David Klee is a 6-foot-3, 175-pound center.

He's only 16 years old, but the Colorado Thunderbirds forward knows what type of player he'd like to become.

"Shane Pinto," Klee said. "I love watching video of him, because we have a lot of similar habits. Something I'm working toward every day is to be a player like him, be a difference-maker every game. That's something that comes with time and work. I can't wait for the process of doing it."

That process will feature a similar path.

On Monday, Klee gave a verbal commitment to UND, where he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Pinto, who led the Fighting Hawks to back-to-back Penrose Cups as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions before heading to the NHL.

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"It's been my dream school, I can't even remember for how many years now, eight or nine years. . . ever since I started thinking about college hockey," Klee said. "It's the top of the college hockey world. I just think that as the recruitment process went on, I couldn't see myself in any other spot."

How did it become a dream school for someone growing up in Colorado?

"I think it was through seeing the success they had, seeing how many guys they moved onto the NHL," Klee said. "Their whole program seemed like a great place to play. Clearly, it had a good culture."

Klee also made visits to Denver and St. Cloud State.

He has some ties to UND already.

His father, Ken, played 14 seasons in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes. Recently, Ken worked as an assistant coach for the Syracuse Crunch, the top minor-league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. UND assistant Karl Goehring also was coaching with the Crunch at that time.

"That's how we got to know him," Klee said. "He's a great guy."

This summer, Klee was selected in the United States Hockey League Phase-I Draft by the Waterloo Black Hawks, whose general manager is former UND alternate captain Bryn Chyzyk and head coach is former UND captain Matt Smaby.

Klee will play for the Colorado Thunderbirds U16 team this season, but is hoping to get some games in with Waterloo.

Klee is the youngest of three brothers. His oldest brother, Garrett, is a forward in his fourth year at Northern Michigan. The middle brother, Mason, is a defenseman in his third year at RPI. Their father, Ken, played at Bowling Green.

"Me and my brothers all wanted to do something different than our dad," Klee said. "We all wanted to see different places, go to different colleges in different leagues and experience things for ourselves."

Klee visited UND when Niagara was in town for the season-opening series.

"It was great just getting to see the campus and everything," Klee said. "Seeing the energy the people brought and the fans had (at the game), that's something special. You don't find that in a lot of places.

"I'm super pumped. I'm very excited to be a part of the NoDak tradition."

UND hockey committed recruits As of Oct. 19, 2021
Name Birth year Position Hometown Team
Ethan Bowen 2002 F Chilliwack, B.C. Chilliwack (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 Minot (NAHL)
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)
Grayden Slipec 2005 F White Rock, B.C. Surrey (BCHL)
David Klee 2005 F Castle Rock, Colo. Colorado Thunderbirds (AAA)
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 Madison (USHL)
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. Alberni Valley (BCHL)
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald