10 things to watch for UND fans at NHL Draft
The NHL Draft begins with the first round at 6 p.m. tonight in Chicago's United Center.
The second through seventh rounds will begin 9 a.m. Saturday.
While the focus will be on the expected top two picks—Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier—there's plenty of topics to know for UND and college hockey fans following the draft. Here are 10 items to know:
Who is eligible?
Players who were born between Jan. 1, 1997 and Sept. 15, 1999 are eligible to go in this year's draft. Players born in 1996 or before are free agents.
A familiar name
Patrick, expected to go No. 1 overall to the New Jersey Devils, is the nephew of former UND great and defenseman James Patrick.
Nolan grew up in Winnipeg and played Canadian major juniors for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
If Patrick falls to No. 2, former UND coach Dave Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers will have a chance to take him.
Who from UND will go?
UND's top prospect is forward Grant Mismash, an Edina product who played for the U.S. Under-18 team last season.
While some mock drafts have him sneaking into the end of the first round Friday, most believe he will get picked in the second round Saturday.
He is the only guaranteed UND player to get picked and the only one who cracked NHL's Central Scouting rankings all year.
There's only one player from last year's team who is still eligible—defenseman Andrew Peski. He made huge strides from the beginning to the end of the season and started getting buzz among NHL scouts after a tremendous performance against Boston University in the regional.
Two other draft-eligible players who have outside shots are incoming rookies Jordan Kawaguchi and Matt Kiersted. Kiersted was injured for most of last year, so he is a longshot. Kawaguchi had a huge playoff run in the British Columbia Hockey League and may have caught the attention of some scouts.
Commits Mark Senden and Jackson Keane didn't put up big enough numbers in the United States Hockey League last season to get selected.
Two of UND's incoming rookies were taken last year—forward Collin Adams (New York Islanders) and goalie Peter Thome (Columbus Blue Jackets).
UND has had a player drafted in the first round in each of the last three years—and it has had six taken in the first round since 2010 alone.
Mismash is the only chance to keep that streak alive.
Because first-round picks Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser turned pro in the offseason, UND won't have a first-round pick on the team's roster this season if Mismash goes in the second round.
The only time since 2002 that UND didn't have a first-round pick on the roster was 2009-10. That team won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five and finished 25-13-5.
After having a run of local players selected in recent years from Tucker Poolman to Gage Ausmus to Luke Johnson to Paul LaDue—none are expected to go this year.
Greater Grand Forks has a handful of up-and-comers who could go in the near future, though.
Where are the Wild?
The only team in the NHL that has never drafted a UND player happens to be the team just down the road—the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild have made 123 selections since their first draft in 2000, including players from 19 different colleges (six Gophers), but none from UND.
A total of 26 of the 30 NHL teams (not including expansion Vegas) have taken at least one UND player in the last decade.
The only four who haven't are the Pittsburgh Penguins (last: Andy Schneider, 2001), Carolina Hurricanes (Ryan Bayda, 2000), Detroit Red Wings (Rick Zombo, 1981) and the Wild (never).
The Columbus Blue Jackets, an expansion team with the Wild in 2000, drafted their first UND player last year with Thome.
The Wild don't pick until the third round this year.
Recently, the Chicago Blackhawks have most frequently drafted UND players.
Since 2000, Chicago has taken six UND players—Jonathan Toews, Chris Porter, Nick Schmaltz, Nick Mattson, Joe Gleason and Luke Johnson.
Toews and Schmaltz played on the same line together last season.
The Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils have each taken five UND players since 2000. But the Devils have only drafted one UND player (Derek Rodwell) since drafting five in the span of six years from 1999 to 2005.
A keen eye
Defenseman Cale Makar is expected to be a top-10 pick—and potentially be the highest-drafted college player.
Makar is going to UMass, which has never had a first-round pick.
How'd he end up there?
Grand Forks native Joey Gasparini was the assistant coach at UMass—at the time—who helped scout and recruit the defenseman there.
Minnesota incoming freshman Casey Mittelstadt will go in the top 10 of the first round and become the Gophers' first top-round draft pick in five years.
Minnesota's most recent first-round pick is defenseman Brady Skjei in 2012.
If Makar isn't college hockey's top pick, it's expected to be Mittelstadt, who played at Eden Prairie High School last season.
According to the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, the top eight college prospects in this draft are all from different teams.
They are Mittelstadt (Minnesota), Eeli Tolvanen (Boston College), Makar (UMass), Ryan Poehling (St. Cloud State), Shane Bowers (Boston University), Mismash (UND), Josh Norris (Michigan) and Ian Mitchell (Denver).