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Hockey Season Preview: Center

Once the driving force behind the team's success, the Wolverines have four major question marks at the center position.

Bill Rapai - MgoBlog.com

Departed: JT Compher, Boo Nieves

The center position was something of an anomaly last season. The Wolverines were caught off-guard by the departure of Andrew Copp and went into the season with only two true centers on the roster: JT Compher and Boo Nieves. As a result they had to move wingers Max Shuart and Cooper Marody into the bottom six slots.

As it turns out having an All-American on your top line makes everything a little easier and it turned out alright. JT Compher was the anchor of the group on a line that staked their claim as the best in college hockey and turned into the best passer Michigan has seen in decades, maybe ever. Boo Nieves was himself; uninspiring at times, dazzling other times but still a 31 point scorer and a solid option as the #2 center.

This season the situation looks dire as the Wolverines have been caught off-guard again. The graduation of Nieves and the early exit of Compher left the coaching staff scrambling to add players late in the recruiting class to fill the voids and this time there isn't an All-American walking through the door to save them.

Returning

Cooper Marody

2015-2016 Team: Michigan

Stats: 32 GP, 10-14--24 scoring line, 20 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Class: 6'0, 180lbs, Sophomore

NHL: 6th rd, 158th overall to Flyers

Originally a 2017 recruit Cooper Marody was moved up a class after early departures forced him to reclassify. Marody had come out of the USHL as a winger and out of necessity was moved to center and given a line with Tony Calderone and Brendan Warren.

The results couldn't have been better. Marody established himself as a top notch passer and blossomed into the kind of creative playmaker that gets the best out of his linemates. He gelled instantly with Calderone and despite a bout with mono Marody rebounded and posted a respectable 10-14--24 scoring line.

Marody is the best option heading into the season as the top line center. It's a big jump going from wing to 3rd line to top line but Marody has the offensive flair and the tenacity as a defender to handle the responsibilities of a #1 center. Playing with Alex Kile this pairing can put up big points.

Max Shuart

2015-2016 Team: Michigan

Stats: 38 GP, 6-9--15 scoring line, 6 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Class: 6'1, 190lbs, Senior

Max Shuart stepped into the role of 4th line center after two years at wing and did everything you want a 4th line center to do. Shuart was a reliable contributor as a defensive player and as a forechecker who spent a total of six minutes in the box the entire season. Offensively Shuart noticed an uptick in production notching six goals and nine assists while anchoring a line with Dexter Dancs and Evan Allen.

Incoming

Jake Slaker

2015-2016 Team: Bloomington Thunder (USHL)

Stats: 57 GP, 21-21--42 scoring line, 44 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Age: 5'10, 185lbs, 20 years old

A late addition to the class Berenson and staff landed Slaker in May after a rash of early departures left the center position in desperate need of help. Slaker had been committed to St. Lawrence but re-opened his recruitment when SLU coach Greg Carvel left for the UMass.

Wearing the "C" for Bloomington last season Slaker finished second on the team in goals with 21 and fourth on the team in points with 42. He's a strong skater with smooth hands and a nice scoring touch who can get out in transition and play the hard areas of the ice.

Out of the three incoming freshman Slaker has the skill set that is most college ready for a top-6 role when the season starts and should fit in nicely skating with Tony Calderone.

Steven Merl

2015-2016 Team: Bloomington Thunder (USHL)

Stats: 57 GP, 3-12--15 scoring line, 50 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Age: 6'4, 210lbs, 20 years old

Steven Merl is a big center listed at 6'4, 210lbs and plays the role of a tough, bruising power forward. His offensive ceiling is very low, he recorded just 8 goals in 99 USHL games, but as a bigger player who uses his size well along the boards and is tough to move in front of the net Merl has the perfect set of skills to slot in as a 4th line center or as a wing for this team.

Adam Winborg

2015-2016 Team: Janesville Jets (NAHL)

Stats: 56 GP, 19-36--55, 32 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Age: 6'2, 200lbs. 21 years old

Another late pickup for the coaching staff the Wolverines added Janesville center Adam Winborg four days before the announced departure of JT Compher. Winbog spent the last three seasons playing in the NAHL with Janesville and recorded a 62-83--145 line throughout 170 games earning a spot on the NAHL's Midwest Division All-Star Team.

While the offensive side of his game is going to need time to adjust from the NAHL to college, Winborg's play on the defensive end of the ice could earn him a spot in the lineup as a 4th line center or as a wing.

Line Projections

1st Line: Cooper Marody

2nd Line: Jake Slaker

3rd Line: Max Shuart

4th Line: Steven Merl

Extra Skater: Adam Winborg