By Greg Garno –
ANN ARBOR — Michigan coach Red Berenson is 75 years old, but he has no plans to call it quits.
Tuesday, while addressing the media for the final time this season, Berenson said he “thinks” he’ll return next season after missing the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.
“Right now, that’s the plan” Berenson said. “I haven’t talked to our athletic director (filled in the interim by Jim Hackett) and reevaluate our progress, the season and where we’re going.”
Berenson has one year left on his contract and he’s not looking beyond that to re-sign.
“Let’s go one year at a time,” he said with a smile.
Whether he’ll have all his pieces back next years is still being figured out. Berenson is slated to lose six seniors to graduation this season, including Hobey Baker Award finalist Zach Hyman. But there are a handful of underclassmen that could bolt.
Forward Dylan Larkin, a first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings, could leave early if he chooses. He finished with 15 goals and 32 assists and figures to be just as integral next season.
“The Red Wings have already opened the door up for him to know that if he wants to stay in school or go play in Grand Rapids,” Berenson said. “They’ve had a conversation, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Fellow freshman Zach Werenski also excelled early enough to face the possibility of departing. Just 17 years old, the defenseman has yet to be drafted, but could very well be headed in the first round this June.
Werenski led all defensemen with 25 points, as with his nine goals, 15 assists, 97 shots and 59 blocks. After what Berenson called a “terrific” season, Werenski figures to be a key cog to revamping a defense that allowed 2.9 goals per game.
“Werenski will be in a bit of a tug of a war with whoever drafts him. They might want him out (from college), but if I were him, I would stay put for another year and keep growing my game. I think he’s fine with that, but we’ll see who drafts him.”
Meanwhile, junior forward Andrew Copp is still weighing on his decision to leave one year early and join the Winnipeg Jets. A captain this year, Copp did note the team will be reconvening after one-on-one meetings with Berenson to “figure their plan” out for the summer.
Copp said he will figure out his plan as the week progresses, though.
“There’s a definitely a decision I have to make over the next few days,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be getting any outside opinion. I think the people that matter to me most; I’ve already talked to. So I’m trying to do what’s best for me and what’s best for the program.”
For the time being, Berenson said he looks to add another goalie to replace senior Luke Dwyer and to bolster the depth at the position this year. He will have an incoming class that should bring a balanced mix of defensemen and forwards.
But should he put all the pieces together, he remains optimistic about the way next year might unfold.
“It should be a (NCAA) tournament team,” Berenson said.