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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So... no scholarship goalie on roster?