Counting today, there are 25 days until the first real game of the 2007-2008 Michigan hockey season. There are 26 players on the Michigan hockey team. I figure that gives me just enough time to write a breakdown for each of them. Of course, that means that I have to do things like "Write every day" and "Not take a week off" which haven't exactly been features of this blog since its inception two years ago.
For the freshmen, a lot of this was covered in my "Looking Ahead" series that I wrote in April. Part One and Part Two.
I'll go numerically, which is lazy I know(I once wrote a paper ridiculing teachers who do things alphabetically. My professor to this day picks names out of a hat to set the order for the "Workshop" essays).
We'll start today with #3, Charles "Scooter" Vaughan, a freshman defenseman out of the NAHL.
Last Season: As a member of the NAHL Champion St. Louis Bandits, Vaughan was 5th on the team in scoring with a line of 8-27--35, 115 PIMs in 58 games. In their run to the championship, however, Vaughan was second in scoring with 3 goals and 9 assists in twelve playoff games. He was a member of the All NAHL Second Team and the NAHL All-Rookie Team. He also considered Western Michigan. Vaughan is also a past member of the Detroit Honeybaked program, which has--and continues to--produce future Wolverines.
Expectations: Vaughan is one of two members of the Wolverines defense corps (Eric Emblad is the other) who did not sign a letter of intent, which indicates that he was brought in as a preferred walk-on. His MGoBlue profile indicates that he is on scholarship, however, so I assume that an extra one became available with the attrition of the past season (Johnson, Cogliano).
Anyway, it's easy to assume that because of that, he'll likely be the second defenseman sitting. But with Michigan losing four defensemen from last year--three of whom were more than willing to hit--they could be looking for someone who plays with the edge that Vaughan does. He once cited Kelly Chase as his favorite player because, "He shows no mercy". With JMFJ off to the pros, a spot could be open for a player who is willing to inflict pain on opposing forwards. And as the heaviest of the incoming freshmen defenders, Vaughan could be that guy.
If Vaughan can be a CCHA-caliber defenseman from the get-go, it would at least give the coaches the option of moving Chris Summers back to forward, where he showed the ability to be an impact player. If the goal is to get the best 19 players on the ice, it might be an option they'd think about. It's easy to pooh-pooh the idea because it would leave us playing four freshmen defensemen every night, but the alternative is to have Summers back there. He's a sophomore who played forward for a big portion of last year. It's not like he brings a breadth of experience.
And despite the fact that it appears he was coming in as a preferred walk-on, Vaughan was speaking with teams heading into the NHL Draft. Although he didn't get picked, he was on the "Watch List" for NHL Central Scouting. His coach said that he "has as good of feet for a defenseman as I've ever seen. Couple that with his skill and a mean streak and you have a hockey player."
Level of Necessity: 4 out of 10.
We've got some question marks on the blueline with this many new players. If Vaughan plays himself into the lineup, I could see him making an impact as you can't go wrong with a mean, fast, skilled defenseman. What could get him in the lineup is his toughness and willingness to hit, because we lost a lot of that in the offseason. When he's in, he could get some power play time as well, since Kampfer is the only other right-hand shot on the team.
I'd also prefer to see Summers back at forward eventually, because I think he could be really great up front (I'll get more into this tomorrow). Vaughan, Llewellyn, and Langlais are the key to making that happen (as I'm pretty confident Quick is going to be solid).
I think we've got seven defensemen that can play. With four freshmen coming in, it's all about who can adjust to playing at the next level the quickest.