Picking the right leaders matters for a hockey team, especially for one with a dozen freshmen joining its ranks. But the Michigan hockey team is confident it found the ones to bring its new group together.
Last week, the Wolverines named fifth-year senior forward Nolan Moyle their captain, with senior defenseman Keaton Pehrson, junior defenseman Jacob Truscott and sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes serving as alternates. Their coaches hope the quartet can unite the locker room and unlock the team’s potential.
“If we develop people, if we develop hockey players, if we take pride in the classroom work and the community work, all that other stuff’s gonna come,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato told The Daily on Monday. “Because you’re not gonna have great habits in all these areas and then not have success. You should hit your potential. And then if we’re super, super tight, you can beat people that you might not be able to beat.”
That goal has been at the forefront of their offseason work. As early as last season’s exit interviews, Michigan’s coaches focused on integrating the freshman class into the team. Even before being named captain, Moyle put in the work to make that happen.
“Every time you talk to the freshmen, they’re raving about the upperclassmen and every time you talk to the upperclassmen, they’re raving about what a great group of freshmen kids it is,” Naurato said. “And a lot of that is driven by Nolan Moyle.”
Moyle has done the little things to make his teammates feel welcome. He organized golf outings during the offseason and, alongside his alternate captains, took younger players to the Michigan football team’s game against Colorado State on Saturday.
Beyond their leadership qualities, the captains Michigan picked also earned their positions at the rink. They’re the kind of players that its coaches want others to model themselves after, following the program’s new identity of “Good Dudes Only.”
“What that means is you treat people the way you want to be treated,” Naurato said on Michigan Athletics’ Conqu’ring Heroes podcast last week. “So we’re always asking each other that question of ‘would a good dude do this?’ If it’s the right choice, the answer is yes. If it’s the wrong one, it’s no.”
“Keaton Pehrson is a guy who’s played with Owen Power and Cam York — he’s also been out of the lineup,” Naurato said. “All he did was keep working, and I think he’s a guy that drags people with him on and off the ice.”
That close contact can help freshmen get involved in the team, picking up habits along the way. Through the leaders it chose, Michigan plans to reinforce the ones that lead to success. Not just Frozen Four runs and Big Ten championships but, in the words of Naurato, “great husbands, great fathers, great businessmen in the future.”
After a tumultuous offseason, Michigan has shifted its focus to developing a successful program for the future. With the captains in place to build its new culture, it has the leaders to start that process.