Michigan’s national championship hopes just became much more achievable.
Alongside defenseman Owen Power — who was earlier this week already reported to be returning to Ann Arbor — forwards Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers will come back for their sophomore seasons, the team announced on Twitter. The return of all three means that the Wolverines will have the first, second, and fifth overall picks in the 2021 NHL Draft as sophomores, as well as the No. 4 and No. 24 picks in defenseman Luke Hughes and forward Matthew Samoskevich coming in as freshmen.
Sophomore and junior forwards Brendan Brisson and Johnny Beecher — who were selected in the first round of the 2020 and 2019 NHL Drafts, respectively — bring the total number of first-round picks on Michigan’s roster to seven. To put that number into perspective, just 12 former first-round picks were playing on any college hockey team last season.
The return of Power, Beniers and Johnson also means a return of a large portion of the Wolverines’ scoring, as the trio combined for 22 of the team’s 91 goals and 45 of its 165 assists last season. Even more, Johnson and Beniers often played on a line together, putting up plus-minuses of +15 and +21, respectively. Power, for his part, was on Michigan’s top defensive pairing with then-junior Nick Blankenburg last season, earning a plus-minus of +20.
“Got a really good group coming back, a lot of good players,” Beniers said July 1, when the three were still mulling over the decision to stay or go. “We’re gonna get a real run at a national title, I think, and I definitely want to win a Big Ten championship. (Defenseman Owen Power) is kind of leaning towards coming back, so that’d be fun if he came back and we got kind of the whole crew back together and gave it another go.”
That crew is back together now. Whether the national championship dreams come true is another question.