Monday, September 26, 2011

Having a Seat Over There: Jacob Trouba

The Wolverines have landed a "5-star" defenseman for the incoming class of 2012. Jacob Trouba posted on Twitter this evening that he has committed to the University of Michigan. Trouba, a 6'2", 191 lb defenseman from Rochester, MI, was reported to be deciding between Michigan, Notre Dame, and playing in the OHL (his rights are held by Kitchener). While most of the U-18 team has already committed to a college, Trouba was waiting. Why?

Jacob Trouba wants to be known as a man of his word.

So when the highly touted defensive prospect is ready to make his decision whether to play in the OHL for the Kitchener Rangers -- who hold his CHL rights --  or the NCAA, there won't be any late de-commitments or promises broken.

"That's sort of why I haven't (committed), because I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," said the 17-year-old on Wednesday, while in Toronto to take part in the NHL's Research and Development Camp.

It appears that he has finally decided on going the NCAA route.

It's hard to find an article about Trouba that doesn't gush praise. The Hockey News had a scout call him "Cam Fowler with more of an edge." The Prospect Blog called him "the next great American defenseman" and echoed the Fowler-with-an-edge comparison. Fowler, you may recall, played for the NTDP, broke his Notre Dame commitment to play in the OHL for a year, and scored 10-30--40 as a rookie for the Anaheim Ducks.

A poster at HockeysFuture compiled a list of the early 2012 Draft Rankings and had Trouba 4th overall. As I mentioned the other day, TSN has him tied for 10th in in their rankings. He's tied with Matia Marcantuoni, whose name might sound familiar to Wolverine fans. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as an "A" player on their watch list.

After he was given that distinction, the United States of Hockey chimed in:

Trouba was called up to the Under-18s and had a chance to showcase himself at the World Under-18 Championship. His booming shot and excellent skating are his most notable assets. He plays a physical brand of hockey in all areas. The only thing that happened to Trouba at the U18s is that a few of his flaws that he’ll need to work on this year were exposed. His hockey sense isn’t where it needs to be just yet, as he made a few poor decisions in Germany. That said, his tools are elite. He scored Team USA’s first goal in the gold-medal game against Sweden on a one-timer. Another year of development, and focusing on making good decisions, and he could easily find himself in, or around the top five.

This year so far Trouba has three assists in four games for the NTDP's Under 18 team. He had 6-13--19 in 37 games with the U-17s last season, made the USHL All-Star team, and was called up to the Under 18s at the end of the season. With the U-18s he had 6 points, including a goal in the World Under 18 Championship Game, which the USA won in overtime.

Connor Murphy played with Trouba on the U-18s last year. He gave a quick scouting report to McKeen's:

It's been good. He's a good, strong, energy defenseman. Like you saw last night, he always has a couple big hits. He's got a good shot. We try to work to get him one-timers on the power play. So, I think he brings energy with his speed and his physical nature into the game. It really helps us out. I'm kind of more of a smart playmaking defenseman, so I can set him up or angle guys toward him to make some big hits. So, he helps us out a lot. 
Robbie Russo (U-18 and Notre Dame defenseman) also chimed in:
He's got a lot of power in his game. He's got a massive one-timer. He'll knock some guys off their feet, even being a young player. He doesn't back down from any of that. I'd like to see him go to Notre Dame in the future (smiles). 
HUGE pickup, especially with the likely defection of Jon Merrill to the NHL after this coming season. He joins NTDP teammate Connor Carrick and possibly Spence Hyman as a defenseman in the incoming class of 2012.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011-12 Season Preview: Comings and Goings

It's only a week until Michigan hockey fans get a first look at the 2011-12 Wolverines in an exhibition game against the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. For the first part of my season preview, let's take a look at the departures and the players who will be joining the squad.

Scooter Vaughan, Chad Langlais, Carl Hagelin, Ben Winnett, Matt Rust, Louie Caporusso, and Bryan Hogan exhausted their eligibility. Brandon Burlon decided to forego his senior season and signed a professional contract. Also, Jacob Fallon and Tristin Llewellyn will not be back. Llewellyn was out of eligibility anyway, and it was determined that Fallon would not return. That's ten players gone from a team that made the National Championship game last season, and almost all of them were heavy contributors.

Scooter Vaughan was the most improved player on the team and one of the most improved players in the country. He really took to playing forward, and after scoring just 14 points in his first three seasons, he exploded for 14-10--24 as a senior. He also had a +15 rating, after being a +10 through his first three seasons. He scored some darn pretty goals as well.

Langlais was the iron man. The Wolverines played 173 games during his career and he was in the lineup for all of them, setting the Michigan record for consecutive games played. Only Ted Kramer suited up that many times for the Maize and Blue, and had that damn ref kept the whistle in his pocket two years ago, Chad would stand alone at the top. As it is, he played the most games of any Michigan defenseman in history and finished his career 16th for points amongst defensemen.

It almost completely goes without saying that Carl Hagelin is a huge loss. He was a staple on Michigan's penalty killing unit since he arrived on campus, locked down the CCHA's Best Defensive Forward award as a senior, won numerous academic awards, won the team MVP award twice, and, oh, just happened to put up 152 points in 171 games and registered a +78 rating. 6 of his 18 goals a year ago were game-winners. Who will ever forget his Senior Night magic against Western Michigan? Plain and simple, one of my favorite Wolverine players of all-time. He makes the pantheon with Ortmeyer and JMFJ. 

Winnett never put up the offensive numbers that were expected with him coming out of the BCHL and all (21-27--48 for his career), but he developed into a very-solid two-way player. He played his best hockey at the end of his career. He had the game-winning goal against North Dakota in the NCAA Semifinals this past season and also scored in the National Championship game.

Rust was just a solid all-around guy. He posted 111 points in 164 games, including 40 points as a junior. While he didn't have the kind of season offensively as a season that I'm sure he was looking for, he was an integral part of the team and still managed to end the year second in assists and third in points. He was also a killer faceoff guy, Camp Randall Hockey Classic not withstanding.

Hogan will go down as having had one of the strangest careers in the history of Michigan hockey. As a freshman, he was expected to come in and compete for playing time from the get-go. He caught mono, Billy Sauer got it together, and Hogan barely played. Then Sauer had another meltdown at the Pepsi Center and Hogan was thrown in in the Frozen Four. He had one of the best statistical seasons in the history of our program as a sophomore (24-6-0, 1.97, .914) and then was done in by his groin in back-to-back seasons. His injury against Notre Dame as a junior turned the reigns over to Shawn Hunwick and the magical run a couple years ago. Senior year, he split time with Hunwick but seemed to be in position to be named the full-time starter before he injured his groin again and Hunwick led the squad to the National Championship Game.

I don't know that we ever got the full story on Burlon. Various rumblings indicated that he was unhappy about being a healthy scratch in the Frozen Four after missing some time late in the season. Whatever the reason, he decided to turn pro. He had 5-13--18 last season with a +14 rating and ended the year as an All-CCHA Honorable Mention. It would've been really nice to have him back for his senior year, but I think the Wolverines will have an easier time handling a loss on defense than they would have been able to deal with David Wohlberg, for instance, turning pro.

(It's also worth mentioning that goaltender John Gibson never made it to campus. Apparently there's this league called the OHL. I hadn't heard of them either. Anyway, when he found out about that league, it proved to be too tempting and he decided to go that route.)

Incoming Players:
Looking to replace the excellent senior class are a group of nine freshmen.

Mike Chiasson was a late addition to the class. He committed in late-May, which pretty much put an end to the rumors that Burlon had a change of heart and was going to return for his senior year. He's the son of former NHLer (and Red Wing) Steve Chiasson, and wears #3 just like him. He's an older freshman (20) and brings 122 games of USHL experience to the table. He had 4-11--15 for the Omaha Lancers last season, and was unanimously selected as team captain. With the losses of Burlon, Langlais, and Llewellyn, there are some minutes to be had on the blue line. Given his age and USHL experience, I'd expect that he would be able to come in and play right away.

Brennan Serville is another defenseman, and a highly-regarded one at that. A former Canisius commit, he was a 3rd-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2011 entry draft. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff cited his skating ability and his size as reasons that they drafted him fairly early on. Serville is listed at 6'3", 194. He played for the Stouffville Spirit of the OJHL and posted a 3-27--30 line in 36 games. He also represented Canada (along with Zach Hyman) in the 2010 World Junior A Challenge. He sounds like he has the potential to be a big-time player at this level. I'm looking forward to finally seeing him on the ice.

Phil Di Giuseppe really intrigues me. He was a member of the OJHL's Villanova Knights the past two seasons. Last year he scored 24 goals and assisted on 39 others in 49 games. He also posted 16 points in 10 playoff games. Those numbers were good for 29th in league scoring (47th in goals, 26th in assists), but now keep this in mind: Di Giuseppe is an October of 1993 birthday. Of the 28 players that finished ahead of him in scoring, there were 5 92s (including Zach Hyman, who we'll get to in a minute), 8 91s, and the rest were 90s. Not only was he the highest-scoring 1993 birthday in the league, he's almost a 94 birthday. That's why I'm really interested to see what he's going to become in his career. He put up really nice numbers and he'll only be 17 when he plays his first game for the Wolverines. He has good size (6'1", 200) as well. He's kind of an under-the-radar recruit because there isn't a ton of information out there about the OJHL and it wasn't his draft year, but he could be another guy that replaces some of that scoring that was lost in the offseason.

Zach Hyman is the third of our incoming recruits that played in the OJHL last year. Dominated might be a better word. He had 42-60--102 in 43 games, which was good for second in the league in scoring. (The kid that had 109 points played in 5 more games and was 2 years older). He was third in goals and second in assists. The accolades kept rolling in: He was named the Canadian Junior A Player of the Year, the top pro prospect, the most gentlemanly player, and the MVP of the Hamilton Red Wings. His story is well-documented: A Princeton commit, he decided to look around after Princeton's head coach took the top job at Penn State. He and his brother Spence (a 2012 or 2013 commit) both committed on the same day to Red Berenson. Hyman was a 5th round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2010, at least partially due to concerns about him continuing to play in the OJHL instead of opting for the OHL like former linemates Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin. As I mentioned when he committed, 8 of the last 11 players to win CJHL Player of the Year and then play college hockey scored 10 goals and 30 points as a freshman. One of the guys that didn't ended up winning the Hobey. All 11 ended up being productive college players (with at least one 30-40 point season to their credit). This is the guy to watch.

Andrew Sinelli is an interesting story. He committed to FYS a couple years back. At that time, he was right there with Luke Moffatt at the top of the MWEHL scoring ranks. Since then, he hasn't been nearly as prolific offensively, but it sounds like he's kind of reinvented himself. He calls himself a high-energy forward that likes to hit and likes to block shots. When he's in the lineup, I'd expect to see him spending some time on the penalty kill. He filled that role in the USHL and with Winnett, Caporusso, Vaughan, Hagelin, and Rust all graduating, there are plenty of spots available on the PK. He had 6-3--9 in 45 games last season and 6-11--17 the year before.

I cited Di Giuseppe as an intriguing prospect, but Travis Lynch might be right there with him. He, too, calls himself a fast player that likes to throw his body around. He comes from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. Actually, he may have more offensive punch than has been previously thought. In the first 30 games for the Gamblers, he had 5-3--8 (he had 5 points through 24 games). That was right around the time he committed, so I had him pegged as a checker and penalty killer. He absolutely caught fire in the second half of the season and ended up second on the team in goals, 4th on the team in points, and rose up into the top-25 in league scoring. After scoring points in 8 of the first 30 games (which was the halfway point of the season), he was only held off the score sheet seven times the remainder of the year. In the final 30 games, he posted 15-21--36. If he had kept up that pace the entire season, he would've been 4th in the league in goals, sixth in assists, and fourth in points. Suddenly, the checker/PKer looks like another guy that could contribute offensively as well.

Mike Szuma is a preferred walk-on on the blueline. He hails from Novi and played for the Michigan Warriors in the NAHL last year. He posted 7-15--22 in 56 games and was invited to the NAHL Top Prospect Showcase. Coach Moe Mantha said that he can play both ends of the ice, and that he's a mobile defenseman.

Alex Guptill is the fifth forward in the class. He played in the OJHL for a couple of seasons before moving to the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks for the 2010-11 campaign. He's tall, if not big (6'3", 189). He fought through an injury-plagued season to score 13-12--25 in 43 games. The Dallas Stars made him a 3rd round selection in the 2010 Draft. I didn't have a link about this when I originally posted about it, and I don't see it in his MGoBlue bio, but I wrote before that he received a top prospect award from the OHA that was previously given to Mike Cammalleri, Andrew Cogliano, and Jeff Carter.

The final new Wolverine is goaltender Luke Dwyer. He's a sophomore that previously started for four years at Ann Arbor Huron and was all-state twice.

Melissa from The Yost Post has her take on the new defensemen and forwards.

Friday, September 02, 2011


There's not a whole heckuva lot going on right now, but there have been some good articles out there over the past couple of weeks. It won't be too much longer until things start to ramp up. The kids have moved back to Ann Arbor, football season is just a few hours away, and we're closing in on the month-to-go mark until the Wolverines drop the puck for real against Niagara. I'm especially excited because I'm going to be able to attend the home-opener thanks to a well-timed career fair that my company is sending me to. I think this will only be the second or third game at Yost that I've been to since I moved back in 07.

First up, this might not be new, but it's the first time I've seen it. CBS Sports did a feature on Yost. I love that the C-Ya chant made it in there in full. (HT to Goon for that link)

John Bacon had a great article about Steve Kampfer's road from a broken neck to Stanley Cup Champion.

Speaking of, Kampfer brought the Cup to Yost and raised some money for charity while he was at it.

Chris from The United States of Hockey had a look at the players that will make up the NTDP's U-18 team this year. Here's the article about the goalies and defensemen, which includes Michigan-commit Connor Carrick and target Jacob Trouba. He also has some thoughts on the U-17s, including Evan Allen (who needs to get into a Twitter-battle with Bacari Alexander someday), JT Compher, and Tyler Motte. He also did commentary at the Five Nations event in Ann Arbor and had some thoughts on the team, including Michael Downing. Chris Dilks chimed in on Downing's play as well. The Observer interviewed Downing as well.

Not hockey-related, but I have to link to this M-Zone article, just because it's too damn funny not to. Say it with me: O-H! talked with Justin Selman, who will spend this season with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL.

There have also been a couple of articles about Zach Hyman since I last posted. The Florida Panthers official site did a feature on him, as did ShalomLife.

Ryan Kennedy highlighted Boo Nieves. Just ignore the first part of the article where he talks about the goalie that was supposed to play for us this year. Kennedy also talked with Drew Cogs. CBC was impressed with Nieves when they saw him as well.

Lastly, yesterday's Inside The Fort ($ link) contained the names of five potential goalie recruits as well as a look at some potential lines.

Michigan Maize had an early preview of the team.

Also, congrats to one of my favorites--Mike Cammalleri--on the birth of his daughter.