Back in June, FloHockey categorized the Michigan Wolverines’ roster as one cast into limbo following the departure of several key players, but the merry-go-round of star talent in Ann Arbor welcomes the next wave of top-tier prospects.
Just three seasons ago, the Wolverines went 13-19-3, accumulating their lowest win total since 1985-86. It was the fourth time in five years they failed to earn an NCAA Tournament berth and the final season of the legendary Red Berenson era.
Enter coach Mel Pearson, who led the team to a resurgent 22-15-3 season, which came to an end following a loss to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four.
There’s something to be said about a team battling the consistent premature loss of all-star players and even after another disappointing 13-win season, the numbers argue another bounce-back season could be in the works.
From the moment he committed, Quinn Hughes was pegged as another early departure given his immense skill and near-perfect skating. After 69 games across two seasons, his 62 points (10 G, 52 A) is just one of many statistics that show his value.
Replacing a defenseman of Hughes’ caliber won’t be easy, but a pair of recruits may be up to the task in 2019-20, as ice time will be plentiful and roster spots will be fought for.
Newly named captain Will Lockwood will bear the brunt of the offense for the Wolverines following a 16-goal season that placed him tied for 32nd in the NCAA in 2018-19.
Lockwood’s 31 points placed him second to only Hughes, and he returns as the team leader in goals, assists, and points. Jake Slaker and Nick Pastujov are close behind with 25 and 24 points, respectively, as the trio takes over in 2019-20.
5 Key Losses
Along with Hughes, Josh Norris, and seniors Joseph Cecconi, Nicholas Boka, and Brendan Warren, are among the voids Pearson will need to fill. Norris was on pace for a huge sophomore campaign after scoring 10 goals and 19 points through his first 17 games prior to a season-ending injury.
Cecconi finished fifth in team scoring and his departure, along with that of Boka and Hughes, leaves three defensive spots wide open. Pearson has talked up sophomore defensemen Jack Summers and Nick Blankenburg, but new faces will also be in line for ice time.
3 2019 Draft Picks
Cam York (14th overall, Philadelphia), John Beecher (30th overall, Boston Bruins), and Eric Ciccolini (Round 7, 205th overall, New York Rangers) all enter their freshman seasons with the Wolverines after being drafted in the 2019 NHL Draft.
York will get an immediate chance to take over for Hughes after his record-setting offensive season for the USNTDP (14 goals and 65 points in 63 games). Beecher also hails from the USNTDP (15 goals and 43 points in 63 games). Ciccolini finished ninth in OJHL scoring last season with 62 points, while his 27 goals ranked tenth.
Two grad transfers in Shane Switzer and Jacob Hayhurst will get the chance to earn larger roles after spending their college careers with Boston University and RPI, respectively.
Switzer was largely a spare part in Boston with just 31 games (3 G, 2 A) over four seasons. Hayhurst hit the 20-point mark in each of his three years with RPI, amassing 22 goals and 44 assists in 102 games. Both players will look to finish their NCAA careers on high notes and will play big roles for Pearson this season.
1 Second Chance
After a mediocre 31-game stint with RPI in 2017-18 in which he recorded 11 points (2 G, 9 A), Emil Ohrvall returned to Waterloo of the USHL for the 2018-19 season and broke out for 63 points (31 G, 32 A) in 59 games.
Only three players scored more goals and just seven tallied more points. A second chance at the NCAA and the experience of the league leave Ohrvall as a huge X-factor for the Wolverines as he looks to cash in on his second chance.
Fresh faces, new leadership, and hunger for open spots and the chance at continued development toward the next level will be the fuel in Ann Arbor, and the Wolverines have the chance to surprise again in 2018-19.
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