Projecting the future for the 8 UND Men’s Hockey Seniors plus one junior

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 BastStaying 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 MismashSign 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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A Hockey Love Story: Aaron and Kelly Dell

Aaron and Kelly Dell’s love story adds up to ten teams, eight cities, and roughly 10,000 miles.

Call it a hockey love story.

Aaron dreams of being a National Hockey League goalie. This means he travels a lot — time spent far from loved ones.

But Kelly isn’t waiting quietly. She’s blogging. Crazy Pucking World: Life of a hockey wife is brutally honest and full of funny things that Aaron has said over the years. Kelly had people tell her that “I would have slapped him, if he said that to me.” She just laughed stating that “just how Aaron is”, I always know what is going on with him because of that. Sometimes though he can be almost too honest, but he always makes sure you are laughing by the end.

Kelly and Aaron relationship has been built on trust and mutual respect. Not many couples could have made it through the struggle of going from an undrafted University of North Dakota goaltender, preserving throughout the minor leagues and now is the backup for the San Jose Sharks.

Kelly had just graduated from high school and Aaron had just finished his freshman year at the University of North Dakota. The pair dated for two years before they were walking around the mall one day. They went into a jewelry store and had been browsing, when Aaron picked out the perfect ring. They looked at one another, “Should we do this?”. A month later they were married in Aaron’s parents back yard in Airdrie, Alberta. Kelly only cared about two things when it came time to walk down the aisle. She wanted a white wedding dress and real flowers. Aaron wanted was to pick the cake which was marble with a custard center, topped with bride and groom rubber ducks, which Kelly collects. After the ceremony, in a perfect homage of Canada and Minnesota style, a bonfire was lite and beers were had.

When talking to Aaron about Kelly, you could hear his love for her in his voice. Even though Kelly and Aaron both said the other one said, “I love you” first. One thing is for sure, they love each other enough to live nearly 2,000 miles apart. The distance has not been easy though. Aaron said that Kelly has always been supportive of my goal of making it to the NHL and besides my parents, she is my biggest supporter. He said “she (Kelly) is my teammate and it’s great that she understands and supports me, so we don’t have to fight between hockey and her.”

One of the things that they share, besides a love for hockey, is the drive that each have. Aaron said it is one of the things he loves most about her. They connected on that from the get go.  “I have to have a lot of drive to do what I do and I couldn’t imagen being with someone who didn’t understand that.” The biggest thing Aaron has learned over the years of being in long distance marriage is how to communicate, which Kelly joked about “sometimes it’s painful to get him to talk, but it means a lot when he does because he doesn’t open up to very many people, even teammates!” Anyone who knows Aaron knows this. Jayson Hajdu, UND Men’s Hockey Media Director, “You never picked Aaron for press conferences. He is just so quiet.”

Kelly watches all of Aaron’s games, whether it be in person or on the television. Aaron said that when they first started dating, he was mildly nervous for her to watch him play. Kelly laughed and said that she gets nervous enough for the both of them. She is looking forward to March when they play two games in Minnesota against the Wild. They have a lot of friends and family that are attending those games. She equated it to when Aaron played against the Minnesota Gophers during his time at UND, they have always had such a rivalry and she would also get nervous for him. Kelly said that one of the great things about Aaron is that nothing offends him, which is a great quality when it comes to being a goaltender, because no matter how well he played in the net the loss would get blamed on him.

The amount of love that they share is memorable and reminded me of what is extraordinary about life.

Love. Respect. Friendship.

Reasons to Love Hockey:Reboot

Sorry Guys, Life happens and I haven’t been able to be post as quickly as I normally would.

Today there are less than 100 days left till the puck drops at the Shark tank against the LA kings. This post is not really a reason more just a review of what has happened in the last two weeks.

We had some crazy trades and an amazing first day of free agency.   The San Jose Sharks have signed four players so far and on the first day. David Schlemko is one of the two high profile players that SJ picked up. I would have to say the Schlemko is going to be a good addition to the team. I am interested to see how this plays out. He has a tendancy to either be really good or really bad, either way, he will be a good replacement for Roman Polak. Which I personally feel was a major liability for the Sharks on defense this past season. Mikkel Boedker, I am not so sure how I feel about him, it honestly will depend on what line they end up placing him on. I think he might play well with a player like Donskoi and Hertl, but only time will tell. The two re-signs are Aaron Dell(G) and Micheal Haley (C). I am looking forward to see what Haley does this season. I think it was smart to bring him back.

Now Dell, I have been watching this player for six years and I have a good feeling about this upcoming season from him. I am was ecstatic when I saw that SJ resigned him, like literally jumped up and down (sorry downstairs neighbors), I think he will be a great backup option to Jones. They have very similar playing styles and I believe Dell has earned his shot to play on NHL ice. I know a lot of you are thinking about how untested he is on a professional rink, but you will never know how well any player can handle the pressure of the “big” time, with over 6,500 minutes of playing time between the ECHL,CHL and AHL, It is in my honest thoughts that he can handle it and I am really looking forward to seeing were it all heads for him.

110 Reasons to Love Hockey: 107-The Players

Reason #107:

Today’s reason to love hockey is favorite players. During the course of the short time, we have been running this blog, I have had the honor to interview my favorite past University of North Dakota player, Aaron Dell. He played for UND when I was going to school at the university the first time in 2010. The reason he is one of my favorite players is because of how much work he has put in since college.Dell has succeeded and earned a contract in the NHL based on his hard work and outstanding play in the AHL. I am looking forward to seeing what is going to happens when free agency opens up on the first of July.

One of my current UND players, I would have to say is Austin Poganski. I remember my first game last season back at the Ralph Englestad Arena. It was such an exciting game that ended with a penalty shot. Everything was electric, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

We want to hear who your favorite players and why. Let us know in the comments!

Aaron Dell interview

Today I got to talk with former UND goalie, Aaron Dell. This last season, Dell played on the San Jose Barracuda playing in 40 games with a save percentage of .922 in the regular season. Dell came to the University of North Dakota in 2009-2010, after spending two seasons with the Calgary Canucks.

1)Describe the feelings you had when you won the CHL Championship?

That’s a tough one, a feeling that you can’t really describe, you but in all the work and then you get the reward for it, it is an amazing feeling.

2) When did you start to play hockey and how/why did you fall into goaltending?

I started as a forward, I think the originally reason I wanted to be a goalie was because the equipment looked cool, I played a little bit and just really enjoyed it

 

3) After not getting picked in the NHL draft, what made you decide to keep trying to play professionally?

I found that goalie is a position that takes more maturing, and so I knew that I just had to keep working at it.

 

5) What advice would you give to a student or athlete that is struggling in making their dreams come true?

The best advice that I got was to just stick with it. There are going to be good times and bad times and you just have to keep grinding it out.

 

6) Your thoughts on UND winning the national championship?

I think it is awesome, it’s been a long time coming

Did you get to watch any of the games?

No, but I did get to watch the game last year when they lost in the Frozen Four

7) What was your favorite on ice moment during your time at UND?

Winning the Final Five championship in double overtime against Denver

What about off the ice?

Playing golf at the Ray Richards course.

 

 

 

 

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