At the end of UND’s practices, Shane Pinto is one of the last players to leave the ice. He stays out there with his fellow freshmen, finding little areas of his game to fine tune.
This is not a surprise to the UND coaching staff.
They first saw his dedication to this last season when they attended United States Hockey League practices.
“He works at his game,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “We watched a lot of hockey, whether it was his games or practices in junior. He would take extra time to do all the little details that normally you don’t get to do with a team concept at a practice. He would do tips. He would work on picking pucks off walls. He would do quick releases off of getting pucks off his backhand and in his feet.
“Those are things that players like Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise and high-end players do on a daily basis.”
Pinto may not be Toews or Parise, the NHL superstars who spent two years at UND before launching their future Hall of Fame careers. But he is this year’s freshman who is likely to contribute offensively right away and help a goal-starved team from a year ago turn that around.
Pinto was drafted with the No. 32 overall pick by the Ottawa Senators in June. That’s the first pick of the second round. With the addition of Seattle in 2020, No. 32 would be a first-round pick in all future years.
Pinto will be the highest-drafted forward on this year’s UND team.
His skillset reads like a prototypical NHL player: He’s 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. He can handle physicality. He’s a smart player with a good shot. He can score off the rush or on top of the crease.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Pinto played on a scoring line with Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi for UND’s exhibition game and is getting a prime role on the team’s power-play unit.
“It’s awesome,” Pinto said. “I know I’m a freshman, but just to get those opportunities means a lot to me. I know it doesn’t mean anything right now. The games have to start and I have to perform, so I’m not thinking too much into it. I just have to keep on putting in the work and hopefully, I get those opportunities come game time.”
UND’s coaching staff found Pinto while he was playing prep hockey on the East Coast, long before the Franklin Square, N.Y., product became nationally known.
He started gaining a lot of attention during last season, when he produced 59 points in 56 games for the Lincoln Stars and Tri-City Storm in the USHL.
“He came from prep school out East and played one year in the USHL,” Berry said. “The USHL is a tough, hard, heavy league to score goals. He did a very good job in that. We’re hoping he can come in and not take long to get acclimated to the level college is.
“One thing is having good players around him and good leaders around him that kind of show him the way and say, ‘Hey, this is going to come down the line. Be ready for it.’ That’s all part of leadership. Think of all of our young guys. They’re all good players, but part of it is getting acclimated and having people show them the way.”
Pinto said the older players have been welcoming and have helped his transition.
“All of the upperclassmen have been great to us,” he said. “They’ve kind of showed us the ropes and it’s been good so far. I’ve been enjoying it. I’m excited for Manitoba.”
Pinto isn’t setting any point total goals for this season and isn’t worried about individual benchmarks.
“I’m just worried about team goals,” Pinto said. “I really want to make it to the tournament. That’s a big thing on my list. I think we can with the team we have and our leadership, so I’m excited. It’s going to be cool.”
Berry said he’s expecting there to be an adjustment period for Pinto, but he’s also excited about the freshman forward’s potential to contribute.
“We’re going to start nonconference, then we’re going to get into the NCHC,” Berry said. “So there’s going to be a time for him to get acclimated to how fast and heavy college hockey is. But he’s a big body and he’s adapted very well. He’s a smart player. He’s a very smart player. He’s got gifted hands. He’s got quick, heavy hands that promote a quick, hard release.”