After A Late-Season Surge, The Michigan Wolverines Are Reloading


After a resurgent second half to the 2019-20 season as the No. 17-ranked program in the NCAA, the Michigan Wolverines are prepped for an even bigger resurgence in 2020-21.

An overreliance on defense created an offensive struggle for the Wolverines last fall, going 4-8-2 through November. But as the systems came together the natural offensive ability began to bloom and helped the team go 14-6-2 from December onward, prior to the cancelation of the Big Ten and national tournaments.

Seniors Jake Slaker, Will Lockwood, and Nick Pastujov carried the offensive torch as the three leading scorers, leaving questions about offensive output in 2020-21. The loss of stable, at-home defensemen Luke Martin and Griffin Luce will also need to be addressed.

But there is plenty of upside in Ann Arbor. In college hockey, a stalwart netminder is a must-have and last season Strauss Mann took the next step in solidifying the Wolverines’ defense.

Mann went 18-13-4, starting all but one game as a workhorse with consistent top-tier numbers. Mann finished the season with a .939 SV%, 1.85 GAA, and six shutouts, finishing third, sixth, and second in the NCAA in each respective category.

While the Wolverines made great strides in 2019-20, their 18-14-4 overall record is average for where they expect and want their historic program to be. Players must step up and the enticing incoming freshman class will need to adapt quick to curb another slow start.

The loss of Slaker, Lockwood, and Pastujov opens the door for 2019 first-round picks Johnny Beecher (30th overall, Boston) and Cam York (14th overall, Philadelphia) to take the next step.

It’s not too late for either to sign with the NHL clubs that hold their rights, but with the NHL season in limbo, there is no rush. Neither organization is in immediate need of their services and with neither player having an eye-popping freshman season, Michigan is likely to see each return in 2020-21.

In their return for their sophomore seasons, coach Mel Pearson will heavily rely both on as the top two returning scorers. Beecher’s offensive expectations will certainly increase and after a year of learning, the former USDP center will take over the top line and play with the best wingers.

York, another USDP alum, will be expected to stabilize the blue line and take a larger role that means pushing the offense while simultaneously going toe-to-toe with the other team’s top players.

The duo will be joined by a number of incoming freshmen also ready to show off their skills in the NCAA. Beecher and York will also have the opportunity to ease the transition for two more USDP alumni that will join them this fall.

After leading the USDP team in scoring with 46 points (16 G, 30 A) in 47 games, Thomas Bordeleau will look to further develop his game in the NCAA. As a projected late first-round pick in 2020, there will be high expectations placed on him, pressure his predecessors in Beecher and York can relate to.

The same goes for USDP defenseman Jacob Truscott. Projected to go somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft, development will be key for Truscott during his college career. He will be able to learn alongside York and other “veteran” teammates, but ice time will have to be earned more so than his mates.

Joining the freshman in 2020-21 is Brendan Brisson, another projected first-round pick in 2020, who finished second in scoring in the USHL last season. Brisson posted 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 45 games as a rookie with the Chicago Steel.

Son of noteworthy NHL player agent Pat Brisson, Brendan has been a fast riser in the draft rankings and could be a massive catch for the Wolverines in 2020-21, regardless of being another one-and-done player common in the NCAA.

Other freshmen will be joining the Wolverines this fall, including Brisson’s Steel teammate, forward Matthew Samoskevich (34 pts. in 47 games), as well as forward Josh Groll (42 pts. in 41 USHL games with Lincoln Stars).

The Wolverines have the makings to be the 2020-21 equivalent of North Dakota this past season. Top-tier goaltending, player development, and productive rookies will go a long way in getting the Wolverines back to the top of the NCAA.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.

WCHA RinkRap: Minnesota State-Bemidji State & Immediate Transfer Impacts

Lutz / Minnesota State

An entertaining November weekend of WCHA hockey, complete with scoring stars, goaltending duels and a four-star highlight-reel goal, was brought to a screeching halt on Monday when Minnesota State canceled its game Monday at Bemidji following reports of positive COVID-19 tests amongst its players.

Coast To Coast: NHL CBA Issues, ECHL Opt-Outs & Long Island University

Brampton Beast

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Game 2 Of Minnesota State-Bemidji State Series Postponed

Minnesota State Athletics

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1-On-1 With Don Lucia After Alaska Anchorage Shutters Hockey Program

Alaska Anchorage

Hockey has always been part of the culture in the 48th state, whether it be in the hit film Mystery Alaska, its countless pickup games on all their frozen ponds and streams, or 40 years’ worth of varsity hockey on two NCAA campuses. Last week that number has shrunk to one, as Alaska Anchorage announced it had dropped its hockey program, ending a 41-year reign as a varsity sport. 

Loh Of The Adirondack Thunder Prepares For The 'Upside-Down' Hockey Season

Alex Loh

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Anastas / Brampton Beast

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The Mavericks & Beavers Are On A Superstar Goaltender Collision Course

McKay / Driscoll


It is by far the most important position in hockey. A star goalie carries significance comparable to an entire baseball pitching staff. The WCHA has two such aces: Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay and Zach Driscoll of Bemidji. McKay had the best statistics in college hockey last season, and he was a finalist for the Richter Award as well as a semifinalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Driscoll, a star in his own right, finished as a second-team All-WCHA selection behind McKay. McKay is this year’s projected WCHA player of the year; Driscoll finished fourth in the voting. 

Pretenders, Contenders & Rear-Enders: The WCHA Squads Of Michigan

Mitens, Lake Superior State

Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Ferris State have all enjoyed degrees of success this past decade: Ferris with three trips to the NCAAs (including a competitive NCAA title game in 2012); Northern Michigan with a return to 20-win seasons under Grant Potulny; and Lake Superior waking its echoes of dominance with a Great Lakes Invitational title and a 23-win season in 2019. 

Scoring Threat Ross Olsson Plays 'In Your Face' For The Worcester Railers

Ross Olsson / Worcester Railers

Ross Olsson would seemingly be one of the last guys you’d expect to have a rather well-populated page on

Atlantic Hockey Previews: AIC Loses Historic Group, Robert Morris Reloads

AIC Hockey

AIC has been crowned Atlantic Hockey regular season champions in each of the past two seasons and endured an incredible run into the second round of the NCAA tournament two years ago. This season, the Yellow Jackets look to replace players that have solidified their name in AIC history books. While there are large skates to fill, the Yellow Jackets return talent and depth from their 20-win season in 2019-20.