Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy

Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2019 at 4:23 PM

Hockey's season went out with a whimper as they were swept at the hands of Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. That's disappointing but not particularly surprising for anyone who watched most of Michigan's season.

What went wrong? Michigan's various problems follow.

Age

Michigan was one of the youngest teams in the country, and the bottom of the age standings are pretty ugly:

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ND and Denver are in the top 16 of the pairwise. Otherwise this is a list of the teams that generally recruit the best across college hockey and are struggling in the new over-30 NCAA. Not one of Minnesota, Michigan, BC, BU, or Wisconsin is in position for an at-large bid. It should be noted that 50-52 are Quinnipiac, Providence, and Harvard, who are all set for at-large bids, but even those teams in close proximity by rank are almost a half-year older than Michigan and the rest of the "we recruit the NTDP" class.

Under Pearson they've moved to taking more overagers, but those guys are all underclassmen. Michigan is in the process of having some 23 and 24 year olds; they are not there yet. At some point Michigan's going to be a mix of older players and high-level NHL prospects. Currently they are young and had 1.5 high-level prospects. Speaking of:

Talent level

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Norris was M's only PPG scorer and missed half the year [Bill Rapai]

As discussed in the previous post about Michigan's gap year, this year's freshman class had zero drafted players for the first time in probably 20 years. Michigan found a good fourth line as Moyle and Van Whye emerged midseason; that line then became their de facto second line because nobody else was doing anything. Compounding matters was the previous class, which was Hughes and Norris (woot woot!) plus Mike Pastujov, whose star fell precipitously after his commitment, and then whatever Mel could scrape up. That turned out to be Becker and Raabe, two guys who have chipped in but aren't scoring line players at this point in their career.

So when Norris goes out midseason, they have zero underclassman forwards capable of playing on a scoring line. This is untenable for a program that is constantly getting raided by the NHL—you aren't getting Cooper Marody back for a senior year.

Michigan did have some guys: Lockwood put up 31 points in 36 games; Slaker and Pastujov put up 25 and 24. It's not a coincidence that two of the three top scorers were older draftees. There just weren't enough of them. Michigan has always been more talented than all of its opponents, which is how they make up the perpetual age gap. This year they weren't. Opposing goaltenders put up a .914; Michigan was 41st in shooting percentage. Even more telling: Michigan's power play conversion rate nearly halved from 19% (average-ish) to 10% (national worst) when Norris went out.

[After THE JUMP: woe! fie and woe!]

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World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018

World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018 Comment Count

Brian 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.]

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World's Greatest/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018

World's Greatest/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2018 Comment Count

Brian June 30th, 2017 at 5:33 PM

See also: 2017.

As we push further out with hockey recruiting things get fuzzier, and since a lot of these guys are at or near the top of their field now the only direction to go is down. Current projections, taken collectively, will almost certainly be optimistic as certain guys fail to keep pace with their competition.

2018

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i must break you

NTDP defenseman Mattias Samuelsson is the headliner. Mattias is the son of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson, and like his dad (6'7"), he's a big dude at 6'5". He was ranked 7th and 3rd amongst available players for last year's OHL draft by HockeyProspect and The Scout.ca, respectively; a year later he's projected as a first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. As of about a year ago, ISS had him in the top ten:

6. Mattias Samuelsson (RD) – USNTDP - USHL
The son of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson, Mattias is a tall, aggressive defenceman with a heavy shot and immense athletic ability. Standing at 6’5” and 228 lbs, he has a pro-ready frame and looks capable of stepping in immediately at the NHL level. Very difficult to play against when he is on his game; skates around with ease for such a big man and has shown the ability to simply take over games physically in the USHL. Plays with a real edge to his game and is happy to finish his checks hard, whilst still maintaining good reads and positioning in the D-zone.

One of The Scout's, er, scouts:

A defensive stalwart who is a lock for USA’s NTDP Under-17 program, Mattias Samuelsson is the top shutdown defenceman in the [OHL] draft. While Samuelsson displays good talent with the puck, he’s especially impressive with his rangy challenges – poking away pucks and getting in the shooting lanes of almost every opposing attack.

He's more or less maintained that status through the last year thanks to an impressive season with the U17s; he was called up to the U18s for ten games, more than any of his fellow defenders, and his PPG led U17 defensemen. With a full year of development in front of him he should arrive ready to step in as a top four D for M:

“I came in at 195 and I’m 215 now. I was skin and bones when I came in,” he explained. “Every day you are doing something. Your only day off is Sunday and it is much needed. Every day you are getting better, whether you are improving something or getting stronger. When you are on the ice, you are willing to do the little things, competing with the best players of your age every day. I don’t know where else you can get that, especially in the offseason.”

Samuelsson is a candidate to be the top D picked in the next draft.

[Side note: At one point Samuelsson's brother Lukas was also committed to Michigan for 2017 but he has not been announced as a signee. He could be a walk-on or plans may have changed. Hopefully his name does pop up on the roster; Samuelsson is the kind of guy OHL teams will be pursuing heavily after his NTDP tenure expires. Any little bit helps keep 'em down on the farm.]

Nobody else in the class looks like a surefire star, but they are tracking well.

Calen Kiefiuk signed a USHL tender with Bloomington and joined the league as a 16 year old. He struggled, putting up 11 points in 52 games, but that's what USHL tenders almost exclusively do—it's a brutal league for that age group. Kiefiuk is in fact the youngest player to ever suit up for Bloomington, and acquiring him through the tender system means they had to play him in at least 55% of their games—it's a major commitment. He had no problem scoring in his last year in midget, with a 36-44-80 line in 64 games.

Kiefiuk is a throwback to the Berenson teams of the 90s and aughts:

Calen Kiefiuk, #12 Grey/ Honeybaked, 5-7/181 – A ball of skill and energy. Constantly makes plays in all three zones. Hard on the puck, and relentless on the forecheck. Created passing options with little time and space. Protects the puck well. Mans the point on the PP. Scored two even-strength goals within three minutes in Sunday’s game. Left shot from Macomb, Michigan. (4-4-8)

He's a little dude who turns guys who check him into balls of hate. Jeff Cox:

He's an aggressive winger who plays hard. He's fast on pucks, gets after the points while killing penalties and disrupts opponents' flow. He had three shots on goal during one penalty kill against Red after stealing the puck away from one of Red's top defenders. He wins battles below the goal line. He sent out a nice pass into the slot from down low for a power play goal. His speed helped him blow by a defender in Tuesday's game against Gold.

Bloomington head coach Dennis Williams:

“…not only does he have a great knack for scoring goals and making plays but he plays the game right. He is a 200-foot player and has an edge. He competes every shift he’s out there and that’s what we look for. We want a great all-around player with high-end skill and that’s what Calen brings us."

Kiefiuk's size is likely to knock him down NHL draft boards—Chris Dilks put him in the "C" category for 2018—but that might be a positive for Michigan since a guy like Kiefiuk projects as a very useful college player. He could be a smaller, more ornery version of Andrew Cogliano.

Forward Jack Randl also signed a USHL tender, his with the Omaha Lancers. Like Kiefiuk he scuffled a bit last year with 9-10-19 in 59 games. He's also touted as a guy who flies around the ice doin' things:

“He’s a big, strong forward who skates well and has the ability to make plays with the puck. Every time our staff watched him he had a big impact on the game with and without the puck. His competitiveness and his desire to win are characteristics that we look for and want in our players.”

Cox had him second amongst forwards at the Select 16 camp:

He's a good skater who showed the ability to create offense from anywhere. He slows the game down and has excellent vision. He's strong on his feet and is hard to knock off pucks.

Like Kiefiuk, Randl is probably a mid-to-late round draft pick and long term productive college player.

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Three more defensemen fill out the class… probably. Kenny Johnson, Jack's younger brother, has been on Michigan's commit list for three years already and is apparently set to take a second post-grad year, this one in the BCHL. That is highly unusual. 20 year olds who enter NCAA hockey generally emerge during their final season of junior and commit less than a year before they enroll. Sometimes kids know they may delay a year depending on how their team's roster shakes out; delaying two years can be a sign that the player in question isn't going to make it to campus for whatever reason.

Compounding my suspicion here: there are three other D in this class. Is Michigan really going to take four in one year? Maybe, if one of them is a healthy scratch PWO sort. Are they going to take four in a year when they lose just one guy to graduation? Is Johnson really down at that level now? I don't know. I  did see Kenny and his father at Yost once this year, so there's clearly still contact between Johnson and the program.

Anyway: the outlines of his recruitment are weird and point towards Johnson as a bottom pairing sort. FWIW, he had ten points in 49 games in the BCHL last year, but he's always been regarded as a defensive defenseman.

Two other D are more certain to arrive.

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Like Randl and Kiefiuk, Jacob Semik is coming off his first year in the USHL. He went 14th overall to Dubuque and played well enough to draw USA attention. Semik got called up to the U17s for the World U17 challenge to replace Samuelsson, who was injured, and put up a PPG over the five games of the tournament.

Semik is somewhere between Hughes and Samuelsson: he's a mid-sized puck mover who isn't quite the offensive dynamo Hughes is. He put up 33 points in 48 games in his last year of midget but slid to ten in his first USHL season. But he's definitely got offensive defenseman potential:

USHR ranked him just behind Samuelsson and fellow NTDP big timer Bode Wilde at the select 15s:

Poised, two-way defender. Excellent skater, plus shot, could be a powerplay QB at the next level.

Cox likes him as well, naming him the third best defender at the Select 16. One more difference between Semik and Hughes:

His athletic ability is his biggest asset at the moment. He has good feet and mobility, can get shots through from the point and can join the offense. He moves the puck well. If he can learn to think the game a little better, the Wolverines could have an elite college blue liner coming to Ann Arbor.

Hughes is reputed to think the game better than aonyone in his age group, and Semik isn't on that level yet. I've seen the odd assertion from randos on the Hockey's Future boards that Semik could sneak into the tail end of the first round; it seems more likely he'd be a second or third rounder.

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Finally, Alec Regula is a rarity: a kid who emerged from Michigan high school hockey to be a major prospect. He moved to the USHL last year after being a second round pick and at 16 was a regular for the USHL champs. The Chicago Steel finished third in goals allowed; Regula had just five points in 53 games. He's very much a defensive defenseman.

Other indicators of his talent level: he was a fourth round pick by London in the OHL draft despite the fact that he attended Cranbrook (that's a private school!) before his USHL move. The idea he was going to skip out on college was fanciful at best:

“The OHL Draft happened so quickly. I hadn’t talked to a team all year then right before the draft I played in the OHL cup with TPH and played pretty well. After that tons of teams were calling seeing if I’d be interested in the OHL route. I told the teams I wanted to play college, but London really liked me and decided to take me early. It was a great feeling seeing my name called; I’ll never forget it.”

Regula is the most boom-or-bust of Michigan's 2018 recruits, but he appears to be leaning towards the boom end:

"He's a player who's still a little raw in his development, but he has big time potential, especially with his size. He's mobile for such a big guy. He has good reach and length to his game in his own zone. He got caught flat footed a couple of times, but once he learns the position more, he could be a legit pro prospect. The Wolverines scooped him up following camp.

USHR thought he was "big" and "raw" but similarly promising. The Scout:

high-upside defender who landed firmly in our Top 75 after impressing with his high-impact game. He moves extremely well in a sturdy frame and shows the ability to distribute at an advanced level. He’s a name that isn’t receiving as much traction as he should but he should turn heads at the OHL Cup. Just remember that you heard his name here first.

His development over the next year will be more interesting than any of the other 2018s. Have to imagine he might get pushed back to 2019 given the roster.

Upshot

Unless there's attrition that looks somewhat unlikely this class should slot in comfortably with Michigan's needs. The only forwards Michigan loses after this year are two healthy scratch sorts (Talcott and Porikos), Cutler Martin, Dexter Dancs, and Tony Calderone. Kiefiuk and Randl look to be long term college players and upgrades on the departures. They can fill in other holes with the kind of guys Pearson was picking up at Tech.

The D class is excellent. Michigan's certain attrition next year consists of just Sam Piazza, and there aren't any surefire early departures. Luke Martin and Joe Cecconi are both possibilities, I guess. Even if both go Michigan has plenty of cover. Unless there's the Michigan Hockey Summer to end all Michigan Hockey Summers the blueline is going to be capital-L Loaded in the near future.

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