Michigan Senior on a Goal Per Game Pace, and a Leading Hobey Candidate
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Kevin Porter's goal totals have risen each of his three seasons, from 11 to 17 to 24. With uber-talented linemate T.J. Hensick having left Michigan after last season, along with the mere forces of inertia, that upward trend figured to be difficult to continue.
But so far, Porter has exceeded it. With 16 goals in 14 games, Porter is on a "pace" (that dreaded word) to score well over 30 goals, a rarity in college hockey these days. Only two players in the last 10 years have reached the mid-30s — Ryan Potulny for Minnesota and Todd White for Clarkson each had 38, in 2005-06 and 1996-97, respectively.
And there's no reason to think Porter can't. The competition hadn't been great for 13-1 Michigan coming into last weekend, but then all Porter did was score three goals in the College Hockey Showcase. So much for that.
"Before every year I set on numbers I want to accomplish and I keep it in the back of my mind," Porter said. "It was a factor who I'd be playing with, but I'm still playing with great players.
"It's great to have this many goals, but I'm not expecting to score every game. It's a pretty tough feat."
It was going to be Andrew Cogliano centering for Porter this year, but he decided to leave school early. So coach Red Berenson needed either Porter or Chad Kolarik to step to center. Because freshman Max Pacioretty and Kolarik each shoot left-handed, Berenson felt it was better to have Porter in the middle.
"So far so good. Each day I learn something new," Porter said. "I haven't played center for so many years.
"They're both great players (Kolarik and Pacioretty). Chad's an offensive guy. He has great hands, great playmaking skills, he can score. Max is a big kid — he can get in the corners. He creates a lot of space."
With all the success over three seasons, Porter, a fourth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, could easily have left school early, like most current top-end talent these days. In fact, when a player stays four years — like Brian Boyle did last season for Boston Colleges — that's news, not the other way around.
"There's so many reasons not to leave," Porter said. "I weighed out the pros and cons. It was the best thing for me, to come back and grow as a player and a person.
"Some guys feel they're more ready. I understand why, it's more tempting, it's tough to have class then come right to practice. Some guys can't handle that. But getting a degree, that's one of the reasons I came here."
Meanwhile, Porter has become a favorite — or the favorite, if you will — for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, something a senior hasn't won since Junior Lessard in 2004. The last Michigan player to win it was Brendan Morrison in 1997, something Porter knows well as a Michigan native, although his brother previously played for Michigan State.
"I try not to listen to that or talk much about it. It's not something I'm trying to worry about," Porter said. "I'm thinking about the team and who we play this coming weekend."