For the third straight season, an All-American will leave Michigan early in pursuit of his professional hockey career.

And there could be more to come.

Defenseman Jeff Jillson, a 1999 draft pick of the San Jose Sharks, met with Michigan coach Red Berenson late last week to tell him he will not don the Maize and Blue for his senior season.

Two other would-be members of the class of 2002, Mike Comrie and Mike Van Ryn, both left the Wolverines in the previous two seasons to play Major Juniors in attempt to become an NHL free agent.

“While we are sorry to see Jeff turn pro after his junior year, we wish him the best of luck in his career,” said Berenson. “Last season Jeff not only had an outstanding year on the ice, but he had a great year in the classroom as well and was awarded all-CCHA honors as a player and student for his academic success.”

Jillson tinkered with the possibility of joining the Sharks after his sophomore year, but said he feels this time around is a better opportunity to make the jump.

Having a strong commitment to education, Jillson is still taking classes this spring term, and has advised Berenson and his parents that he will try to finish up his degree in Sports Management and Communications, where he holds a cumulative 3.48 G.P.A.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines leading scorer from this past season and Hobey Baker Finalist Andy Hilbert is being wooed by the Boston Bruins, who drafted him No. 37 in the 2000 NHL Draft.

But Berenson said that while Jillson was “feeling more pressure” to leave, Hilbert”s pending decision will “probably be a summer-long issue like Comrie.”

Like Comrie Michigan”s crafty, left-handed, leading scorer from 1999 there”s still the possibility that Hilbert may leave both the Wolverines and Bruins hanging by bolting for Major Juniors this fall.

Oh, Captain?: With the season ending so late, and the pending departures of several key Michigan players still yet to be determined, Berenson said that the Wolverines will hold off in electing the new captain until “all the dust settles” most likely in late June or early August.

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