Meet Michigan hockey’s 7 NHL first-round picks, an NCAA record

Michigan’s hockey team had high expectations for the 2021-22 season from the moment it stepped onto the ice for its first practice.

Head coach Mel Pearson assembled an unrivaled roster in college hockey with 13 NHL draft picks, including an NCAA record seven first-round selections. Five of those first-rounders were taken in the 2021 draft, including four in the first five picks.

The Wolverines ’top draft picks have largely lived up to the hype and have played an instrumental role in helping the team reach the Frozen Four for the first time since 2018. Six of the seven first-rounders are among the top eight scorers on the team , which ranks third nationally in scoring.

Before Michigan (31-9-1), the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, faces off against Denver, the No. 1 seed from the Loveland, Colorado region, at 5 pm Thursday at TD Garden in Boston, here’s a look at the Wolverines’ first-round picks on the roster:

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Sophomore defenseman Owen Power

Power became the first Michigan player selected first overall when he went to the Buffalo Sabers with the top pick last July. His game isn’t flashy, but the 6-foot-5 defenseman is as steady as they come on the blue line. The Mississauga, Ontario native plays big minutes for the Wolverines and is impactful on both the power play and penalty kill.

Power was an all-Big Ten second-team selection last season after recording three goals and 13 assists in 26 games. He has had an uptick in offensive production this year with three goals and 29 assists in 32 games, garnering first-team all-conference honors.

He also missed nine games this year competing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Before arriving in Ann Arbor, Power played two seasons with the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League. He was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

Sophomore forward Matty Beniers

The 6-foot-1 center was drafted right after Power, going to the Seattle Kraken at No. 2. Beniers is a former Harvard commit, but he flipped to Michigan once Ivy League schools announced they wouldn’t be playing the 2020-21 season because of the pandemic.

The Hingham, Massachusetts native has been a two-way force for the Wolverines and has built off a strong freshman season where he scored 24 points in 24 games. This year, he led the Big Ten in scoring during the regular season and now sits at 43 points in 36 games.

Beniers, who was a Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist, also missed a handful of games this year to play in the WJC and Olympics for the United States. Before arriving in Michigan, he played with the US National Team Development Program in Plymouth.

Freshman defenseman Luke Hughes

Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes (43) passes as Michigan and Michigan State face off for the “Duel in the D” at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.The Ann Arbor News

It didn’t take long for the 2021 No. 4 overall pick by the New Jersey Devils to make its way into the Michigan record books. His 17 goals are the most by a freshman defenseman in program history and he paces all NCAA defenseman with 39 points this season.

The smooth-skating 6-foot-2, 186-pounder is the younger brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes, who also were first-round draft picks. (Quinn played two seasons for the Wolverines from 2017-19) Luke has had a handful of highlight-reel goals this season and played his best when Michigan’s Olympians were out of the lineup. In the six games Power missed while in Beijing from Jan. Feb-28 19, Luke had seven goals and three assists.

He was named the Big Ten co-freshman of the year and also was a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist. He played two seasons with the NTDP before coming to Michigan.

Sophomore forward Kent Johnson

Johnson’s offensive ability has dazzled since he arrived in Ann Arbor for the 2020-21 season. He had 27 points in 26 games as a freshman before getting drafted fifth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets last July.

He has had another strong season with eight goals and a team-high 29 assists. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder from Port Moody, British Columbia also played with Team Canada at the Olympics and tallied five points in five games.

Prior to joining Michigan, he led the British Columbia Hockey League with 101 points in 52 games with the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich

Samoskevich was the fifth Wolverine selected in the first round last July, heading to the Florida Panthers at No. 24 overall. After a slow start to the season, the Sandy Hook, Connecticut native has hit his stride in the second half, scoring 15 of his 29 points in his last 14 games.

Samoskevich boasts a dynamic wrist shot and has been a staple on the power play this season. The right-handed winger played two seasons with the Chicago Steel and was teammates with Power in 2019-20.

Sophomore forward Brendan Brisson

The 2020 No. 29 overall pick by the Vegas Golden Knights has thrived this season primarily playing on a line with Beniers and Johnson. Brisson leads the team with 21 goals and has a knack for getting open in the offensive zone and utilizing his lethal one-timer.

The 6-foot winger has more than doubled his total goal from his freshman year, when he had 10 in 21 games. He is second on the team with 42 points in 37 games this season, missing four games to play for the US at the Olympics.

Brisson also teamed up with Power with the Steel before arriving in Ann Arbor. His father, Pat Brisson, is a prominent NHL agent and represents stars such as Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane.

Junior forward Johnny Beecher

Michigan vs. Duel in the D  Michigan State hockey

Michigan forward Johnny Beecher (17) brings the puck in as Michigan and Michigan State face off for the “Duel in the D” at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.The Ann Arbor News

Beecher might not possess the offensive ability as his fellow first-round picks, but he continues to play a big role on the team. He’s a big body at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds and has above-average speed. The Elmira, New York native is one of the top penalty killers on the team and has six goals and nine assists in 33 games this season.

Beecher, the No. 30 overall pick by the Boston Bruins in 2019, was limited to 16 games last season because of injury and also missed the first eight games of this season. His best season, statistically, came as a freshman, when he recorded nine goals and six assists in 31 games.

Before coming to Michigan, Beecher played two seasons with the NTDP.

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