Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Look to the Future: Class of 2008

I hate to use the hammer on my "In Case of Emergency" glass case of article ideas this early in the offseason, but right now I've got nothing and I'm going to be out of town this weekend. Right now, there are twelve players who have committed to the Michigan program that have yet to suit up for the Maize and Blue. My first set of profiles will look at how the incoming class of 2008 fared this season.

Brandon Burlon, defenseman, St. Michael's Buzzers, OPJHL:
During the regular season Burlon played in 32 games and had 7 goals, 17 assists, and 41 penalty minutes. He missed some time with an injury, costing him a chance to play in the CJAHL Prospect Game in December. The Buzzers had the best regular season in team history, going 35-0-2 over a 37 game stretch and only losing 4 times the entire year.

Come playoff time, he put up 2-4--6 in 10 games to go with 8 PIMs as the Buzzers were ousted in the South Division Final. By the looks of it, the Buzzers played 12 playoff games, so it's likely those playoff numbers aren't completely up to date.

Burlon was also selected to play in the World Junior A Challenge, where he fared very well. Canada East won the silver medal and in 5 games, Burlon had 2 assists and 14 PIMs. Despite not putting up a huge "Line", the blueliner drew rave reviews. Red Line is absolutely in love with him, writing the following after his performance in British Columbia:

As for Burlon, he did more to boost his stock than anyone in British Columbia last week, and we suspect he'll join a pair of fellow St. Michael's Buzzers alumni, Andrew Cogliano in 2005 and Brendan Smith in '07, as first round NHL picks when teams convene in Ottawa next June.

Burlon is ultra-smooth and the prototypical two-way defender in the post-lockout NHL landscape. He defends beautifully in his own end, seemingly never making a mistake in either his puck movement decisions, coverage down low or play diagnosis. He's big enough and competitive enough to duel against the big boys in front of the net and mobile and savvy enough to sniff out and breakup plays and lead quick-strike transition attacks, turning defense to offense in a heartbeat.

Brandon Burlon— Turned in an absolutely dominant performance all week at the Jr. A Challenge, outshining the more highly touted Russian rearguards.

It isn't just Red Line that likes him, however. The Hockey News's Mark Seidel rated Burlon #20 overall (and the #10 defenseman) in his mock draft in Mid-March. He writes:
Intriguing prospect who plays Junior-A for the same team that produced Andrew Cogliano and Red Wings prospect Brendan Smith. Had a tremendous World Junior-A Challenge and has impressive offensive skills that will be good at any level.
In April, Seidel put out a revised list which ranked Burlon #23 overall and Czarnik #49 overall. Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting, for the record.

Highlights (Burlon is #6): A nice fake shot sets up a teammate for a goal at 1:38 of this clip. Apparently Burlon was outstanding that entire night.

Just a few days later, Burlon was once again said to be the Buzzers best player with a four-point night in a 7-4 win over Durham. In this clip, you'll see a Burlon goal three seconds in, a big hit at 20 seconds, a display of his physicality creating a goal at the 46 second mark, and another goal at 1:18.

No fun quotes from Red about him since they haven't officially announced his signing yet.

Robbie Czarnik, right wing, USA NTDP Under 18 Team:
For the season, Czarnik posted 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 57 games. He ranked 4th on the team in goals (#1 had 22), 4th in assists, 3rd in points (1 point out of second), and 3rd in GWG. He also had 42 PIMs.

The NTDP plays in three important tournaments throughout the season. In USA's 1-2 effort in the Four Nations Tournament, Czarnik was held to just one assist. USA won the Five Nations Tournament (4-0 record) and Czarnik had two goals and an assist. The future Wolverine was at his best, however, in the all-important World Under 18 Championships. USA won the Bronze Medal with a 5-2 record. Czarnik tied for the team lead in points with 8 (three goals, five assists) and was +7 on the tournament. In the Bronze Medal Game, Czarnik put up a 2-1--3 line to help lead USA to the win. He also had two primary assists--including one on the game winning goal--in a key win over Finland.

Czarnik had the Game Winning Goal in a win over Harvard and also tallied USA's only goal against Michigan. After the former game Czarnik was profiled in a feature at His former coach (at Detroit Honeybaked) quashed any notion that Czarnik struggles to play without the puck.

Both Mel Pearson and Red Berenson compared him, somewhat, to Chad Kolarik. Here's what Pearson had to say:

"Robbie Czarnik is a real high-end, talented player. I think he's going to add some offensive skill to our team. He's very good with the puck. He's always been a top scorer wherever he has played. We've had a chance to observe him for the last few years. We're really excited to get him into the program. He reminds me of Chad Kolarik in some regards, but at the same time I don't know if he is as pure a scorer as Chad. He skates well, handles the puck well, shoots it pretty well. He probably plays a little more physically than Chad. He's along those lines."
David Wohlberg, center, USA NTDP Under 18 Team:
If Czarnik has some Kolarik in him, then it's probably natural that Red Berenson said that David Wohlberg has some Kevin Porter in his game. Here's what Mel Pearson had to say about the incoming freshman:
"I don't know if we've anybody like David Wohlberg for the last little bit. He's an intriguing player with good size and he plays with a real edge to him. He has good skill -- good hands. He's the type of guy you could probably project to play against a lot of other teams' top centers because he is very defensive conscious in the zone. He's good on faceoffs. He plays with that little bit of nastiness that you like to see in a kid. At the same time, he has very good hands and good offensive instincts. We probably haven't had anybody in the center position like him in a while. I think it's going to be a mix and a benefit for us to have in the program. David is a good two-way player, where Czarnik is obviously more of an offensive-type player."
Sounds good, right? The name that jumps right to mind from reading that description is Matt Rust. Good size, good hands, defensively aware, good on draws, nasty, and likely a good penalty killer. I've never seen Wohlberg play (I don't think) but that's the image I'm getting. It sounds like the only thing missing is a Youtube video of him dancing in his underwear to a Fergie song.

Wohlberg played 53 games for the Under 18s this year and put up a 14-11--25 line to go with 71 PIMs (which led the team). His 14 goals ranked 5th on the roster. He had an assist in the Four Nations Tournament, a goal in the Five Nations Tournament and three goals in the World Under 18 Championships, including the game winner against Germany and a goal against Sweden where he "evaded several defenders".

He also skated in six games for the Under 17s and put up five goals and an assist. Very limited sample size for Wohlberg, but only Jeremy Morin had more points per game on the U17s.

His USA Hockey feature cites his great skating ability and his prowess at both ends of the ice. Like Czarnik, I fully expect Wohlberg to come in and be an effective player as a freshman. I love getting these NTDP guys.

Greg Pateryn, defenseman, Ohio Junior Blue Jackets, USHL:
Pateryn is signed for next year, but it's entirely possible that he'll end up playing another year in the USHL if no one bails on us.

He's a big boy, listed at 6'2" 195, and, well, he likes to hit people. Sometimes with his body, sometimes with his stick, occasionally with his fists. But he likes to hit. He was in the box for 145 minutes (led the team, 13th in the league) in 60 games and a look at his game log reveals that only ten of those PIMs were due to a misconduct and just five were due to a fight. That means he took a whopping 65 minor penalties this year. The concern is that in a quick sample of games with big penalty numbers, I didn't find a single coincidental penalty in the bunch. It's worth mentioning, however, that he's young (there were just two younger guys on his team that actually played) and came right out of the Michigan high school ranks, not the MWEHL. I'm sure there was a learning curve.

Despite the penalty minutes Pateryn was named to the USHL All-Star team. He had 3 goals and 24 assists, ranking tops on the Jr. Blue Jackets in points amongst defensemen. He also had a solid -1 rating on a team whose defensemen combined to be -50. Also, he was third on the team in shots on goal with 137. Not many found the net, but a defensemen that can get pucks on net (especially if he can keep them low) is nice to have around.

Like the state they play in, the Jr. Blue Jackets sucked, and thus didn't qualify for the playoffs.

Berenson seems to think that he could use another year of seasoning, but if we need him, he's available to come in. Pearson echoed those sentiments:
"Greg Pateryn is a big, strong, physical defenseman with really good offensive instincts. He's played a lot of the power play down in Ohio. He's putting up decent numbers for a first-year player right out of high school. He's going to come in and add some size to our defense. He's a smart defenseman with the puck, able to make that first outlet pass. He'll add some offensive instincts to our team. He's come a long way in one year from the high school ranks to juniors. Greg has always wanted to come to Michigan. He's a Brother Rice (High School) kid and he grew up here. He really has a love for Michigan and Michigan hockey. He's playing in Ohio and we have an agreement with him that we'll reevaluate him at the end of the year. It's a pretty big jump from Michigan high school hockey into college and I think that's one of the reason's he left his senior year and went down into the USHL -- he's played very well there. He might need another year, so we're going to reevaluate that at the end of the season and sit down with Greg and just see if another year would make sense for him and us."
Another year in the USHL playing heavy minutes would probably be beneficial to Pateryn. If he comes in now, he'll be fighting for ice-time with (minimum) one other guy and would likely be on the third pairing. If he can play in the USHL and develop for another year, he'd come in in 2009 immediately filling a hole created by the loss of Mark Mitera and some minutes would be available since chances are Summers would be gone too.

Either way, it sounds like we're getting a very-talented, physical defenseman at some point. And if you're so inclined, you can purchase his game-used jersey on ebay.

Also worth reading: MGoBlog took a look at the OHL Draft and what it means for Michigan. Good news for the most part. A couple of possible targets are OHL bound, but Merrill was kind of a flier pick by Plymouth, though there's a possibility he could bail, and Knight pretty much told everyone that he's headed for college. The goalie Michigan really wants went in the sixth round, so he's likely headed to the NCAA. Hopefully to Michigan.


Anonymous said...

A great read! Thanks for giving your thoughts on Michigan's hockey future. I just hope they all make it here! Hopefully the WHL/OHL story is one that they don't buy.

Anonymous said...

One question, what are your thoughts on the potential risk that the London Knights and/or Plymouth Whalers will grab some of Michigan's future prospects; Merrill (Ply), Knight (Lon), Lynch (Ply). Those are historically very active organizations when it comes to recruiting, especially local kids.

Packer487 said...

Merrill and Knight kind of seemed like flier picks. Knight would've been a first rounder had he indicated he was interested in the OHL--apparently four teams were set to take him.

Merrill also would've gone toward the top of the draft had he indicated he'd like to go to the O. Based on some things Bob Miller has said, I'd think that Merrill bailing would be more likely than Knight decommitting. But the Whalers seem to think he'll play for the NTDP this year. I wouldn't consider us "safe" with Merrill just yet, but if he does in fact play for the NTDP this year I'll feel better about our chances of keeping him.

Haven't thought too much about Lynch yet. Maybe I'll be able to find a quote when I do his profile?

With guys committing at a younger and younger age, there are going to be defections now and then (AJ Jenks, Trevor Lewis). Just gotta keep our fingers crossed!

Kurt said...


I watched Wohlberg and Czarnik play vs the Russians in one of the Four Nations Cup games but I think that was two years ago (first year in NTDP for each). At that point, neither one really stood out but I certainly noticed Czarnik much more. I don't remember much about his stick handling but he seemed like a very fluid and fast skater. Not sure if he will be a star (and I suck as a talent evaluator) but should be very solid if not better. Again, I didn't notice Wohlberg that much but maybe that's a good think considering his defensive tendencies. I am sure both have progressed greatly since I saw them play.

Thanks for the update.