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Hockey Season Preview: Right Defense

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Despite losing Zach Werenski to the pros, Michigan returns a blueline that is strong enough to lead the team

Big Chill - Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Previous: Right Wing, Center, Left Wing

Departing: Zach Werenski

Zach Werenski leaves Michigan after signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason.

Losing Werenski stings. Zach came to Michigan as a 17 year old and was put into the #1 role from the beginning and turned in two seasons of All-Big Ten caliber play. They have the depth on paper to replace his minutes but Werenski was by far the most active defenseman in the offensive end, the 1st unit power play quarterback and the only blueliner on the roster who could make plays with his skating.

Returning

Joe Cecconi

2015-2016 Team: Michigan

Stats: 38 GP, 0-7—7 scoring line, 16 penalty minutes, 53 blocked shots

Height, Weight, Class: 6'2, 205lbs, Sophomore

NHL: 5th rd, 133rd overall by Dallas

As a freshman Joe Cecconi split between the 2nd and 3rd pair a season ago and gave the Wolverines a steady, defense first presence on the blueline.

Cecconi isn’t the kind of player who will jump into the rush or lead a power play but he has all of the tools to be a minute crunching, top pairing defenseman for this team and will vie for the top spot with Nick Boka on the right side.

Nick Boka

2015-2016 Team: Michigan

Stats: 38GP, 0-10--10, 19 penalty minutes, 53 blocked shots

Height, Weight, Class: 6’1, 200lbs, Sophomore

NHL: 6th rd, 171st overall by Minnesota

Nick Boka fared similarly as a freshman to Cecconi. He worked through some early rough patches and by the end of the season was a dependable, defense first presence on the blueline.

Entering his sophomore season Boka and Cecconi will be the leaders of a defensive unit that will need to be the strength of the team. It will be a tough task, however, I believe that this blueline has the potential to be the best blueline Michigan has had in a number of years.

Kevin Lohan

2015-2016 Team: Michigan

Stats: 2 GP, No Recorded Stats

Height, Weight, Class: 6'5, 220lbs, Senior

A towering presence on the blueline who embodies the stay-at-home role, Big Lohan came out of relative obscurity to become one of the Wolverines' more dependable defenders as an underclassman before injuries derailed his career.

After missing half a season as a freshman as well as his entire junior year minutes could end up being hard to come by and Lohan will most likely serve as the 7th defenseman filling in at the right and left spots when needed.

Incoming

Luke Martin

2015-2016 Team: USNTDP

Stats: 63 GP, 4-16—20 scoring line, 32 penalty minutes

Height, Weight, Age: 6’2, 201lbs, 18 years old

The highest ranked skater joining the class this season is defenseman Luke Martin. Martin took a giant leap forward in his last season playing for the US National Development program in nearby Plymouth. He’s a big, strong skater who is physically mature enough to handle the college game. Offensively Martin isn’t a puck wizard but he has a hard shot and could find himself running the 2nd unit power play.

Martin would have probably been an early second round pick in the 2016 NHL draft but because Martin has a late birthday he wasn’t eligible. At this moment Martin sits right on the edge of the first round in most of the 2017 NHL draft projections.

As a freshman Martin could end up playing on the left or the right side, but I would guess he starts out with 3rd pair minutes on the right and works his way up.

Projected Pairings

1st Right Defense: Joe Cecconi

2nd Right Defense: Nick Boka

3rd Right Defense: Luke Martin

Extra Defender: Kevin Lohan