The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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60 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2016 HOCKEY PREVIEW far, though all goalies will be scru- pulously evaluated until the start of the season. If neither rookie proves ready, U-M will turn to senior Zach Nagelvoort. He's by far the most experienced op- tion, but his college career has trended in the wrong direction. He started 22 games as a freshman and posted ex- cellent numbers (2.2 goals-against av- erage, .929 save percentage), which got him drafted by the Edmonton Oil- ers in the fourth round. By last season, he was only playing sparingly and performing worse (2.99, .893). Nagelvoort is a very hard worker who is always well conditioned. Ed- monton's director of scouting Bob Green said he looked really good at the team's development camp in June. But the mental aspect is perhaps more important to goaltending than the physical, and Nagelvoort, if he does get a chance in game action, needs to start strong and build confidence. "Nages has had some really good moments in his career," Berenson said. "We'll see if he's the guy or if the one of the freshman will take over. I can't tell you who our starting goalie is." Pushing that trio and rounding out the goaltending corps is sophomore Chad Catt, who posted good num- bers in the North American Hockey League before arriving on campus but only played two games as a freshman. All will have the benefit of working under the aforementioned Shields, who has served as U-M's volunteer goalie coach since last season. "We just want to eliminate bad goals," Berenson said. "Our goalie doesn't need to stand on his head. We'll play more than one goalie in net unless one guy can come in and literally make the difference in games night after night." STRATEGIC SHIFT By a certain measure, the last time Michigan was this bereft of high- end talent, the Wolverines won the national championship. U-M has no players on its roster who have been taken in the first two rounds of the NHL Entry Draft. The program has had one such player, and often three or four, every season since 1997-98. That year was U-M's second, and most recent, national championship under Red Berenson, and ninth overall. Draft status is certainly not the sole means of assessing talent, but it high- lights U-M's need for players to step up. Berenson, along with associate head coach Billy Powers (24th sea- son), assistant Brian Wiseman (sixth) and Shields, form one of the best coaching staffs in the country. They are not likely to drastically alter their methodology, which focuses on an up-tempo offensive attack, but they'll adjust to their personnel. This squad will have to rely on preventing goals much more so than in recent history. Anyone speculating on Berenson's retirement plans is doing just that — speculating. The 76-year-old and reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year, is not the type to take a "victory lap" by sharing his decision before a season is complete. It won't take long to see where his current squad stands. Michigan Tech and a loaded Boston U. squad each visit Yost before Thanksgiving. In the Big Ten, ESPN analyst and former U-M standout Sean Ritchlin thinks the Wol- verines rank just a notch below defend- ing champ Minnesota and that Wiscon- sin and Penn State should be improved. Many figured U-M would struggle last year after losing its three lead- ing goal scorers: Zach Hyman, Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp. Instead, the "CCM" line blew up and U-M averaged its most goals since 1996-97. It's unfair to expect a similar outburst from any group of players, but if U-M truly commits to better defense, it can survive a slight offensive decline. The NCAA Tournament victory last year should have reminded fans that Berenson and his staff can still coach. Can Michigan make the nec- essary adjustments to return and perhaps advance even further? This advice won't always work at the rou- lette table, but it usually does in col- lege hockey: Bet on Red. ❏ 1. The Goalie — A bit of a cop-out to start the list, but whoever is occupying the net for U-M has to be really good. The Wol- verines will rely on team defense this year way more than their fans have been accus- tomed to, meaning the goaltender — Jack LaFontaine? Zach Nagelvoort? — will have a major impact. 2. F Alex Kile — No returning Wolverine had more goals or assists than Kile last year. Perhaps no player will be counted on as much to produce offensively. A near-lock for the first line, the senior will be gunning for 50 points. 3. D Nolan De Jong — With so much more confidence than he had earlier in his career, the senior has the talent and experi- ence to lead the way for a squad looking to become more defensive-minded. 4. D Nicholas Boka — After posting good numbers last year as a freshman, U-M expects a lot out of him as he con- tinues to realize his identity. 5. F Cooper Marody: He's a very skillful playmaker who, according to Flyers scouting director Chris Pryor, "thinks the game extremely well." Ma- rody was U-M's second most productive freshman, behind Connor, last season. 6. F Tony Calderone — He's a good enough shooter to lead the team in goals, and more will be expected from him in his junior year. 7. D Joe Cecconi — He looked very capa- ble as a freshman last year, especially in the second half, and will need to continue that development to shore up U-M's defense. 8. F Brendan Warren — An offensive X- factor, if he turns himself into a threat (five goals and 12 assists as a freshman last year), U-M could be dangerous again offensively. 9. D Luke Martin — He's a young fresh- man with the talent to get minutes right away. 10. F Will Lockwood — Another freshman, Lockwood appears to be the most offensively gifted in the class. The hype seems justified. — Andrew Kahn A f t e r t h e g r a d u a t i o n o f S t e v e Racine, the starting job between the pipes could be won by rookie Jack LaFontaine, a third-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes. PHOTO COURTESY CAROLINA HURRICANES Top 10 Most Impactful Wolverines For 2016-17

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