Freshman, University of Michigan
A sprained ankle kept Burlon out of the Wolverines line-up at the start of the season, as he missed the team’s first eight games. However it did not take him long to get comfortable and make an impact once he returned to full health. Burlon has spent most of the season playing with team captainand first-round pick of the Coyotes, Chris Summers, and the duo has emerged into Michigan’s most reliable defense pairing on a Wolverine team that lost key blueliner Mark Mitera to a torn ACL early in the season. In 20 games thus far, Burlon has registered four goals and seven assists, and posted an impressive +9 rating.
With the way Burlon has played in his freshman season, you’d hardly know he was in his first year of collegiate hockey. He’s been a calm, steadying influence, playing with the smarts and poise of a senior. He’s shown off his puckhandling skills, which compliments Summers’ style perfectly. The 6’0, 190 lb Burlon has put up his fair share of points, but he has also been steady in his own end. He has been thrust into a prominent role, playing on the top pairing with Summers, and has not wilted under the pressure of the extra responsibility. If anything, the best is yet to come from Burlon.
Mark Fayne, D
Junior, Providence College
Fayne has had a fairly successful junior season thus far for a struggling Providence squad. He has continued his strong defensive zone play, and has already surpassed his offensive totals from last year after scoring his third goal of the season at the end of the month in a victory over Merrimack. For the season, Fayne has registered three goals and four assists through 23 games, to go along with a -5 rating and 20 PIM’s. Two of his goals have been scored on the power play.
Fayne isn’t all flash and dash, but he’s a well rounded defenseman who uses his 6’3, 220 lb frame effectively. He logs a lot of minutes and plays in all situations. There are a handful of defense prospects in the Devils system who are just starting to blossom, and Fayne is one of them. While he could turn pro at season’s end, it might be in his best interest to return for his senior season to round out the rough edges in his game.
Corbin McPherson, D
McPherson is one of the lesser known Devil prospects, as the 2006 third-round draft choice wasn’t even ranked by Central Scouting. After wrapping up his two years in the BCHL, McPherson joined the Colgate Red Raiders for the 2008-09 season and has been a stalwart on the blueline thus far in his freshman year, playing major minutes. He has played in all 26 Red Raider games thus far, registering three assists, a -3 rating and 38 PIM’s, which ranks second on the team.
The 6’4, 210 lb McPherson already has NHL-caliber size. As he matures as a player at Colgate, he needs to pack some more muscle on his frame, but it may be enough by itself. He’s not afraid to play physical, and as he gets bigger, he will become even more of a physical force in his own end. McPherson is also blessed with phenomenal skating ability for a man of his size and stature. While it may not show up on the score sheet, McPherson has the puck-moving skills to eventually put up points from the back end. The Devils are going to take their time with McPherson, but it appears that his development is definitely on the right track.
Mike Hoeffel, LW
Sophomore, University of Minnesota
With his knee injury now more than a year behind him, Hoeffel was able to start this season at full strength. He was a little slow out of the gate, but has really picked up his play since returning to the Golden Gophers after participating for the American entry at the World Junior Championships in Ottawa over the holidays. He didn’t light up the scoresheet at the tourney, registering only a goal and two assists, but he played a robust, physical brand of hockey and brought a lot of energy to the team. That energy and extra jump has stuck with him since rejoining the team.
So far this season, Hoeffel has recorded seven goals and five assists through 22 games, however, many of those points have come since his return from the World Juniors. In a series sweep of St. Cloud State in mid-January, Hoeffel scored three goals and an assist to earn WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Hoeffel sees a lot of special teams duties for the Golden Gophers, which shows his commitment to playing sound, two-way hockey, and a major reason why the Devils selected him in the second round of the 2007 NHL draft. His speed, tenacity and hard work on the ice make him a tough player to play against. The 6’2, 195 lb winger has some offensive ability, but will likely find his niche at the next level as a shutdown defensive specialist, cut from the same mold as current Devil Jay Pandolfo. He still has two years of college eligibility remaining, so he has time to round out the rough edges in his game.
T.J. Miller, D
Junior, Northern Michigan University
Going into his junior season at Northern Michigan, big things were expected of Miller, who had been one of the rocks on a young Wildcats blueline last year. Unfortunately, a hip injury has brought Miller’s season to a premature finish as it was recently announced he would miss the rest of the season as a result of the injury. After missing an early December set against Lake Superior State, he returned to play in the Wildcats series against Michigan Tech just before Chirstmas, but the injury obviously became to difficult for Miller to try to play through as he was unable to suit up after the Michigan Tech series. For the season, Miller suited up in 16 games, recording two assists and a -6 rating.
The 6’4, 200 Miller has an impressive skill set, and is very well-rounded, but this season-ending injury is a bit of a setback for the rearguard. While there was a possibility of him turning pro at the start of the season, he will now most likely return to Northern Michigan to play his senior season to help make up for the lost development time this year.
Nathan Perkovich, RW
Junior, Lake Superior State University
Last season, Perkovich had to carry the majority of the offensive load for the Lakers, leading the club with 17 goals en route to winning Lake Superior State’s MVP award. This season, a more balanced attack has led to a slight dip in his goal-scoring numbers, but he is still on pace to post around the same overall point totals, despite missing four games earlier in the year. Through 24 games, Perkovich has seven goals and eight assists, and has also recorded 40 PIM’s. Of Perkovich’s seven goals, four have come on the power play, and two while short-handed, which leads the club.
The lanky, 6’5, 200 lb winger has a gift for scoring as evidenced by his goal totals over the course of two and a half seasons of college hockey. He takes advantage of his enormous reach, and is tough to move from in front of the net. While the rough edges in his game are nearly ironed out, he still needs to work on improving his defensive zone play, and most importantly, fill out his frame. By his own admission, he has trouble keeping his weight up, but is still an effective player none the less. If he can pack on about 10-15 more pounds, he could become even more dangerous a sniper, and evolve into a top-notch power forward. It will be interesting to see if Perkovich turns pro at seasons end or if he and the Devils feel he would be best served by playing out his college eligibility as LSSU.
Freshman, University of Michigan
Burlon isn’t the only freshman to make an impact at the University of Michigan so far this season as Wohlberg’s play so far this season has been a huge surprise. It’s not that Wohlberg doesn’t have the talent, it’s just that he’s taken on much more offensive repsonsibility than expected. Initially expected to play in a checking line role for the Wolverines, he was eventually given more an offensive role in the Wolverines top six group of forwards and has flourshed. After recording only one assist in his first seven games, the 6’1, 192 lb forward has since put up almost a point per game, with 19 points in 21 games. He currently sits third overall in team scoring with 20 points, and is second on the team in goals with 10.
The Michigan native won CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors in the first week of December by putting up two goals and three assists in a weekend sweep of rival Michigan State, and that eventually helped him capture the CCHA’s Rookie of the Month award for December. He posted eight points in four games, all of which were Wolverine victories. He has been playing wing for the most part since his promotion, often playing with top scorers Aaron Palushaj (STL) and . Part of the reason for his promotion was his strong two-way play, something that has drawn him comparisons to current Devil, and former Wolverine John Madden. Just like Burlon, the best is still yet to come.