UND has its first pickup this offseason from the transfer portal and it's a big one.
Bowling Green senior captain Connor Ford confirmed Wednesday night that he will play his final year of college eligibility with UND.
During the last four seasons, only five players in all of college hockey tallied more points than Ford's 114 -- Quinnipiac's Odeen Tufto, Bowling Green's Brandon Kruse, UND's Jordan Kawaguchi, Penn State's Alex Limoges and Bowling Green's Max Johnson. Tufto, Kawaguchi and Limoges have already signed NHL contracts.
Not only that, Ford's resume should be music to UND's ears.
He fits several of UND's needs.
1. He's a center capable of playing in the top six.
The Fighting Hawks are expecting to lose their top two centers. Sophomore Shane Pinto already signed with the Ottawa Senators and senior Collin Adams also is expected to sign an NHL contract. Jasper Weatherby, who will be a senior next season, is ready to move into a top-line center role, but the other top-six center spot is up for grabs. Ford will be an immediate contender to fill that role.
2. He can add offense.
The Fighting Hawks will lose slightly more than 50 percent of their goals from last year's team. Ford, who grew up in Pittsburgh, led the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with 16 goals last season and was particularly effective on the power play, where he buried a WCHA-best six of them.
During the last four years, only two college hockey players have scored more goals than Ford's 53 -- Arizona State's Johnny Walker scored 64 and St. Cloud State's Easton Brodzinski scored 55.
3. He's good in the faceoff dot.
One of UND's big advantages during the last two seasons has been the ability to deploy Pinto and Weatherby for key defensive zone draws. Pinto is gone, but Ford is a candidate to help out Weatherby in that department. Ford won 354 faceoffs last season (second-best in WCHA) at 60.9 percent.
Ford's path to UND
Ford played two seasons at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a place UND has frequently found players. The 6-foot, 187-pound forward was teammates with former UND forward Grant Mismash at Shattuck. He spent one season with the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League before heading to Bowling Green.
As a freshman, Ford had eight goals and 18 points in 41 games. His numbers jumped to 17 goals and 34 points as a sophomore and 12 goals and 34 points as a junior. During the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, he had 16 goals and 28 points.
Because of the pandemic, the NCAA ruled that the 2020-21 season does not count against anyone's eligibility. Nearly all of Bowling Green's seniors have opted to transfer for their extra year.
The Falcons have four seniors who have 100-career points. Three of them have found homes already: Ford will play for UND; Kruse will play at Boston College; Johnson will go to Wisconsin. Cameron Wright has not yet committed.
UND isn't done in the transfer portal, either.
The Fighting Hawks are expected to pick up, at a minimum, two more players. They'll need to grab a starting goalie out of the portal and they'll likely need one defenseman. They also could grab a second forward out of the portal.