Another offseason, another early departure. After losing two underclassmen to the NHL a year ago, the Wolverines are already down one skater - junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe - less than a week after Michigan's 2014 season came to a conclusion.
The Carolina Hurricanes, which chose Di Giuseppe in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft, announced today that the left-handed forward had signed a three-year, entry-level contract, including a $277,500 signing bonus.
"We're pleased that Phil has chosen to begin his professional hockey career," said Ron Francis, Vice President of Hockey Operations. "He's got good size, and adds to our organization's depth at forward."
Di Giuseppe becomes the 19th U-M skater/goalie to declare early since 2000 (and that list does not include three players that signed letters of intent but did not enroll) in voiding his senior season.
"It doesn't take us by surprise in today's climate," Michigan Associate Head Coach Billy Powers said. "If you draft a kid in the first three rounds and he goes through his junior year, expectations with the way the contract system works and is designed is that the pro teams will want them at the end of their junior year.
"We were clearly ahead of the curve in the way we have been recruiting with the expectation of something like this taking place."
The Maple, Ont., native scored 11 goals and had 15 assists in a strong rookie campaign in which he lived up to his junior-hockey hype. His play was good enough to earn Carolina's interest, as he was the No. 38 overall selection in 2012.
Di Gisueppe slumped under the weight of expectations as a sophomore, recording only nine goals. He increased his assist output to 19, but struggled to become the dynamic offensive force his coaches felt he was capable of.
The 6-1, 195-pounder continued to languish during his junior campaign, scoring just one goal in a 16-game span from Nov. 2-Feb. 15. However, he found his rhythm late in the year, scoring eight goals in Michigan's final nine games while adding two assists.
In those nine contests, Di Giuseppe showcased the immense physical talent and potential he had always possessed, and that Maize and Blue coaches and fans were hoping he would unleash over the course of an entire season in his senior year.
"We feel like you're always losing a good player based on the fact that every year they should be getting a little bit better, and should be ahead of any freshman you could replace them with," Powers said. "All the things that go with a senior year, the urgency, the finality, and the history of our program is most of our seniors almost always have their best year.
"Phil could have come back and had an All-American senior year, and that's what we were hoping and pushing for."
With Di Giuseppe's departure, and that of senior forwards Luke Moffatt, Derek DeBlois, and senior defensemen Mac Bennett and Kevin Clare, Michigan is losing 34 of its 107 goals (31.8 percent) and three of its top-nine forwards.
Meanwhile, it is expected that junior Alex Guptill (rights owned by Dallas) will also sign an entry-level contract.
U-M will bring in four freshman forwards next season - Dylan Larkin, Dexter Dancs, Tony Calderone and Alex Talcott - along with two defensemen. Larkin was recently projected as a first-round NHL Draft pick this summer.
TheWolverine.com will have more on this story in the hours to come, including reaction from U-M's staff.