Jasper Weatherby was one of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's best players by the end of the season.
After leaving the NCHC Pod in December, no player in the league scored more goals than Weatherby.
In fact, after Jan. 29, only one player in the entire country scored more goals than Weatherby. That was Wisconsin's Cole Caufield, who is expected to win the Hobey Baker Award next week.
It's no surprise that at the end of the year, the San Jose Sharks offered Weatherby an opportunity to sign and turn pro. But after mulling the offer for a few days, Weatherby informed the Sharks he is going to return to school for his senior season.
"I thought a lot about it and tried to take my time," Weatherby said. "This is a special place. And I think for me, I want to win. I want to win a national championship. I've wanted to play college hockey since I was a little kid. Obviously, I had an opportunity to sign a contract and move on, but for me, I look at my development, and I look at it as, 'I want to win.' It was the right decision for me."
It's a big development for the Fighting Hawks, who have won back-to-back Penrose Cups as NCHC regular-season champions, but face a roster overhaul this summer.
UND lost center Shane Pinto to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and it's expecting to lose center Collin Adams to an NHL contract, too.
Weatherby gives the Fighting Hawks a strong top-six center, who can score goals, win key faceoffs (57.4 percent last season) and play a power forward style of a game.
Weatherby scored 14 goals in 29 games, finishing just one shy of Pinto for the team lead. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound forward from Ashland, Ore., added 10 assists for 24 points.
"We're very blessed and grateful he made the decision to come back," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It was his own accord he did that. It's always tough as a player, when you look around and see what other players are doing, signing contracts, it's very easy to get emotionally tied to that and think, 'I've got to do that.' But it was his decision to come back and it was for the right reasons. It will put him in a better place for next year when he is going to sign."
Although UND lost three non-seniors to pro deals Thursday -- Pinto to Ottawa, defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker to Ottawa and goalie Adam Scheel to the Dallas Stars -- Weatherby still has high expectations for the 2021-22 UND team.
"We have a lot of guys with open opportunities to play some big minutes," Weatherby said. "I know UND is probably going to bring in some transfers and that's going to be awesome. I think with the group we have here, we're going to be able to help those guys get on the UND page. We're going to come together as a team. Even if we start slow, it's about those last four games. You want to be playing in the middle of April.
"I couldn't be more proud of the guys moving on. It hurts a lot to not have your best friend coming back and guys who you played three years with, but at the same time, we're really excited and we have a lot to prove."
Weatherby nearly sent UND to the Frozen Four when his snap shot in the third overtime of the NCAA regional final against Minnesota Duluth hit goaltender Zach Stejskal, fluttered in the air behind the goalie, but landed on top of the crossbar. Even without that one falling in the net, Weatherby had two goals and three points in the Fargo Regional.
"The season is long and the more you can stick with it, the better you're going to be going into those last important games," Weatherby said. "Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short. That game easily could have gone our way. It's a tough pill to swallow. For me, I'm going to try to keep building on the season I had."