I meant to post this a few days ago when Connor Carrick jumped ship for the OHL, but with friends in from out of town this got put on the back burner. I dug up all the players who committed to Michigan but opted for major junior before they arrived to see their success rate.
COMMITTED BUT DIDN’T ARRIVE
Matt Bannan – Declared academically ineligible by the NCAA prior to the 1999 season and jumped to the OHL. Never drafted by NHL. Played three years with Toronto St. Michael’s Majors and his last season with the Sarnia Sting. Played four seasons with the University of Western Ontario following that and saw four games in the ECHL. Verdict: Hard to call him a bust since he was never drafted by the NHL and didn’t have the high expectations to live up to, but his pro career never went anywhere.
Jason Bacashihua – Committed to Michigan in fall 2000. Was suppose to join Michigan in 2001, I believe, and take over for Josh Blackburn after that season. Instead opted for Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, though if I remember correctly grades played a big part in his decision. Drafted 1st round, 26th overall by Dallas. Played 46 games for Plymouth in 2001 then joined the AHL. Other than two 19 game stints with the St. Louis Blues and a one game stint in the ECHL, Cash has spent his whole career in the AHL. Verdict: Bust. Michigan ended up with Al Montoya the following year, so it worked out pretty well for the Wolverines.
Trevor Lewis – Drafted by every Michigan fan’s least favorite organization the Los Angeles Kings in 1st round of 2006 NHL Draft and signed with the Kings shortly thereafter. Played one year with Owen Sound (OHL) before moving on to Manchester (AHL) for three years before getting shot at NHL. Played a handful of games with L.A. in 2008-09 and ’09-10. Full time with L.A. the past two seasons. Statistically he’s been a dud—17 points in 78 games in 2010-11 and 16 points in 92 games in 2011-12—but he’s stuck with the parent club for two full years and now has a Stanley Cup championship under his belt. Verdict: Success.
A.J. Jenks – 4th Round pick (100th overall) of the Florida Panthers in 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Backed out of Michigan commitment to join Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. Jenks spent four years with the club with his best year coming in 2009-10 with 27 goals and 48 assists in 61 games. Spent 2010-11 with the Rochester Americans (AHL) and had 20 points in 63 games. Spent 2011-12 bouncing around three teams between AHL and ECHL posting 4-5-9 in 52 AHL games and 3-3-6 in 13 ECHL games. Verdict: Too soon to call him a bust?
Jared Knight – Opted for London of OHL. Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall by Boston in 2010 draft. Spent past four seasons with London averaging about a point per game the past three seasons. Played three AHL games in 2010-11 and had two assists. Verdict: Jury is still out on him.
Jack Campbell – The next great American goalie carrying all the accolades reneged on his Michigan commitment in November 2009 when his name wasn’t among the Wolverines press release following the early signing period. Drafted in 1st round, 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2010 NHL Draft. Campbell joined the Windsor Spitfire (OHL), where he struggled tremendously, even having to see a sports psychologist to get his game back on track. He finished his rookie year with a 24-14-4 record in 45 games and a 3.80 goals against average and .884 save percentage. They may have been winning more than losing, but his stats were ugly. This past season he played 12 games with Windsor before being traded to Sault Ste. Marie. He played 34 games for the Greyhounds and had a 15-12-5 record with 3.58 GAA and .892 save percentage. Campbell also played 12 games with the Texas Stars (AHL) and had a 4-7-0 record with 3.02 GAA and .912 save percentage. Verdict: Jury is still out, but, statistically at least, Campbell hasn’t come anywhere close to living up to the hype yet.
Lucas Lessio – One of the top prospects in Ontario. Turned down the Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) to commit to Michigan in September 2009 and join the St. Michael’s Buzzers. Oshawa traded for his rights and Waterloo of the USHL drafted him, too. Big rookie year with St. Mike’s meant he was looking for a bigger challenge. Chose Oshawa over Waterloo, thus forgoing Michigan. Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall by Phoenix in 2011 NHL Draft. Spent last two seasons with Oshawa posting 63 points in 76 games his rookie year and 64 points in 72 games this past season. Verdict: Jury is still out.
John Gibson – Two years in a row the NTDP star goalie backs out of Michigan commitment, this one stinging because he waited until the end of July to make a decision, leaving Michigan with Shawn Hunwick and, well… Shawn Hunwick. Gibson was drafted in the 2nd round, 39th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 NHL Draft. Gibson joined Kitchener and, unlike Campbell, had a solid rookie year post a 21-10-0 record, 2.75 GAA, and .928 save percentage. Verdict: Way too early to call.
Connor Carrick – Drafted in 5th round of 2012 NHL Draft by Washington. Decides to spurn Michigan and join Plymouth Whalers of OHL, who traded for his rights shortly before his decision. Time will tell how this one turns out.
So one true success story so far and a few busts. I’ll continue keeping tabs to see how the others pan out.
When I have more time, I’ll do another series looking at players who left Michigan early (either for the pros or major juniors) and see how they have fared, as well as break down former Wolverines in the pros this past season.