Mike Pastujov with the University of Michigan (photo courtesy of Michigan Photography)
Brothers Nick and Mike Pastujov are separated by a year in age, but have always managed to play for the same programs. Both were members of the Honeybaked Hockey Club prior to joining the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
And now, after making their way through the same hockey programs, they're both members of the University of Michigan's roster.
When Nick made the move to the University of Michigan in 2016 and Mike was on the U18s team for the NTDP, the two were finally going to get the chance to play against each other in a collegiate exhibition matchup between the two programs.
Apparently, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Due to an injury, Mike sat out the matchup between the U18s and the Wolverines. Already a Michigan commit — both Pastujov brothers committed around the same time — Mike knew he’d be joining his brother and the rest of the Wolverines for the upcoming year. It was the same for the NTDP — Mike had seen Nick make the move his junior year and knew how the process worked.
“It was something I was looking forward to because my brother was on the team a year ahead of me, so I kinda knew the process and that was what I wanted to do,” Mike said. “I was really excited when I was able to do it.”
Nick, a two-year player for the NTDP during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, collected 23 goals and 24 assists through 98 games. He made his move to Michigan from the brothers’ hometown in Bradenton, Florida, when he was in the eighth grade and stayed with host families until he was a senior in high school in order to play hockey in Michigan.
“It was kind of something where I think I was mature enough at the time to where my parents would let me do something like that,” Nick said. “To me, it really wasn’t like moving away from home and more like moving in with one of your best buddies and having a sleepover every night. The family I was with was super awesome and they made the transition really easy, and I still got to see my family all the time so it went pretty smooth.”
Now a sophomore at Michigan, Nick has recorded four goals and three assists through 38 games for the Wolverines. For him, some of the biggest characteristics he gained from collegiate exhibition games, such as the NTDP matchup with Michigan, were consistency and game intensity.
“We learned very quickly that in youth hockey, you make a mistake or two and it doesn’t really lead to anything, but if you do make a mistake, you’ll get it back right away and not really worry about it," Nick said. "In juniors we learned very fast that mistakes need to be minimized, you have to play a lot more consistently, you really can’t go into a game halfheartedly.”
Nick Pastujov with Team USA in 2015-16 (Photo by Rena Laverty)
Mike made the move to the NTDP his junior year of high school for a two-season career as well. As a member of the U17s during the 2015-16 season, he tallied seven goals and two assists. At the end of the 2016-17 season, Mike recorded 13 goals and 14 assists throughout a 60-game career and was a member of two first-place teams — the U.S. National Under-18 Team at the 2017 Five Nations Tournament in Sweden and the 2017 team at the Under-18 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
During last year’s exhibition match with the NTDP, the Wolverines scored six goals with three coming from NTDP alums — Nick Pastujov, Will Lockwood and James Sanchez — to win, 6-3. Now both members of the Michigan roster, Nick and Mike will travel to USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth this Saturday, Dec. 2 to play the U18s in the another collegiate exhibition.
And this year, just like most, they’ll be on the same team.