Now that a week has passed since Michigan was completely screwed out of a Frozen Four appearance, I finally feel like talking about hockey again. So, let’s take a look at who returns, who is departing, and the batch of newcomers for Michigan hockey next season:
Key departures: Brian Lebler (graduation), Robbie Czarnik (CHL)
Key newcomers: Luke Moffatt, Jacob Fallon
Barring some unexpected departures, Michigan should be very strong up front next season after losing just one player (Lebler) who participated in more than 12 games in 2009-10. Leading scorer Carl Hagelin could very well be a Hobey Baker contender after hitting the 50-point mark, and should be reunited with fellow senior Matt Rust to form one of college hockey’s most dangerous two-way duos. Add in sniper Louie Caporusso, and the Wolverines will be blessed with a trio of senior forwards who could all be up for postseason honors.
With just Lebler, Czarnik (who after 12 games this season for the CHL), and seldom-used Anthony Ciraulo gone from the forward ranks, the Wolverines will not only have star power but also great depth. A trio of promising freshmen forwards — Chris Brown, Kevin Lynch, and A.J. Treais — could be poised for breakout sophomore seasons, and 2008-09 CCHA Rookie of the Year David Wohlberg will be expected to produce more as well after a somewhat disappointing second season as a Wolverine. Seniors Scooter Vaughan and Ben Winnett, junior Luke Glendening, and sophomores Jeff Rohrkemper and Lindsay Sparks will provide third- and fourth-line depth, and the team will also welcome freshmen Luke Moffatt, the #35 overall prospect and a four-star in CollegeHockey247’s class of 2010 rankings, and Jacob Fallon (four-star, #37 overall) to the fold.
With Hagelin making recent remarks that both he and linemate Matt Rust will stay in school for their senior seasons, Michigan looks to be in great shape up front in 2010-11. Hagelin really came into his own as a playmaker this season, and if Louis Caporusso can consistently produce like he did in his sophomore season or at the end of this year, the Wolverines should boast one of the best offenses in the country.
Key departures: Chris Summers (graduation), Steve Kampfer (graduation)
Key newcomers: Jon Merrill, Mac Bennett, Kevin Clare
The Wolverines won’t get off quite so easy with the defensemen, as the team will lose captain, and top blue-liner, Chris Summers and top-four defenseman Steve Kampfer to graduation. Red Berenson has worked his usual recruiting magic, however, and Michigan will reload with a trio of highly-touted freshmen next season: Jon Merrill (five-star, #4 overall), Mac Bennett (five-star, #13 overall), and Kevin Clare (four-star, #31 overall) should all see the ice in 2010-11. Merrill and Bennett both have the potential to be top-four defensemen right off the bat, while Clare should have a good shot at being one of the six regular defensemen as well.
Those freshmen certainly won’t be without competition, however, as Michigan returns seniors Chad Langlais and Tristin Llewellyn, juniors Brandon Burlon and Greg Pateryn, and sophomore Lee Moffie from this year’s squad. Langlais, the team’s top offensive defenseman, should once again find a home on the team’s top defensive pairing, and Pateryn will likely join him after filling in for an injured Summers there during the CCHA tournament. Llewellyn, if he can keep out of the box, and Burlon are both solid second-pair guys, although they could be pushed by Merrill. The interesting battle will be for the last defensive spot — Bennett has great talent, as does Clare, and Moffie struggled at times in the defensive end as a freshman.
Even with the loss of two NHL-caliber defensemen, it appears Michigan will be strong on the blue line once again in 2010-11. That leaves hockey’s most important — and Michigan’s most intriguing — position group.
By now, we all know the story: after a stellar sophomore season Bryan Hogan played nearly every regular-season game this season, and struggled, before going down with a groin injury and being replaced, spectacularly, by walk-on Shawn Hunwick as Michigan tore through the CCHA tournament and secured a miracle NCAA berth. With no departures or newcomers at the position, Michigan is now looking at a battle for the top goaltender spot, and for one, I have no idea how it will (or should) turn out.
Hunwick, after going 8-3-0 with a 1.82 goals against average and .918 save percentage this season, will be the sentimental favorite heading into next season, but there will be serious (and legitimate) doubts about whether a 5-7 walk-on can continue to play that well over the course of a whole season. Hogan, on the other hand, has proven before that he can be a stellar #1 goaltender, after a sophomore season in which he posted a 1.97 GAA and .914 save percentage in 31 games. After his numbers fell across the board in 2009-10, however, there will be a lot of questions about which Bryan Hogan will show up next season.
How this position battle is handled, and who wins it, will go a long way towards determining the success of the Wolverines in 2010-11 — Michigan appears to be loaded at every other spot on the ice, and will simply need a goalie who can consistently play well to make a serious run at the Frozen Four.