Michigan Sophomore A Bright Spot
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
Andrew Copp has seen highlights of Michigan’s 1996 National Championship so many times that he can recite how Brendan Morrison scores the game-winning goal.
“They made a video of the whole year, all their home games and stuff and I was in a picture at one of their home games,” Copp said.
“But I was not there, I wish I was, that would’ve been awesome. But I would’ve remembered.”
Now Copp, a sophomore forward with the Wolverines, is Michigan’s second-leading scorer. Since returning from the World Junior Championship in the middle of the season, Copp has scored at least one point in eight of his last 12 games.
“He came back with the same confidence he left with,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Some players, when they join that team they come back with a lot less confidence or they don’t get a chance to play much, so they don’t really have any momentum from that experience.
“But Copp came back, couldn’t wait to get back into sync with our team and help our team and he’s done that every game.”
While with Team USA in Malmo, Sweden, Copp played in all five games, recorded five assists and a plus-3 rating.
“I think I was able to play well and score some points against some of the best players in the world,” Copp said. “I think I just got some confidence in going over there to try to bring it back and apply it to here.”
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One of Copp’s best friends at Michigan his freshman year was Jacob Trouba — his roommate and fellow Michigan native. Trouba signed with Winnipeg at the end of last year.
“Copp has already lost one of his best friends, but he’s well liked, he’s well respected and he’s a pretty easy going kid,” Berenson said. “But he takes it seriously when he’s at the rink, because he knows it’s serious business. He’s got a nice way of handling the seriousness and then the not-so-serious part.”
It’s one of the reasons Copp skates out with an “A” on his jersey this season.
“He has a lot of responsibility, but he thrives on it. And that would be difficult for some young players,” Berenson said. “We’ve got juniors who couldn’t handle his role and even seniors who couldn’t handle his role.
“But I don’t think it’s been tough for him. He’s embraced it, he likes the challenge and he’s a kid that he’s got a lot going for him right now.”
While Copp said he hasn’t changed anything since earning the “A,” he admitted he’s been helping this year’s Michigan rookies.
“You don’t want to tell them too much, you kind of want them to learn on their own as well and so they get accustomed and get time management,” Copp said.
JT Compher is one of the freshmen Copp has been helping this season. A few years ago, Compher — now a sophomore with Michigan — was recalled from the USNTDP U-17 team to the U-18 team. He traveled with the team to the Czech Republic, where he roomed with Copp.
“On the ice whether it’s just helping the guys with the systems or even off the ice if you need a ride somewhere and you don’t have a car,” Compher said. “He’s just willing to help in any way possible to help the team.”
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In February of last year, Notre Dame swept Michigan — dropping the Wolverines to 10-18-2 and 7-15-2-2 in the CCHA.
Copp said it was the hardest thing he’s dealt with at Michigan.
“[When] you come to Michigan, you expect to be a part of an elite program and elite team,” Copp said. “Last year that was not us, especially in the first two thirds of the year. You kind of get frustrated with the losses [and] how things are going.”
From that point, the Wolverines won eight of their last 10 games, but fell in the CCHA Championship game. For the first time since 1990, the Wolverines didn’t make the NCAA Tournament — snapping a string of 22 appearances in a row.
“The turnaround was definitely a bright spot and how we overcame the adversity at the beginning of the year. Not all the way, but to a degree where we could say we’re proud of ourselves.”
That same season, Copp struggled to score. He dressed as a left wing, and mostly spent time on one of Michigan’s bottom lines. In the second half of the season, Berenson moved Copp to center.
“When we put him at center, he just took off,” Berenson said. “It just seemed like it was his time to show everyone that he was better than he had shown. He had shown a lot of determination, work ethic and [had been] doing all the right things every day. But nothing was really clicking for him.
“Well, then it started to click. And he went from a fourth-line player to a first-line player in the second half of his freshman year.”
Prior to joining the Wolverines, Copp had played center for almost his entire life. The switch back to his old position made him feel comfortable.
“I liked what I saw in the kid and I thought there was more there,” Berenson said. “All of a sudden he got the puck more, he did good things with it, he started to score, he got more confidence, he scored more, his line played better and so on. It just came to snowball in the second half. He never changed through all this. He continued to work hard and be a good team player. His role on the team just grew as the year went on.”
As a freshman, Copp finished with 21 points in 38 games, third amongst Michigan rookies. This season, Copp has 24 points in 26 games. He’s tied with Wisconsin’s Nic Kerdiles as the highest-scoring sophomores in the Big Ten. He has recorded at least one point in 17 games this season, and the Wolverines are 11-4-2 in those games.
“The way he works is the best thing about playing with him,” Compher said. “He has a great hockey mind. He’s one of the guys willing to give up anything for the team, like blocking shots or going to the corners and working hard.
“It makes it a lot easier on yourself.”
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Initially, Copp wasn’t ready to pick hockey over football. So for two years, he split his time between the USNTDP and his football team at Skyline High School.
At the time Compher, who was with the U-17 team, had heard of Copp and his commitment to the football team.
At Skyline, Copp recorded 557 passing yards on Sept. 24, 2011— a state record. But in his senior year, Copp broke his collarbone.
Hockey became the focus for Copp, who met Compher later that year.
“There was a question mark about his offensive skills and whether he could score and whether or not he had the puck sense for a football player playing hockey,” Berenson said.
But in April of that year, Chris Brown departed for a professional contract. With a spot open, Berenson reached out to Copp — who accepted immediately.
“It was kind of a relief. It had been such a long process in being injured in football and everything,” Copp said. “But I’d always been dreaming of playing in Michigan, had season tickets in Ann Arbor since I was born.”
The roster spot gave Copp a chance to stay in Ann Arbor for another year. Now, Copp said he goes home sometimes to eat dinner with his family.
“I’m a very family oriented kid and I’ve been very close with them, getting to live at home while playing USA was very nice and something that a lot of kids don’t get to experience,” Copp said.
“It’s just a comfortability factor that I have. It’s been nice but at the same time you kind of want to go out and experience the world a little bit.”
After being skipped his first year of eligibility, Copp was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL draft — the same team Jacob Trouba now plays for.
“It’s rewarding for me to see a kid who’s worked hard all his life to achieve one of his goals, and that was to play for Michigan in his hometown,” Berenson said.
“For one reason or another, everything has worked out of Andrew Copp and he’s been able to do it and good for him and it’s nice to see a hometown kid do well here in Michigan. So he’s been a pleasure to coach and will continue to be a pleasure to coach.”