Will the sun ever set on the Michigan empire? Technically the Wolverines have yet to actually win anything, but the No. 1-ranked team in the country is the heavy favorite to take the NCAA title this year and keep adding pieces that should make them of one if not the top contender for another year or two. The latest is forward Rutger McGroarty of the U.S. National Team Development Program, a consensus first-round pick and potential top-ten selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. College Hockey News’ Mike McMahon reports that McGroarty has verbally committed to Michigan and is expected to be part of their 2023 freshman class.
McGroarty, 17, has made his development intentions clear and just in time, with the National Letter of Intent signing period opening in just a few weeks. McGroarty was believed be considering a number of options – and not just within the college route – but it is hard to turn down an opportunity with Michigan right now. The Wolverines are the most talented team on paper bar none in the college ranks right now. Owen Power (BUF, No. 1 overall in 2021), Matthew Beniers (SEA, No. 2 overall in 2021), Luke Hughes (NJD, No. 4 overall in 2021), Kent Johnson (CLB, No. 5 overall in 2021), Mackie Samoskevich (FLA, No. 24 overall in 2021), Brendan Brisson (VGK, No. 29 overall in 2020), Johnny Beecher (BOS, No. 30 overall in 2019) and Thomas Bordeleau (SJS, No. 38 overall in 2020) highlight a roster chock full of NHL talent, which also includes Erik Portillo (BUF) and Dylan Duke (TBL). While some of these players will depart after this season, especially if the Wolverines take home in the NCAA crown, reinforcements are on the way. 2023 top prospect Adam Fantilli is set to arrive in 2022 alongside McGroarty’s USNTDP teammate and fellow projected first-rounder Frank Nazar. In 2023, McGroarty is expected to be joined by another current teammate and potential 2022 top pick Seamus Casey and two current U-17 standouts and 2023 hopefuls Charlie Cerrato and Trey Augustine. At this rate, several other elite prospects are likely to call Ann Arbor home soon too. It’s an embarrassment of riches in Michigan right now but McGroarty should be one of the best of the next wave.
The hype around McGroarty is well-founded as the skilled center brings a balanced attack with both goal-scoring and play-making ability. He already has four goals and ten points in eight games for the U-18 team this season after scoring at better than a point-per-game pace in 35 contests with the U-17 group last year. McGroarty also boasts 200+ lb. size already as well and has another year to continue bulking up before tackling the college level. A comparable player to recent USNTDP star and top pick Alex Turcotte, McGroarty could rise up draft boards this season to become a household name by draft day.