Thursday, October 11, 2007

Breaking Down the 07-08 Wolverines: Tristin Llewellyn

The last defenseman of this year's installment of the Michigan Wolverines is freshman Tristin Llewellyn.

Last Season: Llewellyn had a breakout year offensively, scoring 3-16--19 in 53 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. He had just 18 points in the two previous seasons combined. He was a +3 and had a whopping 165 PIMs, good for sixth in the league. He also had 96 shots on goal, which was a career high. He was honored with an appearance in the USHL All-Star Game.

The playoffs didn't go nearly as well. He had 0 points and was -5 in nine playoff games, with 12 PIMs and 31 shots on goal, which seems really high.

Expectations: When Llewellyn committed to the Wolverines, seemingly 10 years ago, he was thought of as one of the top players in his age group. Since then, expectations have tempered significantly. His development stagnated, in part (I assume) because he spent three years playing in the USHL. A change of scenery might do him a world of good, and hopefully some of the player that was once thought of as a very high draft pick will come through. As it was, he was listed as an "A" player by Central Scouting at one time, and he was on Max Giese's list as a mid-to-late round selection (97th on his list), but ended up getting passed over. Here's what Giese had to say about him in the leadup to the draft:

97. D Tristin Llewellyn, 6-1 195, 5-2-1989, Tri-City USHL
++ Physical defensive game, confidence
+ Character, untapped upside
- Decision making without the puck.

At one point Tristin was a phenom in the American Hockey system as a possible top 5 pick in this years draft as he was playing in the USHL at the age of 15. Playing against players up to five years older then himself stunted Tristin’s development and now he’s a mid to late round pick. He likes to stand up his man at the blue and for the most part does an effective job but he does caught flat footed every now and then, as he can be beaten to the outside. He usually maintains a tight gap and takes the proper angle to his man before standing him up with a nice body check. Can get too aggressive seeking the open ice hit but that presence he brings is a plus. Skating is in need of improvement as he lacks that initial burst forwards or backwards and his turns are a bit choppy although his feet are adequate. His composure with the puck has improved and he makes a strong first pass. He makes good decisions with the puck for the most part but his decision making without the puck is the question mark. He uses a long stick and has adequate hands and escape moves. He was sensing danger better by the end of the season. He possesses a heavy shot but he must improve his shot selection as he’ll force shots into traffic.

As I said in my article in the lead-up to the draft, it scares me a bit that he forces shots into traffic but doesn't have an initial burst. We'd be wise to pair him with someone that has speed unless we want some breakaways going the other way. But apart from Mitera, all our other defensemen have jets so it shouldn't be a problem. I would expect to see him on the second pairing with Chris Summers.

He's not going to be a huge offensive threat. He had just 37 points in 142 career USHL games, though he was around a point every three games last year. He's mainly a defensive defenseman. He hits a lot of people--too many at times, it seems--and is actually a good skater. He made a positive first-impression in the exhibition game. After signing day, Billy Powers compared him to a smaller Mark Mitera.

I'd say he'll have right around 10 points as a freshman. That's what Mitera ended up with, and playing with Chris Summers (if that keeps up) should lead to quite a few second-assist opportunities.

Level of Necessity: 6.5 out of 10

It's looking more and more like he'll be a top-four defenseman on this team--at least in terms of where he's paired. While guys like Quick, Vaughan and Langlais will be counted on to replace some of the points lost with Hunwick and Johnson leaving, Llewellyn's role will more likely be to replace the physicality lost with Jason Dest's graduation.

He's a guy that kind of flies under the radar because he wasn't draft. Where there are questions about the talent level that Quick and Vaughan have faced, there's nothing of the sort with Llewellyn. He has a ton of experience playing in a top Junior league. He's been in the USHL since he was 15 years old. And again, the fact that he's got some speed (even if he doesn't have a great first step) will allow him to cover up at least some of his freshman mistakes.

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