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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I continue to defy Big Ten Wonk's wishes by covering hockey like a rabid, er, wolverine! I apologize but my love for puck is deep and true, though I will make an effort to do right by the basketball team... after the Ohio State game.

Michigan has picked up a commitment from BCHL forward Brian Lebler, (HT: Western College Hockey) who will accelerate his schooling and join the team next year. This is a bit of a rally for Michigan as Lebler seemed ticketed for Wisconsin only a week ago. Lebler's dad played for the Badgers. This article has details:

Brian Lebler, a 17-year-old winger playing his second season with Penticton of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, has been offered the last scholarship UW has available for next year.

Lebler, whose father Ed was a winger for the Badgers from 1978 to '81, also is considering Michigan and Ohio State. Ed Lebler said his son intends to make campus visits to those three schools before making a decision.

"We'd like to see Brian go to Wisconsin," Ed Lebler said last week, noting that his wife, the former Mary Botham, grew up in Madison and has family living in the state. "But we'll have to wait and see."

Brian Lebler, listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, had 21 goals and 31 points in 56 games for Penticton last year. He had six goals in his first eight games with the Vees this season.
It sounds like he's a low four star to use the parlance of football recruitnickery. Bob Miller of The Wolverine says thusly:
Big kid who patrols his wing, gives full effort and has some offensive ability. He's a likely draft pick, yes, and I'd spot him somewhere between big and medium on the splashometer.
Given Michigan's roster situation for next year Lebler is an important pickup. Michigan's scratching only one recruited forward this year, has no other forwards committed, and will graduate Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Kaleniecki.

Welcome. Don't piss off #3.
Add in the potential NHL defection of TJ Hensick and Michigan was looking at a fairly gaping hole going forward. Even with Lebler things seem a little thin given that Michigan will have nothing but Krikor Arman 2006 past the 12 recruited forwards, and that's with Hensick. Hensick is a year than most juniors and was just drafted so he may stick around, but I wouldn't count on it after last year's defectionfest.

The solution: pencil in brand-new defenseman David Rohlfs at wing next year. Michigan graduates no defensemen and is bringing in Chris Summers and Steven Kampfer. What about defections? Well, as I've asserted previously, the college senior with a serious NHL future is a dying breed that just got a lethal injection from the new CBA. Matt Hunwick's stellar play thus far certainly indicates that he has an NHL future; it's highly unlikely he returns. I had written off Jack Johnson as well, but his dad's strident position that Johnson will stick around for "at least" two years has me convinced, since they're obviously not trying to improve their bargaining position. Johnson's going to get the rookie cap whenever he signs.

Thus the winds indicate that Michigan will likely have seven recruited defensemen and either 11 or 12 forwards. Rent, don't buy, David.