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The knock on Chad Kolarik has always been that he's weak on the defensive side of the game.
As for his offensive side, Kolarik has averaged nearly a point per game (118 points, 124 games) through three seasons at the University of Michigan and his plus-minus rating has improved each year.
Still, being just one of two seniors with the Wolverines (fellow Phoenix prospect and forward Kevin Porter, U-M's captain, is the other) means he'll be counted on to increase his numbers even more this season.
|Chad Kolarik at the University of Michigan |
Photo Credit: University of Michigan
"Chad will have a big role this year for us," Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. "He's smart and skilled and has improved his defensive side of the game from when he first came to us. His freshman year, he had 18 goals, but since then, he's learned the defensive side of the game as well. He's been inconsistent since that first year, and he's not a big physical specimen (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), but he sees the ice very well."
Kolarik knows this is an important year for him as, potentially, a contract from the Coyotes looms. Phoenix took the 21-year-old Abington, Pa., native in the seventh round (199th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Ironically enough, it was Porter that called him first to tell him they were both Coyotes' draft picks.
"Yeah, it was funny, Porter called me before my advisor did," remembered Kolarik. "I went into the draft with no expectations and not really knowing what really to expect. I just left it up to the NHL teams. Once I was drafted, I realized I was that much closer to my ultimate goal in life and that I would need to start working that much harder."
During the 2004-2005 season, Kolarik and Porter roomed together in Ann Arbor and became good friends. They both had played with the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons to boot and now have a possible pro career together in their sights.
But with the majority of NHL draftees in college seemingly bolting for the pros before graduating, Kolarik stayed in school, but always kept his mind on one day signing a contract.
|Chad Kolarik represented Team USA at the 2005 USA Hockey Junior Men's Summer Challenge in Lake Placid, NY. |
Photo Credit: Getty Images
"I guess you could say this is my contract year, but really, every year before this could have also been a contract year," said Kolarik. "I know the knock on me has always been playing the defensive side of the puck, but I think I've come a long way. It's always been perceived that I can't play defense and I need to go out there and prove to those people that I can."
Off the ice, Kolarik, like many hockey players, has one main hobby that keeps him busy when not skating or working out.
"Golf," Kolarik said emphatically. "I love golf. I wish I could be on the golf team here at Michigan. It's just a great sport, but hockey obviously comes first."
Hockey will unquestionably need to be first this season as Kolarik will need to take that proverbial "step up" to keep Michigan in the national spotlight. Berenson, noting U-M will have 12 freshmen this year, wants Kolarik to shoulder some added offensive responsibilities. With 48 goals through three years, that seems to be a reasonable expectation.
"Chad has a high level of skill and we'll look to him this season to get his share of points for us," Berenson noted. "He'll also be in that top group of forwards and will play an important role on the power play.
"As for the future, whether or not he has a future in the pro game remains to be seen. I'd like to think he does."
Kolarik did say that he hasn't heard much from Phoenix. That being said, he also knows the team is keeping a watchful eye over him and will have a decision to make next spring.
"I know what this season means to me on an individual level," Kolarik said. "But I don't think I'll have any pressure on myself. I'll just go out and do what I always do. Hopefully at the end of the season, things will happen.
"It would be great to be a Coyote."