Michigan’s hockey team had high expectations for the 2021-22 season from the moment it stepped onto the ice for its first training session.
Head coach Mel Pearson put together a list unmatched in college hockey with 13 NHL draft picks, including an NCAA record in seven first-round picks. Five of those first-time players were taken in the 2021 draft, including four in the first five picks.
Wolverines’ top draft pick has largely lived up to the hype and has played a pivotal role in helping the team reach the Frozen Four for the first time since 2018. Six of the seven first-rounders are among the top eight scorers on the team, who is in third place nationally in scoring.
Before Michigan (31-9-1), the No. 1 overall in the NCAA Tournament, meets up against Denver, No. 1 from Loveland, the Colorado region, at 6 p.m. 17.00 Thursday in TD Garden in Boston, here is a look at Wolverines’ choice in the first round of the list:
RELATED: Defense on top of mind for Michigan vs. potent Denver offensive
Sophomore defends Owen Power
Power became the first Michigan player to be selected as the first overall when he went to the Buffalo Sabers with the top pick in July last year. His play is not flashy, but the 6-foot-5 defender is as stable as they get on the blue line. The native Mississauga, Ontario plays great minutes for the Wolverines and has an impact on both powerplay and penalty kills.
Power was a huge ten second-team pick last season after scoring three goals and 13 assists in 26 games. He has had an upturn in offensive production this year with three goals and 29 assists in 32 games, which has won first-team-entire conference honors.
He also missed nine games this year, competing for Team Canada at the Junior World Championships and Beijing Olympics in 2022. Before arriving at Ann Arbor, Power played two seasons with Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League. He was named Defender of the Year in the USHL for the 2019-20 season.
Sophomore striker Matty Beniers
The 6-foot-1 center was drafted right after Power, going to Seattle Kraken as No. 2. Beniers is a former Harvard commit, but he returned to Michigan when the Ivy League schools announced they would not play 2020- 21 season due to the pandemic.
The native of Hingham, Massachusetts, has been a two-way force for the Wolverines and has built a strong New Year’s season from which he scored 24 points in 24 games. This year, he led the Big Ten in scoring in the regular season and now has 43 points in 36 games.
The Beniers, who were a Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist, also missed a handful of matches this year to play in the WJC and Olympics for the United States. Prior to arriving in Michigan, he played with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Plymouth.
Freshman defender Luke Hughes
It did not take long before the New Jersey Devils’ 2021 No. 4 overall pick entered the Michigan record books. His 17 goals are most of a first-year defender in the program’s history, and he starts with all NCAA defenders with 39 points this season.
The smooth-running 6-foot-2, 186-pound is the younger brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes, who were also first-round draft picks. (Quinn played two seasons for Wolverines from 2017-19) Luke has had a handful of highlights this season and played his best when the Michigan Olympians were out of the ranks. In the six matches, Power missed in Beijing from 28 January-Feb. 19 Luke had seven goals and three assists.
He was named Big Ten co-Freshman of the Year and was also a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist. He played two seasons with the NTDP before coming to Michigan.
Sophomore striker Kent Johnson
Johnson’s offensive abilities have dazzled since arriving at Ann Arbor for the 2020-21 season. He had 27 points in 26 games as a rookie before being drafted as the fifth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets last July.
He has had another strong season with eight goals and 29 assists. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound from Port Moody, British Columbia also played with Team Canada at the Olympics and scored five points in five matches.
Before coming to Michigan, he led the British Columbia Hockey League with 101 points in 52 games with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Freshman striker Mackie Samoskevich
Samoskevich was the fifth Wolverine selected in the first round last July, en route to the Florida Panthers as No. 24 overall. After a slow start to the season, the Sandy Hook, Connecticut native has reached his stride in the second half, scoring 15 of his 29 points in his last 14 games.
Samoskevich boasts a dynamic wrist shot and has been an important part of the powerplay this season. The right-handed winger played two seasons with Chicago Steel and was teammates with Power in 2019-20.
Sophomore striker Brendan Brisson
2020’s No. 29 overall pick of the Vegas Golden Knights has thrived this season, primarily playing in line with Beniers and Johnson. Brisson leads the team with 21 goals and has an ability to open up in the offensive zone and use his lethal one-timer.
The 6-foot winger has more than doubled his overall goal from his first year, where he had 10 in 21 games. He is number two on the team with 42 points in 37 games this season and is missing four games to play for the United States at the Olympics.
Brisson was also teammates with Power with the Steel before arriving at Ann Arbor. His father, Pat Brisson, is a prominent NHL agent and represents stars such as Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane.
Junior forward Johnny Beecher
Beecher may not possess the offensive ability like his second first round, but he continues to play a big role on the team. He is a large body at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds and has above average speed. The native of Elmira, New York, is one of the best penalty killers on the team and has six goals and nine assists in 33 games this season.
Beecher, the overall number 30 of the Boston Bruins in 2019, was limited to 16 games last season due to an injury and also missed the first eight games this season. His best season, statistically speaking, came as a rookie as he scored nine goals and six assists in 31 games.
Before coming to Michigan, Beecher played two seasons with the NTDP.
MORE: Michigan’s ‘old veteran’ ready for one last trip
How Michigan fared in the last 10 NCAA appearances
It’s Frozen Four or bust for Michigan’s star-studded hockey team
Michigan hockey wins Big Ten honors
Nick Blankenburg’s rise from walk-on to Michigan hockey captain
See how the Michigan hockey sweater has evolved over 97 years
‘Rock star’ goalkeeper Erik Portillo a difference maker for Michigan hockey
New assistant analytical approach pays off for hockey No. 3 in Michigan
Law firm investigates Michigan hockey due to allegations of COVID fraud, toxic environment