They stood on the sidelines Sunday (June 30) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the home of the New Jersey Devils. Five young ice hockey players -- J.T. Compher, Michael Downing, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte and Nolan De Jong -- committed to playing at the University of Michigan but whose professional future lay in the hands of the NHL general managers. Within hours, these five were selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
When their names were called, their appearance in those NHL game jerseys gave an indication of the talent they possess and the potential of providing Red Berenson and his U-M staff with players that can be part of a championship program.
The NHL Entry Draft is a peek at the future, and a grade for the college hockey recruiting world.
Unlike football and basketball recruiting, where a cottage industry of subjective evaluators rate incoming recruits, college hockey teams and fans can judge the recruiting class by professionals who grade and then select players for their own team. Professional general managers and scouts make a living by whom they select, and the draft reflects the potential of that year's age group.
As a college program, you always want to be prominent in the draft, and the University of Michigan was just that. Five Wolverines were drafted in the seven rounds. It was the most of any team in the new Big Ten Conference, and it was the fourth time since 1999 that U-M has had more than four players picked in the entry draft.
The professionals also look at what schools are recruiting players when they have an interest. They know most of the draft eligible players need to develop, and when U-M signs a recruit, the NHL teams know the player will have the opportunity and coaching to improve his play. When a student-athlete signs a letter of intent to play at Michigan, their stock increases in the eyes of the National Hockey League.
The NHL teams know Michigan is a great environment for players to develop -- not only on the ice but off the ice too.
While four incoming freshmen were selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, one current Wolverine also heard his name called, enforcing the fact Michigan develops talent.
For Copp, it was a particularly big day. The 2012 Entry Draft was a frustrating experience for the Wolverine forward. He was bypassed in the draft, and he knew it wasn't easy for a player to be selected on his second run through.
When the Winnipeg Jets called his name, Copp was euphoric.
He wasn't even a rated scouted player at the start of his freshman year, and yet he emerged as a fourth round pick. It was his improved play in the second half of the season when he tallied 17 of his 21 points that created the buzz. He became one of the go-to guys on the Wolverines. The professional scouting staffs started to 'go to' the phones, calling the U-M coaching staff about the young man's development.
Copp showed the hockey world something when he concentrated on one sport and took advantage the opportunity. What he did in the last half of the season proved he was worthy and capable of playing the sport at a higher level. (Copp, a quarterback at Ann Arbor Skyline High School, was also a recruited football player.)
It is exactly what the professional teams look for when they a draft a prospect -- development.
The 2013 NHL Entry Draft was hockey's way of giving the University of Michigan program a top-notch grade for the incoming recruits, and the character of the young men they bring into the program.
And for Copp, it was even more special. Not only did he overcome the odds of getting back into a position to be drafted, he was selected by the Winnipeg Jets --the same team that selected and signed U-M's freshman All American Jacob Trouba. The two players have been hockey teammates since they were nine years old, and the potential to reconnect at a later date made the day even sweeter.
Indeed, it was a good day to be a Michigan Wolverine in New Jersey.
2013 NHL ENTRY DRAFT
PRUDENTIAL CENTER, NEWARK, N.J.
J.T. Compher, Buffalo Sabres -- Rd. 2 (35)
NHL.com Prospect Page
Selection Video (Sabres.com)
Post-Draft Interview (YouTube)
Sabre prospects know the way to Buffalo (Buffalo News)
Michael Downing, Florida Panthers -- Rd. 4 (97)
Post-Draft Interview (Panthers.com)
Prospect Profile (TheHockeyWriters.com)
Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets -- Rd. 4 (104)
Post-Draft Interview (Jets.com)
Tyler Motte, Chicago Blackhawks -- Rd. 4 (121)
Post-Draft Interview (YouTube)
Hockey: Tyler Motte 'comfortable' after NHL Draft (The Times Herald)
Nolan De Jong, Minnesota Wild -- Rd. 7 (197)
Wild.com Draft Pick Profile
The Province Feature
Playing sports is one of the great joys in life. For those with disabilities, sports can be a difficult experience -- until they participate in events like the Special Olympics.
Another one of the joys in life is learning the joy of giving back to the community or a cause.
So it was no surprise when the University of Michigan Athletic Department team members that volunteered for Tuesday's (May 14) Special Olympics event at Saline High School returned to work Wednesday with a great attitude and big smiles on their faces.
Zach Eisendrath, assistant director of public and media relations, was the poster boy for the entire athletic department team.
When asked about the previous day's events he smiled and said, "It was awesome, it was incredible." He called these Special Olympians "real athletes" and said this is what "sports are all about."
The games are serious and competitive, and with the variations in talent, the volunteers work hard to make the games fun.
Zach, who works with the U-M football and men's tennis teams, had one young girl at bocce ball who couldn't speak. Physically he demonstrated how to throw the ball and where to throw it so she could enjoy the competition. In another bocce game, a young boy in a wheelchair knew exactly what to do. Zach played him straight up -- and lost. When Zach talked about the match, the smile grew, and his eyes lit up.
His counterparts from U-M who volunteered for the event came back to work with similar stories and feelings that matched the most beautiful day of the spring to date. The Special Olympians showed how they could overcome the roadblocks in their lives, and this U-M team came back to their offices with a positive attitude -- the type of attitude volunteerism can provide.
For Zach, the Special Olympics have a particular meaning. His little cousin has Down syndrome. Zach learned the art of volunteerism years ago, and this time he was excited to be part of giving back to his new community. It is part of his personality, and it creates the euphoric feeling that makes life rich and worthwhile. And every time he works a Special Olympics, he comes back more amazed than the last time.
It is almost impossible to oversell the Special Olympics. This is one sports event that lives up to the hype.
"I signed up for the event and then realized today's the day," said Eisendrath. "I went to the track, helped out, came back and thought wow, this was a wonderful day. I really felt like this was of one the most fulfilling days I had in quite a while."
A portion of the Special Olympics mission statement is to give "continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and athletic skill, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community."
For the volunteers, participation in Special Olympics provides additional benefits. They have a better perspective of their own surroundings, and they just feel good.
Zach and the 80 U-M Athletic Department members didn't volunteer so they could feel better about themselves, but when they returned to work on Wednesday, the Special Olympics Spring Games helped make everyone feel a part of something bigger than oneself, and that made everyone smile.
Recently I experienced a sudden and tragic loss of a very significant person (HC) in my life. She was a kind-hearted and gentle soul whose unconditional guidance was not only extremely influential to me, but life changing.
HC valued making a difference in people's lives. She was extremely instrumental in my personal and professional growth, and I am grateful for her many words of wisdom and encouragement that I continue to draw from each and every day. I am comforted by the thought that I will benefit from her shared knowledge and strength throughout the rest of my life journey. I was blessed to have experienced her gift and her difference.
Today, I honor HC and the others in my life that have had a significant impact on my development as a person and a coach.
Make a difference. Change a life. It matters.
This entry is in loving memory of HC.
To go or not to go? That is the question.
It isn't a Shakespearean question; it is a question that many talented underclassmen in college sports face these days. And when that student-athlete is playing a sport like ice hockey at the University of Michigan, those questions are commonplace.
Head coach Red Berenson doesn't answer the question for the student-athlete at Michigan, but he does help guide them in the right direction.
Berenson is a coach that can give the student-athlete a perspective from both sides of the bench. Not only was he one of the first collegiate hockey players to go straight to the pro ranks, with the Montreal Canadiens, he stayed at U-M for all four years before going to the NHL, then returned to Ann Arbor to earn his master's degree.
"I've told kids in the past if they're ready to play in the NHL, I'll drive 'em to the airport," said Berenson.
In the last 10 days, the U-M ice hockey team has had two players make the jump to sign with NHL teams. While Berenson would have liked to see both players remain at Michigan, he will support their decision.
Last week, junior Jon Merrill signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils. Just a few days ago freshman Jacob Trouba signed with the Winnipeg Jets.
"One of the advantages of staying through your sophomore season -- we don't have many kids leave after their freshman year because they need to be exceptional players to go pro -- is obviously it's a long road to graduate," said Berenson. "The extra 30 hours are important.
"If you go back to Jack Johnson (now playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL), the plan for Jack was to graduate from Michigan whether he played four years or not," added Berenson. "We were all hoping he would play four years, but it turned out he was too good of a player, and I think the same is true of Jacob Trouba. He's too good to have stayed and played college hockey for four years."
Johnson stayed through his sophomore year and won the CCHA's Best Offensive Defenseman Award, the same honor Trouba received this past season after leading all CCHA defensemen in scoring.
Trouba was also named to the All-CCHA first team and CCHA All-Rookie team. The 19-year-old defenseman played in 37 games, scoring 12 goals and adding 17 assists for 29 points to go along with 88 penalty minutes.
At the World Junior Championship in Russia over the Christmas holidays, Trouba's skills were on display to an international audience. He won the gold with Team USA and was named the tournament's best defenseman.
Berenson would have preferred that Trouba stayed through his sophomore season but added that the young man does have exceptional skill and "he is fortunate that he will be able to step right into the NHL."
As for Merrill, the decision was different. He is a junior and is much closer to graduation.
Hours aside, Merrill's injury in the exhibition game against Windsor on Oct. 10 gave him the firsthand experience what a fine line there is in the world of sports -- and in life. He suffered a cracked vertebra and missed a significant part of the season.
"I think Jon Merrill has a whole new perspective about hockey and life after that injury," said Berenson. "He injured his C4 and C5 vertebrae and right now, who knows, he could have been in a wheelchair. Instead he came back, had a good half of season for us."
Even with Merrill going pro, Berenson was happy Merrill stayed and the New Jersey Devils didn't push the defenseman.
"The Devils have been really patient," said Berenson. "They could have signed him after his first year. In the second year, he could have left with all the problems. Third year, he had a broken vertebra.
"I think the kid on one side wanted to come back and finish and the other side is excited about the next step."
He finished his U-M career with 11 goals and 36 assists for 47 points, ending this past season with three assists and a plus-five plus-minus in Michigan's 6-3 win at Ohio State on Feb. 23.
Merrill's and Trouba's futures in hockey are bright. Still, Berenson isn't going to let them forget that they both came to U-M to get a degree. They are not going to the pro ranks without getting a constant reminder what they need to do beyond the sport of hockey.
"I went to school in the summer to get my master's," said Berenson. "It is doable, and I have told these players that."
He has told Merrill that he wants to see him back in school during the summer semester, and he has told Trouba to take online classes and go to school for credit hours wherever he plays hockey.
"They will always be Michigan men," Berenson said. "I will guarantee you that both Jacob and Jon will do everything they can to come back to school, take classes and graduate from Michigan."
We are very excited about participating in this season's NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday is such a great day for college basketball and we are thrilled to be a part of it for the third consecutive year.
Our team worked extremely hard this year to earn the highest seed possible. We are thankful for the opportunity to take on a very good South Dakota State team on Thursday in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
We believe the entire country was able to witness the strength of the Big Ten Conference this past weekend in Chicago. Our league is great and we believe that the conference schedule has prepared us for the NCAA Tournament.
Both our mindset and work ethic remains the same at this point in the season. We are confident and will diligently prepare for South Dakota State.
The stakes are the highest they can possibly be, but we are embracing the challenge of the "survive and advance" scenario.
To compete for NCAA Championships versus the best possible competition is why student athletes come to the University of Michigan.
We are thrilled to have a chance to compete in this year's NCAA Tournament and look forward taking on the Jackrabbits on Thursday at 7:15 pm.
Big Ten Conference play is going to test your team. We certainly were tested last week after experiencing a tough loss in State College to Penn State.
We communicate to our student-athletes all the time that building a team is a process. Tough moments are going to occur over the course of the season, and the only thing you can do is face them and learn from them.
I sincerely believe that our ability to face and learn from the Penn State loss helped us compete with clear minds on Sunday vs. Michigan State.
Rivalry games in college basketball bring out the best in players. The memorable moment from Sunday's game against the Spartans was Trey Burke's steal and dunk in the final minute. Trey showed tremendous presence of mind to make that play when he did. The entire country got a chance to see the toughness Trey has displayed for us for two seasons now.
The last week of conference play has us battling the two Big Ten teams from the state of Indiana. We travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue at 7 p.m. tomorrow and we host the Hoosiers on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Coach Painter is a tremendous coach, and his guys will be ready to compete at a high level tomorrow night. We must exceed Purdue's intensity and grit in order to leave West Lafayette with a victory.
I am excited that a few of our guys will receive the opportunity to play in their home region tomorrow. With Glenn, Spike and Mitch all being from northwest Indiana, this homecoming is something that they and their families are looking forward to.
We can only play the games that are in front of us. Scoreboard watching and hoping for certain scenarios to take place cannot help us prepare for what lies ahead.
We will work hard this week to narrow the focus of our team. We are fortunate to be on spring break this week, and we will certainly use the time off the best we can. Right now, our thoughts are consumed with getting better and properly preparing for Purdue.
This past week served as an opportunity for us to get back on the practice floor without the need to exclusively prepare for our next opponent. We were able to get back to the basics offensively and defensively.
Over the course of a season, especially in the Big Ten Conference, your opponents demand so much of your practice time because of their skill level and style of play. Every coach will tell you that in effort to be prepared for the game ahead, you do not have the ability to practice all the things that you would like. Slippage is going to occur, but we were fortunate this past week to have the bye week to address some of those areas.
On Sunday, Illinois came into Crisler Center on a roll and we knew that they would be ready to play. I credit our team for playing tough the first half and for creating some separation in the second half by converting good defense into good offense.
Trey Burke went over the 1,000-point mark for his career. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Trey. Over the past two seasons, he has played some outstanding basketball for us.
Jordan Morgan played extended minutes on Sunday for the first time since his injury. Jordan's energy and activity were critical in our victory. I give him a ton of credit for his hard work and his determination with his rehab.
Our next opponent is Penn State tomorrow night in State College. Any Big Ten road game deserves the proper preparation and attention.
Penn State played tough here 10 days ago, and it will take a team effort to walk out of State College with a victory.
We look forward to the tomorrow night's opportunity to continue to push forward in the Big Ten Conference.
College basketball seasons have their highs and their lows. Unfortunately on Saturday afternoon in Madison, we found ourselves on the wrong side of some incredible plays by the Badgers. Games like that make college basketball so compelling and so interesting from a fans perspective.
I have coached in a lot of basketball games and losing in any fashion certainly hurts. Games involving buzzer beaters seem to hurt more because of the magnitude of the shots but in reality, all losing is difficult because the margin between winning and losing basketball games is so small.
Every play is important when it comes to winning and losing. Execution is the name of the game, and we must credit Wisconsin for executing well in Madison.
Losing in Madison cannot spillover into our preparation for MSU. Our next opponent deserves our undivided attention, just like Wisconsin required our undivided attention after the win versus Ohio State last week.
Our staff has moved on from this loss. Our team has moved on from this loss also. We watched the game film yesterday and attacked the practice floor with the right attitude.
I am excited for the opportunity that we have in front of us. Michigan State is playing well right now, and I expect this rivalry game to be as intense as it has ever been. I am confident in our team's ability to be ready to play at 9 p.m. tomorrow night in East Lansing.
This is life in the Big Ten Conference. We must continue to stay connected as a program, and we will. Our core values of Integrity, Diligence, Appreciation, Unity, and Passion must continue to sustain all of our efforts.
There's a good chance you've already seen this video ...
If not, you may be living under a rock. Ha-ha, just kidding. But seriously, if you haven't seen it already, it is well worth a couple minutes of your time.
Kid President seems to be everywhere. A very good friend of mine sent me his "Pep Talk" a couple weeks ago and since then it has seemingly gone viral. He's now popping up universally -- Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and even cracking the national news circuit. But what exactly is it about Mr. Kid President that has us all so enamored with his inspirational words of wisdom?
I have to admit, I love this kid's pep talk. Something about it connects with me and motivates me. Perhaps it's his innocent optimism or jubilant words of encouragement. It could be his cheerful outlook on life, or his obvious determination to make a difference. But whatever IT is, IT got me thinking, "What am I doing that is leading to AWESOME?!"
Building a program is a lot like taking the road less traveled -- for everyone involved -- from coaches, to players, to administration to support staff. We all chose to head down a path not many have set foot on before -- we chose left when most others went right. And yes, as Kid President so articulately put it, it will be difficult at times and there might be rocks and thorns and glass on our journey, but in the end it is all worth it because it's a road that will lead to AWESOMENESS.
And who doesn't want to be AWESOME?! Maybe that's why everyone is watching Kid President's Pep Talk. Because deep down we all want to be awesome; we don't want to be boring and we want to make a difference.
Team One and Michigan women's lacrosse has a dream and we are going to keep going, keep going, keep going and keep going until we reach that dream. And then when that happens, we'll go get a better dream that leads to even more awesomeness.
Ultimately though, in life, as Kid President said, we are all on the same team and we hope you will join us on our journey!
The last two outings for us have been high level and extremely intense contests. The Indiana game and the Ohio State game are the type of games all college players dream of playing in.
Saturday night's game in Bloomington was a great battle between two Big Ten opponents. The environment in Assembly Hall was awesome, and we as a program embraced the opportunity to take on the Hoosiers in a game that received a ton of media coverage.
We did not get the result that we wanted in Bloomington vs. the Hoosiers. We give Indiana a ton of credit for the way they played that evening.
Indiana's timely scores and rebounds in the second half made the difference, in my opinion. Their energy and pace of play throughout the game was very impressive.
The game vs. the Buckeyes last night was incredible. The team wore the maize-on-maize jerseys for the occasion, and the environment in Crisler Center was electric from start to finish.
Tim Hardaway Jr. carried our team during a stretch in the second half with some outstanding shooting. Tim is capable of making a string of shots because the way he shoots is so consistent. From day one his freshman year, Tim has consistently shot the ball with great elevation, balance and spin. When you do these things, you always give the ball a chance to go in the basket.
Tim and Trey Burke made two critical blocks in the closing seconds that showed great toughness. When your most talented players also make gritty plays on the basketball floor, it does so much for your team.
I thought Ohio State played an intelligent game and didn't make it easy for us all evening. Their athleticism and size allow them to be so disruptive defensively. This athleticism and size coupled with Aaron Craft's tremendous defensive ability make them very good and very dangerous in the Big Ten.
Our next conference opponent is Wisconsin on Saturday at noon EST. We will tip at 11 a.m. CST, which means our guys will have to be ready for a Big Ten battle at a unique time.
We will need contributions from everyone in order to leave Madison with a victory. Coach Bo Ryan will have his team ready to go, and we will have our team ready to play on Saturday.