Throw out the rankings, the predictions and especially the expectations. When it gets down to it in the sports world, those things tend to have a bark bigger than their bite.
The Michigan hockey team hopes its showing at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is the just the first of many times it exceeds expectations this season. A record-tying seven Wolverines were drafted in Columbus at the event held on June 22 and 23.
Incoming freshman Max Pacioretty led the way as the Montreal Canadiens’ first-round pick. His selection marked the seventh consecutive year a Wolverine was drafted in the first round. The Canadiens are the same team Michigan coach Red Berenson broke into the NHL with in the 1961-62 season after four years in Ann Arbor.
Pacioretty will be one of three first-round picks to skate for Michigan this season. That number is down from a possible five with the early departures of Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano.
The Berenson connections continued with the second Michigan player selected, Aaron Palushaj. The St. Louis Blues, a team Berenson played for and coached, picked the Livonia native in the second round.
“I was a little surprised to go as high as I did considering the pre-draft rankings,” Palushaj said.
Adding to the surprise was the fact that Palushaj was still asleep when the Blues called to tell him he had been selected the morning of June 23.
Despite exceeding his expectations, Palushaj said he still expects to play out his four years of eligibility for the Maize and Blue. Still, the forward admitted that he would evaluate his development on a year-to-year basis.
Just one current Wolverine was drafted, rising sophomore defenseman Steve Kampfer. The Anaheim Ducks took Kampfer in the fourth round. Kampfer also expected to go later in the draft but was pleasantly surprised to get the call when he did.
Junior defenseman Mark Mitera, who was often Kampfer’s defensive partner at Michigan last season, was picked in the first round by the Ducks last year.
“(Mark and I) were joking around saying we would be d(efensive) partners for a lot longer now,” Kampfer said.
The six incoming freshman drafted mark half of the gigantic class of 2011. All 12 will be thrown into the fire when the season gets under way Oct. 12 against two-time runner-up for the national championship Boston College, followed by a potential showdown with Minnesota.
A trip to Northern Michigan and a home series with perennial Hockey East power Boston University round out one of the toughest opening schedules in recent memory.
But if Michigan exceeds expectations this season like it did in the draft, maybe the future is brighter than it appears.