Each year, media members in all eight National Collegiate Hockey Conference cities, along with select national media, fill out a ballot to predict the league's standings.

The media members, overall, have been pretty close.

But the writers and broadcasters have had trouble with one thing: picking the eventual champion.

In the first seven years of the league, media members have picked the Penrose Cup champion correctly just one time -- UND in 2014-15. They've missed the last five years since then.

The Fighting Hawks hope that stretch is about to end.

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UND was picked to win the NCHC in the preseason media poll, which was announced Monday morning.

The Fighting Hawks received 27 of 28 first-place votes and a total of 223 points. Denver (185) was picked to finish second, followed by Minnesota Duluth (173) and St. Cloud State (126). Denver received the other first-place vote.

Western Michigan (116), Omaha (96), Colorado College (45) and Miami (44) were picked fifth through eighth.

UND won its third Penrose Cup last season, finishing three points ahead of Minnesota Duluth. Its other Penrose Cups came in 2015 and 2016. The only other programs to have Penrose Cup titles are St. Cloud State (2014, 2018, 2019) and Denver (2017).

This is the third time UND has been picked to win the league. In 2014-15, it did go on to win it. In 2016-17, as defending NCAA national champions, the Fighting Hawks finished fourth.

The last three preseason favorites -- Denver in 2017-18 and Minnesota Duluth the last two seasons -- have all finished second.

NCHC preseason poll history Where did the favorite finish?
Year Preseason favorite Finish Champion Preseason place
2013-14 Miami 8th SCSU 3rd
2014-15 UND 1st UND 1st
2015-16 Minn. Duluth 4th UND 3rd
2016-17 UND 4th Denver 2nd
2017-18 Denver 2nd SCSU 2nd
2018-19 Minn. Duluth 2nd SCSU 2nd
2019-20 Minn. Duluth 2nd UND 4th
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald

There are a lot of reasons for optimism surrounding UND's team.

After going 26-5-4 last season, several players turned down opportunities to go pro in order to return to school.

That list of players includes Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Jordan Kawaguchi and his senior linemates Collin Adams and Grant Mismash. Second-round draft pick Shane Pinto, the NCHC's reigning rookie of the year, also opted to return to school.

On defense, Matt Kiersted turned away multiple NHL free-agent contract offers, while first-round draft pick Jacob Bernard-Docker told the Ottawa Senators he was going back to UND.

The Fighting Hawks also return both goaltenders -- senior Peter Thome and junior Adam Scheel.

UND's recruiting class also is an impressive one, led by defenseman Jake Sanderson, who became UND's second-highest drafted player of all time when he went No. 5 overall to Ottawa last month. The Fighting Hawks also are bringing in United States Hockey League MVP Riese Gaber and second-round draft pick Tyler Kleven of Fargo.

In addition to being picked as NCHC favorites, UND also is the No. 1-ranked team in the country in both major national polls.

The Fighting Hawks open the season Dec. 2 against Miami in the NCHC Pod in Omaha's Baxter Arena.