There is a point in time where every kid out there realizes they may have a chance to live out their childhood fantasy’s and make them reality. For so may kids out there they never even get looked at, but for the kids that end up in a spot where they can have a commissioner say their name upon the podium. Looking at the big boards and mock draft’s that have been compiled prior to the NHL entry draft, there is one thing that I felt the deserves to be talked about – Michigan Hockey.
The Michigan Wolverines hockey program has three potential first round picks, and more than that, has three top 10 players on most big boards. Even with the fact that they have three top 10 players in the entire NHL draft class, they also have the two players that are arguably the first and second overall ranked players. Looking at what makes the players so special is what I’m going to be covering today.
Owen Power, LHD, University of Michigan
My Big Board Rank: 1st Overall
The Bad: Power is a incredible player, that much is undeniable, but he lacks some traits that are considered extremely important for a NHL hockey player. He is not a great with puck control when asked to take the puck up from the defensive zone. As a defender, puck control isn’t a huge breaking point, and it is something that can be taught and developed. As a potential rookie, he has time to develop his talents and become more well-rounded. With that being said, he is not a explosive skater. As a defensive skater who actually plays well in the offensive zone, he has no level of acceleration which could present a problem although not more so than the lack on puck control. He is a very smooth skater, but doesn’t show much explosiveness in his skating, but I doubt it would be much of a problem.
The Good: With the bad stuff being minimal, you can probably assume that he is an incredible talent with a lot of good in his game. He is an incredible skater with his edgework, has very good strides, and does well with evading oncoming pressure. With above-average hockey IQ, he is able to be a great offensive defenseman with his ability to find the pass and set up certain plays. He always seems to find an breakout pass to set-up a play or even to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. He’s one of the few players that I’ve seen with the sixth-sense to just see how a certain pass will play out in the future. He always seems to play each and every possession with a purpose. Now, the most important part to a defender’s game is defending, and in that aspect, Power is excellent. Power could be a little more physical, but he plays with excellent defensive positioning, and has great instincts on the puck that allows him to be a excellent defenseman. Power is a can’t-miss prospect in this draft, I expect him to go first overall to the Sabers in this year’s draft.
Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan
My Big Board Rank: 2nd Overall
The Bad: So I could go and give another explanation on what I’ll be talking about, but I just did right above this article. I’d also assume that your not here for all the extra commentary, So what that being said, lets just jump right in on what he needs to improve. So just like I stated with Power, he is a below-average puck handler, which effects Beniers a lot more than Power, but he is able to make it work for the most part. He doesn’t show great puck control while moving up the ice and in-between defenders. He keeps the puck way out in front of him that keeps it out of his reach and has to play catch-up.
The Good: So I know what you’re thinking, that was only one thing I listed above, my response, there is a reason he is my second overall ranked player in this draft. Beniers has one of the best motors in this draft class, and is one of the hardest workers I’ve seen. Although his puck control is questionable, it doesn’t seem to matter because he will take all the contact someone want’s to put on him, and he’ll out-skate anyone who want’s to test him. He is an extremely competitive player with a extremely high motor that defines his game. Corey Pronman of The Athletic said that he had watched over 100 games of Matthew Beniers, and not once was he not an impactful player. Any time he is on the ice, you are getting a player who is going to give his all. He is an incredible player due to his hustle and his booming shot, and is thee best two-way player in this draft.
Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan
My Big Board Rank: 4th
The Bad: Kent Johnson has been referred to as “The guy you need to know about in this draft class”, but he has a lot that will make his ceiling limited. With that being said, he is an incredibly skilled player and has a lot to offer a team, but is going to be limited as far as who will be able to take him. Kent Johnson has a lot of skill, but as far as skating goes, he doesn’t have the ideal traits in the current day NHL. Looking at how the NHL has developed and altered, you see guys like MacKinnon, and McDavid and see that it’s like watching a video game, Johnson doesn’t offer any of that. He shows a lack of pace, it appears as if he just doesn’t have energy getting up and down the ice. It’s not that he doesn’t perform when on the ice, but he doesn’t play with pace unless the puck is on his stick.
The Good: Kent Johnson, although he doesn’t necessarily play with pace which makes me think he’s lazy, is perhaps the most skilled player in the draft. When you first sit down and watch Johnson on the ice, he immediately will pop out at you due to his elite skillset. He has incredible puck control that allows him to make behind-the-back passes and between-the-leg passes look routine. Watching him play with a change of pace to create space and openings to make plays or create shots is something that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Watching one of his highlight reels I noticed a change of pace through the neutral zone in which he was able to hook around the defender change directions in front of the goal and hit a backhanded shot over the goalies shoulder. He’s got very good instincts with the puck in setting up plays and sensing pressure with great offensive awareness. He has the ability to become a great hockey player due to his phenomenal puck handling, and his ability to play smart and understands his strengths and weaknesses. He has the ability to be one of the best prospects in the draft given the right situation.