Michigan sees another underclassman bolt as junior defenseman Downing signs with Florida

Michael Downing played in 105 career games on the Michigan blue line (photo: Melissa Wade).

Michigan is down a pair of defensemen heading in to the 2016-17 season.

On the heels of sophomore Zach Werenski signing with the Columbus organization earlier Tuesday, the end of the day had the school announcing that junior blueliner Michael Downing has signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Florida Panthers.

“I’m excited,” Downing said in a news release. “It’s what every kid works for his whole life. I’m really excited for my future with the Florida Panthers.”

The Panthers originally selected Downing in the fourth round (97th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Downing was one of Michigan’s top defensemen in 2015-16, recording three goals and 17 assists for 20 points in 35 games. His plus-20 rating was second among Michigan defensemen and second in the Big Ten overall. He finished fourth on the team with 59 blocked shots this season.

“Playing at Yost is going to be one of the things I miss the most — the fans are just incredible,” Downing added. “I’ll miss all of the coaches, Coach [Red] Berenson has helped more than in any way I could express, and I’ll definitely miss my teammates, especially the guys in my class. I couldn’t be more thankful to have them.”

Downing leaves Michigan with 54 points (11 goals, 43 assists) in 105 games.

In 2014-15, Downing was an All-Big Ten Second Team selection, notching 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 36 games. In 2013-14, Downing earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team after recording 12 points (two goals, 10 assists in 34 games).