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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By Matt Mackinder

Arizona Rubber Magazine

There’s a lot to like about Chris Summers.

He can skate. He’s mature for a 19-year-old. His NHL upside is unlimited.

And based on what he did last year, he’s a team player for the Michigan Wolverines.

Chris Summers at the University of Michigan
Photo Credit: University of MIchigan
Last season, the Wolverines ran into some injury problems up front and head coach Red Berenson approached Summers, a defenseman by trade, with a proposition.

“I asked him if he could play some forward, and he did this with the U.S. National Development Program, and he said, ‘No problem, I’d love to,’” recalled Berenson. “Then he went out and scored some big goals for us down the stretch.”

“I wouldn’t have cared if coach had asked me to play goalie; I would have done that, too,” said Summers. “Whatever is necessary for the team, I’ll do it. I try and take a team-first approach and if that means I play forward, that’s what I’ll do.”

Two of the six goals Summers scored last season were at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit against rival Michigan State in a 3-3 tie on Feb. 10.

“I love scoring on State,” laughed Summers, who also had an assist in the game. “I love it.”

Being a team player has also earned him the designation of an alternate captain with both the U.S. National Under-17 Team in 2004-2005 and the Under-18 Team in 2005-2006. He also won gold with Team USA at 2006 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sweden, skating in all six games as a forward and tallying one goal, the game-winner in the gold-medal game.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Summers grew up near Ann Arbor in Milan, Mich., and those around him knew he had a hockey gift. That is, everyone except him. He still can’t grasp that he was a first-round pick of Phoenix (29th overall) in 2006 and that a pro career is definitely on the horizon.

“I’m realizing that reality more and more each day,” Summers said. “It’s still a shock to me. Growing up, I never thought I’d have the opportunity, but then when I was probably 13 or 14, maybe I started to see that I had the potential. But to be where I am now, if you would have told me five years ago I’d be playing at Michigan and an NHL prospect, I would have thought you were crazy.”

Phoenix Coyotes prospect Chris Summers after being selected with the 29th overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Going into the draft two summers ago, Summers had heard all the talk of where he might go, but he admitted he tuned it all out.

“I didn’t have any expectations,” Summers said of draft day in Vancouver. “I didn’t want to go in there thinking one thing and then another thing happens. When I heard my name called by Phoenix, I was happy where I went. Anyone that gets drafted ends up in the same position after the draft and that’s knowing that they need to work harder and one day play in the NHL.”

A pre-architecture concentration major at U-M, Summers hopes that will be a backup plan should the NHL not work out. He’s hoping for the NHL, though, don’t get him wrong. As for the pressure to get there, Summers simply shakes his head at that notion.

“There will always be pressure no matter where you go,” said Summers. “It’s unfortunate, but the media puts a lot of that on you. I guess pressure is in the back of my mind, but I can say it doesn’t really affect me.”

With Michigan being a school that has a track record of developing players for the NHL, Berenson knows Summers’ name is sure to be added to that list one day.

“Summers has a skating gift and is one of those kids you love to have on your team and love to be around,” said Berenson. “He has above-average maturity and is very popular and gets along with everyone.

“Summers is the classic student-athlete who I think is excited about developing as a student and a player and I think down the road, he’ll definitely have some choices to make.”
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