Unverified Voracity Wonders If It's Happening

Unverified Voracity Wonders If It's Happening

Submitted by Brian on May 23rd, 2018 at 1:04 PM

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it might be happening

Unfortunately, a miss. ALSO JACK HUGHES?! Oliver Wahlstrom will play at BC next year. Michigan is still waiting on Jack Hughes, who everyone says will either play at the NTDP next year or accelerate like Zach Werenski. Mike Spath just said today on Inside the Huddle that Hughes hasn't made a decision yet, but: "there's a very strong likelihood" that he accelerates and that he's "in position to do so."

Per Spath, the potential catch is that if Quinn Hughes gets drafted and decides to sign, a major motivation for Jack to accelerate goes away. The upshot: "if Quinn and the family decide to come back for one more year at Michigan, look for Jack to join him."

Zach Shaw suggests you'd prefer the Rangers or Red Wings grab Hughes, then.

Strongly prefer.

The Big Ten hockey schedule is bad again. Prepare for another year with the vast majority of Michigan hockey's home games in the fall semester, when everything is happening. The Big Ten schedule features just four home games after the break:

2018-19 Michigan B1G Schedule
Nov. 9-10 -- Notre Dame
Nov. 16-17 -- at Penn State
Nov. 23-24 -- Wisconsin
Nov. 30 -- at Michigan State
Dec. 1 -- Michigan State
Dec. 7-8 -- Minnesota
Jan. 4-5, 2019 -- at Notre Dame
Jan. 11-12 -- at Ohio State
Jan. 24 -- Penn State
Jan. 26 -- Penn State (Super Saturday, New York, N.Y.)
Feb. 1-2 -- at Minnesota
Feb. 8 -- Michigan State
Feb. 9 -- vs. Michigan State (site TBA)
Feb. 22-23 -- Ohio State
March 1-2 -- at Wisconsin

Notable bad things: two(!) bye weeks, the Notre Dame series are not home-and-homes, and Michigan is shipping a Penn State game to NYC. The latter is payback for PSU doing the same thing. While it's slightly annoying for season ticket holders at least 1) the AD didn't announce this after season tickets were due, 2) after asserting a price cut that moving the MSU game actually turned into a price increase, and 3) to play in front of nobody in an outdoor game in Chicago. Announced attendance at the first game was almost 14k.

Hopefully Michigan can fill in those blank spots with nonconference home dates, but even then those are more likely to be Arizona State-ish teams than actually compelling games.

Also of interest: the Michigan State game that is traditionally at the Joe is now listed as TBA. The new version of the JLA might be too crowded to accommodate them? If so they should probably just move those games back to campus. There's no other arena worth having an MSU-M game in.

An outdoor game that's a good idea! The January 5th game at Notre Dame is going to be outdoors:

According to WTKA’s Michael Spath, the Michigan hockey team will return its game to the great outdoors this winter, as the Wolverines are slated to face off against Notre Dame at the Fighting Irish’s football stadium as part of the festivities surrounding the 2019 NHL Winter Classic.

The main event, which will pit the Chicago Blackhawks against the Boston Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium for the 11th installment of the event, will take place Jan. 1, 2019. While official details for Michigan’s game have yet to be announced, a source indicated to WTKA’s Inside The Huddle that the game is set to take place Jan. 5, one week after the Wolverines’ annual participation in the Great Lakes Invitational in downtown Detroit.

My tolerance for outdoor games has about bottomed out but this one passes muster. It'll be jam-packed. Hopefully the appeal of that outdoor game is an incentive to return for Quinn and attend for Jack.

Matthews decision status. Charles Matthews spoke to the media after one of his draft workouts, and you can try to read between the lines:

“Really just trying to wear all my options out,” Matthews said while attending a workout with the Denver Nuggets this week. “Basically go through all of the workouts that I have scheduled and just reconcile with my family and do what we feel is best. …

“It has been really good, especially if I do come back to school,” Matthews said. “Get some good experience to know what this process is like. If I choose to stay in, raise my confidence overall.”

Not a whole lot there, but the press conference did cause Andrew Kahn to reiterate the data he'd gathered about missing the combine. I'd been looking for since Matthews didn't get invited to the combine:

Should he keep his name in the draft, experts don't think his name will be called on June 21. ESPN's Jonathan Givony projects Matthews as a late first-round pick in next year's draft, as does NBAdraft.net. Givony does not list Matthews among his top 100 prospects at this time.

Last year, 137 college underclassmen declared for the draft, many without signing an agent. Eighty-four of them were not invited to the combine. Only four of the non-invitees kept their name in the draft; none were selected.

So you return unless you can't go back to school because of your academics or are staring down the prospect of getting 15 minutes a game because Tom Izzo's got his eye on a walk-on. I'd imagine Matthews returns for a final year, a la Moe.

LET'S GOOOOOOO. Our long national nightmare is finally, finally, finally over:

Dr. Pepper. You had Pitbull under an overpass, and then saddled us with this epic doof for years and years. Choose light. Choose Pitbull again.

Etc.: Barstool, imo.

World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018

World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018

Submitted by Brian on April 20th, 2018 at 6:15 PM

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D Bode Wilde is the headliner

THE SPOTS

There's no way around the fact that Michigan has too many guys coming in to fit on one hockey roster. I'm not sure if this is in fact oversigning since hockey is not a headcount sport so you can split scholarships. Some incoming commits might be on half or a quarter scholarship; a few are probably pure walk-ons. And it's common to offer guys a "yes, but" in which they might come in in year X or might have to take another year in junior, depending on what ravages your roster sustains.

So: Michigan has six seniors who will definitely exit. Four are forwards; two are defensemen. Two of those forwards (Porikos and Roos) are probably not getting much, if any scholarship money, FWIW. They open up a roster slot but not a scholarship one. Cooper Marody has also left for the NHL.

Nick Boka, Joe Cecconi, and Brendan Warren are all draftees entering their final year of eligibility. NHL teams often try to sign those players since a player who stays four years at college can become a free agent. Warren probably hasn't done enough to warrant a contract; Boka is iffy; Cecconi probably has.

Michigan also has a few underclass departure threats: Luke Martin and Will Lockwood were second round picks and Quinn Hughes is about to go top ten—possibly top five. Lockwood got hurt the second half of the year and Hughes seems unlikely to bolt immediately, if only because he's a wee gent who could use a second year in Ann Arbor before attempting to crack an NHL roster. Martin is tough to tell since he's not much of an offensive threat.

Michigan needs somewhere between seven and ten guys unless this year's Michigan Hockey Summer is especially severe.

THE GONE

Since the last time we looked at the 2018 class, Michigan lost Mattias Samuelsson to WMU, Alec Regula to the OHL, and Gustaf Westlund to Ohio State. They plugged in probable top 15 draft pick Bode Wilde at D so the D losses won't hurt Michigan much. Westlund is a '97 with 34 points in 54 USHL games and is probably not a huge loss.

FWIW, I remain skeptical that Kenny Johnson is actually going to play for Michigan.

THE OLD

The three longstanding commits in the class who are still in it are all midlevel prospects; they're not sure things but they come with some reasons for optimism. None figure to have much immediate impact.

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Randl drives action

Jack Randl is in his second year with the USHL's Omaha Lancers. He's got 32 points in 49 games, which is sixth on his team. A couple caveats: he's second in goals and he's the top 2000-born player on the team; only one of the guys in front of him is even a '99. HS-age guys who are close to a PPG in the USHL project as scoring line players, at least down the road. He's a bit borderline in that department. Possibly helpful: a hockey analytics guy named Will Scouch compiles numbers for the draft and Randl leads everyone in the USHL or CHL in % of goals where he either scores or has the primary assist.

This means that he's driving most of the play when he's on the ice. USHR did like him quite a bit in a prospects game where he slotted in just behind a variety of high draft picks:

7. Jack Randl -- Michigan recruit had a goal and two assists, made plays consistently. Strong skater.

Randl got called up to the U18s to play at the Five Nations tourney in February, which is also a pretty good sign. He might go late in the NHL draft. He's ranked 158th by the CSB.

[After the JUMP: a lot more guys. Also a nine year old's absurd shootout goal.]

Unverified Voracity Waits

Unverified Voracity Waits

Submitted by Brian on April 19th, 2018 at 3:34 PM

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look, if they had a spring game you wouldn't have to keep looking at the same picture [Bryan Fuller]

Shea status. Michigan responded with a letter from Shea Patterson answering the questions posed, and Ole Miss said "whatever," more or less:

In communications this week, Ole Miss told the NCAA it basically had nothing to add.

"There is nothing new here," Bjork told CBS Sports. "We do not oppose the student-athlete competing right away if the decision is based on accurate information, NCAA bylaws, applicable waiver standards and relevant case precedent."

Patterson's attorney, Tom Mars, concluded, "Therefore, the case is ready to be decided. The timing of the NCAA's decision is a matter of the staff's discretion, so there is no timetable for when a decision will be made. I'm confident, however, that the staff will not take any more time than is necessary to come to the right decision."

The NCAA has all the information it's going to get, and it is a lot of information. Mars bombed the idea that Patterson hadn't added anything new in an interview with Sam. Patterson's letter was apparently 9 pages long; Ole Miss's response was a single paragraph.

Either way we'll know soon—but it had better be a thumbs up unless the NCAA wants a ton of awful PR for no reason. It's not like there's going to be a spate of free transfers from schools that get in trouble and lie about it—currently that list of schools stands at just Ole Miss.

Hang on to your butts. Neal Rubin has details on the terrifying but ultimately harmless plane crash before last year's Big Ten tournament:

…according to the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, part of the investigative report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilot’s terse “Abort” at 187 mph was met with a historically sensible, procedurally correct and potentially fatal response.

“No. Not above —” the copilot said, referring to takeoff speed. Then: “(Expletive.)”

What the captain felt in his hands, and the copilot had no way of knowing, was that the two-engine jetliner was not going to climb. The yoke “felt heavy, like there was a stack of bricks on the nose,” he told investigators, and so he immediately did exactly what pilots are trained to avoid.

The 881-page report is here if you have a great deal of time.

Tough sell for transfers; transfers a tough sell. Per Josh Henschke, South Dakota transfer Matt Mooney has dropped Michigan from consideration. This is not much of a surprise since he should be able to find 30 MPG somewhere else.

The only other transfer currently associated with Michigan is Robert Morris SG Dachon Burke, but 1) Burke is a sit one, play two kid with 2) a 102 ORTG in the NEC. I don't know what ORTG a sit-one-play-two low-major guy would have to have to be appealing given that Michigan currently has one open 2019 scholarship, but it's not 102. It's probably 130. Anyone talking about Burke seriously hasn't looked at Michigan's roster.

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Carton's HS has great jerseys that Michigan should try to copy, too

Especially since… In the aftermath of Michigan's Final Four run, Beilein has started hitting up a bunch of top 50 guys. Michigan appears to be recruiting in the expectation they'll have two spots and they would like those to be a combo guard and a wing. With Duke folks still banking on Joe Girard, it's recently-offered IA CG DJ Carton who now seems like the most likely big-time combo addition. Carton's recruitment is nearly an entirely intraconference battle, with Marquette the lone school outside of the Big Ten drawing much mention.

Carton has four CB picks to Wisconsin on his profile but Wisconsin 247 guy Evan Flood seems like he's trying to let the locals down easy, saying that if he had an idea of where to flip his pick he'd flip it away from the Badgers. Guard depth is cited as a problem—a dubious assertion given Wisconsin's guard play and recent recruiting. Meanwhile Henschke seems fairly close to a Michigan crystal ball.

Nunez doesn't hit rim. Some highlights:

Much shorter reel than Castleton's but that form is so pure.

Final CSB. Players of note on the postseason Central Scouting Bureau's list of NA skaters:

  • #6 Quinn Hughes. Actually dropped from #4. Crazy!
  • #7 Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom decommitted from Harvard and is apparently choosing between BC, Michigan, and maybe a year in Europe. No news since Jeff Cox reported that a week ago.
  • #17 Bode Wilde. Will be a freshman in AA next year, also after decommitting from Harvard. Hopefully he and Wahlstrom are bros.
  • #154 Jack Randl. That makes Randl a late pick if he actually goes.

Michigan's other draft-age commits—Calen Kiefiuk and Jacob Semik—are not listed. That's not a huge surprise for either given their USHL numbers, though Semik has some peripheral stats that look pretty good. (More about that later.)

This class was hurt pretty badly by the uncertainty about Red Berenson; Pearson's tried to fill it in with various overagers as he seeks to bridge the gap between Hughes and Norris to the 2020 group. Flipping Wilde will be a big help there; a one-and-done from Wahlstrom would also be real nice. Also…

Obligatory Jack Hughes mention. Hughes draws a New York Times(!) profile. Most of it is stuff you're already familiar with if you follow Michigan hockey. A section at the end definitively states that he won't accelerate (boo), but then broaches the possibility of the #1 pick in the draft spending a year somewhere other than the NHL:

Hughes is undecided about where he will play after he is done with the National Team Development Program in 2019. He is considering college hockey and the junior ranks in Canada. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. He’s just a kid,” said Jim Hughes, who now works for Pat Brisson, the top agent whose clients include Matthews, now a Maple Leafs star, and other N.H.L. players.

One other possibility is a year of pro hockey in Switzerland, where Matthews played, on Brisson’s advice, before being drafted. Going directly to the N.H.L. after the 2019 draft could be a stretch unless Jack Hughes adds plenty of pounds and bulk over the next 18 months.

That's not going to happen, right? When's the last time that happened? I don't even want to think about it. They'd still give the Hobey to Jimmy Vesey.

Exit fun guy. Alas: 2020 hockey recruit Antonio Stranges signed with London. May he have better luck than previous Michigan decommits. Fellow touted 2020 recruit Andrei Bakanov signed a tender with the USHL's Cedar Rapids after not making himself available for the OHL draft and is on track to matriculate. Bakanov has some stats:

Bakanov, a six-foot-two, 192-pound forward, spent the 2017-18 season with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, totaling an impressive 112 points (57G, 55A) in 77 total games between the program's HPHL schedule and U16 AAA schedule.

“Cedar Rapids has a great history of producing tremendous players," Bakanov said. "The plan that Coach Carlson provided my family and me not only for on ice development , but also developing as a student and person, far exceeded our expectations. I was able to see a game on my visit and the support of the fans for the team really excited me."

If he scores at a decent clip in his draft-1 year in the USHL he'll be a first round candidate.

Etc.: Awful Announcing on the Athletic's impressive growth. 2019 wing Jae'lyn Withers lists Michigan as one of four schools he's hearing the most from. Withers jumped 54 spots to 61st in the latest Rivals update. Zach Shaw says goodbye to Wagner. He's probably a second round pick. Ticket packs and prices announced. Baseball is "last five in" per D1baseball Dot Com

WTKA Roundtable 4/12/2018: You Can’t Squeeze a Baby Like You Squeeze a Football

WTKA Roundtable 4/12/2018: You Can’t Squeeze a Baby Like You Squeeze a Football

Submitted by Seth on April 13th, 2018 at 7:53 AM

WTKA cover 2018-04-13

Things discussed:

  • The Amazon Special: Craig Ross is a star, Pep Hamilton is photogenic, Jim is pretty chill, Don Brown is our dude.
  • Best part of it is Chase Winovich: “You gonna protect your quarterback? Help me out bro run or pass? Why didn’t you block me?!?” Rashan’s mom: “Now go get some quarterback ass!”
  • Ed’s favorite part is Harbaugh using changing the baby as a metaphor for not fumbling and the entire team is like “What is he talking about?” except Karan Higdon like “Yup, yup, yup, with the toys on the floor…”
  • Hockey: Bad news is they were heavily reliant on their first line and that line all graduates/left early. Good news is they get Lockwood back, get one and maybe two Hughes brothers. People think Jack will stick it out with the NTDP but chance to play with your brother…
  • Hoops outlook: Expecting Moe to go the NBA but it’s not as sure as it was before. Next year they can be a really good defensive team with Teske at the 5 but that makes you wonder where the shooting comes from other than Poole.
  • The croots: Iggy is a shooter. Defense? Um. Passing? Not really. Buckets. Takes the Poole role. DeJulius the backup PG at least by end of last year, but only because Z is going to improve. Our slack chat is filled with drool over Castleton but might not get to use that until he’s had a thousand more trips through the buffet line.

----------------------------

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Podbean.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.

THE USUAL LINKS

I put the baby down gently, he doesn’t have brain damage. I didn’t throw him.

Unverified Voracity Explores Zero And Uh... Nero? Hero?

Unverified Voracity Explores Zero And Uh... Nero? Hero?

Submitted by Brian on March 7th, 2018 at 12:45 PM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

If it keeps going like this I'll learn to spell "renaissance" correctly on the first try. Rob Dauster on Michigan's elite... defense? That is what the card says. Defense.

As surprising as that decision was, the dots connected. Yaklich, like Beilein, spent his life as a teacher and a high school coach before breaking into the college ranks. Unlike Beilein, however, Yaklich has prided himself in his ability to get the most out of a team on the defensive end of the floor.

“As a high school coach, I focused entirely on defense,” Yaklich said. At the high school level, coaching offense is more about skill development, about making your players better shooters, better ball-handlers, better scorers. Figure out a handful of things that you can have success with and trust your players to make plays. “My high school coaches instilled that in me. When I went to Illinois State, I naturally grew into that role. We didn’t have a defensive coordinator, but my voice, that’s what I took pride in.”

At Michigan, that is, quite literally, Yaklich’s role. He was hired to coach Michigan’s defense, to be their defensive coordinator, and the success that the Wolverines have had on that end cannot be overlooked. Prior to this season, Beilein never had a team finish higher than 37th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. In the last four seasons, the Wolverines never finished higher than 69th.

“The smartest thing is I stopped coaching it so much,” Beilein said of his team’s defensive improvement. “I let other people become the voice of it. I wanted one guy, that’s all he thinks about all day long.”

I'm not taking credit for suggesting that Beilein needs a defensive coordinator. But I'm not not taking credit. I will be ambiguously pleased.

Similar resumes. I should have posted this a couple days ago when it was slightly different, with the Stauskas Elite Eight team at the top of the list. But anyway here's Bart Torvik's list of resumes most similar to Michigan's in recent committee history:

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Nik and company are still #3. These are all at least three seeds and 40% of them are twos. I haven't seen anything else suggesting Michigan can get to a two, but hopefully that indicates Jerry Palm's (and 30% of the matrix's) 4-seed is off.

There is exactly one bracket that puts Michigan on the five line, but it's KPI. For some reason KPI is on the teamsheets, so hooray for that.

One of many maximum Beilein moments. A man who recognizes his own limitations.

Unbalanced schedule FTL. This year was an excellent example of how the Big Ten's schedule cheapens the regular season title. A gent calling himself "Wicked_UMD"—must be a St. Cloud State fan—analyzed how the schedule rotation affected expected wins in league play:

Team Exp Win Delta
Michigan State 1.09
Northwestern 0.66
Purdue 0.65
Nebraska 0.51
Ohio State 0.46
Iowa 0.18
Indiana 0.16
Minnesota 0.02
Wisconsin -0.08
Illinois -0.10
Penn State -0.43
Rutgers -0.77
Michigan -0.81
Maryland -1.27

That half-win edge over Purdue had a fairly good shot at costing the Boilers a share of the title, and Michigan is almost two wins back of MSU—flip that first Purdue game and that is also a title-altering schedule gap.

The net result is a cheapening of the regular season title. Adding two conference games will help somewhat, but only somewhat: each team still misses almost half the conference for a second game annually. There is a way to create a maximally meaningful and fair conference race with just one extra game:

Alternative: 19 game conference schedule.

PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin. Rutgers is relegated to the Big East every year.

PROS: Absolutely fair. Winner is undisputed. Makes Big Ten title a huge important deal. Final six games for teams that make upper half would be knock-down drag out brutal free-for-all for league title. Would give top teams impregnable schedule strength. You could televise the schedule draw with Ronaldo and Messi in suits.

CONS: May cost league NCAA bids if the best team in the bottom half can't get any marquee wins in the last six games or the worst team in the top half just gets blitzed. Bottom half is just kind of sadly playing out the string. Uncertainty about final three home games may impact ticket sales negatively. Extremely distant possibility that the 8th best team 13 games in can climb all the way to the top.

This will never happen because the folks in charge are more interested in milking as much money out of college basketball than making a drastic and potentially awesome change. But seriously you guys.

Mo draft stock. The Draft Express gents on Michigan's center:

Despite his limitations, and the diminishing market for players his size, there's still a role in today's NBA for a highly skilled big man who can space the floor and plays with a competitive spirit. Wagner is young for a junior, not turning 21 until the end of April, so he has time to continue to improve considering he was already a late bloomer to begin with. He'd likely get picked somewhere in the second round if he decided to keep his name in the draft but also could benefit from coming back for his senior year and continuing to work on his weaknesses, namely his defense, passing and overall feel for the game.

They rank him 55th, so not even towards the top of the second round. SI has an extensive Big Ten Tournament scouting article that comes to a similar conclusion:

Draft Projection: Second Round

After testing and staying in school last year, Wagner has definitely improved, although he’s still a bit of an acquired taste among scouts. It depends on what you value in your bigs, and his considerable offensive skills will be worth the risk to some teams despite his lackluster defense and physical limitations in that area. Wagner excels as a screener and post-up option and has a good feel for finding pockets in the defense. He’s heavy-footed and looks a bit clumsy at times, but his skill level facing up, attacking closeouts and keeping defenders honest gets the job done in college. He gets some credit for helping lift Michigan to the title (and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player) but the Wolverines won more by playing great team basketball than relying on Wagner to carry them.

It'll be up to Wagner's whim. He's not in the range where he's going to get a guaranteed contract and may end up in the G-League. The money there isn't great so he might decide he'd rather play under the bright lights of the NCAA than for the Fort Wayne Mad Antz even if he delays his earnings a year. If the consensus is that he'll stick on a roster that's a totally different matter.

FWIW, SI on Matthews:

Draft Projection: 2019

The former Kentucky transfer has been plagued by consistency issues throughout his career but has an outside chance at the league depending on how much he can improve over the course of the next year. “I can’t put my finger on what he does well,” says one scout, the sentiment being that Matthews is best suited as a 3-and-D wing given the heavy demand for such players. He has the right type of body to fit in the league, but struggles to create his own offense and has to simplify his approach. He did hit a pair of threes against Michigan State, but must improve his shot selection and become a consistently impactful defender to succeed in the NBA.

Silver lining from his collapse midseason is that Michigan doesn't have to worry about his departure after just one year.

The hopes are dangerously up. George Sipple of the Free Press checks in with Quinn and Jack Hughes, who's currently the projected #1 pick in the 2019 draft. In addition to various items about how he is a generational hockey player is this tantalizing possibility:

Two Hughes at U-M in 2019?
There’s a chance Jack could join his older brother at Michigan next season. The middle Hughes has not committed anywhere, and Ellen and Jim acknowledge U-M is one possibility.

Michigan has had players accelerate to play college hockey early. Jack is currently in his junior year of high school, but, through online courses, he could go on an accelerated academic track, and graduate early to be able to play collegiality next year.

Jack sought exceptional status to play in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old, but was denied. Among the short list of players who have been granted that status to play a year early are John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid, who are now in the NHL. …

“It could be a perfect scenario,” Jim said of Jack going to U-M. “But they’re not there yet. The beauty is Jack is in a really great spot right now. He values the development he’s getting with Seth and Wrobo.”

For perspective, Hughes is playing up with the U18s as a U17:

Adding Hughes—and presumably keeping Quinn—would radically change next year's outlook.

Brandon Johns highlights. He is up for Mr. Basketball and looks like a perfect fit as a Beilein 4:

His main competition is David DeJulius, it appears.

One and done done? The NBA's one and done rule was always more about the NBA than college basketball, and now that they've got Lebron and a former president criticizing it publicly it may not be long for this world. The proposal is wrought with frippery that attempts to make it seem like one-and-done wasn't a selfish act from the drop:

Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver and several of his top advisers have been engaged in listening tours and information-gathering missions with an array of stakeholders for months. That has included formal meetings with the National Basketball Players Association about adjusting the so-called "one-and-done" age-limit rule. But Silver's aim is much more comprehensive than simply re-opening the door for 18-year-olds to play in the NBA, sources said.

A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.

The NCAA is either going to work with the NBA to keep a healthy number of future stars in college basketball or lose them all because of their archaic rules. Survey says it'll be the former because the people in charge care about money.

Etc.: I summon the Bracket Leak Hero from his home in Valhalla. Daily on Lavigne. Also Boka. Amateurism under attack, repeatedly, FBI investigation is good.

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.