Nick Pastujov does a really nice job getting to the puck just before it goes out of the zone. He smacks the puck backwards in an effort to get it deep.
Pastujov’s hack ends up being a perfect pass, as the puck lands perfectly on Quinn Hughes’ blade.
Hughes turns on the puck and, upon seeing Ghafari’s stick in his shooting lane, pulls it back and decides to dangle.
Hughes pulls the puck back and shows one of the more intuitive responses I’ve see in the last few seasons. He has a defender in front of him and feels the pressure of the one encroaching from behind, so he counters the pressure by sliding the puck on a diagonal behind himself.
Hughes is able to spin on his right foot and get the back of his blade on the puck with just barely enough of an upward flick to lift the puck over Lethemon’s extended stick.
Hughes pulls off a spin in a phone booth with unreal puck skills, and Lethemon does a good job to even get a stick near the shot.
[After THE JUMP: Quinn Hughes is now illegal in four states]
A shot gets through Luke Martin and Lavigne makes the toe save, but the byproduct is a puck kicked out to his left. Warren has a chance to snag the rebound and clear, but he overskates it. Hughes picks up the puck, spins, and fires. Lavigne stops it and steers the rebound to the corner, which is ideal if you’re allowing a rebound. Hughes is behind the net with no Michigan defender in position to get there before him.
Piazza was closest to getting to the puck, but he’s starting from a flat-footed position in front of the net and coming out to cover Weissbach. As Piazza chases, a huge passing lane opens. Norris, who’s currently patrolling the slot, does quickly turn his head to check for unmarked skaters. That head turn, though, doesn’t pick up anything that isn’t at least in line with Norris’ shoulder (see blue line below). Frederic is off the radar, Wiessbach notices this, and naturally he passes through the highway-sized gap.
Norris isn’t gapped up and he isn’t going to even able to take a step forward because of the speed of the pass and Frederic’s lack of hesitancy. I don’t want to guess at what Lavigne can see here, as he seems to have a fairly good chance to track the shot but there are two teammates in front of him that might have been screening him; the speed of the snap shot is also a consideration in casting blame (or lack thereof) for this goal.
[After THE JUMP: an up-and-down weekend when they could least afford it]
Cecconi pinches and misses the puck, which is passed off the wall to Parran in the high slot. Parran sees Joshua leaving the defensive zone with four Michigan defenders still turning, and he’s able to hit him with a nice outlet pass about halfway between the blue line and center ice.
Joshua reads Hughes, Michigan’s lone defender back, and decides that he’s far enough outside Joshua to dish before entering the offensive zone. Miller carries the puck in.
Joshua swings his stick over, which Hughes uses against him. Hughes lifts the stick back into the air, effectively erasing Miller’s pass. Miller is on the same page; he brings the puck to his side and prepares his shot.
Hughes is almost able to get over and poke-check the puck off Miller’s stick. Miller’s just able to get the shot off, though. Lavigne has stepped up to challenge and even stands up when he sees where the puck is headed, but the shot somehow ends up going just under the crossbar. There was a reverse angle replay later that shows the puck on Miller’s stick, Lavigne standing, and the net moving. Lavigne raised his right shoulder and thus the left dipped just a bit as the shot was released, and I guess that was enough to create the tiny window Miller needed.
[After THE JUMP: we turn our attention to Pairwise]
Becker picks up the puck behind the net and passes up the boards for Norris. He then heads for the front of the net as Slaker loops around and gets into position to receive a pass on the red line. Michigan’s power play has just expired (see the still-present chyron at the top of the screen cap) but they’re still looking to isolate and exploit one defender’s coverage.
Norris holds the puck long enough to get the high defender to commit to shutting down the passing lane back to the point, which leaves him a clear pass to Slaker with one defender having to temper his aggressiveness since he’s playing a 2-on-1.
Norris starts to skate for the front of the net after he passes, then he curls around to get in position for a pass from Slaker. Meanwhile, Slaker skates up to where Norris was; Hults circles and sticks with Slaker, leaving Norris for someone else to check. No one does, though, as Biro pursues Norris and then breaks off his path to get back to the top corner of the now-unnecessary box for…reasons. This leaves Norris wiiiiide open.
Norris has a clear shot but also has an option since Becker has gotten great position in front of the net, rotating to open himself up so that he could take a pass. The defender on Becker has definitely not gotten great position, instead going around Becker and leaving himself walled off by the guy he’s supposed to be covering.
Norris’ shot goes off the back of Becker’s blade and in before Autio can even think about getting his stick around Becker. I think he went over the top of Becker to potentially play the lane between Norris and Becker and was way too late to even finish getting to that part of the ice.
[After THE JUMP: no more cycling but some unreal passing]
Morgan has the most upside of the guys [Michael Caples/MiHockey]
Michigan announced a trio of additions to the 2017-2018 hockey roster. None of these guys projects to be particularly impactful, but there are enough of them to warrant a post.
One, incoming freshman Jack Becker, was already known. What information exists on Becker, a 7th round pick in 2015, was assembled in the first bit of the recently completed Epic Hockey Recruiting Overview. In a nutshell:
He'll be 21 in January and was only even somewhat productive in the USHL in his final season, when he put up a 16-12-28 line. … very large person at 6'4" … looks to be a project who will do well to get past the third line.
He's a big body who will be elderly indeed by the end of his Michigan career and could turn into a David Rohlfs sort; more likely he ends up on a checking line for the duration.
Grad transfer Alex Roos is either a fourth liner or healthy scratch sort. He had a decent freshman season (10-7-17) with Colorado College but dropped to 6 and 5 points in the subsequent two years. He had not skated for a single game as a senior when he quit the program in January. Most likely situation: Roos is coming to Michigan to actually get a post-grad degree and will walk-on for his final year of eligibility.
The third newcomer is LSSU transfer Luke Morgan. Morgan, a 5'11" forward, had 22 points in 36 games as a 19-year-old freshman with Lake State a year ago. This was a significant uptick from 25 points in 60 games in his only year in the USHL, which may indicate he's a late bloomer. He did score a winner at Yost last year:
Laker forward Luke Morgan decided the outcome with around three minutes left in the game. The goal came off a pass from J.T. Henke, and Morgan shot right behind LaFontaine for the goal.
Henke hits Morgan, who’s a stride or two ahead of the chasing Michigan defenders. He’s basically got the time and space to do whatever he desires.
Morgan decides within a stride that what he desires to do is shoot. You can see in the screen cap below that the puck has been release from Morgan's stick while LaFontaine’s almost completely in his upright crouch. I can’t tell from the replay whether this went five- or six-hole, but it found a gap as LaFontaine was getting into his butterfly; he reacted a hair too slow here.
A guy walking into the slot without anyone near enough to even take a penalty with three minutes left in the third period. 2016-17 Michigan, I will not miss you.
Anyway. Morgan will sit out this year and then enter 2018-19 as 21-year-old sophomore. That's a four-year commitment to a guy who may not have a huge ceiling. Hockey scholarships can be split so it's possible that Morgan is only getting a partial ride and Michigan's risk here is low. Morgan is essentially an incoming freshman who can't play this year, so my assumption is Michigan wanted to add a guy and at this late juncture Morgan's 0.6 PPG in the WCHA was more appealing than various overagers still floating around out there.
With a renewed sense of hope I decided to check out the incoming class to see what's on deck for Michigan hockey. The answer is surprisingly pleasant given the long period of uncertainty that preceded Mel Pearson's hire. Then I kept going, but that's another post.
… tough competitor that is willing to engage physically to win puck battles…strong skater that isn’t easily pushed off the puck. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s a good enough four-direction skater that he’s capable of playing the center position at the next level. … competes hard on the defensive end and plays a responsible game. … lot of his offense comes from driving hard to the net and winning battles for loose pucks, and creating opportunities by chasing the play. …. ability to handle the puck is fine, but it’s not an area of strength.
He'll play both ways and pile up points because of his physical ability, effort, and reasonable skill level. That skill level might be a bit higher than the above take, depending on who you listen to. His NTDP coach:
“He can hammer a puck. He can skate. He’s got a great first step. He competes, and he’s coachable. He’s got a lot going for him. I think he’s got a great deal of God-given talent. He is a heck of a kid and extremely coachable. Those items right there lead up to a player who has some ability and a bright future.”
Given the dearth of center talent on the roster Norris is likely to slot in on the top line from day one; he and Will Lockwood are Compher and Motte in search of Connor. (Connor is not on this roster.)
Side note: Norris's father Dwayne starred for Michigan State back in the day. Completing this odd circle of betrayal: MSU has a commitment from Mike Knuble's kid, Cam Knuble, for 2018.
*[He tied Grant Mismash with 61 points but took four fewer games to get there.]
Berenson projected Hughes as an “elite-skating, offensive-minded defenseman” at the college level and also called him one of the “top young defensemen” of his class.
“He’s really a special player, and we’re excited about the fact that he’ll bring an element to our defense that maybe we don’t have right now,” Berenson said. “He could definitely add to our power play. His smarts, his vision and his skating ability really separate him from a lot of players.”
Hughes is highly likely to slot into Michigan's first team power play from the drop and chase Eric Werner for the title of MGoDiminutiveDefensemanFaveRave.
There were some OHL rumors about Hughes that seem to have petered out after his brother also went the NTDP route. More about him in another post; he's a 2019 kid.
The non-headliner but maybe-guy-to-watch is Mike Pastujov. Back in the day when the Pastujov brothers committed, Nick (who is coming off a freshman year in which he had three points in 28 games) was much more modestly regarded than his younger brother. Fast forward a few years and Nick is one who got drafted, albeit in the seventh round. Mike went from potentially being the #1 pick in the OHL draft to undrafted after a few seasons of injuries and struggle. Scouting from way back when:
1. Michael Pastujov(#11 Black) 6-0/186 Honeybaked U16 (Michigan) - A strong and powerful skater who committed to the Wolverines along with his brother Nick, a '98, less than a week after the camp ended. He's a flight risk to the OHL, but he's a strong skater who drives the net well. He made plays happen from all over the ice, really dishes the puck well to his linemates and he wins one-on-one battles. He's a complete package offensively.
Clearly things have gone awry. The primary issue is his inability to stay on the ice. Injuries cost him almost all of his sophomore and junior years; he also missed about a dozen games with the U18s. He still played in 55 and could only put up a 9-15-24 line. Michigan will hope his indifferent final year with the NTDP is more about the injuries than his talent level. If he can repair this…
Slow first step
Pastjuov’s biggest issue this past season was his skating. His first step was really slow, which meant he lost a lot of races to loose pucks, and had trouble creating much when he did have the puck.
…then maybe Michigan will get a third headliner in the class.
Pastujov did get healthy enough to catch the eye again at the World U18s, scoring a PPG over a seven-game span as the US took the tourney title. Various scouting services, including the NHL's CSB, moved him from off their lists into the top 100—usually good enough to get drafted in the fourth or fifth round. He was nonetheless passed over.
The other three guys in the class are all overagers. All are 97s. Jack Becker was Pearson's first commit; unsurprisingly he was a flip from Tech. He was a Wisconsin commit in the long long ago. He'll be 21 in January and was only even somewhat productive in the USHL in his final season, when he put up a 16-12-28 line. Bizarrely for a guy with his profile, he was a 7th round pick of the Bruins in 2015. Becker is a very large person at 6'4", so he might have a shot to be a Ben Winnett sort.
Dakota Raabe could be a little fast dude who ends up on a scoring line or peter out into a checking line guy and penalty killer. He's a few months younger than Becker. While he steadily increased his production in the BCHL, a PPG as an overager in that offense-mad league is not always enough to translate to NCAA productivity. Incredibly, Raabe was only eighth(!) on his team in PPG. (He was 25th in the league.) This is not BCHL slam dunk territory. It's BCHL maybe territory.
FWIW, MSU's Taro Hirose was almost the exact same size and age coming out of the BCHL a year ago; he had a 6-18-24 line as a freshman. That might not sound like much but he was second on his moribund team in scoring and looked like their most dangerous forward when Michigan played them. Unfortunately this isn't a direct comparison; Hirose was a much better BCHL point-acquirer. He had 71 points in 58 games—a cut above Raabe, especially since he was his team's leading scorer by 15 points.
“Being on the ice every day has helped me so much,” Raabe said. “My shot has gotten harder and I’ve gotten faster. I’d say my hockey IQ has improved as well because I’m learning how to play the game at a faster level.”
“I’m told Dakota is a high-end skater,” Berenson said. “He’d be one of our fastest skaters. ... It looks like he’s going to be a real good addition to our forward group, and the big thing is because of his speed and work ethic.”
He'll probably have an indifferent freshman year and then his second year will tell the tale. He's a good gamble for a team needing to fill roster spots during a transition period. He is very much a gamble.
Finally, Gustaf Westlund is a Parisian Swede who committed little over a year ago. He had enough about him to warrant an NHL draft profile from SBN:
…intriguing prospect as this was his first season playing in North America. …The left-shot center is a true athlete who oozes potential. .. very good skater. He has a long, smooth stride that appears effortless. He can really get going quickly and seems to have that extra gear. …makes good passes, has above average vision and has a soft touch. … an athletic player with above average tools.
…effortless skater who gets himself to smart areas of the ice to get a shot on net. …good athletic frame, but is thin and could stand to add some considerable strength to his legs, core and upper body. …handles the puck well with soft hands and creative moves, weaving his way through traffic with a surprisingly long reach. …shot will become a real weapon as he adds strength and puts more velocity behind it. … has much room to develop.
“We think he’ll add a little bit of everything,” Berenson said. “He’ll be similar to (Adam) Winborg in that he’s good with the puck, good without the puck, he plays physical, he plays hard.”
He put up 8-27-35 in 59 games in the USHL a year ago; not great but he was on a team that struggled to score. He was third on the team in points.
Westlund's move from overseas to prep to the USHL to the NCAA is a challenging route; like Raabe he's a guy who might not show much in year one but has the potential to evolve into a scoring line player over the course of his career. While he's a 97 like the other two guys, he was born in December—he's almost a year younger than Becker.
Norris and Hughes are going to be college stars, and Michigan will seek to get two scoring line upperclassmen out of Raabe/Westlund/Pastujov. Becker looks to be a project who will do well to get past the third line. Given the fact that everyone in this class knew they wouldn't be finishing their careers under Red Berenson, it's as good of a group as is reasonable to expect and should patch a couple of last year's biggest holes—a two-way #1 center and a power play quarterback.
Baseball returns to the tournament. They kick off their tourney run at 1 on Friday against Florida Gulf Coast. Michigan was one of the last four teams in after a bit of a slump to end the season; they've got excellent pitching and questionable bats.
The Zaire holdup. Former ND quarterback Malik Zaire is going to grad transfer somewhere, and reports have suggested that if it can be Florida it will be. This is the holdup on UF's end:
The SEC has always been stricter on graduate transfers than other leagues, largely because some coaches disapproved of Ole Miss getting a waiver to enroll Jeremiah Masoli from Oregon in 2010, especially when he didn’t complete a graduate degree. So it put some rules in place, one of which restricts schools from taking graduates transfers for three years if their previous transfers didn’t work out academically. Well, Florida had two graduate transfers in 2015 that didn't meet academic benchmarks, so technically they shouldn’t be able to take Zaire -- unless the rule changes this week, allowing the SEC to drop all pretense that academics matter in this discussion.
Florida should know one way or the other soon, and then Michigan will know if they'll be taking on Zaire or (probably) redshirt freshman Felipe Franks in the opener. Zaire's done pretty well in sparing time over the last three years, completing 59% of his 98 attempts for 8.3 YPA and a 6-0 TD-INT ratio. It would be better for Michigan if the Gators did not have that option, and that's why everyone expects the SEC's grad transfer rule to go by the wayside in the near future.
Spartan blackout nearing its end. After months of nothing, the wheels have started to turn in East Lansing:
Curtis Blackwell and Michigan State will part ways at the end of May, a school spokesman said.
Blackwell's contract had been extended by a month twice, which struck me as odd by may have been required for the school's now-concluded Title IX investigation. With that complete a decision from the county prosecutor can't be far behind. Probably.
Meanwhile it was revealed today that former MSU WR Keith Mumphery was expelled last year for sexual misconduct. If the anonymous trio ends up booted, as it appears they will be, that's five in two years.
Somebody still writes for ESPN! Congratulations to Kevin Pelton, the last man standing. He's got a fascinating piece on the emergence of the pull-up three pointer in the NBA. This is relevant to Michigan's interests since they've seen the same thing happen over the last few years with Nik Stauskas and Derrick Walton. The pull up 3 is a very very average shot even for guys who are the best at it, but the threat of it opens other things up on the pick and roll:
Portland point guard Damian Lillard, whose 445 pull-up 3-pointers since 2013-14 rank him third in the league over that span behind Curry and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, recalls learning the intricacy of pick-and-roll play from a trainer in 10th grade.
"He would always tell me, 'Everything is a setup,' " Lillard said.
The ability to shoot the pull-up 3 changes the way opponents defend pick-and-rolls and isolation plays, forcing them to come out higher to be able to contest a deep shot off the dribble. Lillard says he feels that difference on both ends of the court.
"You just know that you've got to be more in their space," he says of defending a player who can shoot the pull-up 3. "I know when a guy gives me space and I come off the pick-and-roll clean, that's a shot that I'm looking for because people want three points over two points now, especially with so many guys that can take and make that shot. So when I'm guarding a guy like that, I'm aware of it."
Here is a chart of pick and roll efficacy versus pull-up threes attempted for NBA players:
Michigan fans are nodding at that slope. This is especially relevant to our interests because Michigan was about to find out what happens at the very lower end of that scale when Xavier Simpson stepped into Walton's shoes. Simpson was just 5/19 on threes last year and just about all of those were must-take catch and shoots.
Now they're likely to be on the higher end of the scale. Jaaron Simmons is coming off a season where he took a whopping 104 jumpers off the dribble, per Synergy, and managed exactly 1 PPP on them. That was 87th percentile. He was at 1.16 PPP last year when shooting off the dribble after accepting a pick and roll; that was 88th percentile. His eFG in those situations was 58%—ie, insane.
Amongst D-I players with at least 50 PNR pull-ups last year Simmons was 11th in PPP, and the folks around him are almost exclusively low-low majors. Two notable exceptions were #9 Markelle Fultz, the probable top pick in the NBA draft, and #2 Derrick Walton.
Muckalt more or less done. Also: Flin Flon! George Sipple confirms Tech Hockey Guide's report that Bill Muckalt will be Mel Pearson's second assistant. Tech promoted assistant Joe Shawhan.
“I did a little bit of everything,” Pearson said. “I worked in the zinc plant one summer. I went underground at North Main for a couple summers, working in the steel shop, straightening steel and sharpening up. I had to fill in at the changehouse one year, too. I enjoyed it. You meet a lot of really neat people there and learn about the industry and the mine itself and how things operate.”
The town's name is taken from the lead character in a paperback novel, The Sunless City by J. E. Preston Muddock. Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin piloted a submarine through a bottomless lake where he passed into a strange underground world through a hole lined with gold. A copy of the book was allegedly found and read by prospector Tom Creighton.
When Tom Creighton discovered a high-grade exposure of copper, he thought of the book and called it Flin Flon's mine, and the town that developed around the mine adopted the name. Flin Flon shares with Tarzana, California, the distinction of being named after a character in a science fiction novel.
The character of "Flinty", as he is locally known, is of such importance to the identity of the city that the local Chamber of Commerce commissioned the minting of a $3.00 coin which was considered legal tender amongst locally participating retailers during the year following its issue. A statue representing Flinty was designed by cartoonist Al Capp and is one of the points of interest of the city. In 1978, the National Film Board of Canada produced the short documentary Canada Vignettes: Flin Flon about the origin of the city's name.
This has been today's MGoDiscussionOfCanadianSmallTownNames.
Hello: guy. Hockey has added this person:
Sioux Falls(USHL) '97 F Jack Becker is now committed to Michigan. Former Mich Tech commit is following Mel Pearson to Ann Arbor.
Becker is an odd duck. He'll be 20 before he arrives this fall; unusually for an overager he was drafted. (In the seventh round, sure. Still: odd.) He was a Wisconsin commit who got thrown back in the pool when Mike Eaves was fired. His second try at a commitment was Tech.
Becker had a 16-12-28 line in 49 games last year. At 19 that's a statline indicative of a bottom six player. He's a big dude at 6'4", 198. More details at Tech Hockey Guide.
Also in hockey recruiting:
Three Wolverines ranked in Sportsnet's Top 100 prospects for the 2017 #NHLDraft.
I've seen Norris anywhere from late first round to late second in draft projections; Pastujov seems to be moving back up into the third or fourth round range after an injury-plagued year or two. Chris Dilks recently profiled him:
After being considered one of the top prospects in his age group, Pastujov missed all but 5 games of his U16 season, and all but 14 games of his U17 seasons with the NTDP due to injury. He also missed a handful of games this season due to injury. I have no idea on the likelihood of re-occurrence. But even if he remains healthy, he has missed a lot of key development time in the past few years. …
NHL Central Scouting omitted him completely from their mid-term rankings before placing him 80th on their final list, and he followed that up with a point-per-game performance at the World U18s, which probably helps. There’s likely to be an extremely wide range of opinions on Pastujov though, just because there’s a tantalizing ceiling, but so little in terms of track record to go on.
If I were picking, I’d probably start looking at Pastujov as early as the late-second round. I have serious concerns given his injury history, but high-end scoring ability like he potentially has is going to be very hard to come by in this Draft.
Pastujov was a big big deal when he committed to Michigan; with Norris he has the potential to insert some of the top end scoring last year's team so badly missed.
Golazo. Francis Atuahene did this in a US Open Cup match: