Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Look to the Future: Class of 2009

After a couple of years that each included just one member of the NTDP as part of the recruiting class (Summers in 2006, Rust in 2007), Michigan is back to recruiting the heck out of that fertile ground of high-end talent. Out of the 12 players currently committed to Michigan who have yet to play for the Wolverines, eight have played, or will play, for the national team. Included in that number are three out of the four members of the Class of 2009.

Chris Brown, forward, USA NTDP Under 17 Team
In 63 games for Team USA this year, Brown scored 13 goals and tallied 7 assists for 20 points. His 13 goals tied him for 5th on the team, but he was second in game-winning goals with 4. He was also fourth on the team in PIMs with 74.

Brown had 4 goals and an assist in international play this year, including an unassisted game-winner in the opening game of the Four Nations Cup. He had a 2-1--3 line in the seven games of the World Under 17 Challenge.

USA Hockey had a feature about Brown in February and it's a good read. There was a transitional period for him, coming from midgets, but he sounds as if he's progressing. He's a big kid (6'2", 190ish) and it makes sense that it's a little harder to play the power forward role against 20 year olds than it was in the MWEHL.

In February, McKeen's wrote the following about him:
02/06/2008 - Brown does many little things right but does not excel at anything in particular .. he is a role player who will not hurt you with his skill set or decisions on the ice .. a tall, upright skater, he maximizes his speed with long graceful strides .. makes timely hits when he realizes his team needs a boost .. will always go to the boards and the wall to dig up the puck for his more talented linemates .. showed some good patience in front and knows what to do with the puck .. he scores many clutch goals, as he is the perfect player to go to war with in tight-checking games such as the playoffs .. he led his Midget team in scoring that featured many players who were drafted ahead of him in the OHL draft .. due to his sound defensive game, he could be molded into a solid two-way player cut from the same cloth as a Jamal Mayers.
Kevin Lynch, forward, USA NTDP Under 17 Team
Lynch ended the season in third place on the U-17s with 19 goals (5 game-winners, which was tops on the squad) in 63 games. He also had six assists for 25 points, which placed him 8th on the team. He also added 44 penalty minutes.

Lynch was quiet in the Four Nations Cup and didn't tally a point, but he responded in a big way with a 3-1--4 line in the World Under 17 Challenge. He had the game-winning goal for USA against Canada-Pacific. He had two points in the Vlad Dzurilla tournament and scored a pair of goals in the NAHL Playoffs, where the 17s were swept in the opening round by eventual champion St. Louis (Scooter Vaughan's old team).

Here are a pair of articles about him: MiCHO and USA Hockey's feature.

Redline was also impressed with him when he played for Honeybaked:
Kevin Lynch/RC - Honeybaked. Underrated pivot is a coach's dream. Does whatever is needed to win. Rarely loses an important face-off. Great penalty killer and has more skill than he's given credit for. Scores big goals.
Lee Moffie, defenseman, Avon Old Farms, New England Prep
Moffie was ranked as the #181 North American skater in this year's draft. Avon Old Farms went 27-1-0 on the season and won the New England Prep Championship. Moffie had 7 goals and 25 assists, but there's no stat page for Avon, so I can't tell you where he ranked on his team.

McKeen's interview, along with a slew of articles that I linked before.

I don't believe I've posted this part before. Here are the latest comments from McKeen's after seeing Moffie play for the NE Prep Championship:
03/09/2008 - Recently committed to Michigan for 2009 .. logs a lot of icetime .. a fluid skater with a nice stride and speed .. during the St. Paul's game, one forward looked to have a step on him, but Moffie was able to catch him and get the puck away from him .. moves the puck quickly and gets open while jumping up into the offense .. also has the ability to skate the puck .. his one-timer is strong, low and very effective in creating numerous scoring chances around the net .. in the championship game against St. Paul's, he showed a feisty side .. rarely makes a mistake with the puck and is very poised, even when being pressured .. strong on the PK with the ability to make sure all his clearing attempts get out of the zone .. also rang one shot off the post in the championship game .. his offensive skills are top notch at the prep level, but as stated before, the lone issues with his game is in the defensive zone .. still stand-by the fact that he should receive more consideration for the upcoming draft, as his deficiencies in the defensive zone can be fixed, but he remains one of the top defenseman in prep with the highest potential .. had 32 points (7 goals 25 assists) during the season.
We've got quite a few defensive defensemen on the blueline. Probably doesn't hurt to add some offensive skill. In the interview with McKeen's, Moffie indicated that he's likely going back to Avon for his senior season. They've won back-to-back prep titles. I'd prefer to see him in the USHL (I'm within driving distance of a slew of USHL rinks and I have no one to go watch).

A.J. Treais, forward, USA NTDP Under 17 Team
Treais is another of those small (5'8"), shifty, offensively-gifted guys that I just love. He's drawn comparisons to TJ Hensick, which gives warm fuzzies to all. He had a 12-17--29 line in 63 games for the 17s this year, ranking him 8th in goals (he had 5 on the PP) and 5th in points.

In the tournaments, he had a goal in the Four Nations, 1-3--4 in the World Under 17s, and led the Americans with four points (2-2--4) in the Vlad Dzurilla. He had just one assist in the NAHL Playoffs.

Not an overly deep feature on him, but one from USA Hockey.

Treais wasn't as prolific as Hensick as a U-17 player, as Hensick put up 25-30--55 in 63 games (wow). His numbers were more in line with Robbie Czarnik's totals when Czarnik played for the 17s (17-12--29). Still a clearly talented player who should fit in perfectly at Michigan.

He definitely has some impressive stick-handling skills (NSFW music). *

*In his driveway on a sheet of plastic.

You can also go to Treais's Youtube page if you'd like to see a video of Kevin Lynch stretching in a patriotic jock. I'd recommend not heading that way.

I think that's about all I've got on him.

I'll be out of town until Tuesday of next week. I'm heading down to Charlotte to take in the Nascar race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Go Wings and Pistons!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Angry Blogger is Angry

If anyone that is reading this article lives in southwest Madison and has young children, I apologize for teaching them some new words tonight. I had, shall we say, an unpleasant reaction to another example of stunning incompetance by the NHL and its officials tonight.

With the score 0-0 late in the second period of Game 4 between the Red Wings and Stars, Datsyuk put a shot past Turco to give Detroit the lead. Or so we thought. Kelly Sutherland immediately waived the goal off, saying that Tomas Holmstrom interfered with Turco's ability to make the save--that his butt was in the crease. How can I put this gently....Sutherland was completely and utterly WRONG. Holmstrom was clearly outside the crease and Turco, despite his comments to the contrary, had every chance to make the save. The only bit of "interfering" that Holmstrom did was blocking Turco's view, which is kind of his job (and completely legal provided he's not in the crease or going Sean Avery on the goalie).

To add to the hilarity, the Stars scored just a couple minutes later when Loui Eriksson showed everybody what it really means to be in the crease. Not surprisingly--especially with Dan O'Halloran down at that end of the ice--no one seemed to care that he was basically on top of Osgood, or that they had waived off a goal for a man in the crease just a few moments earlier.

Where my anger at the NHL comes in is that the play with Holmstrom was not reviewable. Now, wait a minute....the NHL war room in Toronto reviews every single goal that is scored to make sure that it shouldn't be waived off, but a scenario exists where they can't review the flip side of that? The technology is there, the league clearly embraces video replay considering they've set up a system where every goal in every game is reviewed by a central location, and we're not letting them take a look at a call like that?

What's even more maddening is that this is at least the third time Holmstrom has had a goal waived off in the same fashion. Sure, there are plenty of times where his actions have warranted goals being waived off--one even happened in Game One and was ignored (and I'd really prefer that make-up calls not take place in a 0-0 game when the original would-be infraction made a game 3-0)--but this wasn't one of them. Nor was the would-be game-tying goal that Detroit scored against Anaheim late in the regular season. Good ole Dan O'Halloran was the person who effed up that ruling.

It is nice to know, however, that the NHL finally realized that they shouldn't allow goals to stand when the player simply knocks the goalie into the net with the puck as Datsyuk did with about 7 minutes to go. I fully acknowledge that that goal shouldn't have counted. I just wish Rob Schick was smart enough to realize it during Game Two of the conference final last year.

I don't suppose the mainstream media will make as big of a deal about Datsyuk's waived off goal as they did about Chauncey Billups's three-pointer which he had time to make due to the clock malfunction in Game Two of the Detroit/Orlando series. I mean, after all, that was three points in a game where the two teams combined for 193 and somehow that blown call was made out to be the sole deciding factor in the game.

The controversy tonight involved a goal in a game where the teams combined for four tallies and Datsyuk's shot was, without question, good. To put things in perspective, Datsyuk's goal being waived off accounted for 20% of the points which should have been scored in the game (one goal out of five). The damage to the Red Wings by having that goal waived off would be the equivalent of the damage to Orlando had Chauncey's shot counted for 38 points. The point is that it's really hard to score in hockey and, if we're waiving off goals, maybe we should make sure we get the call right.

A quick aside: It's also worth mentioning that Orlando got a call in their favor last night that was even more egregious than the one that went Detroit's way in Game Two. Bogans dribbled the ball out of bounds with about a minute and a half left in the game and Detroit up by four. No official noticed the ball hitting the sideline, even though pretty much every fan in the front row did. Orlando retained possession and Bogans missed a runner. Prince grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. The blown call didn't end up costing the Pistons, but it could have. Orlando went on to pull the game within one before having to start fouling after Detroit got an offensive rebound. But what if Bogans had made that shot? It's very possible Orlando would have won that game, largely in part because of a possession they didn't deserve very, very late in the game.

Stan Van Jeremy won't mention the huge break that went his way. The national media won't mention it either. But that three pointer that Billups hit? That cost Orlando Game Two by God. Never mind the fact that Billups still had to make the shot. And never mind the fact that had the clock been working properly, it's very likely Detroit would have still gotten a good look at the basket. Just not the same look. What it comes down to is that when they got an opportunity, the Pistons executed and the Magic didn't.

Back to hockey, I don't know that the call by Sutherland cost Detroit the game tonight. Dallas played their best game of the series. Turco played his best game of the series. And the Wings are back to being a one-line team with Franzen out of the lineup. The momentum of the game changed with that call, but Detroit had plenty of time to make it a non-factor and they didn't succeed. I just think it's asinine that a game-changing call like the one we saw tonight can be made without using the technology that the league has clearly embraced.

Why are they allowed to examine whether the puck was batted in with a high-stick or if the puck was kicked into the net? Those seem like very similar issues and the league goes upstairs to review them all the time. It seems really strange to me that reviewing if a player's butt was in the crease is a big no-no. Especially when the outcome of a review could fix an incorrect, potentially-game-changing call.

Then again, why am I surprised? This is the NHL. This is the same league that for the entire 1998-99 season waived off any goal where a player so much as had a toe in the crease and then allowed the Stanley Cup to be awarded on such a goal. Nothing they do should shock me anymore.

NHL, make the rule change. You were quick to outlaw Avery's actions. It's high time to allow the league office to review goalie interference/man in the crease calls so your dung-for-brains officals don't screw any more of them up. And while you're at it, make it reviewable as to if the puck hit the protective netting out of play.

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 usahockey.com. 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.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Postseason Report Card: The Forwards (Part Three)

Time to take a look at the final batch of players:

#22 Brandon Naurato
34 GP, 7-11--18, +5, 22 PIMs

Honestly, this was just kind of a blah season. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. His numbers dipped a bit from a year ago (5 fewer goals and points in 7 fewer games) but it was what you'd expect when he's playing in fewer games and maybe not seeing as much ice-time when he was in the lineup.

In 2006-07, he was held without a shot on goal on just two occasions and averaged three SOG per game. This year, he averaged two SOG per game and was held without a shot niiiiiiiiiiiiine tiiiiiiiiiiimes, including four straight in late January-early Feburary. He also had just three multi-point games after having seven the year before.

His points came in bunches. From December 8 until January 19, Naurato had a goal and six assists in a career-best six-game point streak. Then from February 23 to March 22, he had points in five out of seven games for a 5-1--6 line. The rest of the year? Five points. Fortunately those two streaks covered a big part of the second-half of the season and he was able to rebound from a slow start (3 points in his first 11 games) to finish the year 11th on the team in scoring (9th amongst forwards).

His biggest moment of the year was scoring the CCHA Championship-winning goal off a great feed from Tim Miller. He also one-touched the pass to Louie Caporusso for the game-winning goal against Notre Dame in that classic game at Yost.

I did notice him backchecking quite a bit more than I have in the past--and he did it well. He didn't have a great +/- (only Lebler, Fardig and Ciraulo were worse), but I do think he improved as a defensive player this season.

He wasn't just a shooter this year. He matched his career high in assists despite not playing nearly as much and as I said, I feel he improved defensively as well. And half a point a game from a third-line player is nothing to sneeze at.

2007-08 Grade: B-. Pretty much right in line with what I expected this year.

#24 Chad Kolarik
39 GP, 30-26--56, +28, 24 PIMs

Heart-and-Soul, Spirit-and-Guts. Fitting descriptions of our two seniors this season. Chad Kolarik wasn't in the Hobey Hat Trick. Wasn't even a Finalist. But in my book, he was probably the third-best forward in the country behind Porter and Gerbe.

He took to being a leader like no other player in recent memory (though I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple). After Red used the ole "Threaten to pull his scholarship" trick, Kolarik transformed himself into the ultimate team player. Could he have received more Hobey votes had he not pushed his support behind Kevin Porter? I don't doubt it. But he said his goal was to win Kevin Porter the Hobey, and damn if that duo didn't pull it off. I'm sure Porter would be the first to tell you that Chad Kolarik deserves a giant piece of that trophy.

He was huge when it mattered the most: 5 assists against Niagara, an assist against Clarkson, 2 goals in the Frozen Four (and was our best player), two points in the CCHA Semis against NMU, 6 points in the College Hockey Showcase. He also had a team-high seven game-winning goals.

Most shockingly, he became a top-notch defensive player. Porter was up for the CCHA's Best Defensive Forward award, but Kolarik was right there with him. In fact, I'd argue that Kolarik was probably our best penalty killer this season. Additionally, his previous career high in +/- was +13. This year he was +28. He took a career-low seven minor penalties the entire season despite being a top PKer and playing an absolute ton.

Kolarik was a minus in just three contests the entire season and had at least one SOG in every single game.

It's also worth pointing out that in his first three years, almost 50% of Kolarik's goals came with the man-advantage (23 out of 48). This year? Just 20% of his tallies came with Michigan on the power play (6 out of 30). Kolarik's 20 even-strength goals this season surpassed his career high for total goals in a year (he had just 22 even-strength goals in his first three years combined).

It was an absolute travesty that he wasn't a Hobey Finalist, but 2nd Team West All-America and 1st Team All-CCHA will have to do. He was an absolute joy to watch this season and became one of my favorites to ever put on a Michigan sweater.

He provided so many great memories that I can't pick just one, but if you need a lasting image of what he gave to this team, look no further than the game against LSSU when he got injured. Michigan was killing a 5 on 3 and Kolarik awkwardly stretched in an effort to block a pass. He hurt his hamstring and was clearly in severe pain. Play continued as LSSU retained possession, and Kolarik rolled around on the ice, trying to get in the way as best he could. Despite the injury, he broke up two passes, including one that would've led to a point-blank scoring opportunity.

I like to crack jokes about how he's a mirror image of how I play video game hockey--there's no such thing as a bad shot. I was hoping that this season he would cut down on a lot of the low-percentage shots that he would take and that his shooting percentage would be closer to the .158 that he had as a freshman than the .104 or .110 that he had in his next two years. Well, he shot, shot, and shot some more on his way to a career high (and incredible) 190 shots on goal this season. But! He also tacked 12 additional goals onto his previous career high. His final shooting percentage this season: .158. Identical to freshman year. Funny how that worked out.

2007-08 Grade: A+

#26 Danny Fardig
34 GP, 2-2--4, even, 20 PIMs

Like Naurato, Fardig's ice-time took a hit due to injury and the glut of freshman forwards making their way to Ann Arbor. He played a career-low 34 games this season, scored a career-low four points, and tied his career-low with an even +/- rating.

That's not to say he played poorly. He blocked 20 shots, which tied him for second amongst forwards. He took just ten minor penalties, including only two in the second half of the year.

He started the year off right with a goal in our season-opening win over the eventual National Champions. His line was outstanding--and he tallied two assists--in a win over LSSU. After that game (November 17) he had just one point the rest of the season. His line was pretty bad in the season-ending loss to Notre Dame. I still can't believe I had to type those last seven words...

I suppose it's not the worst thing in the world if your fourth-line checker who rarely scores is only a minus in five games. Still a strong penalty-killer.

2007-08 Grade: C+

#29 Louie Caporusso
33 GP, 12-9--21, +12, 18 PIMs

Caporusso is a good player. He was somewhat inconsistent this year but he did score some big goals. After scoring ten points in our first ten games, he cooled off somewhat, but still score more GWGs than anyone not named Kolarik or Porter despite missing a ton of time with an injury suffered in practice. Maybe not coincedentally he cooled off after he came back from the injury.

Still, he ended up tied for fifth in goals despite behind 12th in shots. His .218 shooting percentage was best on the team (aside from Ciraulo and his 2 goals on 9 shots) even though he also missed his fair share of golden opportunities. In Game 2 against UNO alone, I bet he had a half-dozen Grade A scoring chances that he failed to convert on. At this point, I'd say Caporusso is the favorite to center our top line next year. Between possibly moving to the first line, a year of experience, a chance to stay healthy, and hopefully burying more of his chances, I could see a relatively large jump in his numbers next year.

He was our best faceoff man amongst centers (Hagelin, Pacioretty, and Kolarik had higher percentages) having won 52.2% of his 490 draws.

Top moments of the season were his fluky game-winner against Boston College and his fantastic goal late in regulation to cap Michigan's comeback in their 3-2 win over Notre Dame.

In my season preview, I asked that he at least approach the 28 points Cogliano scored as a freshman. Caporusso scored 21, but also missed 10 games. That was .72 points per game for Cogliano and .64 for Caporusso. I'd say that's mission accomplished. Projected out over the 39 games Cogliano played as a freshman, that's 25 points. Right in the ballpark.

He's going to be a productive player for Michigan. He's good offensively, pretty solid defensively and a great faceoff guy. I expect great things in the future out of #29 if he can stay healthy and start having more of those close calls light the lamp (seriously, run a search on my blog for Caporusso and count the number of times he had near misses this season). I'm a big fan of this kid.

2007-08 Grade: B

#39 Max Pacioretty
37 GP, 15-24--39, +31, 59 PIMs

I hope everyone enjoyed seeing Pacioretty this year, because there's probably not going to be too much more of him in a Michigan jersey. Rumors have been going around about Montreal's desire to sign him, but the smart money is on him being back for one more season. I'd be shocked if we get more than that out of him.

And if this year ends up being the end, what a year it was! Take out the first couple weeks of the season when he was severly limited by a broken hand, and Pacioretty had points in all but six games (including a 9 game point streak immediately after he got healthy). His +31 is the third-highest total by a Michigan player in the last 10 years (Porter's +34 this year, and Rohlfs's +33 last year).

Pacioretty was a force on the top line. He could create space for our two unbelievable seniors, and late in the year he became quite the sniper from the slot on the top power play unit. He finished the year with 9 PPGs, second to Porter.

He had just 5 goals in his first 20 games, but scored 10 over the final 17. He won't be playing with Porter and Kolarik if he returns next year, but the potential is there for him to be one of the top players in the conference.

He was a minus on just two occasions, one of which was the first game of the season. Pretty impressive for a first-year player. He also was great on faceoffs, winning 53.8% of his 119 draws, tying him with Hagelin for the top spot on the team. With his passing ability and prowess on faceoffs, I don't think it would be the most shocking thing to see him at center next year. In his draft profile, he was cited as one of the best play-makers available. I would bank on either he or Carl Hagelin moving to center and I don't think we can go wrong either way. No matter who is playing center, I have to say I could really go for a Palushaj-Pacioretty-Hagelin line.

Aside from a couple of nagging injuries, the only downer to Pacioretty's season was the stupid decision to get into a fight during the second game of Michigan's series with Nebraska-Omaha. No matter what the situation, you have to be smarter than that and not let a complete and utter scrub goad you into taking yourself out for a potential Game 3 (or as it turned out, the CCHA Semifinals).

Patch was at his best during the huge series with the Miami Redhawks. He had 3 goals and an assist on the weekend and was one of the best players on the ice.

I really hope he doesn't change his mind and head to the pros, because I would love to see another season out of him at Michigan. He's an absolute beast and even without Kolarik and Porter, he could have a huge season next year.

2007-08 Grade: A

That does it for the Postseason Report Card (finally).

Other Stuff:
The Hockey News covered the Under 18 Championships and had some praise for incoming freshman Robbie Czarnik, who may have helped his stock:
The University of Michigan recruit was a plus-7 at the Under-18s, but more importantly had a hat trick and an assist in Team USA’s bronze medal win over Sweden. Draft eligible in 2008.
Czarnik finished the tournament with a line of 3-5--8 in seven games. His 8 points and +7 rating tied for the team lead. David Wohlberg had 3 goals and was +3.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Peter Forsberg vs. Jim Carty

This week has brought two hilarious instances of one person calling another out in the media.

The first involved Peter Forsberg, who postponed his regularly scheduled injury for a few minutes so that he could high-stick Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson lost a tooth in the incident and Forsberg was assessed a double-minor penalty.

When asked after the game if Samuelsson embellished the contact, Forsberg said, "Definitely. He's laying there on the ice and I barely touched him."

Gotcha. I bet Samuelsson also loosened that tooth before the game so that if someone happened to "barely touch him" in the mouth with a stick, he could quickly pop the tooth out and draw a crucial penalty.

Diving? Pssh. What an embarrassment to the game. Lord knows Forsberg would never do such a thing (the replay at the 41 second mark is kind of amazing):

Just a reminder, this is the guy whose Swedish nickname, Foppa, has been amended to Floppa by fans everywhere to better suit his diving prowess.

And if he's going to crack on someone for diving, at least crack on them for a legit dive. He knocked out Samuelsson's tooth with his stick. There's a reason Sammy was on the ice. If someone knocked out one of Forsberg's teeth, not only would he miss a week but he'd come back with a Dan Cleary-style mask on. The only way this could possibly be better is if Robbie Earl, Paul Kariya, or Sidney Crosby chimed in in support of Forsberg's comments.

Samuelsson also never punched a goalie in the balls, but that's another story.

The hilarity of Forsberg's comments, however, may have been topped by something that Jim Carty wrote earlier in the week. He was responding to Bill Simonson's "obsession" with him (don't flatter yourself there too much) by ripping on The Huge Show as well as a column that Simonson wrote, in which Simonson criticized a Lions' draftee who is allowed to play football (and be an Army recruiter) rather than fulfill his service commitment to the Army as has been the method of operation in the past.

In the column, Carty says that his refusal to go on Simonson's program any longer...
"Didn't have to be a big deal, but Simonson - probably desperate for a topic - then blew the whole thing up into a two-day jihad, first claiming it was part of a conspiracy to get him off the air, then changing the story and claiming he banned me from the show."
He then writes that the Lions' draft pick's commitment to the country shouldn't be questioned, "Not for a minute. Not by anyone, let alone a guy doing it just to get people to notice a third-rate local radio show."

Because, you know, Carty would never take something that really wasn't a big deal, blow it up into a multi-day "jihad" and take a controversial stance in a pathetic attempt to get someone to notice a fourth-rate columnist at a third-rate local newspaper. He's above doing things like that.

He also threatened to publish Simonson's "whiny email, bad spelling and all". I guess once you've gone ahead and illegally published GPAs and information from transcripts it's not really a step forward to publish personal emails.