DULUTH — Earlier this month, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey program picked up a junior hockey prospect prized here in the United States and north of the border.
Defenseman Hudson Thornton, a 15-year-old high school junior from Winnipeg, Manitoba, confirmed this week via Instagram he has verbally committed to Minnesota Duluth. He was drafted No. 35 overall by the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League Futures Draft this spring and in 2018 went No. 33 overall to the Prince George Cougars in the bantam draft of the Canadian major-junior Western Hockey League.
Thornton is slated to play for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in 2019-20 after posting 19 goals and 40 assists in 40 games for Rink Hockey Academy Prep last year. He also played for Team Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games and took part in Hockey Canada’s National Under-17 Development Camp this summer.
Thornton, who turns 16 in November, is UMD’s first verbal commitment under the new NCAA men’s hockey recruiting rules that went into effect on May 1. They ban teams from speaking with prospects until Jan. 1 of their sophomore year of high school and from offering scholarships until Aug. 1 prior to a prospect’s junior season.
This month is the first time teams like UMD are allowed to offer scholarships to 2003-born prospects, like Thornton, since the new rules went into effect.
Prior to the change, the Bulldogs had already received a verbal commitment from 2004-born Isaac Howard of Hudson, Wis. While that scholarship offer stands, UMD can’t communicate with Howard, a forward for Shattuck St. Mary’s, again until Jan. 1.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin, entering his 20th season at UMD, was part of the committee that helped craft the new recruiting rules, meant to slow down early commitments.