Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Now comes the least favorite time for every Men’s college hockey team at the Division One level, immediately upon your season ending, some of your players have to make the decision whether or not to go to the next level to play professional hockey. This decision now applies to all of UND’s seniors, as every student-athlete at this level has been afforded an extra year of eligibility for playing in this pandemic-marred season. With that in mind, let’s look at each of UND’s seniors with options of what we think will happen, not what we want to happen. We will list each as signing a pro contract, returning to UND, or entering the transfer portal to play their extra year elsewhere. We are interested to track this and see where we are right, and where we are not. This will be an offseason unlike any other in this sport.
Jordan Kawaguchi-Signing a contract
Like Odeen Tufto of Quinnipiac, he is a play making forward with a penchant for elevating his team. Last night, his goal with an extra attacker is what sent us to overtime. He elevates his play in big games, and has some of the best vision of any forward at this level. Because of that, and his improved defensive ability over the past four years, look for him to head to the National Hockey League. He will play top AHL minutes this year right away for some teams, and for others could easily slot into their bottom six forward group and play on the power play. Kawaguchi’s biggest improvements in our mind is his defensive ability. He has become one of the tougher defensive forwards to play against with this group, and should fit right in with the next level.
Jasper Weatherby-Signing a contract
As the game went on last night, the Sharks’ draft pick got better as the game went on, similar to his college career. A healthy scratch for more than a few games in his rookie season, he worked his way up the lineup playing a defense first game for the Fighting Hawks. He finished last night with 13 shot attempts, two blocks, and 26 faceoff wins on the 38 he took. Weatherby is ready to play NHL hockey now, based on the strong play he showed in his last two years for UND, and his versatility. If the Sharks are unable to sign him, he will find a home in the NHL.
Weatherby is a junior, but has shown that he is ready to play NHL hockey now.
Peter Thome- Transfer Portal*
If Adam Scheel leaves early and signs an NHL deal, Thome would be the incumbent at UND and have every incentive to play a final year as a Fighting Hawk. He has shown his ability to start consistently at this level, and given the strong goaltending pipeline at Columbus, there is no guarantee the Blue Jackets would sign him, and any other team would probably want him to play more. If Scheel comes back, Thome would immediately be the favorite to start at any school that he were to go to should he decide to go elsewhere.
Gabe Bast–Staying at UND
To see what he could do as the leader of a group likely to lose at least one first round draft pick (Jacob Bernard Docker), and may lose more (Jake Sanderson if he chooses to leave, as of now he is expected to stay) it would give him a chance to get more top two minutes consistently and show his year over year growth, similar to what Weatherby did in the forward group.
Grant Mismash–Sign a contract
Given that he left the game early with an injury, and was unable to finish it, the first thing is making sure he is ok. Whenever that is, the Predators will want him if they need another scorer in their system that can play a two way game. In nearly half the games of a full season, Mismash put together his most complete campaign for the Fighting Hawks, scoring 10 goals in 20 games. He is ready to play at the next level now, and could compete for a spot out of camp with his former and perhaps future teammate, Cole Smith, next fall.
Matt Kiersted-Sign a contract
He turned down many offers last summer, and went and had another superb year as a two way player playing in key minutes for the Fighting hawks this year. NHL teams wanted him last year, he wanted to come back and work to get UND into the tournament, and further than they finished, but he is ready as he was last year. He is a strong distributor of the puck who shuts down the top players he faces pretty routinely. His play reminds us of Tucker Poolman, a defensive defender who can jump into the rush when needed.
Josh Rieger, Jackson Keane- Transfer portal,return, or graduate
Both of these players have been depth stalwarts for this group. They have improved in their times at UND, and are both key reasons why this program is where it is. If UND has some underclassmen leave early, they may come back, but assuming all underclassmen return, and depending on where they see themselves it will come down to what they want. If they want to be a part of the program in similar roles, they will stay, if they think that they can take their extra years and show what they’ve learned elsewhere, they will do that like what Michael Corson did when he left Denver to go play at Niagara. If the two want to work their way up in the minor leagues, or pursue careers outside of hockey, they will graduate. They each have a tough decision ahead of them.
Collin Adams-Sign a contract or return
Adams really can do what he wants from these two choices. We do not expect him to go through the transfer portal as he would play a key role in UND’s group next year if they will have him back, and if he wants to come back. He put up 34 points in 29 games, and has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. If he does not want to sign with the Islanders, he will be a free agent, and will most likely go where he thinks he can make the jump to the next level.
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