For much of the past decade, Michigan hockey has been on a steady decline. The Wolverines went from 2007 with a NCAA Frozen Four appearance to 2008, when they missed the tournament by one point. 2009 and 2010 were also years in which Michigan failed to even make the NCAA Tournament. The last time the Wolverines made the postseason was 2011, when they lost in the Frozen Four to Boston College. Now, however, in the midst of their best season in nearly a decade, Michigan is in position to make history. And it won’t be because of a collapse in the second half.
The Michigan Wolverines hockey program has had an interesting ride to this point. After a year of non-conference play, the Wolverines are set to take on the rest of the Big Ten this weekend, and their first game in the conference will be played this Saturday against the Penn State Nittany Lions. After a couple of seasons of mediocre results, the team is a legitimate contender for the league crown, and their appearance in the Frozen Four is a good sign for the future.
In the last decade, the NCAA hockey team at the University of Michigan has been perennial contenders for the NCAA men’s hockey championship. Last year, the team fell just short in the title game with a 3-2 loss to Yale University. In the final minute of the game, Yale captain Paul Henning scored a goal that would send the game into overtime. Michigan goalie Jake Paterson then stopped the initial shot, but Yale’s Cameron Hughes scored the game-winning goal to win the title. Michigan fans have been waiting for their team to get back to the tournament since then.. Read more about michigan wolverines football and let us know what you think.
Since his last games as a Wolverine in 1993, Aaron Ward has watched the University of Michigan men’s hockey team rise in stature. National titles and participation in the Frozen Four. The “Children of Yost” in the fans at their legendary home rink, as well as their increasing number of NHL alumni, including Max Pacioretty, Zach Werenski, and Quinn Hughes.
He wants to see the program create NHL draft history right now.
There has never been an NCAA team that has had three current players selected in the first round. Michigan will be the team to beat on Friday night, with defenseman Owen Power, center Matty Beniers, and center Kent Johnson all expected to be top-10 selections.
“I’m really looking forward to them. Just based on the draft, this is catapulting the program to a whole new level “Ward went on to play in the NHL for 839 games and win two Stanley Cups. “In football, you compare it to Alabama, and in basketball, you compare it to Kentucky. If you can make it to Michigan, you’ll be on your way to playing in the National Hockey League.”
The Wolverines still have a lot of history to make. If the Buffalo Sabres and Seattle Kraken respectively select Power and Beniers first and second overall, it would be the first time since 1969 that the same club has provided the top two choices in the draft. It would be the second time in draft history that two NCAA players occupy the first two selections, with Rick DiPietro and Dany Heatley being the top two picks in 2000.
If either is chosen first overall, it will be just the fourth time an NCAA player has been selected first overall.
When Michigan prospect Luke Hughes is chosen, it will be just the third time in draft history that the same NCAA team has been selected four times in the first round with existing players and recruits.
Without a doubt, this group of Michigan hockey prospects is exceptional.
“To tell you the truth,” coach Mel Pearson remarked, “I could see them go one, two, three, and four.” “And any of those men might be No. 1,” says the narrator.
Pearson served as an assistant coach under the renowned Red Berenson from 1988 until 2011.
Ward said, “It’s the foundation that Red Berenson laid there.” “For the show, he had a persona. He creates a persona and lives according to it, and he’s extremely consistent with it. Over time, that consistency paid off.
“In terms of people recognizing Michigan as a program that can send guys out, the brand is beginning to work for them.”
Pearson departed for a head coaching job at Michigan Tech, but following Berenson’s retirement in 2017, he returned to lead the Wolverines.
Power was already on the program’s recruiting radar when Pearson returned to Ann Arbor.
“We really wanted him to come to Michigan. In Toronto, he was a promising young player. We’ve already been able to pick off some players in the big junior region “Pearson remembered names like Mike Cammalleri, Andrew Cogliano, and John Madden as potential Toronto recruits.
Power scored 16 points in 26 games for Michigan this season. He also appeared in ten games for Canada in the IIHF World Championships.
Johnson, Power’s teammate, remarked, “I could shout his praises all day.” “I could tell he was unique the moment I arrived in Michigan. ‘C’mon, they’ve got to get this guy out there more,’ I remember thinking during the first period of the game [at Worlds].”
Regionality, according to Pearson, is one of the group’s distinguishing characteristics.
“It’s fascinating,” he added, “since they’re all from various places.” “Matty Beniers is from Boston, Owen from Toronto is in the center, and Kent is from British Columbia. One of the things that Michigan has always been renowned for is that it isn’t just a regional state. We believe we have the brand and name to recruit from any location.”
Last season’s draft class included current Michigan center Brendan Brisson, who came to Michigan from Manhattan Beach, California. In 2020, the Vegas Golden Knights chose him 29th overall.
“Last year at Brendan’s draft, it was a lot of fun. All of the boys were there to cheer him on “According to Beniers. “We had no idea where he was heading. He had no idea where he was heading. So it’s like, ‘This is great,’ when your name is called.”
Matty Beniers, a center for the Wolverines, may be the first or second pick in the NHL draft this year. Icon Sportswire/Lon Horwedel
Beniers, a talented two-way center, is expected to go second overall, if not first, behind Power, the Sabres’ consensus first-round selection.
Beniers, on the other hand, isn’t quite ready to admit it.
Beniers stated, “He’s certainly a number one selection candidate.” “I’m not sure what will happen, but I wish him the best of luck. I’m hoping he can go as high as he possibly can.”
Patrice Bergeron is an inspiration for Beniers, who said he and the other Wolverines in the draft have tried to keep things light at what could be a difficult time. They exchange notes on the interview process and discuss which teams they like.
“A smidgeon of [joking about]. I don’t believe any of us have over-stressed ourselves because of the draft, what everyone is saying, and what’s going on “According to Beniers.
Beniers, according to Pearson, was a fortunate break for the program. He had committed to Harvard, but the Ivy League had to cancel the season because to the COVID-19 epidemic. As a result, in August 2020, he enrolled at Michigan.
“With the Ivy League closing down, it’s a nice respite for us,” Pearson remarked. “He knew his way about Michigan and Ann Arbor. When Harvard chose not to play, Michigan was one of the first colleges Matty considered. It’s not only because of the hockey program; it’s also because of the academics.”
Johnson had a less conventional path to the NCAA. He’s a North Vancouver native who’s regarded the group’s late bloomer.
“Kent’s coach in the [British Columbia Hockey League] was one of our former players, Jeff Tambellini,” Pearson added. “Jeff, who is from Michigan, informed us that he had a hockey player on the way. He was a late bloomer, having been drafted in the 10th round of the WHL draft. He wasn’t quite a phenom.”
As a freshman, Kent Johnson scored 27 points in 26 games for Michigan. USA TODAY Sports/Michael Caterina
Johnson, who scored 27 points in 26 games as a freshman after scoring 101 points with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters the year before, was dubbed the Wolverines’ most improved player by the coach.
“I certainly learned some areas I can improve on that I didn’t see as much in the BCHL,” Johnson said. “Of course, I was dominating every night there.”
Hughes has left an indelible mark on the world. Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks, his brother, spent two seasons at Michigan before moving on to the NHL.
“We loved Luke,” Pearson recalled, “but we had to go through the recruitment process with Luke as well.” “I don’t believe he’ll come to Michigan just because Quinn did. Quinn, on the other hand, was ecstatic to be here. Not only on the rink, but off the ice as well.”
Hughes, who may play for the New Jersey Devils with his brother Jack if he is selected fourth overall, said he is looking forward to playing at Michigan.
“Seeing how much my brother Quinn developed as a player, but more importantly as a person, by meeting very clever people and making long-term friends. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to, “Hughes said.
It also helps that he’ll be joining a title contender.
“We’re going to have a very excellent squad next season, as I’m sure you all know. Hopefully, we will be able to go very far and win it all. I’m really looking forward to my stay there “Hughes said.
While Michigan has produced a large number of NHL players (31 have made their NHL debuts since 2007-08), its collegiate performance has been uneven in recent years.
The Wolverines have only reached the Frozen Four once since entering the Big Ten’s hockey conference in the 2013-14 season. They haven’t won a national title since Marty Turco led them to a 3-2 overtime victory against Boston College in 1998.
In 2021, Michigan was rated No. 8 in the country and No. 2 in the men’s NCAA tournament, indicating that things could be different. The game was declared a “no contest” and their opponents progressed “due to adverse COVID-19 test findings inside U-Tier M’s I testing group” before the Wolverines could face Minnesota Duluth in a Midwest Regional quarterfinal.
That followed the sadness of the Big Ten canceling their postseason tournament in March 2020 because to the pandemic in 2019-20.
“They’ve sacrificed so much, and it’s hard to accept that this chance has been taken away from them,” Pearson said earlier this year. “I realize it’s only a game, but it means a lot to these young guys. We’ve been denied a chance to participate in the national championship for the second year in a row.”
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As they contemplate their NHL futures as the draft approaches, these young hockey stars are also considering unfinished work in college.
Power stated, “I wouldn’t say I’m committed to going back to school.” “Right now, I’m probably leaning towards that. But, obviously, that’s something I’ll have to discuss with whatever club selects me.”
However, the 6-foot-5 defender said he’d like to return to Michigan to experience student life outside of a pandemic before becoming pro.
“That’s one of the main reasons I want to return to school,” Power said. “I want to experience the real college experience at Michigan, particularly at Yost [arena] with all the fans and everything.” “To attend courses rather than doing everything online. To be able to do things other than going to the rink and then returning home.”
It’s a feeling shared by the other Michigan players and their coach who are going to NHL clubs in the first round.
“They’ve all been to Yost Ice Arena on recruiting visits, but they haven’t had the opportunity to play there. Which is a unique experience in and of itself “Pearson said.
“The unfinished business of how last year’s season ended… we thought we were playing as good as anybody with the squad we had. Good players want to be among successful players, and I believe they recognize that if everyone returned and took another shot at the can, Michigan might have a very good year.”
Pearson imagines a Michigan team vying for the national championship with a historic NHL draft class of Power, Beniers, Johnson, and Hughes.
“Holy cow, if we all get them back this year.”
Earlier this week, the Detroit Red Wings made Michigan college hockey history: the Wolverines drafted the first defenseman ever selected in the NHL Entry Draft. For the NHL, Michigan’s Connor Murphy is the first defenseman to be drafted in the first round, and the first Michigan-born defenseman drafted in the NHL.. Read more about michigan football schedule and let us know what you think.
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