This offseason, the Michigan hockey team lost significant talent when six key contributors left the program early to play professionally. But as National Hockey League teams look to increase their prospect pools, there’s still plenty of interest in what the remaining Wolverines offer.
Across the NHL, organizations invited 16 players from next season’s Michigan roster to development camps this week. The camps — the first held by some teams since before the COVID pandemic — offer players additional coaching, training advice and off-ice support to improve their abilities during the offseason as they prepare for a future at the professional level.
Many of the players attending camps received invitations from the team that drafted them. Eleven skaters, including Florida Panthers first-round pick Mackie Samoskevich and Vancouver Canucks prospect Jacob Truscott, will check in with their respective organizations to exhibit their growth and mark areas for improvement.
One notable NHL draft pick will not attend a camp, however. Rising sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes will not participate in New Jersey’s camp so he can prepare for this summer’s rescheduled 2022 World Junior Championship.
For some skaters like incoming freshman defenseman Seamus Casey and freshman forward Frank Nazar, the development camps will give the NHL teams that drafted them their first glance at the talent they picked. The same is expected for incoming freshman forward Rutger McGroarty once the Winnipeg Jets announce their roster. All three will hear what their teams want them to focus on before heading to Michigan.
While it’s fairly common for NHL teams to invite their draft picks to development camps, the number of camp invites sent to undrafted Michigan players speaks to the talent of the Wolverines’ roster beyond those who heard their names called on draft day.
Five undrafted attendees will take steps toward the next level, learning what they need to work on before considering a pro career. For players primed to leave the program next offseason like rising senior defenseman Keaton Pehrson and returning fifth-year senior forward Nolan Moyle, their respective NHL hosts will watch their performances with a keen eye.
“College free agency is a valuable way for these teams in the salary cap market to really find value or a hidden gem, so to speak,” Michigan associate head coach Bill Muckalt said. “… Teams are always calling and asking about players, so even for these guys to go to the development camp and get in front of teams, it gives them great exposure.”
Michigan gains major benefits from its players’ participation in NHL camps. NHL development staffs offer new perspectives into the ways players can improve, and players can pick up new skills from some of the best minds in the sport.
But the advantages extend beyond the ways that individual Wolverines can grow. On the recruiting trail, the heavy representation of Wolverines shows recruits that undrafted players at Michigan can get NHL attention. As the Wolverines look for new commitments, that can be a selling point for players that aren’t on NHL radars.
For NHL teams, Michigan’s lineup is full of prospects that they want to get an early look at. Not only will the players get a chance to prove their abilities in front of professional programs, but they will also leave the camps as stronger players.
And as Michigan gears up for the 2022-23 season, that extra attention could fortify a roster dominated by underclassmen. The Wolverines lost key contributors when its top players turned pro, but additional training for their underclassmen could fill in the gaps.