Roster preview: An overview of returning players
The Michigan hockey team’s season ended earlier than expected in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis. After an inconsistent regular season, the Wolverines were unable to collect themselves and make a deep postseason run. Players and coaches alike assert that it was not a season up to par with normal program standards. If this year is any different, the returning players and coaches will need to turn the sour taste from last year into a sustained level of motivation and urgency that, at times, eluded last season’s team.
The Daily breaks down Michigan’s returning players for this season.
Senior defenseman Luke Martin
Martin enters his senior season as perhaps the most polished returning defenseman. He injured his left arm in February and missed the rest of the year. Prior to the injury, he recorded 6 assists in 28 games, finishing with a plus-one rating in plus-minus — good for third-best among Wolverine defensemen.
Senior defenseman Griffin Luce
Luce finished with the team lead in blocked shots, 74, along with one goal and three assists last season. He was a mainstay on the left side of the blue line for Michigan last year, appearing in 35 games. Prior to Martin’s injury in February, the two were a strong defensive pairing. If the two are paired together once again for their senior seasons, expect solid defense and physicality at the cost of some offensive upside.
Sophomore defenseman Jack Summers
Summers received inconsistent playing time to begin his freshman campaign. After the injury to Martin, Summers was frequently slotted alongside Nick Boka. The sophomore is a solid skater with offensive potential. He finished with one goal and 10 assists over 29 games last year. It would not come as a surprise to see him take on a more consistent role next season as an extra defenseman or starter, in light of the departures of Joseph Cecconi and Quinn Hughes.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Gingell
Gingell appeared in only one game last season after spending two seasons in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms. The physical lefty may be an option for Michigan coach Mel Pearson as an extra skater after a season of getting accustomed with the program.
Senior defenseman Christian Meike
Meike played in two games last season, recording a goal in an exhibition match against Waterloo. The senior adds depth to the defense — whether he will receive extended playing time remains to be seen.
Sophomore defenseman/forward Nick Blankenburg
Blankenburg was arguably the most impressive freshman on the team last season. He is a fast skater and good shot creator — dynamic enough to receive time at both forward and defenseman. Pearson referred to Blankenburg as a “Quinn Hughes lite.”
The sophomore did struggle at times as an off-puck defender but showed the ability to make up for it with his aggressiveness and speed. If he cuts down on his defensive gambles and becomes more comfortable as a defender, he will continue to make an impact on both ends of the ice.
Junior forward Jack Becker
At six-foot-four and 205 pounds, Becker has the potential to be a dominant forward on the ice. After a promising freshman season in which he recorded 15 points and two game-winning goals, he turned in similar numbers in his sophomore campaign — 15 points on six goals and nine assists. Becker can be one of the driving forces on offense if he sees an uptick in production.
Senior forward Will Lockwood
Lockwood faced the decision of whether to leave for the NHL or return for his senior season this summer. He chose the latter and became the 100th captain in program history.
The Bloomfield Hills-native led the Wolverines with 16 goals and will spearhead the offense once again. His combination of speed and stick handling makes him a difficult matchup for most collegiate defenders. The second-round selection by the Canucks is Michigan’s most polished scorer and became one of the main sources of offense after Josh Norris’s season-ending injury in January. Lockwood will be featured on the top line, likely alongside some combination of senior forwards Jake Slaker, Nick Pastujov and junior Jack Becker.
Junior forward Dakota Raabe
Last season, Raabe was a part of two units that impressed and improved as the season progressed. His line with Garrett Van Wyhe and Nolan Moyle drew praise from Pearson for their yeoman-like effort. For that reason, Van Wyhe and Raabe were often called upon to kill penalties.
Raabe is among the fastest skaters on the team, and despite his relatively small stature, was also among the team leaders in blocked shots for a forward. After an impressive sophomore season, expect Raabe to continue to make strides on the penalty kill as well as improving his offensive repertoire.
Senior forward Jake Slaker
Slaker enters his senior season as a potential top-line forward and figures to be a big part of the offense once again. He excelled on the top line at the beginning of the year alongside Norris and Lockwood, but eventually switched lines after Norris’s injury. Slaker was streaky last year, accumulating the majority of his points at the beginning of the season before going into a midseason slump. The lefty has a strong shot, good vision and often played around the net.
Senior forward Adam Winborg
Winborg struggled to crack the rotation early on in his junior season. But by the time November came around, he was receiving consistent playing time. First it was his faceoff success the impressed. Over his first three games last season, he went 18-26 in the faceoff circle. Then, he showed enough consistency for Pearson to decide to keep Winborg in the lineup — he went on to play in 27 games, recording five points. Entering his senior season, he brings a solid faceoff presence and stability up the middle of the ice.
Sophomore forward Jack Olmstead
Olmstead appeared in seven games last season, scoring his only goal in a 3-1 victory against St. Lawrence. Perhaps after a year of building familiarity with the program, he will receive an extended opportunity for ice time.
Junior forward Michael Pastujov
Pastujov is a skilled skater and playmaker who showed some inconsistency throughout last season. After recording three points over the first four games of the season and being featured on the top line, he hit a dry spell. From Oct. 7 to Dec. 1, Pastujov recorded just one point and missed three games due to injury. After being a healthy scratch at Ohio State in January, he rebounded and reemerged as a contributor — including five goals over the course of two series against Penn State and Michigan State. If he can piece together a consistent year, Pastujov can help address some of the Wolverines’ offensive woes from last season.
Senior forward Nick Pastujov
Pastujov has improved upon his season totals in each of his three seasons thus far. Last season, he finished with 11 goals and 13 assists — often slotted in alongside Lockwood after the injury to Norris. Pastujov told the Daily earlier this summer that though the confidence in his game is high, he is still looking to make strides and continue his trend. Pastujov, along with Lockwood and Slaker will lead Michigan’s offensive attack this winter.
Sophomore forward Garrett Van Wyhe
Van Wyhe is often one of the larger players on the ice, but what makes his skillset unique is his combination of size and speed. It made him an effective penalty killer alongside Raabe and contributed towards his four goals and six assists over 36 games. Van Wyhe continued to improve as the season progressed. If that trend continues, he will play an even larger role next season.
Sophomore forward Jimmy Lambert
The sophomore forward played in 31 games, tallying four goals and nine assists for thirteen points. In the latter half of the year, he broke out of his slump and started producing, scoring and assisting on two big goals against Wisconsin late in the seasons.
Redshirt-junior forward Luke Morgan
Morgan played in all 36 games last season, finishing with six goals and seven assists. He is a physical forward who became a solid contributor after getting off to a slow start on the stats sheet. Expect Morgan to play an equally big role this season in his second season on the ice.
Sophomore forward Nolan Moyle
Moyle appeared in 30 games last season, putting up seven goals and three assists. He offered a consistent physical presence on the fourth line alongside Raabe and Van Wyhe. Once the line founds its chemistry, Moyle found his groove. If he makes the jump with the rest of the fourth line, Moyle could become a 20-point scorer.
Senior goaltender Hayden Lavigne
Lavigne earned the starting job over the offseason between his sophomore and junior year, thanks to a breakout-second half two seasons ago. However, he quickly lost the starting role after allowing five goals in each of the first two regular season games last season. It opened the way for freshman Strauss Mann, who end on to split time with Lavigne for the remainder of the season. He finished with a .844 save percentage and was benched in favor of Mann during the postseason.
Sophomore guard Strauss Mann
Mann was forced into action perhaps earlier than expected after Lavigne struggled in the beginning of last season. He showed flashes where he looked like an elite goaltender, but also had moments where his inexperience was evident. Throughout the course of the season, he split time in net with Lavigne — appearing in 21 games with a .895 save percentage. Mann finished as the starting goaltender, but it remains to be seen whether Lavigne or Mann will march out as the day one starter.
G Jack Leavy, sophomore
Leavy did not appear in any games last season. He adds size at six-foot-five and depth to the goaltender position.