Why some Frozen Four stars might pack a punch for Detroit Red Wings down the road

Detroit Free Press

The NCAA hockey season wrapped up on Saturday night in Boston as Denver rallied from a 1-0 deficit to score five goals in the third period for a 5-1 win over Minnesota State. The national title is the Pioneers’ ninth, tying them with Michigan hockey for the most in Division I history. (It’s also the Pios’ fourth this century — to go with wins in 2004, 2005 and 2017 — while the Wolverines haven’t won a title since 1998.)

Denver led the nation in scoring, entering the Frozen Four averaging 4.28 goals a game; the Pioneers then slowed down, slightly, with just three goals in their national semifinal win over U-M. Still, there was a lot of offense, and that’s good news for the Detroit Red Wings, who own the draft rights to three Pioneers who had strong NCAA tournaments. Let’s take a look at how that trio fared, plus a pair of Frozen Four participants (who didn’t play for Michigan; we’re pretty sure you’ve heard all about them by now) who could be of interest to the Wings.

STAYING IN ANN ARBOR: Michigan holds onto goalie Erik Portillo for next season

COLLEGE HOCKEY INSIDER: Michigan hockey enters an uncertain offseason awash in controversy, roster questions

MOVING ON: Michigan loses Owen Power, Kent Johnson to NHL

F Carter Mazur, Denver

The Jackson product was drafted by the Wings in the third round (No. 70 overall) last summer and hasn’t disappointed in his first season in the Mile High City. He finished Saturday’s title game with 14 goals, good for a sixth-place tie on the Pios’ roster (again, they score a lot) and 24 assists, tied for fifth. His plus-23 rating was third on DU’s roster.

That was boosted by his game against Minnesota State: Mazur assisted on Denver’s third and fifth goals. He was the only Pioneer with multiple points, and he also had two shots and finished with a plus-2 rating. Mazur only had one other point in the NCAA tournament, but it was a big one: He fired the puck toward the net with less than three minutes to go in a tied first-round game against UMass Lowell, and teammate Cameron Wright deflected it into the net to keep the Pioneers from being upset in front of essentially a home crowd in Loveland, Colorado — about an hour outside of Denver.

D Shai Buium, Denver

Buium grew up in southern California as a big Wings fan — “Growing up, Detroit was my favorite team when Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were there,” Buium said in July. “They were my two favorite players.” — which made the Wings’ selection of him in the second round (No. 36 overall) pretty much perfect. The freshman played like it this season, too, with three goals and 15 assists (10th among Pioneers) with a plus-18 rating (ninth for DU) in 39 games.

The 6-3, 220-pound blueliner turned in a solid NCAA tourney as well, delivering an assist on the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning goal) for the Pioneers on Saturday. Buium took a pass at the point from Wright — yes, him again — and fired a laser to Mike Benning, waiting in the left circle. Benning connected on a one-timer and suddenly the Pioneers, who had trailed 1-0 for nearly 30 minutes, were up 2-1. Well, see for yourself:

HELENE ST. JAMES: How Steve Yzerman strengthened Red Wings by doing something he hates

D Antti Tuomisto, Denver

For as big as Tuomisto looms on the ice, with a 6-5, 210-pound frame, the Finn didn’t exactly dominate the scoresheet. He finished with one goal and eight assists in 35 games. But the 2019 second-round pick (No. 35 overall) was still effective on defense, wrapping things up with a plus-19 rating, tied for seventh on the DU roster.

One of those eight assists came in the NCAA tournament, as Tuomisto started the sequence that tied the game late in the first period of the Pioneers’ 3-2 win over UMass Lowell. The sophomore took a pass from Bobby Brink along the boards on the right side at the top of the zone and sent a crisp saucer pass to Justin Lee on the left side. Lee then fired a shot that was deflected by Montreal draft pick Brett Stapley for the score.

D Akito Hirose, Minnesota State

The last name might sound familiar; Hirose is the brother of former Michigan State star (and occasional Red Wings call-up) Taro Hirose. But Akito, an undrafted sophomore, has a couple inches on his older brother, as he’s listed at 6 feet and 165 pounds while Taro is listed at 5-10 and 170.

After posting a goal and 14 assists last season, Hirose came into his own for the Mavericks; he entered Saturday’s national title game with two goals and 26 assists in 36 games, for a 0.67 assists-per-game rate that ranked 31st in the NCAA. Like almost all of the Mavericks on Saturday, he was held pointless, with no shots and a minus-1 rating. He showed some offensive skill in the first round of the tournament, however, with three assists in Minnesota State’s 4-3 win over Harvard.

BROTHERLY LOVE: Taro Hirose can score, but here’s why he isn’t a regular with Red Wings

F Ben Meyers, Minnesota

Did we save the best for last? The Red Wings are probably hoping so. At least, that is, if they come out on top in the battle to sign the top undrafted college free agent in nearly a decade.

Meyers, the Golden Gophers’ captain, came into this season with 22 goals and 32 assists over two seasons and a berth on the preseason All-Big Ten team; he has done nothing but deliver on that promise, with 17 goals and 24 assists in 41 games before the Gophers were eliminated in the national semifinals. He might have put up more, but he missed a month while playing for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics. In four games there, he had two goals, two assists and a plus-1 rating.

The junior had a goal and three assists in three NCAA tournament games, though he was held scoreless in the Gophers’ 5-1 loss to Minnesota State on Thursday. Heended the season with the Big Ten Player of the Year award, a spot on the All-Big Ten first team, a top-three finish in the voting for the Hobey Baker Award (college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy) and a spt on the West All-American second team.

BIG TEN TOURNEY: Michigan handles Minnesota, 4-3, to nab NCAA tourney berth

The Wings are reportedly interested, with Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noting they’re a front-runner among the more than a dozen team pursuing Meyers.

Even if he’s not ready to star on the NHL level, Meyers is solid in the faceoff circle — a skill the Wings could use after letting Luke Glendening sign with the Dallas Stars in the offseason. This season, Meyers won 57.4% of his faceoffs, a number dropped only by his OK 45.6% (26-for-57) performance in three NCAA tournament games.

Free Press sports writer Helene St. James contributed to this report.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

Articles You May Like

Red Wings Should Still Pursue John Gibson Trade
NHL Rumors: Oilers, Red Wings, Flyers
Why Red Wings’ Quiet Offseason Was the Right Call Long Term
9 NHL Teams That Missed in Free Agency
Red Wings: 5 Potential Alternate Captains

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *