Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 Michigan Hockey Season Preview: The Defensemen and Goalies

Forwards down, now it's time to take a look at the guys primarily responsible for keeping the puck out of the net: The defensemen and goalies.

While up front we only lost one major contributor, on the back end we lose a pair: Steve Kampfer and Chris Summers (along with Eric Elmblad). Summers may have been the captain and the most talented, but God was Steve Kampfer good last year. If you want to talk about a kid who got a lot better during his time here, look no further than our former #5. (Maybe it's a number thing. It happened with Brandon Rogers too. Wait, what's that? Jeff Jillson wore #5? Ahhh never mind then.) After scoring 34 points in his first three seasons combined, Kampfer exploded for 26 last year, and was a +18 to boot. He closed the year with 9 points in his last seven games, and had 2 assists in the game that should have put Michigan into the Frozen Four. He faced a lot of adversity as a junior and responded with a huge senior season. We're going to miss him.

Same with Summers. I think everyone had fantasies about him playing forward for an extended period at some point in his career, but bad things seemed to happen to fellow teammates whenever it would look like he was going to move up front. He was always a really solid blueliner who could chip in on the offensive end. While he didn't necessarily have his best year as a senior, he was a good player.

Replacing them are three noobs: Mac Bennett, Kevin Clare, and Jon Merrill. Bennett was a third round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 09 Draft and comes from a long line of hockey players. He skated for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the USHL and was named to the All-Star team as well as the All-Rookie team. Hard to imagine that he's not an immediate contributor.

Clare was another one of those USA guys that were pretty highly touted and then didn't have a great year last year. He actually spent quite a bit of time down with the U-17s. That said, he's a big kid (6'1", 210) and from what I understand he's a pretty solid stay-at-home guy, which was can always use because we've got some talented offensive defensemen already. He'll be in a battle for ice time in this deep defense corps.

With Campbell deciding to play in the OHL, Merrill is the prize of the class. He was a second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils and most people were surprised he didn't go a little earlier. He's huge (6'3", 209) but disciplined (only 14 PIMs in 47 games), offensively gifted (30 points), and stepped it up in big games (he was named one of the three best Americans at last year's Under 18 challenge). He's going to play a major role early (In The Wolverine Blog's interview with Mike Spath, Spath indicated that he's been practicing with Langlais on the top pairing). It seems like forever ago that he committed and it's nice to see that he finally made it to campus.

Greg Pateryn became a mainstay on the blueline toward the end of last season and started to play really well. He's another big body (6'3", 214!), and seems to have curtailed his penalty problems as he only took 9 last year. He has a nice shot, and was 4th on the team in blocked shots despite only playing 33 games.

Burlon had a bit of a sophomore slump last year. After a freshman season where he put up 15 points and was +17 in just 33 games, he didn't make the kind of leap you'd expect. He tallied just 14 points (in 45 games this time) and was +12. He was second to only Steve Kampfer in blocked shots and does a nice job of staying out of the box. I expect big things out of Burlon this year.

I've always liked Chad Langlais and it's hard for me to believe that he's a senior already. We didn't really know what we were getting when he came in as an overager, but he's been great since day one. Last year he put up 5-16--21. He does take penalties (second to only Wohlberg in PIMs and minor penalties), but he's a good power play quarterback and he does a fine job in his own end.

Lee Moffie is an interesting one. After being in and out of the lineup in the early part of the season, he became a regular and played in 13 straight games. After a blunder against Bowling Green, he fell out of favor and started sitting again. He still ended up with 4-8--12 in 29 games. He's definitely more of an offensive defenseman than someone that you're going to confuse for a stay-at-home guy. He was worst amongst our defensemen at +2. When we were struggling with offense last year, there were definitely people who suggested sliding him up front because of his offensive talents. He did end up getting picked by San Jose late in this year's draft.

Lastly, there's Tristin Llewellyn. Oh if he could just stay out of the box! He's a solid defenseman--yet another big body out there (6'2", 209). He plays a good, physical game, but he's prone to taking some of the dumbest penalties you'll ever see. He had 22 minors last year (second to Wohlberg's 23) and found himself out of the lineup on occasion because of it. When he's not taking penalties, though, he's a solid player. Hopefully maturity comes with age and he'll play with a little more control, without losing the edge that he plays with.

As you've probably noticed, that's 8 defensemen with only six slots. Langlais, Burlon, and Merrill are playing every night. Toward the bottom of the pairings, though, there's going to be some nice competition for ice time. I have to believe that Bennett is going to end up playing more often than not as well. That leaves two slots for Pateryn, Llewellyn, Clare, and Moffie. The first two out of those four will play more often than not as well--though Moffie's offensive game intrigues me. If he's learned to play some more defense he could be hard to keep out. It'll be interesting to see how the defense shakes out. Competition is definitely a very good thing.

In net, the coaches have been pretty clear that both guys are going to play. With the season Hogan was having last year, it wasn't pleasant thinking about the upcoming season with no Jack Campbell. But somewhere along the line, Shawn Hunwick went from third-stringer to the man who kept our NCAA streak alive.

In Hogan, you've got a guy who was very solid as a sophomore and might have been better than we were giving him credit for as a junior. His numbers were decent...well at least the 2.33 goals against was. The .901, not so much. But he had an unbelievably annoying tendency to give up soft goals. I don't think I'm overly exaggerating when I suggest it was upwards of one per game. Soft goals, goals at really bad times, goals after we peppered the opposing goalie for ten minutes. But I do think he's a good goalie. He certainly wasn't at his best for a lot of last season, but to be fair, neither was most of the team. They re-dedicated themselves to defense once Hogan got hurt and some of the forwards who hadn't done anything offensively all year woke up toward the end of the year.

Shawn Hunwick's story is very well known. He had hardly played, got thrown into the mix when Hogan went down, the team rallied around him and he played really well en route to the NCAA quarterfinals (going 8-3-0 with a 1.82/.918). Honest to God, if Kevin Lynch's goal counts, Hunwick goes to Detroit with a chance to become one of the greatest stories in the history of college sports. Fans went from wondering where that 2011 goalie commit was going to come from to discussing whether Hunwick would be able to take a redshirt season for 08-09 and come back.

It will be interesting to see if he just got on a roll late last year or if he really is as good as he showed. I suspect it's more the latter than the former, even if it's still hard to believe that he was "hiding" for that long. The coaches have named him the starter for Saturday's opener against Mercyhurst, and I have to believe he's going to get a long, loud ovation when he's announced.

We have some nice evidence in Hogan's favor as well. When he was competing with Billy Sauer for the starting job in 08-09, he was great. When he didn't have any competition last year, he really wasn't good. Maybe he's just one of those guys who needs to battle. As with the defense corps, competition is a very good thing. Hogan got "Sauered" a little bit last year, where maybe the team didn't play that great in front of him and hung him out to dry a lot. He's going to get his chance and I think we'll be solid in net this year. Not spectacular, but solid. Good enough to win the CCHA, and when you get to the tournament who knows.

I was in the Twin Cities last weekend and was thinking how great it would be to be back there again in April. I even went by the Red Roof Inn where I stayed back in 2002. Shangri-La! Hahaha! There are three people reading this who get that joke and they all started laughing hysterically, just for the record.

Two days til the puck drops.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Michigan Hockey Season Preview: The Forwards

First up is a look at the forwards. See MGoBlog for his preview from earlier in the offseason.

Our men up front scored 126 goals last year. 109 of those goals return for another season. That's 87% of the goal scoring from our forwards that's coming back. Last year, we brought back just over 69%. The year before that we brought back just 52% (God, Porter, Kolarik, and Pacioretty were good!). The point is, we didn't lose very much up front and we have significant less work to do to replace the outgoing offense than in years past. Brian Lebler, Anthony Cirualo, and kind of Robbie Czarnik were the only losses up front from last year's roster. In their place, we bring in Jacob Fallon, Luke Moffatt, and Derek DeBlois.

Moffatt was a highly-touted recruit, once thought to be the best forward in his class. He went #2 in the WHL Draft and very likely would have gone number one had he not made a commitment to the NTDP and college hockey. After a great season for Compuware in 07-08 (37-19--56 in 30 games) he never really replicated that success with the NTDP--though he certainly didn't play badly for them. He put up 21-20--41 in 67 games on the Under 17s in 08-09 and then was 9th in scoring on the U-18s with a 13-17--30 line in 56 games last year, including 5-10--15 in 28 USHL games. Red didn't talk much about him when he signed, but mentioned that he likes his hands.

Fallon is another very talented recruit whose stock took a dive last year. He was involved in some off-ice incidents that led to him being suspended for the early part of last year. He eventually left the USA program and went to the Indiana Ice of the USHL where he struggled, managing just a goal and 8 assists in 26 games. Still, he's a kid that's going to have a chance to come in and help us on the offensive end. Bang the MGoBlog link above for lots more on the freshmen.

DeBlois is a long-time teammate and friend of incoming defenseman Mac Bennett. He scored 11-22--33 in 55 games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL last year, good for sixth on the team in points. He also was right up there in +/- and led the team in goals in the playoffs. McKeen's cited his tenaciousness and ability to get to the net as strong suits.

Now...who's back? Carl Hagelin becomes the first 50-point scorer to return for another season since Kevin Porter elected to come back for his senior year and won the Hobey in the process. Hagelin had increases of 6 goals, 13 assists, and 42 shots from his sophomore season. He went all Kolarik, taking far and away the most shots on the team (170...the next highest were Caporusso and Brown with 122 apiece). He was also Porter-ian in his consistency--he had points in 35 of Michigan's 45 games, including 19 of the last 21. He also had 5-6--11 during Michigan's run in the CCHA Playoffs and NCAA Tournament.

Louie Caporusso had what was thought of as a somewhat disappointing season after the previous year when he was one of the ten finalists for the Hobey. By the end of the year, however, he wasn't too far off his sophomore year's totals. He ended up with just 3 fewer goals and 3 fewer assists (albeit in 4 more games). His seasons did a complete 180 though. As a sophomore he started out on fire, scoring 18 goals in the first 20 games before cooling off in the second half. Last year, he had just 5 goals after the GLI (and just 7 after the outdoor game in mid-February), but finished up with 14-8--22 in our final 15 games. If he can put together an entire season, look out.

Chris Brown ended last season just 28th in points per game amongst freshmen, but Andy Taranto, Stephane Da Costa, and Danny Kristo were the only major conference rookies who had more goals. He faltered down the stretch (2 goals in our last 16 games), but proved to be a player who could make an impact on this level, getting to the front of the net, scoring some ugly goals, and becoming a finalist for CCHA Rookie of the Year in the process.

Yost Built favorite Matty Rust put up a very quiet 40 points, an 18 point increase from the previous season. He didn't increase his goal total much, but his assists went from 11 to 27. As always, he's a solid defensive player who takes shockingly few penalties (just 12 last year) for as physical as he can be. He's a great penalty killer and he takes more faceoffs than anyone on the team.

Then you've got David Wohlberg who scored 15 goals as a freshman, but just 10 last year. I seem to remember him having some nagging injury (back, maybe?). He's another physical presence who can play at both ends. I actually kind of forgot about him and then broke into a big grin when I looked at the roster again. I really like Wohlberg and I fully expect a bounce-back year.

Keep going down the line: Kevin Lynch was an absolute BEAST against Miami in the Regional Final and scored the game-winning goal in overti......aww crap. He had just 1 point before the GLI last year, but ended up with 16. Luke Glendening (another favorite) put up 21 points and was named a captain midseason. AJ Treais never really got rolling, but showed enough flashes to indicate that he'll be a pretty decent player for us. Lindsay Sparks had 4 goals and six points in a four game stretch, but didn't play a whole lot in the stretch run. Winnett was good for 6-8--14 and had one of the nicest shots of the year against FYS in the CCHA Playoffs, though he pretty much is what he is at this point. Scooter Vaughan has moved up front permanently, and I thought he did a lot of good things even if he's never going to put points on the board. Jeff Rohrkemper never looked out of place as a walkon.

There are a lot of good forwards on this team and a lot of depth. Last year was a bit of a down year in terms of offense by Michigan's standards, but we still ranked 12th in the nation in offense by the end of the year. If guys like Caporusso, Wohlberg, and Brown put full seasons together, we're going to score a bunch of goals.

I fully expect us to have a Hobey Finalist again this year. I can't decide if it will be Hagelin or Caporusso, but I think one of them ends up in the top ten. I love Hagelin's defense, his effort, his consistency, and how he's a pretty darn underrated offensive player--50 points really isn't easy. But I keep thinking about Caporusso's ability to get on rolls where he just can't be stopped. He's had half a season of that each of the last two years. If he gains some consistency, he could have a Chad Kolarik type senior season.

Either way, assuming that Louie stays with Glendening and Wohlberg (that line caught fire toward the end of the year) and Hagelin plays with Rust and Brown, we're going to have two dangerous lines who are every bit as good defensively as they are offensively. I think we'll be up closer to 160 goals this year, which would probably put us back into the top 5 in the country in offense.

I love two things about our forwards: Our best players don't give up anything in the defensive zone and most of our guys are killer in the faceoff circle.

Hagelin, Rust, Glendening, Wohlberg....they're all top-notch defensive players. I thought that Caporusso improved and made some really nice defensive plays as well. I remember him saving a couple of goals hustling on the backcheck. It was nice to see. Maybe that will end up being another area where we can end up comparing him to Kolarik.

As for the faceoffs, check this out:
Caporusso: 57.6% of 772 draws
Wohlberg: 54.7% of 159 draws
Glendening: 53.8% of 186 draws
Rust: 51.3% of 875 draws

Winnett and Treais were the only two who took a significant number of faceoffs and weren't over 50% (and Treais was just over 48 percent, which certainly isn't bad). After years of faceoffs being a weakness, it's really become a strength of ours--except apparently when we play outside. Caporusso, Wohlberg, and Rust were all within a couple tenths of a percent of their percentages from the previous season, so there's no reason to think anything will change this year.

Anyway, those are the guys up front for the 2010-11 Wolverines. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the defensemen.

2010 Michigan Hockey Season Preview Part 1

Let's talk some freaking hockey!

First up, let me introduce the official Yost Built Twitter page.

The Wolverines open the 2010-11 season at Yost this Saturday against Mercyhurst. They'll face Western Ontario in an exhibition game Sunday.

The USA Today poll was released today and the Wolverines are the pre-season #4 team in the country, behind BC, NoDak, and Miami.

The last time we saw these Wolverines, they were skating off the ice after one of the great screw-jobs in recent memory, which denied them a trip to the Frozen Four in Detroit and denied Shawn Hunwick the chance to potentially complete one of the greatest stories in the history of college sports.

When attempting to project how this season will go, it's kind of difficult. Are they the team that damn near made it to the Frozen Four, where they would have been a scary team to play, or are they the team that needed to win six games (and the CCHA Tournament) just to keep their NCAA streak alive? For good parts of the season, they played largely uninspired hockey (culminating in that debacle of a weekend against UNO) and took an unbelievable number of insanely stupid penalties (lots of them when we had a man advantage).

That being said, they ended the year with more goals (albeit in 3 more games played) than the season before when they were a number one seed. The big difference was the defense gave up 18 more goals, though they certainly found something down the stretch once Hunwick came in. Hopefully that re-dedication to team defense carries over another year.

The power play was much better than a season before, but it was good in bunches. They scored 31 of their 48 power play goals in their 14 multi-PPG games. The PK wasn't bad, though it wasn't up to Michigan's typical standards (I'm still having Brendan Smith flashbacks). With guys like Glendening, Rust, and Hagelin, though, it should be pretty solid.

The team returns largely in tact from an offensive perspective. Thanks to the decisions of Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Brown, and Burlon to return to school, Michigan loses just 24 of their 148 goals from a season ago (14 from Lebler, 3 from Kampfer, 4 from Summers, 3 from Czarnik who left mid-season last year).

The blue line will look somewhat different. Gone are two-year captain Chris Summers (40 GP) and Steve Kampfer (45 GP) (along with Eric Elmblad who didn't play last season). That's a lot of minutes to replace, but there is a bunch of talent amongst the noobs. (We'll get to that in the positional previews later in the week.)

Hogan and Hunwick both return, and they're joined by freshman Adam Janecyk who replaces Patrick Summers as the third goalie.

Michigan just announced their TV schedule. Sadly, due to Comcast's general suckitude, the TV that hosts my Slingbox is now a U-Verse TV, so I won't get the seven Comcast Local games. We do have six or seven on FSN Detroit, 5 or 6 on the Big Ten Network, and a couple on CBS College Sports.

The plan is to preview the forwards tomorrow, the defense on Wednesday, goalies on Thursday, and have 10 Things to Know about Mercyhurst on Friday. I might juggle the schedule based on life (it's easier to write a goalie preview than talk about the forwards), but Ozzie is in midseason form and I'm ready to talk hockey!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Having a Seat Over There: Two Commits to Talk About

Remember me? I used to write about Michigan hockey?

Well I'm back, now that life should calm down for a little while. First off, I'd like to give a great big welcome to my new sponsor(s): Underground Printing and Moe's Sport Shops. I'm looking forward to working with them and hopefully we'll have some fun announcements to make later this season.

Next up, we have a couple of commits to talk about. One new, and one from a couple of weeks ago. (I'm particularly looking forward to talking about that one since I've had the browser window open for like 15 days.)

First up is Justin Selman. He will be playing with Des Moines in the USHL this fall. He was also invited to play for the USA Under 18 Select Team which took the silver medal in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. He tallied a goal in USA's 5-2 win over Finland and had an assist in their semifinal victory over Sweden. He's a late 93 who is slated to be a 2012 recruit. Chris Heisenberg has him listed at 6'0", 191.

He captained the North Jersey Avalanche to the silver medal at the 2010 USA Hockey Nationals in the Midget 16 AAA division, scoring 5-1--6 in 6 games during the tournament. He had 25-36--61 in 34 games last year.

A quote:
"Michigan is a powerhouse for putting guys in the NHL," Selman said. "I definitely want to be [at Michigan] for at least two years. … My goal right now is to play in college and one day the NHL."
MGoBlog has some additional hockeysfuture goodness. Supposedly he's good on draws.

The other commit is from '94 Daniel Milne out of Ontario. He played for the Toronto Young Nationals last year and had 46-54--100, with 46 PIMs in 80 games (PDF link). He's listed as 5'11", 175. Chris Dilks reported that he picked Michigan over Notre Dame and Owen Sound of the OHL. He was a third-round pick of the Attack in the OHL Draft this year, and as recently as a few days ago, it sounded like he was tearing it up in their rookie camp.

"Milne is one of those players who does all the little things really well and he goes to the areas (in front of the net) to find goals," said [Owen Sound coach] Reeds.

He's listed as being from Newmarket of the OJHL, but he's not on their roster, so I guess we'll see? I guess this is another opportunity to hold our breath for two years waiting for the kid to make it to campus while the OHL sniffs around. Hopefully it works out for the good guys this time.

Other Stuff:
MGoBlue had a great article about where the name "The Big Chill" came from, and other pop-culture references to U of M. Air Force One and Lost were the ones that jumped right to my mind. I can't believe I didn't notice The Cold War in the Burn Notice pilot. Might have to pull that one back out.

Speaking of The Big Chill, if anyone is going to have extras, let me know. I'm looking for an additional 4-6 for friends of the family. 

The roster was apparently on MGoBlue for a time. The new numbers:
9 Luke Moffatt
18 Derek DeBlois
8 Jacob Fallon
24 Jon Merrill
37 Mac Bennett
4 Kevin Clare
30 Adam Janecyk

Less than a month to go!