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Michigan ought to recruit 10 freshmen every year! I was talking about this on the radio yesterday, and when you look at the double-digit freshman classes U-M has had -- 1998 (10 rookies), 2002 (11), 2006 (11) and 2008 (12), they've had some pretty decent success. National champs in 1998. Conference regular-season and tournament champs, and Frozen Four participant in 2002. 2006 ... eh not so much. Third place CCHA. First-round NCAA exit. But then in 2008, CCHA regular-season and tournament champs, Frozen Four participant (should-have-been national champion). 

So there has been a lot of success when they've had these big classes, and here we are again with 10 rookies, and you can already tell that they're going to have a positive impact on this team because of their youthful enthusiasm. I saw it yesterday in the way they skated, but then I really saw it after they won and the team bounced off the bench and to goalie Steve Racine like they had won a playoff game. I know it was an "upset" over a top-five team, but I have never seen a Michigan team that excited after a regular-season win, especially the first one of the year. 

So on these freshmen -- the two that stuck out to me the most were JT Compher and Alex Kile. I had heard so many good things about Compher and I can see why scouts love this kid. He did so many subtle things yesterday, like lifting sticks, using proper leverage to take a guy out of the play, picked up his man in the defensive zone, was strong cycling the puck and then had an unbelievable pass to senior Luke Moffatt for the first goal. He could have 30 points this year but he's going to be a kid that just makes a difference whether he's on the stat sheet or not. 

Kile was the one that really grabbed my attention. I had seen the USA kids play, but had never seen Kile before. I had heard there were some folks down on him, thinking he might not amount to much at this level. But one game in, if he skates like that going forward, he's going to be a key player for the Wolverines. He's good sized (6-0, 190) and he played with a real chippiness to his game. He was lowering his shoulder, taking on anyone, and really fit in nicely with sophomore center Andrew Copp and senior right winger Derek DeBlois. He looked so good on that line actually that I don't know if they move him when junior Alex Guptill comes back Saturday. He reminded me of a poor-man's Max Pacioretty. He doesn't have the sheer skill of Max, but he played a similar style. Gritty. Tough in the corners. The kind of winger you need. 

The other two freshman forwards -- Tyler Motte and Evan Allen -- both had their moments, but didn't overwhelm. I thought Motte was trying to do a little too much with the puck, and he was skating a little out of control so when he did make a pass it was a little rushed and he didn't often hit his intended target. 

All three rookie defensemen played and about the best thing I can say is I didn't notice them much, except with Kevin Lohan sporting No. 24, I kept thinking Jon Merrill was on the ice (not in game, mind you, in number only). I do think the defense has to shape up considerably, and part of this is on the forwards. There were just way too many unaccounted for Eagles last night, and it probably should have burned Michigan. In fact, after the second period, I thought BC should have been up 5-2 or so, but Racine was making some big saves and there were a couple shots off the post. I'm sure when Red Berenson looks at the film, he'll look at the defensive zone coverage and get to work on that in practice next week (or today when they skate before heading to RIT). 

I'm not going to say this is going to be Moffatt's best year (but it wouldn't be hard -- his career best is eight goals) but I will tell you this, a player like that, that was a scorer coming in but has never had the chance to really take off, and has had so many scoring slumps, well, when you score two in the opener, your confidence skyrockets and you watch how he plays these next few weeks. He was an animal last night on that Compher/Motte line, and played, in my opinion, the best game of his career because he was a force on both ends of the rink. 

I thought the Copp-DeBlois-Kile line was the best of the night on either team, and the combination of Copp and DeBlois is special. Both harder workers. Both gritty, tough players that are willing to do whatever it takes, and they'll create offense because they work so hard. Copp already reminds me of Andrew Ebbett. A kid that wasn't super skilled but put up better numbers than you ever thought possible because of how hard he worked on every shift and because he had better puck skills than you thought. 

I thought sophomore center Boo Nieves played well, but he didn't get much help on his line. Junior Phil Di Giuseppe is his left winger and I'm starting to think it's just not going to happen for him. Disappointing freshman and sophomore seasons, and when he skates, he just doesn't seem to be on the same page with anyone. He had a chemistry with Nieves last year that I think everyone hoped would be rekindled, but he made a pass last night to no one, would attack the zone and do his own thing, and just never had a feel for where his linemates were. It was tough to watch and it seems like it's been that way his entire career. 

The other player that had a rough night in my opinion was junior defenseman Brennan Serville. He still seems like a player unsure of himself. He had a glorious chance in the offensive zone to rifle a shot that had come out to him with the goalie out of position and instead he collects it, shifts his angle and tosses the puck towards the net. It was a timid play, and spoke to his game all night. He just doesn't play with urgency. He's a big kid, with talent, but he has to start asserting himself. You'd expect a guy in his junior year to do that, but ...

Finally, on Racine. What a difference a year makes. Kid looked money yesterday. Never seemed rattled even when BC had point-blank chances. Came up big time and again to deny the Eagles. Yes, there were some off the post, but he made 5-7 saves that were the difference in the game for Michigan. 

This post was edited on 10/11 11:27 AM by MichaelSpath

10/11 10:03 AM | IP: Logged

Some more thoughts....

It was interesting to see Nieves struggle- at the end of the game, him, PDG and I can't remember- had a shift where the entire time BC had a ton of pressure.  This was after a time out that Red took to change a tired line.  Curious that they had such a tough time defending.  Especially when all of the other lines did better- some reallty well- in our zone.

Claire made a lot of improvements from Sunday to last night- while he's still a little timid with the puck, we was a TON better last night.

It was great to see that what should have been an odd man rush mostly turned into an even attack, when our forwards really hustled back- kept BC really of ballance when they should have had an obvious advantage.  Even better- for the most part, the forwards were winning the battles in ther corners- which lead to a lot of cycling, and then a lot of pressure for goals.  While BC had chances to score 4 more- so did we, and I thought ours were better.  If the team can get some better straight up shooting, and keep playing like that- this can be a rather offensive season.  :)

The D did have their struggles, but it was so much better than last year, I'd call that a massive victory.

And Racine.  Just like we need- a goalie who will steal some goals.  Wow.

Pretty interesting to see the power play like that.  One cool thin was how many times they tried for the forward on their blue line- which was so effective that it brought back the second defender, and opened up the zone quite a bit.  Then the movement of the puck when we had control- great to watch.  If they just improve on that, it will be really fun and creative.

that was a very fun game to watch- kept both my wife and I captivated from the face off to the end.

I also hope the style of the B1G is more like BC- the flow of the game was moving all night- just the game part was fun.  Much more interesting than dump and return- clogging up the neutral zone.
10/11 10:51 AM | IP: Logged
Thanks for all of the game thoughts and analysis!  Here in New York, the game wasn't on TV, so great to get some more color.  

What's interesting about Copp is that you saw his potential and grit right away last year in his first few games.  So, it's nice to hear a few of the freshman standing out already.  If we get more guys to play and "muck" like Copp, we'll be a really tough team to beat.  Copp has some John Madden like qualities in terms of his level of effort and is a real highlight to watch.

Nice to hear Racine do well and pick up where he left off last year...I saw the game highlights on mgoblue.com and he definitely made some really strong saves.  

What was up with the attendance?  I saw only 5,000 people on the game stats...how is that possible with Boston College in town...they have been the best program in college hockey the past 5 years and one of the best of all-time?  Somebody said it was due to the Detroit Tigers Game 5 against the A's, but I don't buy that at all.  This is Michigan, after all, and hockey at Yost against BC is a glorious experience.  First, we get TERRIBLE student section / attendance at Michigan Football games, and now nobody shows up to Michigan-BC opening night at Yost?  Something needs to be addressed here...I'm very concerned about student apathy.  
10/11 11:13 AM | IP: Logged


Originally posted by z_for_three:
Thanks for all of the game thoughts and analysis!  Here in New York, the game wasn't on TV, so great to get some more color.  

What's interesting about Copp is that you saw his potential and grit right away last year in his first few games.  So, it's nice to hear a few of the freshman standing out already.  If we get more guys to play and "muck" like Copp, we'll be a really tough team to beat.  Copp has some John Madden like qualities in terms of his level of effort and is a real highlight to watch.

Nice to hear Racine do well and pick up where he left off last year...I saw the game highlights on mgoblue.com and he definitely made some really strong saves.  

What was up with the attendance?  I saw only 5,000 people on the game stats...how is that possible with Boston College in town...they have been the best program in college hockey the past 5 years and one of the best of all-time?  Somebody said it was due to the Detroit Tigers Game 5 against the A's, but I don't buy that at all.  This is Michigan, after all, and hockey at Yost against BC is a glorious experience.  First, we get TERRIBLE student section / attendance at Michigan Football games, and now nobody shows up to Michigan-BC opening night at Yost?  Something needs to be addressed here...I'm very concerned about student apathy.  


I thought there were about 4,500-5,000 there. I will say it was loud considering it was emptier than usual. I chalk it up to the Tigers game being on and also to the ticket prices. Cost of single-game tickets are way too high. 
10/11 11:24 AM | IP: Logged

(1) I agree with Michael's observation about the big freshmen classes.  I remember thinking this about the 2007-2008 class: "They's too scared and naive to to anything other than exactly what the coaches tell them."  As a result, that group was highly responsible defensively.  When they were sophs and juniors they started thinking they knew more than the coaches and so weren't as good.   Same thing with the 1997-98 class (Kosick; Langfeld etc.)  Maybe we will be thinking the same thing about this group.

(2)  I expected Kile to be good, and not a second fiddle to Motte and Allen.  I think he has been understimated because he was not in the NTDP.

(3)  How did Copp turn out to be such a monster?  When he was recruited we all thought, "Meh, 4th line or bench."  He's like Dick Butkus on skates, the opposition can't handle him.

(4)  Those 2 Moffat goals were "he made no mistake" shots, eh?  How many times the last few years have our guys fired those opportunities over the top of the net?

(5)  Finally, it was heartwarming to see that we invited a group of our old CCHA buddies in to referee the game.  :)


17 seconds.
10/11 11:28 AM | IP: Logged
I'm definitely in agreement with you on Compher and Copp. Compher made some unbelievable passes all night, whether they resulted in goals or not. How you described that first pass to Moffatt on his goal fit perfectly. Took two defenders with him, and put the pass in a perfect spot. Compher just hustled hard all night, backchecked hard, he looks like a complete player.

Andrew Copp forgot that he wasn't recruited to be this good--skates hard, goes to the net with reckless abandon, and refuses to let another player beat him. Maximum effort every shift.

Michigan needs Moffatt to play like that. It seems like every year we've said, "Okay, this is Moffatt's breakout year." Well, this season, it may actually happen, to  to have good senior leadership on a young team cannot be understated.

Kile made a move in the first period where he dangled around a defender that just made my jaw drop. And he nearly scored on the play, Billett got the pads down at the last second.

In addition to interning with The Wolverine, I also contribute to Jason Paul's blog, Michigan Hockey Net. I posted a game story with my thoughts on certain players interspersed: http://michiganhockey.net/2013/10/10/no-10-michigan-knocks-off-no-4-boston-college-in-home-opener/#.UlihClCsidk
10/11 9:08 PM | IP: Logged Spath- thanks for taking the time to collect these thoughts and share - really enjoy the hockey coverage (even though I know we are in the minority vis a vis the football only fans)

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Posted on 10/12 10:04 AM | IP: Logged

Those who might be down on Kile and think that he might not amount to much are sadly mistaken.  He has been a winner everywhere he has played and he plays at a very high level. A number of people tend to look down on players that weren't part of the national development team. He was an integral part of the Green Bay Gambler's USHL championship team two years ago and was a 30 goal scorer last year for them. A number of his points and a number of Green Bay's wins came at the national development's team expense.
10/12 9:43 PM | IP: Logged
In regards to # 2 - you are so correct; a lot of people think that the NDTP is the only place good players come from in the US. They couldn't be more wrong.
10/12 9:47 PM | IP: Logged
I wrote profiles for all ten of the freshmen; look for them to appear on the site soon.
10/16 7:27 PM | IP: Logged
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