UND had the first-selected college hockey player in the 2020 NHL Draft.

It was freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson, who went No. 5 overall to the Ottawa Senators.

But UND's draft week didn't stop there.

The Fighting Hawks had six players picked -- three freshmen and three committed recruits.

Freshman defenseman Tyler Kleven went in the second round to the Ottawa Senators, freshman defenseman Mitchell Miller went in the fourth round to the Arizona Coyotes, committed forward Jackson Kunz went in the fourth round to the Vancouver Canucks, committed forward Matteo Costantini went in the fifth round to the Buffalo Sabres and committed forward Ethan Bowen went in the seventh round to the Anaheim Ducks.

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The only program with more players/recruits drafted was Harvard, which had seven.

Michigan had the third-most with five. Northeastern and UMass had four. Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota, UConn and Providence all had three.

2020 NHL Draft Number of players selected by NCAA program
School Picks Highest
Harvard 7 Ian Moore, No. 67
North Dakota 6 Jake Sanderson, No. 5
Michigan 5 Brendan Brisson, No. 29
Northeastern 4 Sam Colangelo, No. 36
UMass 4 Matt Kessel, No. 150
Minn. Duluth 3 Wyatt Kaiser, No. 81
Denver 3 Michael Benning, No. 95
Minnesota 3 Brock Faber, No. 45
Boston University 3 Drew Commesso, No. 46
Boston College 3 Trevor Kuntar, No. 89
UConn 3 Yan Kuznetsov, No. 50
Providence 3 Brett Berard, No. 134
SOURCE: College Hockey Inc./GF Herald

UND will have 13 drafted players on the roster this season, which is the most since 2014-15. That team had 14 drafted players. In the last six years, the number of drafted players on UND's roster has gone from 12 in 2015-16 to 10 in 2016-17 to seven in 2017-18 to eight in 2018-19 to 10 last season to 13 this season.

An interesting question for Miller

Perhaps the most comical moment of Day 2 of the draft came during Miller's Zoom call with Arizona media members.

Miller, Arizona's first pick of the draft, was sitting in Ralph Engelstad Arena for the call. His Zoom background was a tarp covered in UND logos -- the one they use for press conference.

With that setting, Miller was asked, "Mitchell, can you talk about your plans next year with college? Is that a definite commitment for you?"

In the audio recording, you can hear audible laughing from UND sports info director Mitch Wigness before the question ends.

"Yeah, it's a 100 percent commitment," Miller said. "I've been here for a while."

Arizona could be a great landing spot for Miller.

The Coyotes did not have any picks in the top three rounds of the 2020 draft. Miller was their first selection. Next year, the Coyotes do not have a first- or third-round pick, either.

That means Miller will be one of their top prospects from the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

UND freshman defenseman Mitchell Miller prepares to do a TV interview after being picked by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round of the NHL Draft on Wednesday. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald
UND freshman defenseman Mitchell Miller prepares to do a TV interview after being picked by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round of the NHL Draft on Wednesday. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald

Wolanin loves the UND picks

Former UND standout Christian Wolanin signed with the Ottawa Senators in 2018.

Ottawa has run three drafts since then.

In 2018, the Senators used first- and second-round picks to take inbound UND rookies Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick.

In 2019, they used the opening pick of the second round to take inbound UND freshman Shane Pinto.

In 2020, they used the No. 5 overall pick to take Jake Sanderson and a second-round pick to take Tyler Kleven.

That's five picks in the top two rounds, including four defensemen. That begged a question on Twitter: Is Wolanin running the drafts for the Senators?

One Senators fan responded, "Doubt he'd draft a pair of LHD (left-handed defensemen) who will be trying to take his job haha."

Wolanin, who is in Grand Forks and watched the draft inside The Ralph, answered the tweet: "Oh yeah I would.. #Winners #NoDak #GreatPicks."

Wolanin has never shied away from competition. He came to UND as a freshman when the defensive core featured future NHLers Paul LaDue, Troy Stecher and Tucker Poolman as well as veterans Keaton Thompson and captain Gage Ausmus.

UND's undrafted history

Six of the eight potential UND draftees were picked.

Sophomore defenseman Ethan Frisch and committed forward Stephen Halliday were passed up.

Frisch is no longer draft eligible and is an undrafted free agent. There were signs his freshman year that he could wind up being a real good one in a few years. Halliday, who will play this season with Dubuque in the United States Hockey League, is still draft eligible next year.

While players who get picked in the NHL Draft always garner a lot of attention, it's also worth pointing out that UND has a decorated history of undrafted players.

Think of some dominant recent UND teams.

In the 2016 NCAA national championship game, UND started six guys on defense. Five of them were NHL draft picks. However, the only undrafted guy might have been UND's best, Troy Stecher.

That same team boasted two first-round picks up front. But it was the undrafted guy who was the Most Outstanding Player in the Frozen Four, Drake Caggiula.

The same could be said for this team. For all of the draft picks on defense -- Bernard-Docker a first-rounder, Sanderson a first-rounder, Kleven a second-rounder, Miller a fourth-rounder and Cooper Moore a fifth-rounder -- UND's best defenseman could be an undrafted guy, Matt Kiersted.

And for all of the draft picks up front, the Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist was an undrafted guy, Jordan Kawaguchi.

UND football at the NHL Draft

Ears may have perked up for UND football fans watching the draft.

A couple of notable names were called on back-to-back picks.

First, Jake Boltmann went in the third round, No. 80 overall, to the Calgary Flames. Boltmann is the younger brother of UND football star Brock Boltmann, who has been used as both a quarterback and a wide receiver. Jake, a defenseman, is committed to play college hockey at Minnesota.

Then, with the next pick, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Wyatt Kaiser with the No. 81 overall pick. Kaiser's father, Donny, played football at UND in the late 1990s. Wyatt, a defenseman, is committed to Minnesota Duluth.

UND football-connected picks at the draft is nothing new.

Former first-rounders Jordan (St. Louis Blues) and Nick Schmaltz (Chicago Blackhawks), who both starred at UND, are the son of former UND football player Mike Schmaltz. UND commit Jake Schmaltz, a sixth-round pick of the Boston Bruins, is the son of former UND football player Marc Schmaltz.

Notes

  • Luke Reid, who was once committed to UND and is now at New Hampshire, was picked in the sixth round, No. 166 overall, by the Nashville Predators. Reid de-committed in November after it became clear the Fighting Hawks weren't going to have room for him to come to school this year.
  • The Western Collegiate Hockey Association had one draft pick -- Michigan Tech's Carson Bantle went in the fifth round, No. 142 overall, to Arizona. Because the WCHA appears to be disbanding at the end of this season, this pick is extra notable because it could be the league's final NHL Draft pick.