Michigan announced yesterday the signing of six student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to play for the Maize and Blue beginning in the 2005-06 campaign. The group includes four forwards -- Jason Bailey (Nepean, Ontario), Andrew Cogliano (Vaughn, Ontario), Zac MacVoy (Livonia) and Tim Miller (Davisburg) -- and two defensemen -- Jack Johnson (Faribault, Minn.) and Mark Mitera (Livonia).
Bailey and Cogliano will be the first Canada natives to join U-M since the 2002-03 season when current juniors Andrew Ebbett (Vernon, B.C.) and Jeff Tambellini (Port Moody, B.C.) began their careers for the Maize and Blue.
Bailey, MacVoy, Johnson and Mitera are all teammates on the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team. Cogliano skates for the St. Michael's Buzzers in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League and Miller plays with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. Miller and Mitera were 2003 draft picks of the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, but have obviously elected NCAA over major junior.
"I think they're a nice mix of all the things we look for in a player," stated U-M head coach Red Berenson. "A kid that resembles a little bit of (T.J.) Hensick or (Mike) Cammalleri is Andrew Cogliano. He can shoot the puck, he can skate and he can score. He's an exciting player. Tim Miller is like a young Jed Ortmeyer-type player. Jason Bailey, I'd compare him to Jed Ortmeyer, only he can really skate. He works hard and plays physical. Zac MacVoy has good hands. I kind of compare him to a David Moss, that type of player. He can play both wing and center. When you look at the defense, Jack Johnson is as good of a defenseman as there was out there available, at least from my perspective. He's a rushing defenseman, a physical defenseman. Mark Mitera is another big defenseman who can move the puck and play good solid defense. I think it's really a good mix at this point."
Michigan will lose 10 players to graduation at the end of the 2004-05 season: forward Milan Gajic, forward Charlie Henderson (East Lansing), defenseman Nick Martens (Ann Arbor), Moss (Livonia), forward and captain Eric Nystrom, defenseman Reilly Olson, defenseman Brandon Rogers, forward Jason Ryznar, defenseman Eric Werner (Grosse Pointe Woods) and forward Michael Woodford, Jr.
That said, Berenson plans to get the freshmen right into the mix.
"It would seem to be tough but they'll be fine," said Berenson. "We'll play the freshmen. They'll get good direction and they'll get good playing time. They'll jump in and I think surprise people.
"They'll all step in and play. Who will play the best early? Johnson and Mitera should be rock solid right from the beginning. Cogliano should step in. The way Miller and Bailey work they shouldn't have any trouble. The kids playing in the (U.S. National Team) Development Program play 20-some college games by the end of the year. That's really helped guys like Matt Hunwick, Mike Brown and T.J. Hensick when they come in here. They'd already played college games."
Michigan has signed at least one alumnus of the U.S. NTDP in each of the past seven seasons. Through the 2004-05 season, 12 U.S. NTDP alumni have skated for U-M. Michigan will also host the U.S. NTDP U-18 Team at Yost Ice Arena for an exhibition contest on Feb. 26, 2005.