Jake Livanavage is currently in Europe playing for Team USA in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

The defenseman from Gilbert, Ariz., will be in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia during the weeklong tournament, which features the top 2004-born players outside of the National Team Development Program's Under-18 Team.

Despite being halfway around the world, and seven time zones away, it didn't stop UND coach Brad Berry from getting a hold of Livanavage and offering him on the first day high school juniors are allowed to field and accept offers. Livanavage immediately accepted and committed to the Fighting Hawks.

"I am extremely honored and proud to announce my Division-I hockey commitment to the University of North Dakota," Livanavage wrote on Twitter. "I would like to thank my family, coaches and teammates who helped me along the way."

Livanavage (pronounced: live-an-ah-vidge) plans to elaborate on his commitment after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which concludes Saturday.

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The 5-foot-10, 154-pound left-handed shooting defenseman made his mark last season with the United States Hockey League champion Chicago Steel.

Despite being one of the youngest players in the league at age 16, Livanavage carved out a regular role on the blue line for Chicago. He played in 43 regular-season games and seven playoff games for the Steel, who beat the Fargo Force in the Clark Cup Final.

"He's an elite skater," Chicago Steel associate general manager Noëlle Needham said. "His skill level is very high. His IQ is very high. He's an extremely offensive defenseman just in terms of his footwork. That's a pretty special aspect of his game."

Livanavage had one goal and nine points last season. Needham said she expects that point total to rise as Livanavage's role increases as a 17-year-old. The Steel will have more minutes available with all-USHL blue liner Ryan Ufko (UMass), Ian Moore (Harvard), Jack Babbage (Quinnipiac) and Colton Huard (New Hampshire) heading to college.

"He will be top four for us this year," Needham said. "I think his point production jumps tremendously. He's going to have more opportunity throughout the lineup and toward the end of the season."

Livanavage already has strong ties to college hockey. His half brother is Arizona State star forward Johnny Walker, who has scored more goals over the last four years (64) than any player in the country.

Livanavage is from the southeast Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, but he actually won't be the first UND player from there. Colten St. Clair, an alternate captain on UND's 2016 NCAA national championship team, also is from Gilbert.

Livanavage was one of three players to verbally commit to UND on the first day possible for high school juniors (who hadn't committed before new NCAA legislation was enacted on May 1, 2019). The other two were Tri-City Storm defenseman Andrew Strathmann and Sioux Falls Power forward Jayden Perron, who will join Livanavage and the Chicago Steel next season.

"He loves UND," Needham said of Livanavage. "He's so excited to play there. Both of these guys (Perron and Livanavage) are. It's a dream of theirs. They're really highly touted prospects and they're so proud to play there."

There will be three UND recruits, in all, with Chicago next season in Livanavage, Perron and Jackson Blake, who was picked by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round of the NHL Draft last weekend.

"I just think next year for them, being on the Steel, is going to be really special to watch," Needham said. "I think that North Dakota hockey fans should be really excited about what they've got coming in."

UND committed recruits As of Aug. 1, 2021
Name Birth year Position Hometown Team
Ethan Bowen 2002 F Chilliwack, B.C. Chilliwack (BCHL)
Dane Montgomery 2002 F Grand Forks Penticton (BCHL)
Ben Strinden 2002 F Fargo Muskegon (USHL)
Dylan James 2003 F Calgary Sioux City (USHL)
Jackson Blake 2003 F Eden Prairie, Minn. Chicago (USHL)
Jaksen Panzer 2004 F East Grand Forks East Grand Forks HS
Cole Spicer 2004 F Grand Forks U.S. Under-18 Team
Bowden Singleton 2004 F Calgary Okotoks (AJHL)
Jayden Perron 2005 F Winnipeg Chicago (USHL)
Nate Benoit 2002 D Bow, N.H. Tri-City (USHL)
Tyler Dunbar 2003 D Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Muskegon (USHL)
Trey Ausmus 2004 D East Grand Forks East Grand Forks HS
Jake Livanavage 2004 D Gilbert, Ariz. Chicago (USHL)
Andrew Strathmann 2005 D Beach Park, Ill. Tri-City (USHL)
Hobie Hedquist 2003 G Heron Lake, Minn. Dubuque (USHL)
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald