MINN 0 MICH 1 PPG 09:33 Assists: Connor & Werenski
Werenski moves the puck to Connor as the rest of Michigan's power play works to establish position.
Connor holds the puck and the defenders all look like they're infested with lice, moving and twitching and adjusting and readjusting while Connor just holds and holds and holds a little longer. The defenders, especially the one nearest Connor in the faceoff circle, seem very worried about the cross-ice one timer to the opposite wing.
That works to Michigan's advantage, as everybody just forgot about Motte in front of the net. Connor passes and Motte spins in a circle and shoots. Schierhorn stops the first shot, but Motte flips his own rebound into the top corner; he regularly puts the puck top shelf from angles that seem like it should be impossible to lift the puck.
COMPHER GOAL, MICHIGAN
MINN 0 MICH 2 PPG 01:31 Assists: Werenski & Connor
Werenski's pass for Connor hops over his stick and goes to the corner, but the puck's eventually reversed back to Werenski. He sees how bunched up and shifted the defense is and how open Compher is on the other side of the ice and makes the easy pass.
When Compher receives the pass he has a wide open half of the net, but he can't settle it and doesn't regain control until where he is in the screen shot below. He throws a backhander on net that Schierhorn stops.
Compher manages to stop quickly and chop at the puck, which is sitting in front of Schierhorn's pad. One of Compher's hacks lifts the puck up enough to get over his pad.
[After THE JUMP: a comeback, an undressing, a tournament championship]
MSU 1 UM 0 EV 09:26 Appleton from Draeger & MacEachern
Selman comes up to the point to try and check Draeger, but he avoids Selman and skates deeper into the zone. Nieves sees this and steps up to cover.
Appleton is in the opposite faceoff circle banging his stick on the ice and Draeger obliges, passing through the empty part of the slot.
Appleton one-times the puck and it hits Cecconi's skate, changing angles and easily beating Racine. There's nothing he can do about a deflection off of a skate that close to the net; it's also worth noting that this play is otherwise well defended.
[After THE JUMP: Jake Hildebrand stars as Devin Gardner in "Oh. Oh Wow. We Are So Sorry."]
UM 1 NIA 0 EV 07:05 Connor (4) from Piazza (1) & Nieves (2)
Boo Nieves has the puck behind the net. He reverses course to avoid a defender, but still ends up getting hit. As he’s hit he tries to backhand a centering pass to the netfront skater, but the pass is deflected out to Sam Piazza.
Piazza’s initial shot is into a mass of bodies, but the puck takes a fortunate bounce and slides back to him.
Piazza’s defender is closing in, and he does a really nice job of reading the ice in a split second. He sees Kyle Connor open at the side of the net and a big passing lane through the crease.
Connor is a supremely talented player. (To that point: the pass was a little long, so Connor had to gather while gliding backwards, sapping a lot of what he could put on the shot). The near side of the net is supremely open. This is called goal-by-goal analysis. I think you know what happened.
In Michigan sports that weren't that, Michigan kicked off its hockey season with a shaky sweep of Mercyhurst. The Lakers were .500 in Atlantic Hockey last year and lost five of their top six scorers to graduation. They looked like they were in for a rough year; Michigan dominated attack time and shots. They did not so much dominate on the scoreboard, with one-goal wins Friday and Saturday. (Michigan got an empty-netter Friday.)
Not seeing much difference in the team this year. A lot of individual talent, a lot of breakdowns. Michigan gave up a ton of odd-man rush goals and turned the puck over at or near the blueline far too much. Actual zone entry plays were rare; instead Michigan just tried to gain the zone with individual skill. They'll win their share of games, but I didn't see much that would indicate a turnaround from the last few frustrating years.
Example of the above. On Sunday Alex Kile was on a 3-on-2 on which he had two guys open and trailing; he chose to try to beat a defenseman around the corner and blasted the goalie for an interference penalty.
Werenski is up and down and frustrating. He stands out as a super talented even with a bunch of other NHL draft picks on the team. I expect his wrister to pick out a corner every time he gets an opportunity with it. But he was the D caught up ice on Mercyhurst's 2-on-1 goal Sunday and there were several other questionable defensive plays besides. He was iffy on D last year and should by rights be a freshman right now; I don't think that's a reason for long term concern but I was hoping he'd show a little better.
Nieves is still Nieves. Perimeter player. Not expecting a breakout year. He's centering the "top line" mostly for morale reasons, I think—Compher's line is the actual top line.
I don't have a feel for Connor yet. Sometimes takes me a while to figure out what I think of a player. Connor is currently in that boat.
The third line is pretty dang good. It was Calderone, Marody, and Warren. All of them are high effort, physical guys. Calderone had some trouble receiving passes, but other than that those guys dominated their opposite number. Michigan is going to get production out of them against opponents' bottom six.
Depth: questionable. Michigan skated seven defensemen on Sunday and elected to double-shift centers on the fourth line. I'm fine with this—one of my complaints over the last few years is that Michigan didn't seem to play its stars enough—but if there are injuries Michigan could be really thin at F.
This will be another season flirting with the tourney cutoff. Michigan's awful schedule hurts them significantly here. The Big Ten appears to be a tire fire again. These days RPI overcorrects for home games and Michigan loaded their schedule with them. And their nonconference schedule is mostly crap. I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan is the non-tourney team with the best record in April.
More Big Ten tire fire details. Alarmingly for the league and Michigan's schedule strength, Minnesota is 0-3 and has scored just one goal. Everyone expected the Gophers to take a step back after graduating huge chunks of their team; that much of a retreat is going to be yet another anchor for a league that is already carrying several around.
Meanwhile Wisconsin is coming off a BU/BC weekend in which they were outscored 10-1, OSU has been swept by Miami and BGSU, and Michigan State was just swept by Denver (total goals 7-2). Big Ten teams aren't just losing, they're getting crushed.
Penn State(!) is the only team with anything approximating an encouraging start after a competitive split with Notre Dame. Everything else points to a repeat of last year minus a good Minnesota team. Maybe the Big Ten could spend some of their filthy lucre on hiring non-incompetent hockey coaches next year? Could we try that maybe? MSU and Wisconsin allowing Tom Anastos and Mike Eaves to return is bad for everybody.
Yost things. They have walked back a lot of the in-game commercials this year, so that's nice. IIRC the only thing still around is Find The Object Under The Corporate Logo. That's down from just under a dozen per game last year.
The folks in charge are still a bit off, though. Hockey Special K has limited opportunities to do his thing because of the nature of hockey but he's still jamming in a goal horn—completely unnecessary w/ the bad—and then playing pump-up music before the puck drop. Why Special K insists on playing 5 seconds of music before every kickoff/puck drop is always going to be a mystery.
Also the concession prices remain completely out of whack. When it's more expensive than Joe Louis I'm going to avoid buying things out of principle. I can't imagine the tiny incremental profit increase is worth the psychic damage to hockey fans who are already pretty beat up. I almost dropped my tickets this year because I could probably TiqIq the entire schedule for half of what my seats cost. Like, I decided not to and then two weeks after the deadline I relented.
Yost is not priced at all sensibly, especially when it comes to students. They're down to two sections and an overflow in the endzone, which is super depressing. I know we want the hockey program to break even but surely the atmosphere in the building is more important than X thousand dollars.
This naturally leads to a discussion about lighting and camera stuff but multiple reports from media day report that the maize is darker. Also: Harbaugh was probably so incensed by uniform clutter he sewed the flaps that cover up the superfluous block M himself.
The most noticeable changes to Stadium seating relate to ADA accessibility, as seats had to be eliminated in order to widen aisles and install hand railings around the entire bowl with the exception of the student seating section.
Michigan still has the largest capacity in the country, and they will actually fill it this year. Also:
"He told me they're not giving up on me, and to keep fighting to get back, so I've been coming out to 7-on-7s and doing everything I can to stay part of the team, and my teammates have been helping me out with that a lot too."
If we don't see him at all this year he would be in Chris Fox territory, wherein everyone is waiting for the news he's transitioned to a student assistant. Hopefully it doesn't come to that and we at least see him on special teams some.
Okay then. Harbaugh had a direct answer to the minor fifth year kerfuffle caused by Keith Heitzman's comments to the Columbus Dispatch:
"The fifth year has to be a mutual decision," he said. "Nothing is guaranteed except the opportunity to take that spot. Do you want to come back for a fifth year and does the football team want you back?"
Apparently some guys were put on the "impress me" block and some were not. FWIW, I've heard that Countess was not one of those guys—they expected him to stay and were expecting to play him a lot.
Somebody didn't read BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS. Minnesota's AD has resigned because he started drunk-sexting colleagues late at night. Athletic directors: typing anything after 9 PM is like feeding Gizmo after midnight.
UConn first, then one of Syracuse/Charlotte. Looks like we get to find out what "AXS" is and if anyone in the state gets it, as the opener is on it.
UConn was 20-15 in the American last year and bounced from the first round of the NIT; they lose Ryan Boatright, their highest-usage player, but return everyone else. Syracuse was 18-13 and 9-9 in the ACC; they did not have a postseason because they took the ever-popular midseason NCAA sanctions after Jim Boeheim got nailed for all manner of malfeasance. They lose C Rakeem Christmas but return everyone else. Charlotte was 14-18 last year and looks pretty bad.
Werenski confirmed for NHL.com that he will return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore year.There was speculation that the 6-foot-2, 221-pound left-handed shot would play for London of the Ontario Hockey League in 2015-16. London selected Werenski in the second round (No. 24) of the 2013 OHL draft.
Losing him would have been very, very bad on top of the Copp and Larkin departures.
Never not funny. Every day is an entertaining day with Harbaugh. Bill Rapai shot the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp for us and returned with this set of photos that were taken within a few minutes of each other. Each one is magnificent. As a set…
“The T-shirt means everything to us,” said self-proclaimed team manager and owner Jared Wangler, who redshirted as a freshman linebacker on the football team last fall. “We lost out last year in the semi-finals, and didn’t come back for second place. We’re back with a vengeance.”
Motte, who was once a standout baseball player and teammate with Michigan baseball star Jacob Cronenworth before settling for sophomore forward on the hockey team, was slightly less enthused after the loss.
“To be totally honest, I didn’t know we got T-shirts,” he said.
Good news for a change. Phil Steele's published a ranking of teams based on experience in their two-deep and Michigan is not languishing at the bottom of the list, trying not to get its face punched in. Far from it, in fact:
(As per usual with Steele if you drill down on the team you know you're going to find a few assumptions that are off or not up to date, but he's broadly accurate.)
That is a combination of Rodriguez's extreme attrition followed by Hoke's almost total lack of same, and would normally bode well. When that team is coming off a coaching change caused by whatever that was last year the route to a good season is less clear; still, a veteran and pretty good defense returns almost everybody, as does the not-so-veteran and maybe-okay offensive line. Skill positions are the big question mark.
"I think we recognized that all of my football players are at-risk -- all of them -- really," Kelly told Notre Dame Insider. "Honestly, I don't know that any of our players would get into the school by themselves right now with the academic standards the way they are. Maybe one or two of our players that are on scholarship."
ND Nation reacted to this about as well as Roll Bama Roll reacted to a camp sleeper committing to Michigan, because ND Nation believes that when a student with a 2.5 arrives on campus the magical fairy dust on ND's campus makes them into a Serious Business major.
To its credit, ND does come down much harder on malfeasance than everywhere else. Nobody else suspends five players for a whole season for academic issues, and the kind of things those guys did are at least as common around the country.
More Austin Davis highlights. This appears to be from a camp a few weeks ago:
It's not much; it does look like Davis is getting big and stronk. He has nice footwork around the basket and finishes with both hands; the Jordan Morgan vibe is strong.
“He visited Kentucky, he just visited Oregon, he’s thinking about visiting Michigan and a couple of others. Will he do that? He’s not sure. Right now, it’s a two-and-a-half horse race, Michigan being the half. If they get the visit, you have to consider them a full-fledged threat."
Murray is a potential one-and-done—Draft Express has him 21st in their 2016 mock draft—who would jam pack the Michigan roster in the same way Jaylen Brown would have. Long way to go before anything comes of that, competing against Kentucky usually doesn't go well, other rosters are probably more attractive in terms of playing time available, etc.
Another hockey exit, this one before an entrance. Michigan lost a recruit to the OHL today: Sam Miletic. Miletic isn't being hyped as an impact player after a 12-15-27 line in 58 USHL games, which is both good and bad.
The good: Miletic wasn't slated for a scoring line as a freshman and Michigan should be able to replace him without a ton of trouble. The bad: Miletic, who dropped out of the final CSB rankings after being listed 192nd—probably undrafted—in the midterms, is exactly the kind of player who should avoid the OHL like the plague. In college he'd have four years to develop and a degree; in the OHL he's going to age out after two and then face a decision between trying to use the OHL's education package (which will cap at two years for him since he's not playing four years in the league) or trying to catch on in the pros somewhere.
In a vacuum this is pretty meh. In an offseason where it seems like anyone with an option is opting out, though…
And now you're nervous again even though it seems like everyone's already left. There was a lot of speculation that the player London was going to announce today was Zach Werenski, the freshman D who is likely to be a top-15 pick. That would be the cherry on the poop sundae that's been this hockey offseason. Why would that speculation exist when Werenski would be nuts to make any move before the draft?
Zach Werenski, a potential top 10 pick, is a perfect example. The Michigan Wolverines defenceman over the weekend admitted that he’s “open” to possibly leaving behind college hockey life for a chance to play major junior.
Development is paramount in a player’s late teens and Werenski’s future NHL team will have great influence on where he’ll be plying his trade during the 2015-16 season.
Werenski said he will not sign off on a transfer before the June 26 draft.
“I was really comfortable (in Michigan) and I had a good year,” the Grosse Point, Mich., native said at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo. “I plan on going back as of now.”
So there you go. The tone of this article ("development is paramount") suggests it was written by a juniors honk who badgered Werenski with some leading questions. But that departure is potentially another one on the horizon.
Hockey is officially this offseason's most depressing sport.
On expansion. Eleven Warriors surveys the 14-team Big Ten one year in. I'm mostly in agreement with their take—shortsighted, ham-handed, provides money. I don't think this bit is quite right:
One thing is for sure about Big Ten expansion: it made everyone in the conference a lot of money.
The Big Ten has expanded, and there is more money. I'm sure some of that is because of expansion. How much is an open question. Certainly not as much as the article implies:
In 2009, Big Ten schools each received about $19 million a year from the conference. It was a solid total, second to the SEC in per-school revenue, but not at its max. Adding Nebraska and Rutgers and Maryland to the conference made the Big Ten a whole lot more valuable. …
When the Big Ten signs its next TV deal in 2017, revenue distribution will be at least double what it was in 2009, $45 million or more per school. Ohio State's athletic department has been swimming in money since the move as well.
In terms of relative revenue the Big Ten has not increased its lead. It may have actually lost ground.The Big 12's largest payout in 2009 was $12 million to Kansas. By 2014, full members—of a conference that lost teams—grabbed $23 million. Average payouts were 21.4 million. Those numbers do not include school-specific rights that the larger leagues have bundled into networks. In 2014 the Big Ten distributed about 27 million. The gap is smaller in both percentages and raw numbers than it was five years ago.
The Big Ten is the last conference to have its rights come up and will get a bump to ever-more ludicrous numbers; that was going to happen with or without the two additions. The Big Ten would be swimming in dough either way; any benefit the Big Ten manages to extract from Maryland and Rutgers has zero impact on the ability of its teams to compete in major sports and a panoply of negatives for fans.
In HBO's upcoming episode of "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," reporter Andrea Kremer asks Harbaugh if it's true that he has a problem working with others at various jobs.
"It must be true," Harbaugh says. "Because I'd wear out my welcome.
"People just don't want to be around you after a while."
Harbaugh may be polarizing personally, but people one or more steps removed from him get to observe the chaos from safe distance. This would never have happened during the previous regime for a thousand reasons:
The program also shows glimpses of a mic'd up Harbaugh at practice, at one point taking a player (whose number is blurred out) aside and delivering him a stern and somewhat profane message: "I'm just telling you the right way to do it. If you want to look at me like with that look, then go (expletive) somewhere else."
I hope Michael Rosenberg hasn't suddenly come down with the vapors. Ten PM tomorrow if you've got the HBOs.
How do you give M0.0N dollars though? The annual EDSBS charity bash is on. It's been won by Michigan every year since its inception and has resulted in things like Spencer comes to the Penn State game and writes about it. This is your prize in 2015:
OKAY WHAT'S IN IT FOR US?
We will outfit the site in the colors of the school. We will devote an entire Hatin' Ass Spurrier to ripping on the rivals of the winner. We have random celebrity guest calls to big donors. For instance, last year we might have had a Heisman Trophy winner call a particularly generous donor. That might could be you! You'll never know until you give, and then give again, and then wisely take out a second mortgage all in the name of getting a sports parody site's highest honor. (Oh, and you'll be giving to a great, great charity, too.)
Also 30k overall equals tattoo. You can give here. Money goes to support refugee resettlement.
Figuring out what we've got in Moritz Wagner. Nobody really knows how big of a deal Wagner is because he's spent his career on the U18 Alba Berlin team with only occasional forays onto the big squad.
The occasional NBA scout has weighed in. Rivals's Eric Bossi flagged one down who said he was in the 20-40 range, which would be terrific. Scout talked to another gentleman who was more conservative, saying top 100—still not bad.
“I predict two years for him, to achieve even a good position in the NBA draft,” said Alba Berlin coach Saša Obradović following his team’s 78-74 win over the Phoenix Hagen on April 15. …“
He thinks he’s not ready for the professional life,” Obradović said. “He (could have) played here. I expect that he could be a good prospect and good player for our future. So I think (Michigan has acquired) a very good talent, and you will see this very, very fast.” …
“He is a versatile player. Just don’t put him on the ‘5,’ ” Obradović said. “He has good, soft hands, good first step. He still (has) to learn a lot, but (he’s) already on a certain level of skill.”
Mission accomplished as far as not putting him at center goes. It'll be interesting how quickly Wagner proves himself. A lot of people are speculating that he might redshirt given the roster's current state—packed—and his current physique—skinny. A two-and-done doesn't redshirt, though.
A day as king of media. Richard Detsch asked a bunch of sports media people what they'd change if they could wave a magic wand. Some of the responses are inane—"pay more attention to baseball"—says one guy. Others are interesting, although not necessarily on purpose. Amy Trask:
Amy Trask, CBS Sports NFL analyst
I would abolish coverage of and commentary on ephemeral matters. Coverage of and commentary on matters that are transitory, fleeting and momentary is wasteful at best, and may be harmful, as it emphasizes the trivial instead of the important.
Amy Trask would ban sports media entirely.
Fran Frascilla wins:
In NBA and college basketball games, nothing slows a game down more than the incessant number of timeouts, TV And otherwise. Well-coached teams don't need to rely on all the in-games stoppages. That's what practices are supposed to be for.
I got a dollar for Fran.
Blake O'Neill pensively considering the third and long his team faces
Attention, ladies. If you would like more information on our new punter's modeling career, his profile can be found here. I foresee trouble if he keeps taking his shirt off during games.
HARBAUGH: O'Neill! In this country we play football without our shimmering torsos catching the afternoon sun in just that particular way that makes women weep. O'NEILL: Sorry. It is the way of my people to frolic in the sun when the whim catches us. HARBAUGH: Weber State sounds like damned weird place.
"He's such a cool, calm and collected player," NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said of Werenski. "He's the type of player you have to watch a little closely to realize how good he is. He's smart, always in the right spot, moves the puck and makes all the plays. But not in a 'wow' sort of way like Hanifin does. At the next level Werenski will be a really a good player who will produce points and be solid defensively."
Werenski started coming into his own with the puck on his stick about halfway through the year but still struggled with the physicality of the college game. That's not much of a surprise since a lot of the guys he was going up against were five, six, or even seven years older than him. He should take a major leap forward. If they got a Trouba-level year out of him that would paper over a lot of problems.
Another horse for the goalie mill. Michigan goes back to the NAHL well for a goalie:
Catt put up a flashy .937 in 2013-14 and had a .918 this year, splitting time between Aberdeen and the Soo. He's old: already 21. He is also an in-state player who was headed to D-III, so I'm guessing he's not getting a lot of scholarship money. (Hockey can split scholarships.) He'll give Michigan another option next year.
Not literally a comic book. 28 minutes of Charles Woodson highlights from high school do not quite feature him bounding over a tall building:
Full go minus one decision. John Beilein doesn't see anyone transferring this offseason:
"Everybody seems to be all onboard 100 percent," Beilein said Monday after attending a USBWA Final Four luncheon honoring freshman Austin Hatch. "Obviously, we're not with them 24 hours a day, but I love their attitude right now."
That does not include Caris LeVert, who is deciding on the NBA draft. It seems that people around the program are cautiously optimistic he will stay for his senior year, but we won't have certainty until the early entry deadline, April 26th.
That would leave Michigan with zero scholarships this year and two plus any attrition after next season in 2016. Unless Hatch goes on a medical scholarship that would cut out Mike Edwards, the various transfers looking at Michigan, and Jaylen Brown.
Meanwhile, another one bites the dust at Indiana. The Hoosiers get a commitment from prep post Thomas Bryant, bringing the number of Indiana players guaranteed to get run off this offseason to three. Someone please fire Tom Crean.
Spike surgery. Spike Albrecht will have surgery on both hips to eliminate the pain he played through this season. His projected return is in four or five months, which cuts him out of all the summer stuff but should have him back on the court a couple months before the season. That should be enough time to knock off the rust.
Soon, a fully healthy Spike will also be dunking on fools.
"The legal system has got as much hanging over his head as anybody else could possibly put on him," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing more that I, or the football program or the university could have on Graham right now than what (the courts) have.
"This is somebody who is taking a breathalyzer every morning and every night. He's got to be clean, 100 percent clean, not a drop of alcohol. And he'll either do it, or he won't. I believe in him, I believe he will. But we'll all know, there will be no secrets on that. Whether he does it or he doesn't, it'll be for public consumption."
He will have to do this through January, so he will either be clean as a whistle or you'll know he wasn't.
Threes and throwdowns. He was excellent at the threes, average at the throwdowns, which still means he was extremely efficient. Next year's project is getting some of those hexagons to be larger without changing their distribution. Oh, and doing the defense and rebounding stuff.
Adjusting for the matchups and expected points in each game, scoring in the smaller tournaments has been about 5.6 ppg more than the NCAA tournament. This is 2.4 ppg higher than the typical difference in these events. That's not something that will transform the game, but if you assume that boost applies to the entire 2015-16 season, it would take the sport to scoring levels not seen since 2003. (That statement excludes last season, when scoring increased dramatically, partly because a bunch of fouls were called.)
Not surprisingly, most of the scoring increase can be attributed to an increase in pace. Accounting for the teams involved and the increase in tempo normally seen in lower-level events, there have been two additional possessions per 40 minutes than we'd expect under normal rules. This is a more modest change compared to scoring and only turns the clock back to 2011 in terms of pace. This suggests simply reducing the shot clock to 30 won't produce significantly more up-and-down basketball. A surprising finding here is that slow-paced teams were affected as much as fast-paced teams were.
One of the concerns of the 30-second clock is that it may make offenses less efficient, but the postseason experiment isn't providing much evidence of that. Accounting for the quality of the teams and the usual increase in efficiency seen in the lower-level events, efficiency was actually up, though by a miniscule 0.6 points per 100 possessions.
The efficiency thing is almost certainly noise, but it looks like any effects are going to be minimal in that department. I don't think there's much wrong with college basketball other than the fact that block/charge is impossible to call and the refs are hilariously bad in general—but that's not something you can wave a wand and fix.
Final CSS rankings out.Minor movement for most players. Zach Werenski is 9th, down from 6th. Kyle Connor moves up a spot to 13th. 2016 recruit Cooper Marody moves up ten spots to 53rd. There were some more significant moves:
NTDP forward Brendan Warren dropped from 34th to 66th, which is an early third round pick to the fifth or sixth. He had an okay year only with the U18s.
Incoming defenders Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka went in opposite directions; Cecconi dropped from 70 to 88 and Boka shot up from 176 to 117.
Given Michigan's needs next year I'm happy that Boka's stock has apparently surged, even if Warren is less of a prospect than you think he might be. I wonder if Michigan will try to bring Marody or another 2016 recruit in now given Copp's departure.
The Hockey Writers have an extensive breakdown of Werenski that compares him to Trouba. I know I'm seeing Werenski a year younger, but he is not Trouba. Trouba was a commanding defenseman at both ends of the ice. Werenski really came on in the offensive zone late in the year but was a significant source of defensive problems.
Michigan ends up one win short of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, so here's this. I'm operating under the assumption that Berenson will continue, but it's not like anything is going to change in terms of personnel if he decides to retire.
Hockey has a LaVell Blanchard now [Paul Sherman]
Michigan loses Zach Hyman and Travis Lynch from the forward corps, plus defensemen Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville, and Andrew Sinelli. Third goalie Luke Dwyer also departs.
Hobey finalist Hyman is obviously the biggest loss from that group. Hyman was incredible driving zone time and scoring points next to Larkin, and disrupting that line is a great misfortune. Other than Hyman, though, losses are minimal. Lynch was a fourth-liner; Chiasson barely played; Sinelli bounced between F and D. Serville is the most prominent non-Hyman departure, and his career was a frustrating exercise that saw little improvement.
MICHIGAN HOCKEY SUMMER CANDIDATES
IE, guys who might leave during the interminable attrition period between the final game and the first one next year.
Larkin was rather good. [Bill Rapai]
There are two prime candidates: Wings first-round pick Dylan Larkin and pending top-ten draftee Zach Werenski. Either departing would be a surprise. Larkin recently reiterated that he's "not looking to go as soon as possible" and talks like he is not even considering a departure:
"The future is bright and I think with all of us coming back, we will be even stronger next year."
Meanwhile the Wings tend to leave their prospects in lower leagues a painfully long time. Larkin is not likely to be an impact NHL player next year, and smart organizations tend to delay signing their prospects to team-friendly entry level contracts anyway.
Meanwhile, Werenski is already at Michigan and is a defenseman. Defenders develop more slowly and Michigan has had only one D leave after one year: Jacob Trouba. Werenski was pretty good last year, but he was not Trouba. Werenski skipped his last year of high school to enroll, so next year "should" be his freshman year.
Aside from those two, Copp and Compher would probably be the most attractive to NHL teams but don't seem like the type to go early or have their teams pressure them hard. Recruit Kyle Connor seems particularly set on Michigan over major junior but if he gets drafted by an NCAA-phobic organization they could pressure him to change course.
Never say never when you're talking about Michigan Hockey Summer, but it looks like Michigan will get through unscathed.
The aforementioned KyleConnor is the star of the class, a lightning-quick forward with slick hands who led the league in scoring and cracked the top ten of all-time USHL career points on the way. He is projected as a mid-first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft and should slot directly on to a scoring line.
F Brendan Warren will arrive from the NTDP and should be a second-or-third round pick; he had a solid 16-16-32 line in 49 games for the U18s last year. Chris Dilks scouted him in November:
Warren has always been an excellent skater, and he showed a good compete level and willingness to work along the boards and go into rough areas along the ice. But he just hasn't developed into the scorer that many thought he would when he committed to Michigan at a young age. Warren held his own when he took a few shifts with the top scoring line, but he's not a player that's going to create a lot of offense for himself and others.
Sounds like a version of Motte that's a half-step worse on offense.
Former Canadian junior B winger Connor Murphy also enters. He moved to the USHL for his final year of competition before college and struggled to maintain the torrid scoring pace that first brought him to the attention of various scouts. His 13-14-27 in 51 games with Chicago indicates a guy who might develop but should be looked at as a fourth-liner to start.
“He does everything well – moves well, uses the size that he has,” Central Scouting’s David Gregory said. “But his presence and how he uses the game from the back end is one of the most impressive things.”
Cecconi’s calmness with the puck and mobility has impressed Gregory. So has his rapid development. He noticed improvements in just a short span during the summer.
Gregory wants to track Cecconi’s offensive improvements this season.
“He snaps the puck when he passes it, shoots it, so there’s going to be opportunities for him to be involved in offense as well,” he said. “He was getting a little bit of power-play time, albeit it in preseason, and he’s on a good team, so we’ll see.”
At 6'2" and almost 210 as of a year ago, he should be physically ready to play. He's the highest-rated USHL defenseman in this year's draft.
Boka played with the U18s last year and might be a late draft pick. Like Cecconi, he's a relatively big and mobile defensive defenseman, with just 7 points last year. His star has apparently fallen some since he was rated almost on par with Werenski by Over The Boards:
4. 97 D Nick Boka – NTDP U18 – Michigan
The Michigan recruit has an aggressive, athletic upside that could come on very strong in his draft year. Wins battles in the tough areas of the ice and can provide puck support. We like Werenski’s total skillset more right now, but Boka could easily emerge as the best American talent on the blue line in this draft behind Hanifin.
Boka committed a while ago so Yost Built put together a full dossier on him; he decommitted from MSU, giving Michigan the tantalizing possibility of rolling out a maximum-MSU-troll pairing of Boka and East Lansing native Cutler Martin.
If Michigan does lose a player to the NHL or other attrition, they could fill the hole by accelerating a player who is currently ticketed for 2016; the most likely player there would be Cooper Marody, who's both old enough to be eligible for this NHL draft and projected to go in the middle rounds of it. He finished 11th in USHL scoring this year, so he is probably ready to contribute in college.
Michigan is also in the conversation for uber-prospect Auston Matthews, who scored 87(!) points for the NTDP U18s as an underager this year and is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 draft. He's a certain one-and-done who has not yet decided on a team for next year. Like Werenski, Matthews would be entering college a year before his time. He is not only deciding between the WHL and college but also between BC, BU, Michigan, etc.
That would leave Michigan rolling with the same two guys who could not lock the job down this year unless they bring in a grad transfer… and they are looking for those. Spath says they are vetting former UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, who was booted from the Wildcat team after domestic violence accusations that passed muster at neither the court nor university level*. There are also a couple of guys in platoon situations at smaller schools, like Alaska's Sean Cahill, who might be interested.
*[Link is the text of a press release from DeSmith's parents and should be taken in that light. I couldn't find any actual reporting on the case.]
USELESS BUT MANDATORY LINE GUESSES
A senior version of Copp is probably the nearest equivalent to Hyman on the roster; Larkin will have to drive more play next year, with Copp helping win the possession battles and Selman continuing his role as the guy who gets in good places and finishes.
Compher can return to his natural center spot between two extremely skilled offensive players.
I like Shuart's combination of size and speed and feel he'll move up as he enters his upperclass years; he is a prime candidate for Random Breakout Forward. Nieves has been a bit of a disappointment so far but did put up a solid 7-20-27 line and has his uses.
Motte is a generally talented fellow without any standout talent other than doggedness; I do wonder if Michigan might reunite him with Compher, as the two played very well together when they were freshmen and Compher had an off year on the scoresheet.
Take your pick of fourth liners. Dancs played in almost every game but was penalty-prone and –4 on the year. Calderone got 28 games last year and showed a little bit of offense (3-6-9); Warren is probably the most talented of the remaining forwards.
(Also: Talcott, Allen, Murphy)
Talcott and Allen did little in limited time a year ago; Murphy will probably need a year to adjust to college.
USELESS BUT MANDATORY D PAIRING GUESSES
On defense, the roster doesn't really lend itself to traditional 1-2-3 pairings since each one will have an established left-hander and a question mark or two on the right, but in very vague order:
Werenski is enormously talented and began coming into his own late last year as a puck-rushing offensive defenseman. The defense bit could still use some work—no surprise given that last year was scheduled to be his NTDP U18 season until he accelerated. Add some weight and get him more acquainted with what he's supposed to do without the puck and you're gonna have a good time.
As for Cecconi, normally you would not want to put a freshman on your top pairing but Michigan's top three returning D are all left-handed shots. A 6'2" stay-at-home guy who shoots opposite Werenski and is #70 in the current CSB sounds like a good idea.
Martin was probably Michigan's best all-around defender by the end of last year. He's physical without being penalty-prone (just 16 PIMs compared to Downing's 76), he has a nasty snap shot from the point, and he doesn't make the boggling decisions some of his compatriots have made. In a season full of defensive frustrations he was a lone bright spot.
Lohan was just a guy last year but he did play every game and didn't make many glaring mistakes until a bogglingly glaring one against Minnesota. He could end up opposite any of the lefties; it mostly depends on whether any of the freshmen clearly outperform him.
Downing's eventful year featured a 6-16-22 line plus those penalty minutes. He was erratic, laying out big hits and giving up odd-man rushes. The +/- gap between the three left-handed defensemen being discussed here is informative: Martin was +12, Werenski +11, Downing +3. He's frustrating.
Boka will probably slot in as a third-pairing stay-at-home guy.
Also: De Jong, Piazza, Porikos
De Jong got 23 games before being bumped from the lineup in favor of Sinelli; he was weak on the puck and Michigan tended to get stuck in their own end when he was on the ice. He will be called into action frequently as various defensemen invoke the ire of the coaches.
Piazza saw ten games, in which he did absolutely nothing I remember—not always bad for D. Porikos didn't play and seems to be just filling out the roster.
If they do get everyone back and a year older, the offense should be at about that level again: while Connor won't replace Hyman's production his addition plus an extra year for the rest of the eight scoring line players probably will. Some sort of regression to the mean is likely, but they should still score a ton.
Defense and goalie remain problems. Michigan managed to miss the tournament this year despite scoring almost four goals a game, a feat no one else has managed since the internet started having stats on it. (In fact the only team to get worse than a two seed was 2003 Michigan.)
The goaltenders collapsed from a year ago, when Nagelvoort had a year impressive enough to get him drafted as an overager. The defense was possibly worse—those save percentages were negatively impacted by the improbable odd man rushes given away on the regular.
And that's an area I'm not sure gets better. Michigan hasn't seen a lot of improvement from their defensemen since Pearson left. The good guys showed up good and the ones who weren't so good stayed that way. Late in the third period of the Minnesota game, Downing stepped up to lay a thunderous hit… and gave up a two on one as a result. That stuff happens all the time now. The goal to tie it 2-2 was Lohan getting far too aggressive and turning a harmless neutral zone play into a two on one.
That stuff is now all too typical: errors borne of nonsense aggression. At this point you can't just wave that away with "they'll learn." They might. Recent history makes you a little dubious they will.
MSU 0 UM 1 EV 03:54 Dancs (3) from Compher (12) and Nieves (18)
Michael Downing starts the break with a nice outlet pass through the defensive zone and into the neutral zone that ends up on Boo Nieves’ stick. Nieves taps it ahead to Dexter Dancs, who dumps the puck behind the net.
JT Compher, in the middle of the ice in the above screen cap, skates to the goaltenders left to get the puck. He turns sharply as a defenseman closes on him. Meanwhile, Dancs has cut across the ice and is now in the net-front area. Compher backhands a pass to him.
You can see from the above screen cap that MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand has eliminated the success of a wraparound by locking down both posts. The downside to this, from his perspective, is that the top of the net is exposed over both shoulders. This is a low-stakes gamble unless the puck comes out from behind the net quicker than he can react to, which is what happens. Dancs has to lift his shot and he does, placing it over Hildbrand’s shoulder on the far side.