Saturday, September 22, 2007

Breaking Down the 07-08 Wolverines: Aaron Palushaj

Next up is the first forward we'll preview: #8, freshman Aaron Palushaj.

Last Season: Palushaj was a big-time scorer in the USHL. He finished the season 7th in scoring with a 22-45--67 line in 56 games. He was a +5 with 62 PIMs and posted a whopping 39 points on the power play. He was second on the Des Moines Buccaneers in scoring, but is three years younger than the player who finished ahead of him. He was also a participant in the USHL All-Star Game.

Palushaj's outstanding season carried over into the playoffs, as he scored six goals and five assists in just eight playoff games, good for the team lead (and 7th overall).

McKeen's ranked him as the #19 winger available in the draft, and the #74 overall player. He was praised for having a heavy and accurate shot, lethal inside 15 feet. He apparently also has excellent stick-handling ability. As I pointed out in my "Looking Ahead" piece, he seems to be viewed as a somewhat selfish player, despite the huge assist numbers that he puts up. That seems very T.J. Hensick to me. They compare him to Tomas Vanek, which would be just fine by me.

Max Giese had him ranked as the #47 player available in the draft. The negatives were that sometimes the effort isn't there, and he's not great in his own end. He listed Palushaj as the #5 "Goal Scorer" available in the draft.

He ended up being picked higher than either of those articles had him. The St. Louis Blues grabbed Palushaj in the second round, #44 overall.

Expectations: They're pretty high. As I pointed out earlier, these articles about him just have that TJ Hensick-vibe to them. Great in close to the net, ability to undress people with his stick-handling, great passer, cited as "selfish" despite his passing ability, questionable defensive effort at times (Hensick grew out of this).

As a freshman, Hensick led the team in scoring with 46 points in 43 games. Tambellini had 45 points in 43 games to lead the team as a freshman. As Colin pointed out in his inaugural blog post, only five of our 34 since the 99-00 season have scored above .8 points per game and only three scored more than 1 point per game. If you were to remove defensemen and the forwards with lower offensive expectations (Bailey, Turnbull, MacVoy, etc.), you might find that the chances are much better that guys like Pacioretty, Palushaj, or Winnett could reach that plateau.

As a second-round pick with many of the same qualities that led to TJ Hensick being an amazing college player, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that Palushaj could reach .8 ppg or so (That'd be what? 33-34 points?). He should see quite a bit of ice-time, as he appears to have star potential, and we lost our two forwards with that attribute in Hensick and Cogliano. He was lethal on the power play for Des Moines, and I expect him to see plenty of time on the ice when Michigan has the man advantage. It's a nice luxury to have a guy with a sniper's shot as well as wonderful passing ability, and they should be able to put that to good use when we're up a man.

Level of Neccessity: We're going pretty high on this one: 7.5 out of 10

The reason for that is that we lost five of our top seven scorers from last year, three of which were forwards. For a team that has a young defense corps and shaky goaltending, scoring goals is absolutely critical, because we figure to be in some shootouts this year.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, Palushaj sounds as if he could be an elite college player. If he can come in and put up numbers approaching the Tambellinis and Hensicks of the world, it would be a big help to the cause. He doesn't have to match what those guys did--and it's probably unreasonable to expect him to do so--but 30-35 points isn't, and shouldn't be, out of the question for a player with this level of talent.

Some Other Good Stuff: As Western College Hockey pointed out to the world last night, the Wolverines have landed a verbal commitment from Uber-1992 forward Luke Moffatt. He currently plays for Compuware's Midget Minor team, where he's a teammate of Michigan verbal Jared Knight. He was a high (#2 overall) WHL draft pick, but at least at this time appears headed to Ann Arbor, joining what is shaping up to be a top-notch class for 2010. This article indicates that he might have gone #1 had he been willing to commit to the WHL right then. He'll be headed to the NTDP for the remainder of his pre-Michigan playing career.

WCH reported that he had interest from a who's who of the college hockey world: BC, Maine, Colorado College, Notre Dame.

Despite being 15 years old, Moffatt is listed at 6'0" 165. They don't have statistics up yet, but the Compuware team stands at 8-0-0 on the year and has outscored their opponents 50-5.

Here's an article with a video of him from a practice session. I haven't looked at it yet, because my laptop would likely croak at the thought, but hopefully it's more useful than the Pacioretty scouting video that came out in the lead-up to the NHL draft. And some of his accomplishments. A poster over at HockeysFuture claims that he's special, and "similar to Kessel at the same age". Yes please!

Additionally, MGoBlue.com has started posting the "Checking In" profiles of the freshmen that they've done the past couple of seasons. They're usually a pretty good read, and a pretty entertaining way to get to know the newbies. The profiles of Louie Caporusso and Carl Hagelin are up, and they're both great. Caporusso sounds like just the type of player that you want on your hockey team. It's silly to say this after a couple of quotes, but he seems like he could be future captain material. What a great attitude toward the game! I love reading quotes like this:

» On how he sees himself as a player...
"I'm the type of player that's not going to be the fastest or highest scorer. I am a fast hockey player, but I'm probably not the fastest. I have a nice shot, but probably not the nicest. The thing is I like my all-around game, that's what I like about myself. I can play both ends of the ice. I win draws. I can score. I love playmaking, though. If a player is in a better position than me, I'll always make that pass. I am not a selfish kid at all. I think an assist is better than a goal. I'll set up anyone for a goal into an empty net any day over going top-shelf. I love doing that."

Hagelin's profile is fun, because he gives a look into the differences between the US and Sweden, as well as what it was like growing up across the Atlantic. Monday will be Bryan Hogan's profile.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Hard to tell too much from the Moffatt video, other than he has very smooth moves with the puck and seems to have a good shot. Looks like he's having fun, at any rate.