The latest player that we'll take a look at is one of just two seniors on the team, Chad Kolarik.
Last Season: Kolarik was fourth on the team in scoring as well as goals with an 18-27--45 line. He was +13 and had just 24 PIMs in 41 games. He led the team in PPGs (7) as well as short-handed goals (3). He was also the first Michigan player in a dozen years to notch hat-tricks in back to back games.
Kolarik was the closest thing to a video game player on our team, firing an amazing 163 shots at the net (that's what I do when I play video games...I end up shooting the puck like 70 times).
He also showed that faceoffs are not his strong suit, winning just 38.9% of the 190 draws that he took. What is his strong suit, though, is putting up points. He went without a point in back-to-back games just two times the entire season, and was held pointless on only thirteen of the 41 games.
Expectations: Whereas Kevin Porter puts up a ton of points, but is also a well-rouned player, Kolarik is more of a pure offensive talent. He's not a guy that you're going to put out there to lock down the opposing team's best player. He shoots, shoots, and shoots some more and puts in a fair amount of goals out of sheer opportunities (only Ciraulo, Fardig, and Turnbull had worse shooting percentages amongst our regular forwards).
He's extremely effective on the power play, and while he's not a great defender, he is nice to have out there on the PK, because he gives you the threat of scoring short-handed when he's out there. Part of what makes him so effective in that regard is that he is very good at blocking shots. His 26 blocks were second on the team amongst forwards to Danny Fardig.
He should be in line for another very nice season. He's never had less than 35 points in his Michigan career, and he'll be playing on the top line with Porter and Max Pacioretty, at least for the time being. It will be interesting to see the dynamic between Porter and Kolarik. Last year, Kolarik was with a pass-first center in Cogliano (and don't let Cogs's goal total fool you, he had just 89 shots on goal last year). Porter is used to getting the puck as well, finishing second on the team in shots last year. I'm curious to see if they'll adjust their games (and find some pucks for Pacioretty as well) or if they'll need to juggle the lines and get more of a natural passer on the top line.
If things stay how they are, however, it wouldn't shock me if Kolarik betters his personal bests in goals and points again this year. He put up 18 goals and 45 points and they didn't really have a threat on the left wing until Summers moved up to forward until late in the year. As of right now, he's with two other players that can put the puck in the net. If they prove to be able to get the puck to each other, we could have a really solid top line, even if it's not as nasty as Porter-Hensick-Rohlfs was last year.
I'd like to see him pass up some of those low-percentage shots in favor of working it around to his very talented linemates (and defensemen). If he can cut some of those out, and bury the higher-percentage shots that he gets, he could have a monster year.
I'd really like to see his shooting percentage closer to the .158 that he had as a freshman than the .104 or .110 that he's had in subsequent years. He had 18 goals on 114 shots as a freshman and it took him 163 to match that total as a junior. Midseason, he was at a .144, which is more like what we need. The puck stopped going in for him after the GLI, and he had just 4 goals after the first game of 2007 (I realize this contradicts what I said about how playing with two top-notch players might help him...so we'll see).
He's going to play heavy minutes, as a top line forward who also plays on the power play and penalty kill. I'm looking forward to a very nice senior season out of Kolarik.
Level of Necessity: 8.5 out of 10.
We lose enough scoring on this team as it is. Kolarik is second on the team amongst returning players in goals and points. He's a top line player, he plays on all the special teams units, and he's the closest thing to a sniper that we've got on this team. While Porter outscored him last year, Porter has just two more points over the course of their careers (and that was with the benefit of playing with TJ Hensick). There's no reason that being on equal footing, Kolarik shouldn't lead this team in scoring.
Other Stuff: The hockey team defeated Western Ontario by a 5-1 margin yesterday in their only exhibition game before they head out to St. Paul to potentially take on the #2 and #5 teams in the country.
Based on some high-quality box score reading (I wasn't about to listen to the game when the Packers were on. Maybe I should have.) it looks like another stellar night out of the Turnbull-Caporusso-Hagelin line. Hagelin had a hat trick. The Miller-Rust-Palushaj line also did a good job, with all three players netting two points.
Sauer allowed just one goal, but was apparently not tested more than a couple of times. 1 goal on 17 shots is just fine. You can only stop the shots you face, and it doesn't seem like UWO provided much of an offensive threat. Langlais was +3, and apparently was pretty impressive.
Bob Miller and MGoBlog had very detailed, first-hand accounts. From Bob's post, it seems that they're making an effort to be a more responsible defensive team this season, and he agrees with what I've been saying in these previews, that they'll be a more well-rounded offensive team, but without the elite offensive players that we've had in the past.