- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published June 9, 2014
The Michigan hockey team’s defense just got a much-needed lift.
Niko Porikos, a former defenseman for the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, has committed to Michigan, per his Twitter account. The program has yet to announce the late addition to its 2014-15 roster.
Porikos, an Ann Arbor native, tallied 21 points including nine goals and 12 assists in 51 games with the Red Wings.
“Couldn't be more excited to announce I will be playing hockey for the University of Michigan. #GoBlue,” Porikos tweeted earlier Monday.
A 21-year-old freshman, Porikos adds experience to a five-man freshman class that now includes two defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, the left-hander will also provide necessary size.
Incoming freshman forward Dylan Larkin, a projected first-round NHL Draft pick, will also provide a boost to a defense that struggled mightily in Michigan’s second straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Porikos and incoming freshman defenseman Cutler Martin are expected to fill voids left by Mac Bennett and Kevin Clare, who combined for 24 points last season.
Like last season, the Wolverines’ defense is young. Despite Michigan’s large freshman class, only rising sophomore Michael Downing played a key role on the top line pairing next to Bennett. Defenseman Kevin Lohan missed a majority of the regular season with an ACL injury while Nolan De Jong added just five points in 29 games. And it remains to be seen whether forward-turned-defenseman Andrew Sinelli will return to the unit or switch back to offense for his senior campaign.
Either way, expect Porikos and Michigan’s underclassmen to play key roles in Michigan coach Red Berenson’s defensive-minded system.