NHL Central Scouting released their Midterm Rankings today and six future Wolverines and one current one made the list. So lets start at the top.
Checking in at #9 among North American skaters is defenseman Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Trouba is the highest rated U.S. born player in the draft and if you’ve followed the weekly recruiting updates you know all about him by now. He plays a physical game with offensive upside. He made the U.S. World Junior team last month and not just to be a seventh man bench warmer, either. While the team is primarily made up of kids who are in their freshman and sophomore years of college (i.e. Jon Merrill), Trouba was in the line up every game and held his own and was even named the USA’s best player for one of the games. Central Scouting’s David Gregory says:
“Jacob has offensive skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he’s a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He’s going to be someone people are going to talk about; we’ve known about him for a couple years and he’s not disappointing this year.”
Depending what happens with Merrill after the season, Michigan could be loaded on blue line talent next season.
Coming in 28th among N.A. skaters is freshman Phil Di Giuseppe. After a hot start to his freshman campaign that saw him post 5-4-9 during the month of October and being named the national Rookie of the Month, Di Giuseppe has seen his production cool off a bit. He’s scored three goals and three assists over the past 15 games and if you look at his game-by-game stats, he’s been streaky when it comes to putting up points. Usually two or three games with donuts before putting up points (which means he’s due this weekend against Ohio State).
That’s not to say that Di Giuseppe has played bad. He’s still getting chances and creating chances, but the plays aren’t being finished off. Part of that, you could argue, is being paired on the second line without true scoring talent. A.J. Treais fits the mold of a classic small Wolverine center, only he’s one who hasn’t created a lot of chances. Just seven assists this season and he hasn’t had a helper since November 19. Luke Glendening is his other line mate and Glendening is the type of player you expect on a grind line, not scoring line. So Di Giuseppe has some factors working against him.
I’ve said this a few times before, but it’s worth repeating. I said before that Phil could have a year like Mike Cammalleri’s freshman year at Michigan, then really break out his sophomore season. Cammy put up 13-13-26 in 39 games as a freshman. Very good numbers considering he came in to college a year early, too. Scoring was a bit inconsistent, but you could see the talent there, and he exploded for 61 points his sophomore year while forming a one-two punch with Andy Hilbert. If Di Giuseppe can get surrounded with scoring talent next year, I expect his numbers to vastly improve.
Di Giuseppe might get some help in the form of #31 among N.A. skaters—Cristoval “Boo” Nieves. You might remember him from such goals as this sick toe drag:
Nieves will be spending another year at Kent Prep school in Connecticut under the tutelage of former Michigan captain Matt Herr. It will be interesting to see how he develops because based on last season Nieves has outgrown New England Prep Hockey and should be playing up a level in the USHL, but he felt learning under Herr another season was best. How did last season go? Nieves had 43 goals and 18 assists in just 23 games. Yes, he averaged almost two goals per game. What more is there to accomplish there? I guess he’ll be trying to better his numbers and round out his game.
Listed at almost 6-foot-3, 184 pounds, Nieves has the size, skill, and speed to be the high end forward the Wolverines have lacked in recent years. The New England Hockey Journal had a great article on Nievesif you care to learn more about him.
Checking in at #82 is Michigan commit Alex Kile of the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Kile is a product of the Honeybaked program and helped lead them to a state championship before joining the Gamblers this season. He has 7-8-15 in 29 games along with a +10 rating. He’s third among the 1994-born scorers on the team (the two above him have 19 points each). The Gamblers are the top team in the USHL. Kile was not among Michigan’s signers in November, so I suspect he’ll be back in the USHL for one more year of seasoning before heading to Ann Arbor.
At #157 is U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team defenseman Connor Carrick. When doing a Google search for Connor Carrick, a YouTube video titled “Connor Carrick’s shoe check punishment” came up. Naturally, I had to click it.
That is Connor singing Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero” to some girl in front of his teammates. Enrique? Somewhere Danny Richmond and Jeff Tambellini are smiling.
Carrick doesn’t get the hype his teammate Trouba receives, but he’s a solid blue liner with three goals and six assists along with 38 penalty minutes in 31 games with the NTDP this season. He helped Team USA to a gold medal at the Four Nations Cup tournament in November where he led all defensemen in scoring with three points in three games.
At #175 is forward Justin Selman. He is tied for the Sioux Falls (USHL) scoring lead with 14 points on three goals and a team high 11 assists in 27 games. Sioux Falls is one of the bottom teams in the league and they have scored a USHL worst 60 goals this season (by comparison most other teams have scored around 90 goals). Selman scored 22 points in his rookie year in the USHL last season and is on pace to put up about 25-30 points this year. It’s hard to gauge how he’ll do in college because of the low scoring team he’s currently on.
Finally, coming in #36 among North American goalies is commit Jared Rutledge of the U.S. NTDP U18 Team. That’s 36 out of 36 ranked. Ouch. Wasn’t expecting him to be ranked last, but oh well. One thing that Rutledge lacks compared to almost everyone else on the list is size. NHL teams covet size and Rutledge is only listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds. He’s just one of three players under six feet tall on the list. His NTDP teammate Collin Olson is ranked #9. Olson is almost 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Statistically they are close. Both Rutledge and Olson have played 19 games this season. Rutledge is 8-5-2-1 with a 2.79 GAA and .901 save percentage. Olson is 9-6-0-1 with a 2.41 GAA and .899 save percentage.