Two times in the last three NHL drafts, the Michigan hockey team saw at least two players selected in the first round. And with the selection of Rutger McGroarty, the Wolverines can mark off a third.
McGroarty was chosen 14th overall by the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the second Michigan player picked in the draft’s opening round.
Like his teammate Frank Nazar III, McGroarty played most recently for the US National Team Development Program, tallying 67 points in 52 games. McGroarty was a crucial part of Team USA in the U18 World Junior Championship’s Gold Medal Game, serving as team captain for the Americans. He scored two goals in a close loss to tournament champion Sweden and had a total of nine points in six tournament appearances.
And for McGroarty, having that sort of influence in the locker room doesn’t change his approach to the game.
“I feel like I’m a good leader in the locker room and I come to the rink every single day ready to work,” McGroarty said in an interview with The Daily. “It was obviously very rewarding being named captain, but it didn’t really change much who I was in the locker room.”
Alongside his strong leadership abilities, McGroarty has a similar play style to his teammate Nazar. He combines his physical attributes with his raw talent and mature understanding of the game.
“What separates (McGroarty) is his high IQ and the ability to make players around him better,” his father Jimmy told The Daily on May 13. “He can make plays but also play a 200-foot game.”
McGroarty also made history for his home state of Nebraska with his selection, becoming the highest-drafted Nebraskan in the history of the NHL, surpassing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, who was picked 77th overall in 2013.
Winnipeg has a mature and well-rounded prospect in McGroarty who not only will elevate himself but also his teammates to the next level. But before he does that, he’ll have at least a season in Ann Arbor to bring those strengths to the Wolverines.