The Michigan Wolverines head into the Frozen Four with one of the deepest rosters in college hockey, featuring 13 first-round draft picks on their roster — including Florida Panthers 2021 first-round pick Mackie Samoskevich.
With the amount of talent they had, Michigan came into the season with a lot of expectations.
So far, they are meeting them.
The Wolverines finished the season ranked second in the nation at 31-9-1, just behind Minnesota State (35-5-0).
With Michigan being so deep, Samoskevich finished eighth on the team in points with 29 points in 39 games in his freshman season.
“I think it’s been a really good year for me,” he told Florida Hockey Now.
“Being able to play against the players that I play against in practice every week allows me to get a lot better and I think that is one thing I can take away from the year that really helped me develop as a player.”
Four of the top five picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, starting with first overall pick Owen Power and ending with fifth overall pick Kent Johnson, skated for Michigan this season.
Samoskevich appreciated being able to pick the minds of some of hockey’s best prospects during his first season of collegiate hockey.
“They’ve done a great job with showing me the ropes,” Samoskevich said.
“Earlier in the season, they did a great job showing me different things on the ice and in practice. The work habits they have are good, looking up to them and seeing what they’re doing, it’s a really good thing for me to be around.”
Samoskevich joined a familiar face heading into his first season with Michigan as well.
He played with Power during his first season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel in 2019-20 and rekindled his chemistry with the 6-6 defenseman upon his arrival to Ann Arbour.
“We’re really good friends and he’s such a smart player,” Samoskevich said.
“I think we’ve been able to grow some chemistry throughout the two years we’ve been playing together and I think every time I’m out there, we’re always thinking on the same page.”
He got more comfortable as the regular season began to wind down, scoring 10 points in his last 10 games.
While he only notched an assist in Michigan’s two regional games in Allentown, Samoskevich knows he has a lot to bring to the table as Michigan competes for the national title.
“I can help score goals,” he said.
“I am an offensive player and our line has been going, so that’s one thing, but I also have to play simple, try not to overdo things, and be patient.
“That’s something that can help me and my line create more offense and score my goals, that’s how I can help us win come Thursday.”
Now, Samoskevich and the Wolverines are headed to Boston to compete in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament for the program’s 10th Division I Hockey title.
The first obstacle in their way comes against fellow Panthers prospect Mike Benning and the University of Denver Pioneers in a Thursday night semifinal matchup.
“Any time you get to play against a guy you might play with in the future is pretty cool,” Samoskevich said.
“He’s definitely a great player and it should be fun playing against him and the Denver team, it should be a really fun game.”
Denver finished with a 29-9-1 record and just behind Michigan as the No. 3 ranked team in the country.
“They are a similar team to us and they play their structure the same way,” Samoskevich said.
“They are a really skilled team just like us and it should be fun to watch and it should be fun to play in as well.”
Samoskevich and the Wolverines will take on the Pioneers tonight at 5 at TD Garden on ESPN2.
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
BUFFALO SABRES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- Season Series — Florida leads 3-0: @Florida 7, Sabres 4 (Dec. 2); Florida 6, @Buffalo 1(March 7); Florida 5, @Buffalo 3 (April 3)
- All-time regular season series: Buffalo leads 52-45-5, 4 ties