PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Though the offseason still trudges through the dog days of summer, multiple Michigan hockey team commits started ramping up for the upcoming season.
On Sunday, the Wolverines’ incoming freshman forwards Rutger McGroarty, Frank Nazar III and defenseman Seamus Casey commenced a 10-day United States National Junior Team camp in preparation for the rescheduled 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship taking place this August in Edmonton, Alberta.
While the three commits are some of the younger competitors vying for a spot on the team, they remain undaunted in the face of a team with top NHL draft picks. And with many of those draft picks also sharing spots on Michigan’s roster, this isn’t the first time seeing their Michigan teammates.
“This spring we were training with Michigan quite a bit,” Casey said. “So I got to meet the whole team.”
Casey, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 46 overall pick this month in the 2022 NHL Draft, competed alongside Nazar III and McGroarty on the U.S. National U18 team this season, with their final matchup coming against Sweden on May 1.
That tournament ending gave the three an opportunity to familiarize themselves even further with the program after the U18 NTDP lost an overtime battle to Michigan earlier this season. Although the Wolverines were short handed due to an absence of talent attending the Olympics, the three each flashed the skills that define why they believe they can make an instant impact at the next level.
“Even last year, we played against teams that were college teams,” Nazar III said. “Obviously Michigan (was included), and I think we built a game to (the college level).”
Nazar III speaks from experience as the last time he entered Yost, the ice tilted his way. The future Wolverine centerman gave Michigan a glimpse of his signature wrist shot, netting two goals in a signature performance.
McGroarty chipped in on the action too, grabbing an assist on Nazar III’s second goal of the day — a powerplay strike. The two will look to replicate that magic, albeit with different maize and blue sweaters on, for a Wolverines team that lost key contributors to its power play.
Replicating that success for Michigan begins this week as the trio will gain plentiful experience on a roster that boasts five other current and former Wolverines.
And although the group may be ready to step into Yost familiar with their teammates, the adjustment to the college level will mean more than a faster game.
“Schedule-wise, I’ve been asking some of the guys like Dylan (Duke) about the schedule of each day and classes,” Nazar III said.
Like any incoming freshman, the transition to a major university will boast a bevy of new emotions and experiences both inside the classroom and out. After years of crossing counties and countries playing with the NTDP, the University of Michigan will provide a new chance for the three to settle down and play.
But for this upcoming week, the three will have another chance to prove again why they feel ready to take on college hockey. As it seems, they’re up to the challenge.
“I’m very confident going into next year.” Nazar III affirmed.
Confidence, which they look to build upon as the three American commits — and the broader Michigan unit — take on the IIHF.