The NHL Combine was supposed to happen in early June.

The fitness testing portion of the NHL Combine always gets a lot of publicity, but one of the most critical components of the event is the ability for teams to hold in-depth interviews with top prospects.

With the Combine getting canceled, NHL teams are busy meeting with players on Zoom.

You can bet that three incoming UND commits have been doing a lot of those Zoom calls.

Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven and Mitchell Miller -- the first three UND recruits expected to be selected in the 2020 NHL Draft -- could all go in the top 65 picks.

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Two prominent publications posted NHL Draft rankings this week and both have all three going in that range.

ESPN's Chris Peters listed his top 100 prospects for this year's draft with scouting reports on all of them. For ESPN Plus subscribers, his list and scouting reports are located here with notes on Sanderson, Kleven and Miller.

The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy listed his top 120 prospects for the draft here. His list features Sanderson, Kleven, Miller and 2021 forward commit Stephen Halliday.

If UND does, indeed, have three players go in the top 65 of the draft, it would be a rare event.

The only other time that's happened in the last 30 years was in 2005, when UND had five players go in the top 65 (Brian Lee, T.J. Oshie, Joe Finley, Taylor Chorney and Andrew Kozek).

It also happened in 1988 (Russ Romaniuk, Wade Bartley and Dane Jackson), 1984 (Tony Hrkac, Todd Norman and Lee Brodeur), 1983 (Brad Berry, Malcolm Parks and Perry Berezan), 1980 (Mickey Volcan, Troy Murray and Craigh Ludwig) and 1971 (Jim Cahoon, Earl Anderson and Dave Murphy).

Miller, who will come to UND in the fall, is considered one of the fast risers in the draft.

He even caught the eye of United States Hockey League opponent Brendan Brisson, a Michigan recruit who could go in the first round.

Other UND players/commits who are still draft eligible and have a shot to go are defenseman Ethan Frisch of Moorhead and forwards Ethan Bowen of Chilliwack, B.C., and Jackson Kunz of Grand Forks.

NCHC teams taking time on assistant hires

There are two prominent assistant coach openings in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State having to replace two longterm, well-respected coaches in Jason Herter and Mike Gibbons.

Neither school has acted quickly, which probably isn't a surprise.

Due to a hiring freeze, Minnesota Duluth cannot currently hire an assistant. That is giving head coach Scott Sandelin more time to find someone. Sandelin talked to the Duluth News Tribune about the search this week.

St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson told Mick Hatten and Jess Myers of The Rink Live on a podcast a couple of weeks ago that the Huskies won't be hiring until the end of the month.

WJC coaching staff heads east

The U.S. named its World Junior Championship coaching staff.

After having a strong Western college hockey flavor the last three years, it has turned back East this year.

Providence coach Nate Leaman, the head coach, has picked Harvard head coach Ted Donate, Ohio State associate coach Steve Miller and Michigan assistant coach Kris Mayotte to assist him. Mayotte previously worked under Leaman at Providence. The video coach will be Providence's Theresa Feaster, whose brother, Bobby, previously worked with the UND men's hockey team.

The equipment manager will be Nate LaPoint, who got his start working equipment at UND and now is the head guy at Wisconsin.

The three previous head coaches were all Minnesota-based: Mike Hastings of MSU-Mankato, Scott Sandelin of Minnesota Duluth and Bob Motzko of St. Cloud State (at the time).

Sounding off on college hockey

Last week, I joined a Zoom call with Duluth News Tribune reporter Matt Wellens, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton and NCHC media relations director Michael Weisman.

Fenton and Weisman flipped the tables on the reporters for once and asked us some questions about college hockey issues. Fenton also weighed in on some during our chat.

You can watch that segment here.

Briefly

  • Bemidji State named forward Ethan Somoza its captain for next season. Somoza is believed to be the first Californian to captain the Beavers.