Preseason Top 16: #16 Michigan


It’s that time of year again. Each day (or so) for the next two weeks TCHB will be rolling out its preseason top 16 teams in the country. Top 16 because there are of course 16 teams in the NCAA tournament field. Leading off the rankings are the #16 Michigan Wolverines

The hot news of the day in Ann Arbor is that stud goalie recruit John Gibson is pulling a Jack Campbell and spurning the school for the OHL. Still, with Shawn Hunwick in net, it’s tough to imagine Gibson getting a ton of playing time this year, even with his pedigree. At first glance ranking this Michigan team 16th seems low, especially since they took the national championship game to overtime. Still, this Wolverine team suffered big losses and has a ton of question marks.

Forwards: Michigan will have to go without Carl Hagelin, who not only led the team with 49 points last year but was also its best defensive forward and leader. Also missing is second leading scorer Louie Caporusso, who had 11 goals and 31 points. Scooter Vaughan, who was 3rd on the team with 14 goals, also graduates. In all, Michigan loses its top four forwards from last year and will need to do a lot of work to replace them.

Helping in that department will be Chris Brown, one of my favorite players in the country. Brown doesn’t have a ton of scoring ability (9 goals last year and 16 career), but 5 of his goals last year were of the game winning variety and he is a tough defensive forward who often has to play against the best line from the other team. Kevin Lynch, who had 11 goals last year, and Luke Clendening, who had 8, will have to take steps forward for this team to compete.

Michigan’s does have some good forward recruits coming in, including  Zach Hyman, who had 42 goals in 43 games last year for Hamilton of the OJHL, and Travis Lynch, who had 20 goals and 44 points last year with Green Bay (USHL) and was also one of their best penalty killers.

Defensemen: Michigan’s best returning player is Jon Merrill, a second round pick of the Devils last year. Merrill was probably the U.S.’s best defenseman at the WJC last year, and was Michigan’s best defenseman. He tied Michigan State’s Torey Krug for the CCHA lead in ppg from a defenseman with .68 and was second in goals from a defenseman. As a whole, the Wolverines allowed just 2.04 goals per game last year in conference play, which led the league. Michigan welcomes back Merrill, Lee Moffie, Greg Pateryn and Mac Bennett to that crew, as well as Tristin Lewellyn and Kevin Clare who got some playing time.

The Wolverines most notable dman recruit is Michael Chiasson, son of ex Red Wing Steve Chiasson. But my favorite recruit, for sentimental reasons, is Brennan Serville, a 2011 draftee of the Winnipeg Jets.

Goalies: As I mentioned, John Gibson won’t be in the fold. For this year that won’t be a huge problem, as 5th year Senior Shawn Hunwick had a.931 save percentage in conference play last year, which was 2nd in the CCHA. If he struggles or gets hurt however, Michigan doesn’t have another goalie recruit in the pipeline and the only other returning goalie who played last year was Adam Janecyk, who faced all of 1 shot on goal.