Jonny Tychonick was a first-round pick in the Western Hockey League, but never shut the door to college hockey.

He kept hearing about one place in particular.

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“I wanted to go check out North Dakota,” he said. “All my friends said it was the best place with the best development resources.”

The elite defenseman from Calgary made his visit in early December and is now planning to make UND his future home.

Tychonick made a verbal commitment to UND this week, choosing it over Boston College, Boston University and Denver. Tychonick made visits to all of the other schools. He said his visit to Grand Forks stood out, though.

“I was able to stand out on the bench during warmups,” he said. “Just walking out there and seeing that the rink was already packed and booming for warmups, I was like, ‘Wow, they really care about hockey here.’ When the game started and they started scoring goals, the chants and everything were unbelievable.

“I just felt like scoring goals there or setting up goals there would be something that I want to do, and have those chants going when I’m on the ice. That would be pretty special.”

Not often do first-round WHL picks get to college, but UND has been able to pull a couple.

Jonathan Toews, the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks and three-time Stanley Cup champion, picked UND over the WHL. So did Tyson Jost, a forward for the Penticton Vees, who is expected to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft before coming to Grand Forks in the fall.

Tychonick was drafted No. 12 overall by the Saskatoon Blades. He checked their facilities out last summer and Saskatoon tried to get him to sign, but Tychonick kept his options open.

Like Jost, he will play at Penticton next season. Penticton had five UND commits on its roster this season: Jost, Dixon Bowen, Colton Poolman, Gabe Bast and Nicholas Jones.

“It definitely caught my eye seeing the players who have gone to Penticton and going off to the States for university,” Tychonick said. “If they can do it, I can do it.”

Tychonick said he hopes to stay on track with his development and try to come to UND as a true freshman in 2018.

“Once I checked out North Dakota, my heart was set on it,” he said.