- James Coller/Daily
By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 26, 2015
Andrew Copp was torn about his future on Monday.
Three days later, the junior captain has made up his mind and has decided to forgo his senior season, signing a three-year entry-level contract to join the Winnipeg Jets organization.
Copp was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and tallied 81 points over his three seasons in Ann Arbor.
Copp, an Ann Arbor native, centered Michigan’s first line this season and finished third on the team with 31 points — 14 goals and 17 assists. He centered a line that featured sophomore forwards Alex Kile and JT Compher.
Michigan coach Red Berenson said on Monday that Copp could potentially leave after this season, but didn’t expect this decision to happen so soon.
“I gave him all the reasons he should stay. It’s not a rush. It’s an emotional thing,” Berenson said. “It was a tough three days the way he explained it. He thinks the opportunity is exceptional, but they tell you all those things and you believe them.
“I just wish he would stay and do it right — graduate with your teammates and classmates. Take this team to another level. We lost to a senior-laden Minnesota team. Well, how about a senior-laden Michigan team?”
Copp is reporting directly to Winnipeg, and the Daily has learned he will likely play in NHL games this season — perhaps the deciding factor. He will be joining former teammate Jacob Trouba, who left Michigan two season ago to play for the Jets.
However, that doesn’t mean Copp will remain there next season, and he could very well end up playing for the St. Johns IceCaps in the American Hockey League. If that is the case, it won’t sit well with Berenson.
“I just told Andrew that I hope he makes it,” Berenson said, “and plays in the NHL next year because I will feel sick if he is playing in the minors and giving up his senior year at Michigan to play in the American Hockey League.”
Berenson cited previous examples of players who have stayed for their senior year and ascended to the NHL quicker than their counterparts who departed early.
Berenson referenced Carl Hagelin and Luke Glandening, who now play for the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, respectively, as players who benefited from returning for their senior years.
More notably, Berenson thinks former Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison is the epitome of why a player should stay all four years.
According to Berenson, the New Jersey Devils tried to convince Morrison to bolt after his junior year after he led Michigan to a national championship in 1996. Morrison’s dad, however, refused to let him leave Ann Arbor, and he went on to win the Hobey Baker award the next season, before being placed on the Albany Devils — the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate.
“The general manager from New Jersey immediately signed him to Albany to prove a point,” Berenson said. “And then a couple weeks later, the GM called me and said ‘Red, I just watched Brendan Morrison score five goals tonight — he’s way too good for this league.’
“So I reminded him that’s why Brendan stayed another year, to become more NHL-ready, not ready to play in the minors.”
Berenson wishes Copp could have the same opportunity Morrison once had.
Berenson isn’t blaming Copp for anything, though. He reiterated that NHL teams are vicious when trying to sign their prospects.
“I was hoping he would take some time and think through the gravity of the situation and not just jump at the opportunity,” Berenson said. “I warned him a couple of weeks ago that this was going to happen — that they would pressure on him when our season ended.
“They want them out as soon as they can so they have control. The biggest fear they have is if he stays and plays his senior year, and then doesn’t sign with them next year and becomes a free agent.
“They are going to try and sign all juniors they can. They don’t care if they are ready.”
The first game Copp could feasibly see NHL action is on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Berenson said he doesn’t think Copp will be “out of place.”
But it still hurts Berenson knowing Copp won’t ever don a Michigan sweater again, especially on a team that was lining up to be the best in years.
“I’m not mad at Andrew Copp for leaving,” Berenson said. “I’m disappointed that he’s leaving. I’m disappointed for our team. It’s a big loss for our team, and I don’t think it’s necessary.