Rutger McGroarty skates by a Michigan player, reaching his stick over towards the puck.
Some of the Michigan hockey team's new recruits will fill voids left by fellow US National Team Development Program alumni who left this offseason. Gabby Ceritano/Daily.  Buy this photo.

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — For the Michigan hockey team, the US National Team Development Program (NTDP) has played a crucial role in the team’s core.

And for the upcoming 2022-23 season, that trend is set to continue.

Incoming freshman forwards Frank Nazar III and Rutger McGroarty, along with defenseman Seamus Casey will all make the transition to the Wolverines from the NTDP this upcoming season. And as they join Michigan, they also bring impressive chemistry that they have displayed.

Nazar, McGroarty and Casey all played together on the NTDP U17 Team in the 2020-21 season and made the move up to the U18 team at the same time for the 2021-22 campaign.

“Playing with people for that long obviously helps out,” Casey said. “There’s a lot of chemistry.”

The trio has experience on the ice together in high-pressure situations — something that will be beneficial for a young Michigan team with holes that need to be filled following the departures of forwards Matty Beniers, Thomas Bordeleau and Brendan Brisson, along with defenseman Owen Power to the NHL.

McGroarty, Nazar and Casey all traveled to Germany for the U18 Men’s World Junior Championship in April, representing the American team and propelling the team to a second-place finish. McGroarty demonstrated his strong leadership abilities by captaining the team and putting up nine points in six games. Nazar and Casey also were instrumental in the team’s success, tallying nine points and six points, respectively.

And now after playing in Germany, the trio has reunited on the ice after a month-long break away from each other.

“I just really relaxed … (and) was a kid,” McGroarty said. “And then now, dialing it back in, … this camp’s really good (to) try and put yourself out there to make the World Juniors Team and then get in shape for the season.”

Nazar, Casey and McGroarty are a part of a new group of NTDP products tasked  with following the impactful 2020 group of Beniers, Bordeleau and Jacob Truscott.

In 2021-22, Beniers finished in the top 10 in Hobey Baker voting, and Bordeleau tallied 37 points in 37 games, playing a crucial role in the Wolverines’ success, before departing to the San Jose Sharks.

And for the new additions, following in the footsteps of past Michigan standouts is not a concern.

“We’re not really trying to be like those guys,” Nazar said. “We want to come in and fill in a role like they did. And there’s no doubt that we’re going to come in … and work hard.”

And ahead of their debuts with the Wolverines, Nazar, Casey and McGroarty’s time spent together at the NTDP this offseason demonstrates their commitment to building off of a successful 2021-22 season and using their chemistry to fill in the gaps.