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.