Michigan Tech released their tentative roster earlier today. This roster update includes some surprising omissions, one surprising addition and a few revelations about the state of recruiting for Michigan Tech, especially on the topic of over-recruiting. We'll cover it all below.
Before the press release, MTU had 13 players that were believed to be likely to come in Fall 2017. Obviously all of them couldn't but we're left with a list of 9, including the recently-committed goaltender set to take Angus Redmond's spot after his early departure. The biggest surprise in all this was the addition of Keegan Ford to the roster as a junior. While Ford was set to transfer to Michigan Tech last season, he had some personal issues to work out and ended up playing junior hockey in Madison, Wis.. It's great to see him listed on the roster and he'll provide some much-needed depth on the blue line to go along with four freshman in this class. Ford also has the possibility to redshirt for a third year of eligibility, which could help fix some of the unbalanced blue line classes created over the last few years.
Those four freshman blue-liners will be Cooper Watson (Vernon-BCHL), Mitch Meek (Penticton-BCHL), Tyler Rockwell (Wenatchee-BCHL) and Seamus Donohue (Wichita Falls-NAHL). Absent from this list are Tristan Rostagno, Travis Brown and Jake Gingell, which we'll discuss more later on.
Up top, the Huskies will add three forwards: Marcus Russell (Muskegon-USHL), Greyson Reitmeier (Flin Flon-SJHL) and Justin Misiak (Austin-NAHL). The two biggest surprises from just a month ago are the absence of Aleksi Poikola (Wichita Falls-NAHL) and Jack Becker (Sioux Falls-USHL). Both verbally committed since last Thanksgiving but Becker never signed a National Letter of Intent and bolted for Michigan to join Pearson. Poikola's case is different. He just committed in December but is likely a product of over-recruiting.
During his brief appearance with Dirk Hembroff on Mix 93, Head Coach Joe Shawhan mentioned that MTU attempted to get a goalie transfer to help fill the void left by Angus Redmond's departure but were unsuccessful. That leaves the team with two incoming freshman to join senior Devin Kero. Robbie Beydoun (Waterloo-USHL) could see early action, and with Shawhan working with him he has a chance to fill Redmond's skates to some extent while the yet-to-be-announced goaltender is likely a walk-on bench player.
With the removal of five players from the recruiting grid (Jack Becker, Aleksi Poikola, Tristan Rostagno, Travis Brown and Jake Gingell), the future is a little clearer, but we've removed one more name. Keaton Pehrson was heavily recruited by other teams and while he does have a signed NLI, the fact that there isn't room for him this season might be enough for him to get out of it and likely join Jack Becker in defecting with Pearson to Michigan. Despite that speculative de-commitment, Coach Shawhan still has a full blue line committed through the 2020-21 season. Even after shedding four defensemen from the list, without more, Shawhan won't be able to add a blue-liner until after his initial contract is up.
The forward situation is a little more clear. Unless there are more changes, next year's class is likely set with Jackson Cates, Tommy Parrottino, Mitch Newsome and Jagger Williamson all signed and ready to step in for 2018. After that, MTU has four other committed forwards—Brian Halonen, Marcus Mitchell, Logan Pietila and Gabe Temple—but it's likely the latter pair will wait until at least 2020 before joining the Huskies, leaving Shawhan with spots to fill as soon as 2019. The Huskies will need to replace Devin Kero in goal after this season and they have Blake Pietila (Logan's twin brother) committed to likely come in 2020 if either of this year's freshmen leave early or 2021 if not.
One of the biggest struggles over the last year has been trying to understand and cover the recruiting process for Mel Pearson when he completely overhauled the perceived 2017 recruiting class. From last October through March of this year, Michigan Tech received commitments from nine players that appeared to be targets to join the Huskies in Fall 2017. All but the recently de-committed Jack Becker were born in 1996 and would be 21-year-old freshmen. This meant pushing back or pushing out guys that had committed as far back as 2012.
The words from Joe Shawhan during his brief appearance with Dirk Hembroff on Mix 93 seemed to echo the mess that was left behind by the departed head coach. Now, with the release of the projected 2017-18 roster, it appears obvious that things have been handled poorly over the last few years, and to some extent Pearson's entire tenure. Pearson's attitude of taking a commitment when he can get it and seeing if players develop has resulted in many "misses" and long waits to actually get to Houghton. Since Pearson arrived at Michigan Tech, we can count fourteen players that committed to MTU and never joined the Huskies. Some can be explained by NCAA issues (Marcus Ericsson and Marcus Zelzer), others can be explained by player decisions (Sam Labrecque, Zach Jordan, Jacob Olson and Jack Becker), but some just seem the result of over-recruiting. Four occurred over Pearson's tenure:
- Kent McPherson, committed Dec. 2011, ended up at Ryerson (CIS) for 2012-13 season
- Trevor Cope, committed Nov. 2012, ended up at AIC for 2015-16 season
- Demico Hannoun, committed Jan 2013, ended up at NMU for Spring of 2016-17 season
- Jake Kauppila, committed Aug 2011, ended up at Bentley for 2016-17 season
While four more were left for coach Shawhan to deal with this off-season:
- Tristan Rostagno, committed September 2012
- Travis Brown, committed October 2012
- Jake Gingell, committed September 2013
- Aleksi Poikola, committed December 2016
As mentioned above, these four had to be difficult for the new head coach to deal with. While Travis Brown never seemed likely to get to MTU because of more recent commitments, Rostagno and Gingell had signed NLIs in 2015 and were expecting to join the Huskies this coming season at the very latest. Gingell at least has the option of enrolling in school and playing one more year of juniors while the other three have been hung out to dry with no likely landing spot.
While the roster release isn't that surprising overall, there were some positives (Keegan Ford) and negatives (four players not getting a spot they thought they had). While the records on the ice leave Pearson's tenure with a positive glow, the state of the program when it comes to recruiting is far less positive. He left Shawhan to clean up many messes on the recruiting trail including some very difficult conversations with recruits that have put their collegiate lives on hold until MTU was ready for them to join the team, only to find there is no spot for them at all.
Featured Image courtesy of Garrett James Photography