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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hey, it could get better. USA Today's hockey prospect guru Kyle Woodlief ranked the incoming NCAA classes; Michigan came in third behind Wisconsin and BU. Sayeth Woodlief:

They added a lot of nice ingredients, particularly restocking their blue line with nasty USHL d-man Tristin Llewellyn and a smooth puck mover in Kevin Quick from the prep ranks. Up front they grabbed two Red Line favorites from the USHL: Max Pacioretty brings a big winger with good hands, hockey sense, and touch; and Aaron Palushaj is a pure sniper. Throw in a pair of smallish but speedy and skilled centers in Ben Winnett from the BCHL and Matt Rust from the NTDP, and it's both a strong and well-rounded crop.
Woodlief didn't even get to St. Mike's Louie Caporusso, who leads the Buzzers in scoring -- though he's not quite as prolific as Cogliano was in the OPJHL (30 games and 18-26-44 versus 37 games and 26-46-72) -- and has been compared to Andrew Ebbett by assistant coach Billy Powers. You can see some Caporussian exploits on the Buzzers' home page. Check out highlights 2 and 4... especially 2. If you want to watch Caporusso in his native environment, the homepage has a staggering amount of video available.

The nice thing about this class is its depth. Five of the six forwards coming in project as scoring line players. Then there's Swede Carl Hagelin, a late pickup who would normally be Wyzygowski or a MacVoy, a grinder who's stapled to the fourth line or wearing a suit for the duration of his career. Not so for Hagelin. Says Elite Prospects:
Hyfsad driv i skridskoåkningen och fina offensiva instinkter. Okej målsinne.
See! Awesome. Offensiva instinkter. Hagelin did average over a PPG for his Södertälje U20 team in a couple years of play. Powers also claims he's got instinkter:
So it was good to see him in a North American environment over the summer, and he did very well. He’s a scorer. He's an offensive player. A very good skater. He is excited about playing the North American brand of hockey because he likes the physical game. He likes to forecheck. He’s a skill player.
Some Swedish guy on Hockey's Future chips in as well (everything in here sic):
He's a pretty smallish player an captain for the Sodertalje juniorteam this season. H has alot of speed and has pretty good offensive abillities. Skating and agility is above average, has an fairly good shoot and okay passingskills and vision. Not that good along the boards and has problem when meeting aggressive defensmen.

Don't se him develope in to a great player(no NHL material) but perhaps a pretty good forwards a few divisions down.
We have no frame of reference to judge Hagelin's ability, but at the very least he sounds like more than a random body.

Also unmentioned by Woodlief: obscure-ish defensemen Chad Langlais and Scooter Vaughn. Vaughn is from the NAHL, which is normally a bad sign. Though Michigan will pick up the occasional Kaleniecki or Rohlfs from the league, that's about the performance cap of USHL players. Positives: Vaughn is rated a "B" player at this early juncture by the CSB, so he can't be that bad, and his name is "Scooter." Langlais is tiny but he plays in the much higher-profile USHL and is already 20, so he should be able to step in right away and be serviceable.

Then there's Bryan Hogan, a goalie and teammate of Langlais on the Lincoln Stars. Regarded as the third best prospect in 2007's weak goalie class, Hogan drove current Michigan backup Steve Jakiel from the starting job in Lincoln. When Michigan picked Hogan up, he had just finished posting an impressive .916 save percentage, but this year... sigh: .885 in 20 games. Sad panda.