Griffin Ness may be the least heralded member of UND's freshman class.
The others are all coming in with some acclaim.
Defenseman Cooper Moore has already been drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. Defensemen Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven and Mitchell Miller will be picked in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Forward Riese Gaber is the reigning United States Hockey League MVP and forward Brendan Budy will already have a semester of college hockey under his belt.
Griffin Ness? He is not drafted, didn't make any of the USHL all-league teams and won't be on any top recruit lists.
But through a couple weeks of UND summer skates, he's making it clear that he's not to be overlooked.
Ness isn't dangling around teammates, showing off blazing speed or hammering 90 mph slap shots. He's just extremely consistent and continually scores goals whenever he gets chances.
The 5-foot-11, 172-pound forward from Wayzata, Minn., scored two more notable goals during Tuesday's voluntary, informal summer scrimmage in Ralph Engelstad Arena and is increasingly looking like the type of player who will be in the lineup every night for the Fighting Hawks.
His first goal Tuesday was particularly impressive. Grant Mismash made a perfect pass from the left side -- fitting it in a window of about four inches -- to get it to Ness, who was cutting down the slot. Ness made a nice play to reel in the puck. Then, with a defender hanging on his back, he protected the puck, stayed on his feet, moved the puck to his backhand and buried it.
Ness also finished the scrimmage with a breakaway goal.
Ness has a history of being able to produce offense. He had 20 goals and 44 points in 45 games last season for the Waterloo Black Hawks.
But offense doesn't define his game. According to USHL observers, Ness has a 200-foot game and is a strong defensive player, which bodes well for his attempt at cracking UND's lineup on a nightly basis.
So, where does he fit in?
It's doubtful he will be a candidate to play on UND's top two lines.
UND returns its entire first line from last season in Mismash, Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi. It also returns second-line center Shane Pinto and regular second-line right winger Judd Caulfield. Gaber figures to get a look to fill in Westin Michaud's spot on Pinto's left side.
That leaves the third and fourth lines.
It's hard not to wonder whether Ness could be a fit in Cole Smith's spot on the right side of Gavin Hain and Mark Senden, assuming those two stay together for a third-straight season. Ness is a righty, he has a reputation for playing a complete game and he's showing signs that he could turn that line's puck possession into some offense.
The scrimmages will become more telling this fall when they go to five-on-five and the intensity cranks up a bit. If Ness can maintain what he's done in the summer, he might be a strong contender for that spot.
- For a brief moment Tuesday, UND's goalies must have felt like the 2018-19 season was upon them again. Goalies Harrison Feeney and Adam Scheel allowed back-to-back goals that each came off of their own defensemen -- bad-luck moments that happened repeatedly two seasons ago.
- The highlight-reel goal of the scrimmage belonged to Harrison Blaisdell, who could be auditioning for a spot on Jasper Weatherby's wing. Blaisdell skated in the zone with speed, split two defenders down the middle, made a deke on top of the crease and flipped the puck off the post and in for a goal. Blaisdell, who missed a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury, has now tallied goals on back-to-back days.
- Adams leads the summer session in goals, and he added another one Tuesday on a very nice play. He skated up the right side, turned on the jets, beat a defenseman wide, dipped the shoulder, cut to the net and slipped the puck five-hole on Scheel. Adams has speed to burn, and he's even more dangerous because he's fearless in taking pucks to the net.
- Senden had another nice day, scoring two goals and making a great backdoor feed for Jake Sanderson, who also had two goals.
- Weatherby and Caulfield have consistently been providing offense and both tallied a goal Tuesday. Caulfield's came on a rebound in the slot and Weatherby's came on a rush up the left side.
- The scrimmage started with a pretty give-and-go between Jackson Keane and Matt Kiersted. Keane dished it to Kiersted, who made a pretty nifty feed back to Keane for a backdoor goal.