Overall the team gets an A. No one expected a 9-1-1 start to this season and I sure as hell didn't think the special teams were going to be this good, this soon. They aren't the best team in the country, but then again, nobody else has a better claim to the #1 ranking apart from maybe Wisconsin. Michigan has won their games, and other teams haven't. It's that simple, and that's why we're #1.
Now for the player-by-player rankings.
Jack Johnson: A+ I knew the kid was going to be outstanding, but I think he's even exceeded my own expectations. He's phenomenal in both ends of the ice, and for an offensive defenseman, he's really pretty darn responsible in his own end. He's just a sick player, and I look forward to watching him for as long as he wants to stay, and I'll closely follow his NHL career.
Adam Dunlap: Inc. Only dressed once and I don't believe he played a shift.
Matt Hunwick: A- He has really taken a step forward with his offensive game this year, and he's done it without really having it negatively impact his defensive prowess. The only knock is that he has had a few moments where he's gotten beat to the outside (like on the potential game tying goal against BC).
TJ Hensick: A- 19 points in 11 games, and he's even a +6. He's logged some time on the PK and despite the rapid heart rates in the crowd has actually done a decent job. Still too selfish with the puck sometimes.
Jason Dest: C I don't feel like he's improved all that much, if at all. Granted some of this is playing with Tim Cook, but he hasn't been very consistent this year IMO. When he's good, he's pretty darn good, but when he's having a bad game, look out. 1 point and a -5 overall isn't going to get it done.
Andrew Cogliano: B+ 16 points through 11 games, and he could easily have 6-8 more points since it took him a couple games to get one to go in, but he sure had his chances. I knew the book on this kid was that he was uber-fast, but you have to see him in person. I thought he'd have a few more chances in the games on the big ice (didn't notice him much during the Saturday UAF game for sure...though that could've been the camera angle making it tough), but he did notch 1-3--4 in those 4 games. Needs to improve his defense some (Even in the +/- category) and NEEDS TO STOP FREAKING DIVING like a little soccer player. He gets an A/A- without the diving, but it's one of my pet peeves and he does it a lot.
Travis Turnbull: B+ The most pleasant surprise of the team. 9 points and a +6 through 11 games, and I think he's already one of the more reliable two-way players that we have. I wasn't expecting a ton out of the kid, but he's been fun to watch.
Kevin Porter: A Him and Ebbett are the best two-way players on the team. He's the goal scorer while Ebby is the assist guy. Leads the team in goals and is over a point a game. He's been solid the whole year.
Zach MacVoy: C He's been pretty good when he's been in there, but his skating is still holding him back, as I'm sure it's the reason he didn't see the ice against BC, or on the Olympic sheets. I do like him though, and when they need a more physical guy, he'll get his chance and fair pretty well.
Brandon Kaleniecki: C+ Two goals, three points, and a -2 just isn't going to get it done, captain. He does things well that don't show up on the score sheet, but he needs to produce more on the offensive end. He isn't going to lead this team in goals again, and I don't expect that, but he needs to score more than 6-8 goals this year.
David Rohlfs: B I haven't noticed him, and that's not a bad thing for a defenseman. Especially one that is still learning the position. I think he could probably produce a little more offensively from back on the blueline, being a converted forward and all, but then again, we've got plenty of offense from our blueline with Johnson and Hunwick. Him and Mitera make for an imposing duo.
Mark Mitera: B+ One of the unsung heroes of the first quarter. He's not flashy like Johnson, and despite his size isn't going to kill people like Jack, but he's just been solid, solid, solid. Very good at using his feet to deflect pucks and he's been outstanding at giving up his body to block shots.
Tim Miller: B- He's started to come on as of late, and he's probably right on the B/B- border in my eyes. He had a very nice game Saturday night it sounded like, and that was the first time he's really jumped out. 4 assists, and he's a +4, but he sure hasn't hurt us out there. He's not going to light up the scoresheet, but he's a solid player and you need guys like him. Hopefully he keeps up the improvement.
Andrew Ebbett: B Took him a little while to get it going, but he's been pretty good overall. He's on pace for very similar offensive numbers to his sophomore and junior years, but he needs to not be on the minus side of things defensively. There probably aren't many (if any) penalty killers out there who are better than this guy though. I forget what game it was (MSU maybe?) where he killed off a full minute by himself. It was unreal. He's a big reason the PK has been so great this year.
Tyler Swystun: C- I wasn't expecting much out of him since the book was that he probably needed another year of seasoning, which is why he gets a C- instead of a lower grade. I can live with him not scoring, since he's had a few chances, but -8 in limited icetime? Yikes.
Jason Bailey: C+ I just haven't seen the kid that I saw at USA just yet. With the NTDP he was all over the ice, pinballing off of people. He seemed pretty good in his own end, but again he's one of the worst +/-s on the team (I know that stat doesn't show everything, but it's alright comparing guys on the same team). He reminded me of a Mike Brown type, and thusfar that's kind of what he's been. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. I still think he's going to have a very nice career here.
Brandon Naurato: B- I'm not quite sure what to make of him yet. He's defnitely got a great shot, and yet the two goals he netted this weekend were both floaters that should have been stopped. Still though, 5 points in 8 games is pretty good for a guy that wasn't really expected to see the ice much.
Chad Kolarik: B- Absolutely invisible up til a couple weeks ago, but he's really turned it on as of late. If the first few weeks was just a fluke/slump (and I think it was), he'll probably be up in the A-/B+ range by the end of the season. Kid's a player.
Tim Cook: D+ Dear God. I want to like this kid. I really really do. In the first couple of games he was jumping up into the play, he was solid in his own end. But there hasn't been much of that lately. Still no points, he's a -4, he probably is dragging Dest down somewhat. He gets beat to the outside, he had a beautiful fall/backflip combo at ND that led to a goal. He doesn't use his size. If all our defensemen hang around, he won't be playing at all next year.
Danny Fardig: B+ If Turnbull isn't the most pleasant surprise then this kid probably is. He's just all out effort, every shift he's out there. He gives up his body on the PK, he blocks shots. I love Digger.
Mike Mayhew: Inc 3 saves in 10 minutes.
Noah Ruden: B He's been a solid backup, and came in and pitched a shutout (with the help of his pipes) at UAF when Sauer was really struggling. This is Sauer's job though. I think Rudy gets the occasional start the rest of the season, and they'll throw him in there when Billy needs a break or if he needs to calm down for a game, but Sauer is the guy.
Billy Sauer: B+ I'm not sure we could have expected much more out of this guy. He's already shown the capability to be a big game goalie (he was outstanding against BC and MSU). He won a game for us at NMU Saturday night. And he's been pretty darn solid the entire way, with the exception of the UAF game, which I'm willing to chalk up to him not knowing the angles. He fixed that real quick. He has the tendancy to give up some big rebounds and some soft goals, but not as many bad ones as Al gave up last year. He's incredibly athletic, great side to side, great along the ice, and he's outstanding at finding the puck through traffic. He needs to improve his puckhandling, because it's just atrocious, but to his credit he doesn't attempt to do it very often. IMO he won the starting job with his performances the last two weekends (paired with his great performances vs. MSU and BC). He's not as good as Al was his freshman and sophomore seasons (but that's a ridiculous standard to hold the kid to), but Billy definitely has been better than Junior-year Al to this point. I think we have an upgrade in goal over last season.