Usually hockey commitments don't merit a front-page post, but most commits don't come with the level of fanfare accompanying 2012 defenseman Jacob Trouba, who announced on Twitter last night that he had pledged to Red Berenson and the Wolverines. Trouba is a 1994 player (boy, I feel old) who already stands at 6'2", 194 pounds, according to his U.S. National Team Developmental Program profile.
The early draft rankings for 2012 point to Trouba being a star recruit on par with Jon Merrill and JMFJ. A composite top 100 list put together by a poster on the Hockey's Future forums has Trouba as the #4 overall prospect in the class—he's ranked as the #5 player by International Scouting Services and #6 by both the Red Line Report and Future Considerations. TSN has him tied for tenth among 2012 prospects based on input from various NHL scouts. Needless to say, Trouba is not only a top-level college hockey recruit, but a blue-chip NHL prospect—your proverbial five-star, except those don't really exist in hockey.
The scouting reports, as one might expect, are glowing. From The Hockey News:
“We describe him as a shark,” [USNTDP U-17 coach Danton] Cole said. “He wants to make things happen out there. He’s a great kid to coach. He likes putting the work in and wants to learn the position.”
As for the [Cam] Fowler-but-nastier comparison, it’s not hard to pick up that theme when Cole describes his charge’s on-ice persona.
“With Jacob, he brings a lot of different elements to the game,” Cole said. “He has a real good edge to him and he likes to play that physical style. But he also moves the puck well.”
While Trouba has picked up points locally in games against North American and United States League competition, he has truly excelled with the NTDP on the international stage. His 12 assists in 14 tournament games lead the team, while his 15 points rank third overall.
That article came before Trouba was moved up to the U-18 team early, an impressive feat for a player his age. Playing 31 games for the USHL squad last season, Trouba racked up a three goals and four assists to go along with 31 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating. When playing with players his age on the U-17 team, he amassed a 6-13-19 line in 37 games, and chipped in seven points in 21 games for the U-18 team. More scouting from, appropriately, The Scouting Report, which lists him sixth among 2012 prospects:
Trouba is at the head of the class for the USNTDP draft prospects. The right-handed shooting defenseman brings a physical edge to the skills that make him an elite prospect. He has very quick feet that are always moving to ensure that he has good position on the player he is defending against. Trouba has a quick stick that he uses to poke check the puck off the attacking forward and the presence to gather in the loose puck and quickly move it to an open teammate. The quickness in his hands that allow for the poke check also are evident in that Trouba has the ability to move the puck from forehand to backhand and vice versa in order to protect the puck from the opposition. From there he buys time to make the right pass to his partner or to an open forward. Trouba is also very calm and composed with the puck and passes well. He also possesses a strong shot from the point. As mentioned, Trouba blends these skills with a willingness to deliver text book body checks either along the boards or in open ice. Trouba has been compared to Cam Fowler and while he may not possess the natural offensive flair that Fowler has, he’s a more polished two-way defender at this point in his development.
The Prospects Blog doesn't shy away from bold statements when evaluating the newest Wolverine commit:
Meet the next great American defenceman, Jacob Trouba.
When watching Jacob Trouba play, its easy to understand why so many people see him as a potential franchise defenceman at the NHL level. He has the offensive upside that is rarely seen with a defenceman who plays with such an edge. On the ice he plays a game similar to Cam Fowler, just with a much more aggressive edge to his game.
For those of you wonder who the hell this Fowler guy is that Trouba keeps drawing comparisons to, he was another NTDP product who spurned a Notre Dame commitment in favor of going the OHL route before being drafted 12th overall in the 2010 NHL draft by Anaheim. He scored 40 points as a rookie defenseman last season for the Ducks. This is a good comparison, people.
The worry about Trouba—and with a prospect of this caliber, as Michigan fans well know, it's a legitimate worry—is that he'll decide to forego college and head to the OHL. That makes this article from August in Yahoo's junior hockey blog a very good sign:
Jacob Trouba wants to be known as a man of his word.
So when the highly touted defensive prospect is ready to make his decision whether to play in the OHL for the Kitchener Rangers -- who hold his CHL rights -- or the NCAA, there won't be any late de-commitments or promises broken.
"That's sort of why I haven't (committed), because I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," said the 17-year-old on Wednesday, while in Toronto to take part in the NHL's Research and Development Camp.
Wolverine fans are rightfully skittish after the decommitments of goalies Jack Campbell and John Gibson in the last couple years, but at least Trouba is saying all the right things.
As for how Trouba will fit in to the team when (okay, if) he joins in 2012, the only departing senior after this season will be Greg Pateryn, but there's a very good chance that Jon Merrill will take his prodigious talents to the NHL as well. That would leave a defenseman corps with just one senior—Lee Moffie—and I wouldn't be surprised to see Trouba step in to the top pairing right off the bat as a freshman.
If Trouba sticks, this is a huge pickup for Red Berenson, and Michigan fans should be very excited about the possibility of even a year or two of Trouba suiting up for the Maize and Blue. For more on Trouba, check out The Blog That Yost Built's commitment post.