In this season-opening exhibition, expectations were high for the Michigan hockey team at every position. And with Luke Hughes off to the NHL to play with the New Jersey Devils, the Wolverines’ crop of defensemen had big shoes to fill to ensure Hughes’ absence went on without a hitch ahead of the start of the season next week.
In Michigan’s dominating exhibition win against Simon Fraser, sophomore defenseman Seamus Casey showed he is ready and able to take on a commanding role. Not the same as Hughes, but one of his own.
With one goal, four assists and three shots on goal, Casey began showcasing his ability to lead and work with his team.
Despite not being in the starting lineup, Casey emerged as the first star of the game, by doing a little bit of everything. Across all three periods, he proved himself as a versatile player with the ability to push into the offense while also skating back into position to aid his goalkeepers.
“(Casey) is super high-end and you see that in his offensive ability,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “I think where he’s undercover and people don’t know him as well, how well he defends, his stick detail and his gaps … he’s going to be a big, big piece of this team’s success.”
Part of what makes him so comfortable in his position is his partnership with sophomore defensemen Tyler Duke. After playing on the USNTDP team together for two years, their chemistry on the blue line is undeniable.
“(Casey and Duke) played together for two years,” Naurato said. “So it’s just an easy mix.”
In the first period alone, Casey had two assists and two shots on goal. On a shorthanded drive that started with Casey behind the Wolverines’ goal, senior center Jackson Hallum slammed a textbook shot from the left side of the ice into the right corner of the goal. No more than two minutes later, Casey dominated the ice, skating the puck from the Wolverines’ defensive half, bringing it around the goal and taking a blocked shot that sophomore Kienan Draper redirected into the back of the net.
Despite his dominance across the entirety of the ice, Casey credits much of his success to his teammates.
“We brought in really good players and guys are stepping up,” Casey said. “I think we are all trying to find ways to do our job and fill a role. ”
Casey’s second period was just as strong as his first, with an additional two assists and strong offensive drives. On a Wolverine power play, sophomore winger Rutger McGroarty passed to Casey, who skated around a Red Leafs player and passed the puck back to McGroarty for a snapshot goal straight through three Simon Fraser defenders and its goalkeeper.
Casey continued his playmaking abilities through the entire period, aiding from his defensive position in an additional McGroarty goal. Despite losing his stick, he quickly responded by retrieving it and breaking up a Simon Fraser offensive push by passing it all the way up to the Michigan offense.
In a third period defined by multiple broken sticks and little action, Casey found a way to finally make a shot count. He shot the puck through multiple Simon Fraser players and Wolverines, carving a straight line from his position on the ice into the back of the net.
Casey is beginning to take on a role as a versatile player who can make an impact at all corners of the ice. He demonstrated clear playmaking abilities and strong stick detail that will allow him to become an even more prominent player as the season gets underway. His chemistry with Duke and McGroarty is evident through their passing and will continue to get stronger throughout the season.
Casey is a true team player. With a different style of play than Hughes he won’t fill that exact position — instead he’s making it his own and showing that he is a force on the ice.