When college hockey resumes in the fall, Michigan will have a new starting goaltender.
Strauss Mann — who spent his sophomore and junior years as the starter in goal for the Wolverines — will not return for his senior season, instead opting to pursue a professional career, according to an announcement on Twitter.
“I’m looking forward to my next chapter as I pursue a professional hockey career,” Mann’s statement read. “As I solidify my plans, I feel both excited for the future and immensely appreciative for everything the University of Michigan has given me.”
In his three seasons with Michigan, Mann was a solid and consistent presence in net, posting a career save percentage of .926 and tallying 11 shutouts in 77 games. His sophomore year, Mann earned Big Ten Goaltender of the Year honors, while also finishing as a finalist for the Mike Richter Award in both his seasons as the Wolverines’ starter. Last season, he was also Michigan’s first goalie to be named captain in 78 years.
At 22 years old, Mann is ineligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. Still, he should have plenty of suitors as an undrafted free agent. In March, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Mann as the No. 3 free agent from the NCAA or Europe and the top goalie on the list.
Having an NHL career after going undrafted isn’t uncommon — Luke Glendening, for example, played briefly in the minors after graduating from Michigan, and has since played eight NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.
The biggest obstacle for Mann moving forward will be his height. Standing at just six feet, Mann would be undersized as a modern NHL goaltender. In 2020, for example, only one NHL goalie, Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith, stood at the same height as Mann. Of course, size isn’t a dealbreaker — Henrik Ludqvist and Jonathan Quick are both only an inch taller than Mann — but if it sows doubt in the minds of NHL scouts, it will make Mann’s transition to the pros that much more difficult.
Still, Mann’s height clearly was never a problem for the Wolverines, and that’s part of the reason why they’ll miss him so much. Erik Portillo, who started five games for Michigan as a freshman and recorded a solid .935 save percentage, will likely take on the permanent starting role, but it’s unclear who will fill in as the Wolverines’ backup next season. Michigan coach Mel Pearson will need to pick up either a late commitment or a transfer in the next few months.
At the end of the day, though, it will be hard for anyone to replicate what Mann did as Michigan’s goalie.