Replacing 10 experienced seniors won’t be easy. But yesterday, Michigan coach Red Berenson announced six players who will be charged with helping to do that. Forwards Jason Bailey, Andrew Cogliano, Zac MacVoy and Tim Miller and defensemen Jack Johnson and Mark Mitera all signed letters of intent for next season.
Cogliano is heralded as the pick of the litter for the Wolverines. A pure scorer, Berenson describes this future player as a mix of T.J. Hensick and Jeff Tambellini, combining speed and a scoring touch around the net. Cogliano is very quick, with a good sense of the ice. But his size — 5-foot-10, 185 pounds — will lead to an adjustment period as he gets acclimated to the physical CCHA style.
“He’s a very dynamic player,” said associate head coach Mel Pearson, who, along with assistant coach Billy Powers, spearheads the Michigan recruiting process. “He can really shoot it, so I have a feeling we’re going to be on him to shoot it a little more”
Cogliano still has the option to play major junior hockey after being selected in the 2003 Ontario Hockey League draft, but the Michigan staff believes this is no longer an issue.
Miller and Bailey are good two-way players and both could emerge as key members of the Michigan back-check and dish out some heavy hits.
Bailey, Cagliano, Johnson and MacVoy were recently rated as an ‘A’ players in the preliminary Central Scouting Service rankings for NHL draft-eligible players.
Next season’s defensive unit will look drastically different with half of its seven-member corps graduating. Johnson and Mitera will join what remains from this year’s squad — which could include currently ineligible transfer Adam Dunlap — and an additional player that will likely be signed in the spring. Both players can dictate the flow on the offense and defensive side of things.
“They bring good size and good physical presence on the blueline,” Pearson said. “And we need that. We haven’t had that since (Mike) Komisarek and Jay Vancik (in 2001-02).”
With so many seniors on their way out, the adjustment period will be just as short as it was for last year’s recruits. Freshmen Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter have played well all season and logged significant time on special teams. If Michigan wants to avoid spending next year to ‘rebuild,’ its freshman will need to adapt just as quickly.
“(The recruits are) going to add some size and some muscle and some hustle to our team,” Berenson said. “They’ll get good direction and good playing time, and I think they’ll step in and surprise people.”
Michigan also faces the possibility that junior Al Montoya could leave for the New York Rangers — who drafted him eighth overall in last year’s NHL Draft — when this season concludes.
“We’re looking at a goalie, yeah,” Berenson said. “We have to be aware of the goalie situation.”
For the seventh straight year, Michigan will become the new home to U.S. National Team Development Program alumni. Bailey, MacVoy, Johnson and Mitera are teammates this year on the Ann Arbor-based program. The development program hasn’t been short of producing results for the current Michigan team. Six of this year’s top-10 point leaders came out of the program. Pearson also pointed to the character of the players plucked from the U.S. NTDP as something that draws him to them.
“As a staff, we try to get the best student-athletes in Michigan, wherever they play,” Pearson said last week. “It’s just a coincidence that program has landed here and we’ve had so many players from that program.”