the top of the Takes Nobody Talks About Because They Are Correct Board for one Brian Cook. McElwain failed and is now fired. Spencer:

Categorically, the best McElwain seemed capable of was mediocrity. That mediocrity came at a time when his competition locally was as weak as it could be, and when the University was more willing than ever to spend on facilities, brand-building, and all the other accessories needed to keep a program competitive and happy. Unlike his predecessor Will Muschamp, he got free rein in hiring the staff he wanted to hire. Unlike his predecessor, he had actual head coaching experience coming into the job. Unlike Muschamp, McElwain won the SEC East, and did it two years in a row despite losing a starting quarterback to injury in both seasons.

May the football gods be kind to Spencer and bestow him with Jeff Brohm.

The Purdue situation. You've probably already seen this but in case you haven't, Angelique Chengelis talked with Wilton Speight's father about what happened after Speight's frightening injury against Purdue:

“What an absolute train wreck,” Bobby Speight said of the experience. ...

“We take off with no escort,” Bobby Speight said. “We can’t get through because there are barricades up and (the van driver is) directing people to move them.”

They reached the Purdue University Student Health Center and headed downstairs.

“They take us in the basement,” Bobby Speight said. “It’s very dimly lit. Halfway down the hall, there’s a (radiology) technician. Wilton is in (partial) uniform and still wearing cleats, and she asks Wilton his name. The (van driver) says he needs an X-ray. (The technician) looks at me and says, ‘I need your insurance card.’”

Harbaugh's been to Purdue before. He couldn't have been surprised by what he found, probably because it was exactly what he saw back in the 1980s. He was clearly cheesed by the ham-handed response to the Speight injury, and used that as a platform to talk about the beyond-gamesmanship visiting locker rooms in West Lafayette.

Hockey continues recruiting. Three recent commitments of note. One is 1997 Jimmy Lambert, who will arrive in Michigan at 21. Usually this means a guy heading for the checking line but one of the scouting services thinks otherwise:

Lambert was supposed to head to Alaska Fairbanks this fall but changed direction after a coaching change. He had a PPG in the offense-mad BCHL as an overager last year and usually that means bottom six—Dakota Raabe is the same age and had a PPG last year—but I guess maybe not? I don't know.

On the other end of the spectrum, 2002 Cole Perfetti is a 15-year-old currently projected in the 2020 class who just committed. One OHL scouting service has him the #6 guy available for this year's edition of the OHL draft because he's a "shifty skater with extraordinary playmaking vision." (Commit Antonio Stranges, an "electric skater with game breaking one-on-one play" is #4, FWIW.) Also:

The "if" there is real, as any Michigan hockey fan knows.

Finally, Michigan picked up Jeff Cox's #1 uncommitted guy from one of the various youth tourneys he attends:

1. Joshua Groll
#52 Anaheim Jr. Ducks, 8/9/01, Shoots Left, 5-9/155

Groll was the best forward here. He has good speed, but he plays a smart and complete game. He has a sneaky release and is able to get a lot of shots off by being around and possessing the puck a lot. His puck support is strong and he makes plays.

Michigan now has a whopping 25 commits across four recruiting classes, 16 of them in the four months since Mel was hire. Eleven of them are tentatively slated to enter next year. Michigan loses six seniors, and probably only four guys pulling significant scholarship money (Niko Porikos and Alex Roos probably aren't getting much.) Attrition is always looming, and I'm sure Michigan has an understanding with a couple of kids who might get pushed out a year. That's still a lot of guys to cram in.

Trying to optimize a hockey roster without screwing someone over seems like the most difficult logistical challenge in the world today. Good luck.

Etc.: Clownshoes NCAA, take a number. Symbolic hats and the playoff. Higdon stuff. Questions about basketball.

World's Greatest/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: The Ludicrously Distant Future

World's Greatest/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: The Ludicrously Distant Future

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2017 at 4:34 PM

See also: 2017 and 2018.

You know that thing where Lane Kiffin offers an eighth grader and we all have a good laugh at him? Yeah, that's more or less the foundation of hockey recruiting. Michigan has four 2020 commits. Ye gods.

2019

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Just two commits so far. D Mike Vukojevic was ranked by The Scout.ca as the top defender available in this year's OHL draft and 7th best player overall:

He is a player who jumped out to us early in the season and remarkably didn't disappoint us once. An enthusiastic defender with a rangy skating style, Vukojevic impresses with his smarts and knack for making an impact every time over the boards. Raw blueliner with a high end ceiling and certainly one who'd excel if he chose the OHL route. He's adaptable joining in the offensive attack as needed and physical when he needs to be. He's earned the top D spot.

SBN's Jeff Cox:

Michael Vukojevic, #51 Oshawa Generals, Shoots Left, Oakville, Ontario, 6'2"/185 -€” He's a good sized defender with strong footwork. He moves well, is strong on gaps and stands his ground defensively. He keeps the play moving by moving the puck quickly.

He dropped to the second round because of his NCAA commitment, where he was picked by Kitchener. Kitchener is notorious for under the table deals with prospects but after looking at Vukojevic's twitter feed that doesn't seem to be the case here. Vukojevic retweeted every OHL draft pick of his teammates but didn't bother to RT Kitchener picking him; OTOH he did RT the Green Bay Gamblers making him the 8th pick of the USHL futures draft. Also this:

Finally, I can't imagine anyone RTing a general meeting for the Greater Toronto Hockey League—the junior B league Vukojevic was in last year and apparently this year—unless he was sticking around. Looks like the plan is one more year in Toronto and then a year with the Gamblers before Ann Arbor. (Plans, of course, are subject to change.)

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Shattuck winger Phillipe Lapointe is the other 2019 commit; he put up 15-44-59 in 56 games last year. I have no idea how impressive that is in the context of Shattuck's league. A number of his teammates were in the same range but most of those guys were a year or two older than him. He'll be moving to the Lincoln Stars this season, and if he keeps up anything near PPG pace in the best NCAA feeder league that's scoring line kind of stuff.

Preliminary scouting is reserved. USHR saw him at the select 15s and gave him an honorable mention:

Philippe LaPointe, #18 Kelly/ Chicago Mission, 5-10/174 – Has a nice set of hands; displayed them on a breakaway goal in one viewing. Had inconsistencies from shift to shift, but there is more than enough skill to keep watching.

But that was 18 months ago. A lack of scouting since and his status as a third round USHL draft pick suggest that Lapointe is going to be a middle of the roster sort. The top scoring guys at Shattuck are currently headed to schools like Northeastern, UMass-Amherst (ie, not the good UMass), and LSSU. They've taken a step back from the Jack Johnson days. Cox did just see him at the U17 selects and called him the most improved player over the past year, so maybe he's on the way up and Michigan was the first big school to see it. 

Philippe is of course former Red Wing Martin Lapointe's son; I mostly mention it because these days the elder Lapointe looks like a man with a particular set of skills about to seriously damage a bunch of eastern European gangsters who kidnapped his daughter:

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Don't mess with Martin Lapointe. He will break your arm and then brood you to death.

Michigan will continue adding to this class. They've got four scholarship guys in their rising junior class, two D and two F, and god knows what kind of attrition they'll suffer over the next couple years (survey says: lots).

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The big fish still on the radar is Jack Hughes, the younger brother of Quinn. Hughes was projected to be the #1 pick in the OHL draft and was enough of a big deal to go eighth overall despite having committed to the NTDP for the next two years. The Scout.ca:

He’s in a class of his own and would arguably be the best prospect to play in the league since Connor McDavid.

Oookay then. ISS has him in their early top ten:

6. Jack Hughes (C) – Kirkland Lake Gold Miners – NOJHL
Arguably the most skilled player in the entire draft, Hughes at times seems to have the puck on a string as he weaves his way up ice. His hockey sense and creativity in the offensive zone are as good as anyone we’ve seen in this age group. Possesses an arsenal of moves and ways to create space; extremely difficult for defensemen to anticipate as he can make plays on the fly whilst moving at top speed.

Quinn may well be on his way to the league before his younger brother arrives on campus; nonetheless, the prospect of playing with his brother and Quinn's decision to go with Michigan should put M at the top of his possible destinations for an Eichel-like one and done college career.

Other than Hughes it's unclear who Michigan is chasing, hockey recruiting coverage being what it is. About 90% of the time the first anyone hears about a particular kid is when he pulls the trigger. There are all of two uncommitted NTDP skaters, neither of whom is from the area.

Upshot

This looks to be the class that was hurt the most by the late Berenson uncertainty and last year's level of play; Mel will have to use some of the tricks he picked up at Tech to unearth some productive overagers. Getting Hughes, even for a year, means woo go team and everything else is gravy.

2020

Michigan is sweeping through the top prospects on the Little Caesar's U16 outfit. All four of their 2020 commits are from the program. All of them are even more disgustingly young than the aforementioned players. At this point Michigan is guessing. Everyone is. Luke Moffatt committed this early; he was the top US prospect in his age group and ended up a seventh round pick and career third liner. See also: Mike Pastujov. Any assertions about these gents should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Disclaimers out of the way, this appears to be a high-end group. Antonio Stranges led his team to a tournament victory at the top bantam tournament in North America despite playing a year up—which is an even bigger deal in this age group:

Leading the way was '02 underager Antonio Stranges who leads the team in scoring in league play. Despite lacking great size for the age group, Stranges is a high-end creator who is a bit of a puck wizard when it's on his stick. His consistent play throughout saw him not only receive a deserving nod on the tournament all-star team, but ultimately saw him take home MVP honours for his key play throughout the tournament. …

Doesn't have elite physical tools but his mind for the game and confidence when in possession with the puck make him the team's most consistent offensive threat, and the type of player who can find the scoresheet against any opponent.

Stranges also impressed USHR at the World Selects Invitational for the age group ahead of him:

Stranges has game-breaking speed on the rush and the ability to beat defenders one-on-one while keeping them on their heels. While we feel that Smilanic (see above) may have more pro upside, Stranges is an excellent college prospect we feel has the potential to be an All-American wherever he chooses to go.

Jeff Cox of SB Nation was even higher on him after this year's edition of the same tournament, giving him an A+ rating:

He’s the special player in this age group it would appear. He has a great first step and can really skate. He is creative and can do things with the puck that few can do. He made a few nice sauce passes. He’s strong, fast and thinks the game well offensively.

Have to figure he's a lock for the NTDP.   

Fellow forward Patrick Guzzo is the opposite kind of player, already a half-foot taller than the diminutive Stranges and potentially heading for Very Large Indeed. The Scout.ca:

A big powerful winger who can barrel his way down ice as he drives the net. Relies on strong puck protection skills to extend possession time with his long reach and good stick strength. Unleashes a high end shot and operates very well in traffic, displaying good touch with the puck and is always aware of his options.

USHR:

Big strong power forward is hard to miss out there. Will be an interesting one to follow. Quite young: he’s just an 11/27/01 birthdate. He doesn’t have to worry about growing, but he will, and could be very big.

Guzzo was a first round pick in the USHL draft because he's a late '01. That says something since he might not end up in the USHL long term. The Neutral Zone said he "shined" at the Select 15s and was a strong NTDP candidate. He's their #24 '01, though it's unclear whether that's Americans or NCAA prospects or North Americans or the whole dang world.

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Michigan has also plucked two defenders off Pizza Pizza. Jacob Truscott committed shortly after Guzzo; while it's still early yet for OHL projections he's getting some early mention as a top ten pick, and Cox was gung-ho about him at the latest hockey showcase thing at which he appeared: 

Jacob Truscott, #55 Pro Hockey Blue, 5/24/02, Shoots Left, 5-10/155, Fort Gratiot, Mich. (Michigan) – He’s a great skater with an offensive flare to his game. He scored a beauty of a goal in transition. He keeps pucks going north and can defend with his feet.

Truscott reported that Wisconsin, Miami (NTM), and BU were on his trail before he committed to Michigan. BU is recruiting better than anyone in the country even if they can't coach that talent, and Wisconsin's going to surge here in a little bit.

Finally (finally, finally), D Ethan Szmagaj is the guy who sent me down this rabbit hole by committing. He's currently in the Hughes mold but since he's entering his sophomore year of high school he's probably going to grow some more. Currently he shades more towards offensive defenseman:

…competitor that quickly became one of this observer's favorite players to watch on the week. He's smooth, retrieves pucks, can skate out of trouble, has good vision and makes nice breakout passes.

Or just generally a pest:

30. Ethan Szmagaj, Little Caesars 16U, D, Shoots Left – It's not often a good defenseman below six-feet is known more for his toughness and grit than his offensive ability, but that's the case here. He's tough as nails, hard to knock off the puck and just flat-out wins battles. He's a good skater who retrieves pucks well and can skate out of trouble.

Szmagaj is also a late '01 and was eligible for the USHL phase 1 draft, but did not get picked. This baffled Cox:

Szmagaj is a crossfit person and his dad's twitter is littered with videos of Ethan doing things that make me tired just looking at them, so he won't be one of those guys who never touches a weight until he shows up to college; he's also got a couple younger brothers to keep an eye on down the road. 

Upshot

Once you get this far out it's extremely difficult to project much of anything except the very top end. Stranges seems like a good bet to be a first round pick. Unless he's not.