Brad Elliott Schlossman
ST. PAUL — The University of Denver enters this season as massive favorites in college hockey. The Pioneers didn’t lose anyone early to NHL signings, but they could lose a couple of players for two weeks in February. Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell are both believed to be on USA Hockey’s watch list for the Olympic Games.
NCHC media members got off to quite a poor start in Year 1, picking Miami to win the league only to watch the RedHawks finish dead last. Since then, we’ve been a little better, but we’ve only correctly picked the eventual Penrose Cup champion one time — UND in 2014-15. NCHC preseason favorites (actual finish)
UND forward Shane Gersich was named to the NCHC preseason all-star team, tying Denver’s Dylan Gambrell for the final forwards spot. Here’s the squad: F – Henrik Borgstrom, Denver F – Troy Terry, Denver F – Shane Gersich, North Dakota F – Dylan Gambrell, Denver D – Louie Belpedio, Miami D – Jimmy Schuldt, St. Cloud State G – Tanner Jaillet, Denver
NHL training camps are off and running — and 29 former UND players are participating. All 26 players who are under NHL contracts are there. In addition to that, Gage Ausmus is with the Colorado Avalanche, Chris Porter is with the Boston Bruins and Chris VandeVelde is with the Ottawa Senators.
The 9th annual UND hockey Fan Fest has been set for 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday on the main concourse of Ralph Engelstad Arena. There will be a free lunch provided by Midco and fans will receive a free Fighting Hawks replica hockey stick while supplies last. Fans also will be able to get autographs from the team, grab promotional items and sign up for things like riding the Zamboni and the Junior Champions Club.
UND has once again eclipsed the half-century mark in pro signings for the upcoming season. Mark MacMillian has inked with Wichita and Wade Murphy will play in Worcester this season. I still have Chris VandeVelde listed under unsigned because he’s on a PTO right now with Ottawa. I’ll put him on the main list when he signs a full-time deal.
The entire team is back on campus and going through some players-only scrimmages on the Olympic rink as the ice is being installed on the main rink. It’s sometimes hard to glean anything from the scrimmages — there’s very little contact during them — but you do get to see some flashes of what everyone is bringing. Right now, Gabe Bast remains out recovering from offseason surgery, but it’s his former Penticton teammate who has caught my eye to this point in the fall skates.
Drew Stafford has signed a one-year deal worth $800,000 with the New Jersey Devils. This will reunited Stafford with his old buddy and UND linemate Travis Zajac , who paired with Stafford to serve as a dynamic duo during two seasons in Grand Forks.
UND’s incoming freshman class was ranked No. 1 by Neutral Zone, a hockey scouting service. You can see Neutral Zone’s full rankings and methodology here . The top five are: 1. North Dakota 2. Boston University 3. UMass 4. Minnesota 5. Denver
The school year begins today, which means the 2017-18 team has returned to campus for the fall. The vast majority of the fall is spent with players-only skates and team workouts. The coaches are only allowed to be on the ice with the players for a couple of hours per week for “skill sessions” before full practices begin in early October. The players also will do some off-ice testing, and I’m assuming things such as baseline concussion tests, which can be used for comparisons if a player is hit in the head during the season.