As anticipated, the University of Michigan Wolverines took over in the 2021 NHL Draft. Four of the top five picks had some sort of association with the school, including rising sophomores Owen Power and Matt Beniers, who were selected first and second overall by the Buffalo Sabres and Seattle Kraken, respectively. Luke Hughes, who is committed to play for the program this fall, and Kent Johnson were selected fourth and fifth by the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Also, Mackie Samoskevich was selected in the first round (24th overall) by the Florida Panthers, and Dylan Duke was picked up by the reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the fourth round (126th overall). So, it’s safe to presume that the Wolverines of Michigan had a successful few days at the NHL Draft.
With all of the publicity surrounding Michigan’s hockey program, I had the pleasure of speaking with rising Wolverine senior defenseman Jack Summers for my podcast “Locked On Devils” before the draft. Summers is from Livonia, Michigan, and he is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten member. In his three seasons with the team, he’s scored six goals (including three game-winners) and 21 assists in 80 games. He’s also been teammates with three of the six Wolverines drafted this year and will have the opportunity to play with the other three in the fall. He’s also played with notable young NHLers Quinn Hughes and Josh Norris and provided a lot of insight on his school and teammates.
Listen to the full conversation: Locked On Devils – “Talking About The University of Michigan Hockey Program & The 2021 NHL Draft (With Wolverine Defenseman Jack Summers)”
A Talk with Jack Summers
Question: You play at the University of Michigan whose players will take over this year’s NHL Draft. But, I want to start with you. What was your hockey background like and what was your journey to get to the University of Michigan?
Jack Summers: I started playing hockey when I was four. My dad kind of got me into the sport. He played it growing up too. So, I’m from Livonia. I grew up playing there. I played for the Livonia Knights my whole life. Then when I was 10 or 11, I started playing AAA for Victory Honda. I was then lucky enough to go out to Springfield, Illinois, and I joined the Springfield Blues. I was then brought up to Tri-City USHL, played a couple of seasons there before coming over to Michigan.
Q: What is the hockey culture like at the University of Michigan?
JS: First and foremost, our culture is hard-working. We play fast for sure. We have a lot of high-end talent that comes in every year. Our coach, Mel Pearson, is great with us. He pushes us to be the best every day, and the guys on the rink want to be there every day. We’re like a family, and everybody’s like brothers.
Q: What was it like having three potential NHL players [Power, Beniers, and Johnson] on your roster this [past] season?
JS: It’s definitely special. Those guys were freshmen last season, so they didn’t get the full experience of Michigan. All three of them are special in their own ways. Kent is very special: small guy who play like Patrick Kane a little bit. Matty, he kind of reminds me of a little bit of Connor McDavid, actually. I could see him playing in the league for a long time. I could see him being the number one center for any team he goes to. And Owen, they have comparisons of him to Victor Hedman. All three of them are going to be special and they’re all gifted and mature in their own ways. It’s going to be exciting to see how they all develop this year.
Q: Do you expect them to come back next year, so that you guys can win a championship?
JS: I know that all three of these guys, who are up for the draft, want to come back. We’re gonna have a special group. So, if they come back, it’s gonna be great. We’re gonna have a good team. We’re gonna have so much offensive ability. It’s just gonna rely on defense and how we mature in that way.
Despite that he’s not projected to be drafted, I asked Summers if he had any intentions of playing at the professional level. He said that it’s his goal to play hockey as long as he can, and maybe he’ll play a fifth year at the college level. He also seems to have high expectations for the Wolverines next season, especially with the NHL talent on their roster, they should compete for a national championship. The Wolverines will also be looking for some vengeance to win a championship. Because their season, unfortunately, was cut short due to COVID-19.
The University of Michigan is becoming a college powerhouse that turns players into professionals. My thanks to Summers for taking the time to provide some thoughts on his teammates and the program.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Matthews is also one of the only black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. His past writing experience includes him writing for his high school’s paper, Cub News, at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy.