The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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72 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 BY BOB MILLER W hen a college hockey pro- gram recruits the top players in North America, the benefit of the high skill level is an obvious plus for the program. The flip side of that process is that the highly skilled players often only spend a year or two in college before leaving early to start their professional careers, mak- ing continuity difficult to achieve. Historically, Michigan has seen both the benefit and detriment of that process. For the 2018-19 season, the Wolverines return several players who opted to turn down professional contracts in exchange for at least one more year in college hockey. Michigan's top defensive pairing of senior Joe Cecconi and sophomore Quinn Hughes both had the option of signing pro contracts, yet returned for another season in Ann Arbor. Cecconi and Hughes' skill sets mesh perfectly to represent an ath- letic yin and yang of defensive play. Cecconi is more of a stay-at-home defenseman, relying on physical strength, strong skating and the abil- ity to find just the right avenue for an outlet pass from the defensive zone. The 6-2, 205-pounder also finds a way to get his shots from the point on net, an offensive plus. Named team captain prior to the season, Cecconi was a fifth-round choice of the NHL's Dallas Stars in the 2015 NHL Draft. "I was very proud when Coach Mel [Pearson] told me that my teammates and the coaching staff voted me as captain," he said. "It was unreal and I'm glad to be a leader on this team. Last year, I was an assistant captain so I had a little more responsibility than my freshman and sophomore years. "I learned a little bit about hav- ing that responsibility, like doing the little things on and off the ice." Meanwhile, Hughes has an electric skill set of skating and puck control that allows him to control play and dictate the pace of a game. The first- round choice of the Vancouver Ca- nucks, seventh overall in last June's 2018 NHL Draft, Hughes could have easily opted to start his pro career immediately, but saw more future benefit in continuing to hone his game at U-M. "I just think it's such a historic pro- gram," the 5-10, 175-pounder stated. "I really enjoyed my freshman year here. We had a great team. It was re- ally fun. "Coming back another year, I knew we were going to have a really good team. I love the coaching staff and the players. To play at Yost, to be part   MICHIGAN HOCKEY After Bypassing NHL Opportunities, U-M Defensive Duo Is One Of The Nation's Best Senior defenseman Joe Cecconi set career highs in goals (five), assists (22) and points (27) while appearing in all 40 games last year, but returned for a final season in Ann Arbor. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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