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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND recruit Mantha could be leaving to CHL

UND sports

Look out, it might be happening again.

UND, which has lost more recruits to the Canadian Hockey League than any college program since 2011, has to be wondering if it is about to happen again.

Defenseman Ryan Mantha told NHL reporter Mike Morreale at the NHL Combine that, after June’s draft, he will let the team that selects him determine whether he ends up at UND or the Ontario Hockey League, where the Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.) Greyhounds own his rights.

For a team that has lost six players to the CHL in the last three years, this is hardly welcome news.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that Mantha will end up in the CHL. He’s not your typical flight risk.

The Clarkston, Mich., product is not going to be drafted in the top two rounds. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau has him rated as the No. 149 North American skater, which places him at a mid-to-late round selection.

That means an NHL team isn’t going to sign him to a contract right away, which is what happened with a number of NCAA de-commits in the last two years. Mantha’s development will take longer, and college hockey has been very good at developing those types of players (the last 6-foot-3 defenseman from Michigan that went to UND was Matt Greene, an alternate captain for the Los Angeles Kings, who has made $20 million and is currently a few wins away from his second Stanley Cup).

But even if Mantha winds up in Grand Forks in the fall of 2015, it’s another example of the constant battle that college hockey coaches face to keep players committed.

There’s not much that coaches can do at this point. They recruit a player, get a commitment, then cross their fingers that the prospect will keep his commitment.

You have to wonder if, at some point, an NCAA coach will pull a player’s scholarship offer for flirting with the CHL and start to look for a replacement. The coaches that hold on until the last minute, then lose a player, are usually left with no good options.

Maybe it would be a statement to other committed players that they will risk losing their scholarship offer for negotiating with CHL teams.

On one hand, it’s hard to imagine a college coach telling a top prospect, “no thanks.” But every time a waffling player doesn’t show up to college, it puts the team in a bind.

College coaches are in a tough spot right now and there are no easy answers.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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