Adam Winborg isn’t a “rah-rah” type of player.
Michigan senior defenseman and captain Nolan De Jong says that Winborg has been pretty quiet during his first year in Ann Arbor. Perhaps the freshman forward’s low profile is a result of his circumstances — he wasn’t the highly touted recruit that teammates Will Lockwood and Luke Martin were, and he was also suspended for the first five games of the season (he played five games past his 21st birthday for the Janesville Jets of the NAHL).
But now, Winborg is on the ice, and his impact is already being felt. De Jong said that the team has “done way too much talking this year and not enough of showing it on the ice and in our play,” and that’s a need that Winborg can help solve.
“He was pretty quiet,” De Jong said. “(He) just comes in and does his work. He’s not going to air out, not the type of kid to complain, whether it’s in the weight room or around the boys. We’ve had guys scratched that long, so he knew he was going to have the opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it so far.”
Against Vermont last weekend, he led the team with three blocked shots, and against Dartmouth the following night, he recorded the first goal of his career on a power play to stake his team with an early 1-0 lead.
It was the type of goal Michigan has had too few of this season — Winborg planted himself in front of the net, got a stick on the puck and scored what he calls a “garbage goal.”
“It was nice to get that first goal out of the way pretty early,” Winborg said Thursday. “It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it went in, and hopefully we can start winning some games this weekend. But it was definitely nice to get that first goal.”
“Obviously, when he wasn’t playing, he was putting a lot of extra work in with Joe — our conditioning coach — in the weight room and doing a lot of extra skating and things like that,” De Jong said. “But I think he’s been really attentive in all the meetings that we’ve had even when he wasn’t playing and he was very focused on what he had to do to be successful.”
Winborg doesn’t have the age or experience of a typical Michigan recruit. On a roster littered with 18- and 19-year-old freshmen, Winborg — born in 1995 — stands out. Originally from Sweden, he spent three years in Janesville, Wis., playing for the Jets, where he led the team in scoring his last two years. But despite his level of production, Winborg didn’t make a college commitment until late April of this year, when he chose to attend Michigan.
His experience has helped him in numerous ways already this year. He has used his size to his advantage on the ice, like with his goal against Dartmouth. And perhaps more importantly, for a team that is clearly still searching for an identity through the early part of the season, Winborg already knows what he is.
“I see myself as a two-way player,” Winborg said. “(I) play hard, and both my offense and defense are strong. (I) try to be hard in front of both nets, especially on offense. Score some garbage goals. Just be hard to play against down low and try to make some plays.
“I feel as though I have an advantage, too — to know what kind of player you are and what you are able to do, so that you can help the team succeed on the ice.”
Winborg admits there was some adjusting to do when he finally hit the ice. After all, it had been almost half a year since he had last played in a game, and college hockey plays at a different pace than the junior leagues.
But his captain and coach were pleased with his effort and performance, and if Winborg is indeed the type of worker De Jong and Berenson have given him credit for, there is no reason the late bloomer will stop blooming anytime soon.
“We’ve been waiting for him to have a chance to play, and we’ve had the chance to watch him in practice a lot,” Berenson said. “I think the things I’ve gotten from him are he’s a responsible player, (and) I think he’ll help us both offensively and defensively. We put him in front of the net on the power play — I think he can help us there. And I think he’ll help us on the penalty killing and also gives us some depth on center ice. I think he’s going to be a real solid player for us.”