After signing his National Letter of Intent to play college hockey at Michigan back in February, Hunter Brzustewicz will decommit and instead take his services to the Canadian major junior leagues.
Originally reported by Twitter account PuckPreps more than a week ago, Brzustewicz signed with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers on Thursday. The move negates his collegiate availability, as major junior programs are considered professional teams under NCAA eligibility rules.
While the 5-foot-11 defenseman was originally drafted 69th overall by the Barrie Colts in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, Kitchener then acquired his major junior rights from Barrie on January 9 in exchange for Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Declan McDonnell.
At first, it seemed that Brzustewicz would still end up in Ann Arbor, especially when talking to his prospective bench boss.
“Until we start the first day of class, you never know who’s going to be here,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said on January 10. “But after talking with Hunter, we fully expect him to be here in the fall and he’ll be a big contributor and a major piece going forward next year for us.”
But now, Michigan will be without that piece heading into next season.
Brzustewicz was a part of the Wolverines’ 11-member recruiting class for the upcoming season. He played for the United States National Team Development Program last season, scoring two goals and adding 18 assists across 55 games for the U18 team.
Brzustewicz is a prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft, and playing with Kitchener potentially opens the door to increased ice time. At Michigan, he would have competed against returning defensemen Luke Hughes, Jacob Truscott, Steve Holtz, Keaton Pehrson, Jay Keranen and Ethan Edwards, as well as his fellow incoming freshman defensemen Seamus Casey, John Druskinis, Luca Fantilli and Brendan Miles.
With Brzustewicz’s move to the OHL, the attention shifts to how the Wolverines will fill his roster spot. Many experienced players remain on Michigan’s roster, but it’s not too late to look outside of the program for his replacement as a player could also be added from those still in the transfer portal.
While the Wolverines’ final roster remains undecided, Hunter Brzustewicz’s name will not be on it.