Always Next Year: Hockey Forwards Comment Count

Brian April 30th, 2010 at 1:59 PM

Outgoing

Sophomore Robbie Czarnik, sort of. Czarnik signed with Plymouth approximately a third of the way through the season. In the twelve games he played he had a 3-3-6 and was +1. Michigan was actually just 5-7 with him; they were 21-11-1 without him.

brian-lebler-michigan-state Senior Brian Lebler. Lebler (playing daddy right) was the latest in Michigan's parade of seniors who improved radically in their final year at Michigan, racking up 14-10-24 in 42 games while providing the proverbial physical presence. He combined with freshmen AJ Treais and Chris Brown during the second half of the year on an effective third line.

Senior Anthony Ciraulo. Walk-on Ciraulo skated in seven games, picking up one assist.

Various Flight Risks. Now begins Michigan's annual watch for NHL departures silly or justified. First, allow me to pick up a clover as I pound every bit of furniture in the vicinity. Ah, there. Now: Michigan shouldn't lose anyone this offseason. Kevin Lynch, David Wohlberg, and Ben Winnett haven't played at a level that would see an NHL team jump on them. Chris Brown is a Coyotes draft pick; the 'Yotes have let their last three Michigan prospects play four years. They're also owned by the league and cheap. If they can let Brown develop free of charge, they will.

Then there are the three juniors. Carl Hagelin is an academic All-American from Sweden. He's likely to want his degree. Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso. Louie Caporusso was a third round pick of the Senators and may be a guy an NHL team would look to sign after his blazing finish, but Mike Spath of the Wolverine was asserting that Caporusso was likely to stay even before the Senators swooped in on UNH free agent Bobby Butler, another smallish offensive forward and one the Senators have put directly on their NHL roster. This makes it more unlikely Ottawa will press hard for Caporusso to sign and reduces their ability to sell a potential NHL opening.

All three flight risk juniors have unambiguously stated they will be back, so… yeah.  Michigan Hockey Summer happened midseason this year.

Incoming

luke-moffatt Luke Moffatt, USNTDP.

Moffatt's rise and fall has been documented on this blog in a series of increasingly puzzled steps as he plummeted from the #2 overall pick in the WHL draft and a certain NHL first-round pick to 95th in the latest CSB rankings. What happened? You've got me. Some hints can be found on this USHL scouting blog:

Behind Zucker, Moffatt was the most visible offensive threat among the 2010 eligibles.  Moffatt had the knack of being in the right spots and had several opportunities to create offense.  However, once he had the puck, he did not always make the right play.  He forced a few bad angle shots from the boards that were easily turned aside and transitioned by Ohio State.  On those occasions, Moffatt had more time to survey the play and wait for support.  Moffatt is a kid who will benefit from the coaching at Michigan and should play out his eligibility.

Insert Dean Lombardi joke here.

There's not much to say in Moffatt's favor, unfortunately. He's been healthy. He's been heavily scouted. He had a couple of okay years with the NTDP, but did not play anything like the star he was supposed to be. At the latest U18 World Championships, Moffatt finished with one goal and one assist on a USA team that won the title and scored buckets of goals along the way. No one even mentioned him as a disappointment.

All that said, we're talking about a fall from uber-hype to moderate hype. Moffatt is not Tristin Llewellyn, who committed to Michigan incredibly early as a potential first-rounder and didn't even get drafted. He'll go somewhere in the second to fourth rounds of the draft; Michigan's had plenty of stars who have fared worse. Carl Hagelin, for one, was a sixth-rounder. Moffatt will come in battle-tested and should have a shot at earning a spot on a scoring line.

Jacob Fallon, Indiana Ice/USNTDP.

Fallon's also been falling, but for reasons other than his talent level after getting booted from the NTDP midseason for the ever-popular undisclosed violation of team rules. He'd been serving a suspension that almost got him kicked off the team before that—rumored to be a drinking incident, FWIW—and had only six games to his name before he moved to the USHL's Indiana Ice. In 24 games since the move, Fallon has a 1-8-9 line and is minus six. He's done nothing on the ice this year; off the ice he's raised a bunch of questions.

So… yeah, it's a little weird that Fallon was invited to the NHL combine (Moffatt wasn't), was 50th in the Central Scouting midterm ratings (he fell a bit in the final edition, but not much) and is picking up positive scouting reports as recently as April 1st:

First off, Fallon is quick. He can burn defensemen outside, and if he has a teammate with him, the chances are, they're going to score. Fallon has great hands with which he can make crisp, tape-to-tape  passes that set up his teammates with great chances to score. His speed, mixed with his ability to make great passes, draws comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. So, he is definitely highly regarded in the NHL community. Fallon doesn't have the best shot, which can bring his value down, and his below average size, 5'10"/180, also brings his draft value down a bit also. But you really can't argue with his raw ability, it's just that he has developing to do as he gets older and plays in college. He will be a great player someday, he just needs to develop his great potential and he'll be in the NHL someday.

Here's a February report from a different source:

Fallon seems to play and look bigger than 5’10 180.  He’s a powerful skater with good balance and he uses his edges well.  He is also very strong on the puck whether he is handling it in traffic or if he needs to make a hard pass or dump-in.  Fallon played well without the puck and was a very responsible player in all 3 zones as well as a physical presence.  At times, he seemed tentative in getting to open ice in the neutral zone….possibly a result of becoming acclimated to his new team.  When he had the puck, Fallon possessed another gear and was able to take the puck hard into the zone while protecting it.  Fallon certainly looks like a hockey player and stands out with strong techniques in all facets of his game and a player who does the little things well.  Whether or not his offensive skills develop will dictate Fallon’s role as a second liner or third liner in college and beyond.

On the other hand, Fallon falls to 37th on College Hockey 247's top 50 list—not bad, but a big dip from being the 50th best skater in North America to the 36th best* headed to college—and WCH trashed Fallon's midterm CSB ranking, declaring he'd be lucky to get drafted at all.

Fallon did have a productive year with the U17s in 2008-09, scoring 15-23-38 in 55 games. He'll probably kick around the second and third lines as a freshman.

*(One goalie, Cornell-bound Andy Iles, is ranked ahead of Fallon.)

Hypothetical 2011 Accelerant. Michigan has three forwards committed for the class of 2011: Lucas Lessio, Derek Deblois, and Alex Guptill. With Czarnik's departure there is a potential opening for one of those guys to end up in the class of 2010. Given the depth chart it's not a necessity; it is a possibility. If it's anyone it will likely be Guptill. There's no buzz around Deblois leaving early. Cedar Rapids play-by-play guy James Stachowiak provides an inside look:

There has not been any talk around here lately about his plans for next year. The way that he has been used it seems as though he is being groomed as a team leader for Cedar Rapids next year. He and Mac Bennett are the only first year guys that the RoughRiders coach has included on his "leadership group".

He has also spent the majority of the season playing on the Riders top line. This line happens to have the teams two leading scoring forwards and many of Derek's points have come either feeding them or cleaning up rebound goals. Derek has not been used much on the powerplay during the second half of the season but has become a very valuable asset on the penalty kill. He has very good speed as most RoughRider forwards do and plays very smart on the kill.

As I said, there has not been much talk about plans for next year with the team getting ready for the playoffs, one thing that may or may not sway a decision is that DeBlois and Bennett are very good friends and have been for a long time, in fact, i believe they have always been on the same team growing up and now in Cedar Rapids, if there's a chance to do that at Michigan next year, it might be enough to convince Derek to move on, however, that is just speculation. I think that he would benefit from another season in the USHL where he is a top scoring option.

Lessio is a 2011 draftee and seems content at St. Mike's. Guptill, on the other hand, is a guy who will get drafted this year, has good size guy, and is currently toiling in Canadian Junior A. If anyone comes early, it will be him.

swedish-chef Approximate Lines

Brown-Hagelin-Rust

The left wing here is a guess. The top line is Hagelin, Rust, random assortment of wingers who will change at Red's whim and possibly stop rotating wildly the second half of the season. If Luke Moffatt had torn up the USHL like his hype suggested he would, I would have guessed he goes here by sheer dint of talent. If it turns out he's Brett Hull with crappy linemates he'll probably end up on Hagelin's wing, cackling.

That does not seem in the cards. The tentative guess here is that Chris Brown improves enough from year one to year two to displace Kevin Lynch from his spot on the top line. Brown didn't actually score much more than Lynch at even strength (six and five goals, respectively) but Brown brings a physical element that should help Rust and Hagelin's dangerous cycling and provide either or both targets for goalmouth passes.

Moffatt-Caporusso-Wohlberg

Just like the first line, you can pencil in Caporusso and Wohlberg as inviolable components of the second line and pick a name out of a hat when it comes to the third guy. My tentative guess is that whatever faults exist in Moffatt's game he's still likely to be a decently high pick in this year's NHL draft and that talent will translate quickly enough for him to find a place here.

Fallon-Treais-Lynch

Or something? The bottom six forwards are up in the air. With the addition of Fallon there will be at least one extra body next year, which will push the 49 total games from Ciraulo, Sparks, and Rohrkemper into the press box. The six players left are:

  • AJ Treais, a tiny skilled center who needs more strength and speed to become an impact player.
  • Fallon, who was discussed above.
  • Kevin Lynch, who spent a large chunk of last year as the other guy on the Hagelin-Rust line and was a second-round pick.
  • Luke Glendening, who was the other guy on the Wohlberg-Caporusso line and wore an A as a sophomore.
  • Ben Winnett, a senior who was the point guy on the PP last year.
  • Scooter.

Only Scooter is a lock to be a fourth-liner. He established himself a reliable forechecker and penalty killer but with a 2-4-6 in 35 games and a 4.5% shooting percentage he is unlikely to work his way onto a scoring line. The other guys could end up anywhere from the top line to the fourth. As you can see above, I'm guessing the offensive talent of Fallon and Treais will outweigh the seniority of the fourth line.

scooter-vaughn-vs-mich-tech

Vaughn-Winnett-Glendening

Winnett was the fourth-liner who Red had the most faith in. Until Glendening took his spot, he moonlighted on the second and third lines; he also spent most of the year driving me crazy on the point on the power play. Hopefully Michigan manages to find someone else at that spot. Winnett still brings a modicum of skill and size the other guys hovering around the end of the roster don't.

Glendening spent most of last year on the second line after Czarnik left and Winnett failed to make a leap forward; dropping him to the fourth line might be excessively harsh but it's hard to see how he doesn't fall out of the top six with Moffatt and Fallon arriving.

Rotating Cast Of Scratches

There's actually an interesting guy at the tail end of the roster: Lindsay Sparks. Sparks lost his role on the fourth line to Jeff Rohrkemper at the end of the year, but for a brief stretch in the middle of the season when Michigan was really struggling he brought a little pop to the lineup. Once he stopped getting on the scoresheet his deficiencies in size and defense couldn't justify his place in the lineup, but he ended with a 4-4-8 in 23 games without much playing time. During his time on the ice he showed better dangles than anyone else on the roster; he's got way higher upside than any of the other guys around here and will be a guy to watch early next season. He might have the skill to play himself into the lineup.

Rohrkemper didn't do much in his 19 games; he's a guy at the end of the lineup who will draw in when injury or the World Juniors deplete the roster.

Questions

Forwards Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin play for Michigan against the Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha on Friday, February 13, 2009. The Wolverines won 8-3. (ARIEL BOND/Daily)
Who wants free points?
 

Will a previously obscure player have a Lebler-like breakout? Over the past few years, Michigan's seen a number of players make significant leaps forward after two or three years in the program. Brian Lebler went from 8 to 16 to 24 points. Travis Turnbull went from 17 points as a sophomore to 27 and 28 as a senior. David Rohlfs spent a productive season on TJ Hensick's wing, going from 2-10-12 to 17-17-34. Jed Ortmeyer went from 24 and 21 points as to 38 and 34.

These leaps tend to come from big, grinding forwards who get to hang out on the wing of Michigan Offensive Star Du Jour. (Lebler's advancement is all the more impressive for being almost entirely self-generated.) Michigan doesn't have a Hensick or Cammalleri next year—Caporusso needs more help to generate his offense than any of those guys—but Carl Hagelin threatens to become a Hobey candidate and led the team with 31 assists. Hagelin ended the year on a playmaking tear with 16 assists in his last 18 games, Michigan could decide to lift Kevin Lynch, who had just 6-10-16 as a freshman and endured a 7.6% shooting percentage, for a player more likely to convert the opportunities a rampant Hagelin leaves in his wake.

The two guys who could potentially benefit from this are not exactly obscure. The player on the roster with the closest resemblance to a coke machine is Chris Brown, whose freshman year ended with a 13-15-28 line and seven power play goals, most of them on deflections and dirty crease mucking. If he can improve his skating enough to stay in the same zone as Hagelin and Rust, he could make a PPG-or-better living on tap-ins. The lumbering senior on the roster is Ben Winnett, who came to Michigan as one of those guys who lit up the BCHL but hasn't gotten off checking lines in three years at M. Red likes to put promising kids in high pressure positions, so I'm guessing we'll see Brown get the call on the Wing of Free Points.

Which Caporusso? Louie Caporusso spent the first half of his junior season on a tear. Over the next year he played like a nondescript third-liner, not a upperclass third-round pick. Then he blew up again. Which one is it? If Michigan's going to continue playing like they did during their run to the NCAA tournament Caporusso is going to have to produce. Not at the level he has during either of his tears—Michigan's forward corps should be way better since they only lose Lebler and add two potential top six guys plus a year of experience for everyone on the team—but he can't revert to the form he showed in his lost year.

Will a skilled midget make a leap? No one is going to mistake AJ Treais or Lindsay Sparks for Mike Comrie, but both flea-sized freshmen had their moments last year. As they adjust to bigger, stronger competition one or the other could turn into a solid playmaking center. In Sparks' case that wouldn't have much impact five on five but he showed enough last year to suggest he might be a useful power play specialist.

Treais, on the other hand, is likely to be the third-line center and could have some skilled wingers like Moffatt, Fallon, and possibly Glendening or Lynch. A dropoff from one of the top two lines could be covered by the third line emerging into the sort of unit that obliterates iffy third pairings in the CCHA. 

How awesome is Carl Hagelin going to be? So awesome.

Comments

AnthonyC

April 30th, 2010 at 2:34 PM ^

A lot of the development of Sparks and Treais would depend on who their linemates are.  If they are paired with a good passer who can open space for them to dangle and snipe, they would likely be more productive.

E.L. blue fan

April 30th, 2010 at 8:58 PM ^

I think the 3rd line with Treais at center could be huge next year. The kid showed some flashes as a freshman and I totally agree that the 3rd line could destroy most CCHA 3rd lines if he takes a step forward.

JustGoBlue

April 30th, 2010 at 10:22 PM ^

the 3rd line is going to be the difference between a very good season and a great season.  We know the first line will produce and the second line will produce almost as much (for at least half the year... X_X), so if we have a strong, competent third line that makes us excessively dangerous.

 

Personally, I think Glendening wings the third line (He maybe should go on the 4th line, but I think between Red's opinion of him and the A, we need him on the ice more than the 4th line is on the ice) and whichever freshman (or, if said freshman isn't playing good defense, a "scratch") is less impressive goes on the fourth line.  Treais showed a lot of potential and Lynch is supposed to be (and ocassionally was (Miami)) a pretty big weapon as well, so if both of them step forward, like one might expect, coupled with "gritty glue guy Glendening" (if I may alliterate excessively), I think that line could really put up some numbers.  Then, depending on how exactly things go and who exactly the other winger on the 4th line is, that line should be solid defensively and may be able to produce intermittently.

 

I'm not sure you can really go too wrong with what we have though, as long as nothing really unexpected happens.  I'm not going to lie, looking at this depth chart makes me chuckle evil-ly a bit!

919 Brown

May 1st, 2010 at 9:11 AM ^

It should be interesting to see how the goaltending situation plays out with Hoagie and Hunwick. I'll be happy to see Hoagie return to his old form, and even happier to see Hunwick continue right where he left off. 

The Midwest regional is in Green Bay, and I'd love for them to secure the #1 seed there. That will make for one hell of a road trip.