The Question: How does Kyle Connor compare vs. the Michigan forwards you've seen?
David: So, my first year of season tickets at Yost was my junior year in college, 05-06. I vaguely watched Michigan hockey in the previous years before, but I made a concerted effort to follow the team, game-by-game, during that 05-06 campaign. I went to a couple of games (and watched a few more on tv) during my first couple years and I remember them losing to BC in '04 and the Colorado College Collapse in '05, but my serious Michigan Hockey fandom began the following season. I just looked up a ton of stats from that 04-05 team and they scored A TON. Eight skaters had double digit goals and thirteen (!!) had 20+ points. Unfortunately, I'll have to let our resident old dudes talk about Tambellini, Hilbert, and Cammalleri.
From what I've seen, I think Connor has to be the best. Not only does his pedigree match up (torched the USHL), but his exquisite skill (see the GTG on Saturday) and sheer volume of production -69 points in only 36 games- exceed anyone else in the last decade (Hensick took 41 games to get 69 points).
My quick Top 5:
5. Carl Hagelin. Our favorite Swede never quite got to 20 goals and only once to 50 points. Hagelin was a terrific skater, a terror on the PK, and maybe the fastest I've seen at Yost. Just never hit Elite in terms of production. He's carving out a nice NHL career, though.
Given the general distaste we Michigan fans have had with the way in which SEC coaches like Les Miles and others oversign and then cut in order to make scholarship numbers work, how can we not be similarly enraged when it looks like we are now engaging in a similar practice? Is the answer HARBAUGH?
Michigan is not yet at the point where they have to tell a freshman who's been on campus for weeks to GTFO. Should they reach that point, or one anywhere near it, then I'll be grousing as well.
They aren't near it. To date they have lost some commits before Signing Day. If those are Michigan's choice that is a recruiting misdemeanor compared to the felony of getting a guy's LOI and putting yourself in a position where someone's gotta go, deserved or not. And in some cases they are not Michigan's choice—reports after Vic Viramontes decommitted were that Michigan was blindsided and disappointed. (The MGoSlack chat was certainly mournful.)
I do think Michigan put themselves in a bad spot by offering a few guys before it was clear whether they had the academics and/or talent to play at Michigan. In the former case, those guys should know the score without anyone having to walk their way through it—if you're not taking officials you have to know you're a long way away.
In the latter case, once that disappointing senior film comes in you can either try to make it work even if you don't believe the player is Michigan-caliber anymore or you can consciously uncouple. I can see how moving on before Signing Day instead of two years into a career nowhere near the field could be better for everyone. Michigan told Matt Falcon they didn't think he could play but had a medical scholarship. That sucked for Falcon but better to find out before you've spent eligibility. The error has been made either way.
Meanwhile, Michigan has limited control of the narrative that gets put out there because they cannot say anything about ongoing recruitments. Reports that Michigan isn't contacting certain players much are probably frustrating to the staff because the reason for that is that they've already told people the deal, as they did with Falcon, but "Michigan commit" looks good on a resume when you're looking for another spot to land. Recruiting sites waited months for Dele Harding to say something about his recruitment and finally just took him off commit lists. That doesn't mean Harding didn't know his status. If you read between the lines you know who isn't likely to be in the class. If you know, they know.
Meanwhile I know that they have told certain players not to commit whereupon those players commit anyway; Michigan shrugs its shoulders at crootin' and keeps going. Carr used to go out of his way to make things clear when such things happened to him (LB [something] Justice and some OL out of Tennessee who I can't remember spring to mind); Harbaugh seems to (accurately) regard the whole edifice as a farce and plays his part with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
We'll see what happens on and after Signing Day. I don't think we'll see any more untoward than playing time transfers and guys not being offered fifth years.
[After the JUMP: where to put guys, where to spend scholarships, and the best hockey forwards of the past 15 years.]
PROS: Molded from Swedish clay to be Red Berenson's platonic ideal of the student-athlete. Such an awesomely good defensive hockey player that it was immediately apparent even to novices. There was no such thing as an odd-man break with Hagelin on the ice. Fast as hell, offensively productive, and so good he leapt straight from Michigan's roster to the Rangers. If the Rangers had figured out how good he was in camp, would have been a strong Calder candidate. Four-year player with serious NHL ability, a rarity. Just really, really awesome at hockey.
CONS: Did not singlehandedly drive Michigan to national title, but you could say that about everyone on this list. Hagelin's senior year saw them get closer than any team since '98, so this is less of a con than it is for anyone else.
Shawn Hunwick, 2007-2012
PROS: Came to Michigan a 5'7" walk-on and third goalie expected to see three minutes over the course of his career. Left in the conversation for best ever; save percentages are no contest. Made me excited about the NHL again when he signed with Columbus and got in a game. Smart, funny guy on twitter. Fertile nickname ground: Tiny Jesus, Little Pimpin', etc. Lack of size gave him a distinctive style since if he stayed in or near the crease he was dead.
CONS: Did not make all CCHA first team. Occasionally lost his ish and started punching anyone who eyed his crease owlishly. Depending on personal preferences in re: 5'7" goalies giving hellacious uppercuts to skaters, this could also be filed under "pro." Failed to score on 20 minutes of power play time against Cornell. Deserved better.
Jack Johnson, 2005-2007
PROS: Johnson the younger was Loose Cannon Cop on hockey skates, a guy who doesn't have to follow your rules, man, because he doesn't need the man to catch bad guys and batter them senseless with ninja kicks while acquiring the sweet lovin' from attractive ladies.
A ludicrously talented defenseman, he loved to doodle around guys he was so much better than. He also loved to annihilate anyone with their head down.
He almost killed BC's goalie with a slap shot. He was really unbelievably good in year two. He wears his passion for Michigan on his sleeve. He probably shouldn't have even shown up after going third in the draft, but did anyway, and then stayed a second year.
…and directly responsible for creating JMFJ shirts for the entire family—including what appeared to a ten-year-old—when they found out about this. IIRC the ten-year-old was informed that it stood for something it did not stand for. "Massive fun," maybe.
CONS: Left after two years, and his first year was… uneven. Massive penalty minutes are obvious. Loose Cannon Cop rep got him suspended, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At one point during his freshman year I yelled "you're supposed to be the third pick in the draft" at him. Was great fun, but how much impact did he have relative to the other guys on the list?
Kevin Porter, 2004-2008
PROS: Four-year player, Hobey Baker winner as a senior after I said his production would tail off without Hensick driving scoring chances next to him. Solid citizen who led some of the best Michigan teams of the period. His final year featured the Nickelback and Creed goals against Notre Dame in the Denver Frozen Four in a game that Michigan otherwise would have won. If Hagelin gets fewer minus points than anyone else for not finding a title at the end of the rainbow, Porter is second.
CONS: This might sound insane: he lacked personality as a hockey player. He was of course very, very good at hockey, but compared to the other guys on the list his career lacks color. Is this insane? Does anyone else feel this? I mean, I don't know what to say about him other than "Hobey Baker winner." The lone highlight on the tubes is a nice snap shot:
But it's not a good candidate for Most Remarkable Thing on the Tubes. When he won the Hobey it sort of felt like the committee had backed themselves in a corner after snootily denying Hensick despite his point totals the year before. That was justified as an example of the Hobey's character requirement—as if mouthing off to a ref is uncommon. As a result, the uber-talented Nathan Gerbe got passed over thanks to a couple of spearing-type incidents over the course of his career.
Porter is the opposite of Johnson. Johnson was Paul Bunyan on skates. Porter was just really good at hockey.
TJ Hensick, 2003-2007
PROS: The most recent magic midget and a guy I miss every time Michigan blows a 2 on 1… or 2 on 0. Had an amazing knack for making the unstoppable pass in that situation, and plenty others. Capable of stickhandling in a phone booth full of lime jello. This is almost painful to watch…
…because Michigan hasn't had it since he left.
Should have won the Hobey Baker easily as senior since he led the nation in scoring by a wide margin. Often accused of being a glory hound but massive assist numbers suggest otherwise. Was a one-man power play setup, a skill you should appreciate more now. Was immediately awesome; accumulated more career points than anyone else in the timeframe by a wide margin.
CONS: Maybe kind of a glory hound. Once tapped in a Porter shot on an empty net that was already going in. Mouthed off in one of those dismal NCAA tourney losses to North Dakota and got a ten-minute misconduct at the worst possible time. Did not win Hobey Baker, probably because of this. It probably wasn't his fault but the teams he was most prominent on were amongst the worst Michigan's had since the Berenson era took off.
Debate in the comments; voting will be unveiled once all candidates are.