It's early February and any realistic possibility of playing in the postseason is long gone. It's time to start looking ahead to the future of B1G hockey and where our team looks to be in the grand conference scheme. All stats and eligibility posted are current for the 2012-2013 season and returning and incoming players are not guaranteed on next seasons roster.
A.J. Treais (C)
A.J. Treais joined the Wolverines after finishing third in points on a star-studded US-U18 team, expected to follow in the footsteps of other diminutive forwards such as Hensick and Cammalleri. The results were mixed as A.J. struggled with conditioning early on but after a strong second half to the 2011-12 season, this year looked like it would be his best in a Michigan uniform. At some point this year every player on the roster struggled, Treais started red hot before coming back down and never really took the next step.
Still, A.J. was a valuable player during his four years in Ann Arbor. His speed and skill will be a little more difficult to replace, but as usual Red has the next wave of mighty mites on their way. If he has some of last years magic left, fourteen points is what A.J. needs to become the 20th Michigan player since 1998 to score one hundred career points.
Kevin Lynch (A)
The forwards Alternate captain, Lynch's came to Michigan along with fellow U-18 teammates A.J. Treais and Chris Brown. The size and skill was evident, but the scoring touch that got him drafted 56th overall never fully developed to the college game. Instead he became a solid defensive player, and a physical forechecker. He also had a habit for big plays in games against Michigan State.
The defensive part of his game and the leadership ability makes Lynch harder to replace. It's very difficult to predict how someone will fill a leadership role when they haven't had to lead before, which is why his graduation will have the biggest impact from the small group of departing forwards.
Sparks departure ends the curious four year tenure that left every Michigan fan wondering about what could have been. The hype brought from pure speed alone was enough for fan's imaginations to think big things were coming from Sparks, but blueliners around the CCHA never really had trouble containing our rocket on skates.
Early on the idea of pure speed was too much to keep him off the ice, the coaches used every opportunity possible to get him minutes even strength, on the PK and on the powerplay. Defensive zone play was never a strength of his and eventually his shortcomings started to outweigh his positives, as he struggled with offensive consistency his minutes declined and he gave way to Sinelli. One disaster of a game against Bowling Green was enough for Red and Sparks has not seen game action since.
Jeff also joined the team as a walk-on in 2009 and served as a reliable, versatile defensive player as well as a hard worker. Presence in the locker room will be missed.
After the break: Returning and incoming
DeBlois and Moffatt will return as the only senior forwards on the roster. It's not flashy but I like what DeBlois brings to the team as a good penalty killer and a physical, hard working player. He has been the Wolverines best defensive forward this season and with both forward captains graduating he should be in the discussion for the C.
Although his scoring hasn't been lights out since he got to Michigan, I really enjoy the versatility of Moffatt's game as a player who can throw his body around but also has pretty good stick skills. With three goals and an assist Moffatt will surpass his career high in both categories for the second straight year, and with three seasons of offensive progression a fourth is not out of the question. I don't expect to get the dynamic player Moffatt was before he came to Michigan but I would say 20-25 points next season is realistic.
After early season struggles and some internal issues that got him left at home for the Ferris series, Guptill has arguably been the teams most improved second half player. The adjustments made by the CCHA teams with film study and defensive gameplans disrupted the free screening that made Guptill so good in his freshman year, but he has responded in the second half and is playing much better hockey. After a slight regression from freshman to sophmore seasons I think a big junior year is coming from Guptill, and could see around 30-35 points if not more.
Judging the tendencies of Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the young talent currently in their system, we could expect one more year on the roster from Alex Guptill. If the Stars miss the playoffs this season Nieuwendyk will be fired and whoever takes over as GM will try and finish the rebuild he abandoned, so we may be able to get a fourth year from Guptill. Wishful thinking indeed.
After a solid freshman year as a secondary scorer Lynch has taken a step back offensively, but has taken a step forward as the teams best option in the faceoff dot. With the expected progression from our current roster and the talented freshman coming in, Lynch should see his numbers go back up. It will be difficult to overtake Boo Nieves on the first line next year, but the work he does on faceoffs at least gives him a chance. If not he will occupy the second line spot.
Two years in a row Sinelli has patiently waited at the end of the roster, at one point behind Sparks, Rohrkemper and Milne, only to push through and get on the ice. Other than a few defensive miscues like everyone else, Sinelli has provided Michigan with an energy guy who has the speed and skill to move up the line chart. He fits right into the category of attributes that I overuse defining leadership and hard work, in other words the kind of player that you want on your team.
The third year could be the charm for Sinelli as Michigan brings DeBlois, Hyman and Evan Allen in as the other listed Right Wings. Unless one of the other incoming freshman moves to the right side, that leaves a fourth spot available.
Zach came to Michigan highly touted after an outstanding Junior A career in the OJHL, but Hyman has yet to find his groove as Michigan Wolverine. That's not to say he hasn't played well as Zach has shown great stick work and skating ability, but just hasn't found the finishing touch yet. Switching from center to wing took away a viable faceoff option, going from almost 400 taken as a freshman to 34 this season. That has taken a 53% winner from a year ago almost completely out of the dot.
I still stand by my prediction that Hyman will become a high impact player in this league, look for him to make this biggest step forward in the offseason finishing around 20-25 points next year.
Phil Di Giuseppe
The first half of the 2012-13 season was a bit of a struggle for Di Giuseppe in the goal scoring department, as he has dipped from eleven a year ago to five currently. While the numbers have declined it's not for lack of effort, he's still creating for others and he's getting the puck to the net it's just not going in for him. Eventually the bounces will start to go his way and he will find twine, but for now it looks like he will finish right around his point total for last year at twenty six.
For the future, Di Giuseppe is the forward most likely to leave the program after this season. Leaving for the CHL probably isn't going to happen, but with an owner in Carolina who really doesn't like NCAA hockey it's not hard to imagine the Hurricanes giving him a little push in their direction. I would give it a 50/50 shot he leaves.
If he does decide to stay the combination of Nieves and Di Giuseppe will be lethal, giving Michigan two of the best pure scorers and playmakers in college hockey. The idea of two giant, skill forwards on the ice together is a matchup nightmare for a teams blueline.
Chris Brown's late departure last season opened a spot on the roster, and Copp wasted no time before committing. To say that his addition has paid dividends for the Wolverines would be an understatement as the former Skyline quarterback has exceeded expectations, giving the Wolverines a solid combination of size and skill on any line they put him on. Has a habit of always being around the puck which is never a bad thing, definitely someone I could see holding a captain position in the future.
Despite the players returning and incoming recruits, Copp isn't the kind of player who you can keep off the ice. With his versatility and work ethic he will find a way to get minutes, twenty points may be his ceiling but that's OK. Well rounded players like this don't come around very often.
Coming to Michigan NHL scouts had Nieves among the top North American prospects for the 2012 draft. He has size, skill, and possesses rare speed for a player of his height, the only knock against him was the level of competition he played against at the prep level. It's safe to say that those concerns are gone as Boo has emerged as one of the top freshman in NCAA hockey, and at this point the sky is the limit. By all means the comparison is a huge stretch to make but as long as he doesn't outgrow his skills, he could end up being a very similar player to another Ranger who came out of London tall and skinny eleven years ago.
Early going his passing stood out as a major strength as well as hockey IQ, the speed of the game never seemed to be a problem for him. As goal scoring has started to come around for him it's hard not to imagine what he can do with another year in the system and some added weight. I see him contending for a First Team All-CCHA spot next year and something around a 15-20-35 line.
With a 5-3-8 line against Michigan State this season it's safe to assume he has taken over for Lynch as our Spartan Slayer.
Started on the fourth line early in the season, but some struggles combined with the emergence of Sinelli and reliability of Rohrkemper has cut into his minutes. Hard worker, physical player, and can go from average to exceptional in the faceoff circle. Once the game slows down for him defense will improve and he will get back on the ice, but for now it looks like he's the odd man out for the rest of the 2013 season.
Going forward I could see him as a Brian Lebler type player, spending the next two seasons on the checking line providing a solid secondary scoring option before breaking out his senior year.
Anyone who is not familar with hockey recruting, you're lucky that you haven't experienced the frustration yet. This year looks to be easier on our poor hearts, as most of our prospects fell in their CHL draft years or didn't get drafted at all. Because CHL rights tend to move around as the players get better the CHL information I have provided may not be 100% accurate, if that is the case please inform me and I will change it.
|Position||Ht/Wt||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line||SOG||SH%||+/-||PIMS||CHL Rights|
|Center||5-8/175||Cedar Rapids USHL||30||3-7-10||41||.073||-2||24||Brampton|
The biggest surprise for Michigan was that apparent first round lock Cianfrone fell down into the third, to a CHL team who is sometimes good but isn't right now. Add to that fact the team is moving next year to North Bay and it doesn't seem likely that Bryson will abandon his commitment to Michigan. A few early NHL draft projections have Cianfrone between the 3rd to 5th round, which means Michigan is getting a very talented young player who isn't likely to leave after one or two years because of his size. His leadership on and off the ice is a major strength of his.
As for his projection, there will be minutes available and he will battle it out with Selman for the 3rd line center position. A safe bet for his first season would be around 10 or 15 points. Anyone who can contribute on the powerplay will see the ice, so that option is available for anyone who is up to the task.
|Position||Ht/Wt||Shoots||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line||SOG||SH%||+/-||PIMS||CHL Rights|
Allen isn't the highest ranked forward coming in this season, but with his talent and depth on the right side he could bump DeBlois and take a spot on the first line. That's a big projection but it's not out of the question. Scouts like his hockey IQ, his shooting, and how he plays in front of the net. As for the season outlook, 15-20 points should be realistic. NHL draft projections have him in the 50-70 range.
Unfortunately his rights are owned by prospect snatching Windsor so I would say it's around 50/50 that Warren Rychel, the Canadian Nick Saban flips Allen over to the dark side.
|Position||Ht/Wt||Shoots||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line||SOG||SH%||+/-||PIMS||CHL Rights|
An NTDP teammate of Compher and Allen, Motte isn't the biggest guy but he more than makes up for it with his skating. Provides a dynamic offensive game, but needs to work on hockey awareness. Like I mentioned before, powerplay time is available. Projected around the third round of the NHL draft.
|Position||Ht/Wt||Shoots||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line||SOG||SH%||+/-||PIMS|
Early projections have Compher around the 20's in this years NHL draft and much to Michigan's liking, he has no interest in playing CHL hockey. His strengths include his motor, his work in the defensive zone, faceoffs, board play, skating, checking, hockey IQ and his character. The only thing that scouts point out is that his offensive game isn't polished, but more of a grinding style of play. Overall Michigan has a solid player who can step in from day 1 and give them something that has been absent the past two seasons.
|Position||Ht/Wt||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line
|Left Wing||6-0/185||Green Bay USHL||35||18-17-35||106||.170||+8||29||London|
Kile has really taken his game to another level in 2013, eventually being named a USHL prospects captain. The big winger has enormous potential and should give Michigan production from the bottom six as a freshman.
|Position||Ht/Wt||2012 Team||GP||Scoring Line||SOG||SH%||+/-||PIMS|
|Left Wing||6-1/187||Muskegon USHL||35||8-7-15||75||.107||-9||15|
I don't know too much about Shuart, I'm not even sure who he plays for anymore or what position. A quick search calls him a center or a left wing, and word around Muskegon blogs was that he was being traded but I don't know where. Anyways, Shuart doesn't jump off the page offensively so it's safe to assume he will occupy a checking role his first year or so in Ann Arbor.
Next week: Defense