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NHL draft: UND's Cichy gets a second chance

Last June, 211 players were picked in the NHL draft, but Mike Cichy was not one of them. What did he do about it? He put on 25 pounds of muscle during the summer, was named captain of the United States Hockey League's Tri-City Storm, led the team...

UND's draft hopefuls
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Last June, 211 players were picked in the NHL draft, but Mike Cichy was not one of them.

What did he do about it?

He put on 25 pounds of muscle during the summer, was named captain of the United States Hockey League's Tri-City Storm, led the team in scoring through Christmas, earned a gold medal and MVP honors at the World Junior A Challenge, led Indiana in scoring after a trade, helped the Ice to the Clark Cup and was named MVP of the USHL playoffs.

Draft weekend has arrived again, and this time, NHL teams are less likely to let the UND recruit slip through the cracks.

Cichy isn't rated overly high by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau -- he's the No. 166 North American skater -- but he has become an intriguing prospect because of his consistent success and his knack for coming up big in the clutch.

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He was the leading scorer of both the Junior A Challenge and the USHL playoffs, setting a Clark Cup playoff record for most assists. The intangibles make him an attractive package, despite the fact that he's not real big (5-11, 187) and doesn't have blazing speed.

"I think with time, he's going to be a heck of a prospect," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "He has showed how dedicated he is to making himself a better player. He really developed (and improved) some of the holes in his game. That was a real benefit of going back to the USHL last year. He's much more of a complete player. And his real strengths only got better.

"You always like a guy who wins in the playoffs. You like a guy who, in tough situations, not only wants to be on the ice, but has a track record of getting it done. As a veteran in the USHL, he showed he has the ability to be a go-to guy."

Other recruits

Cichy's not the only player UND will be following this weekend, either. Three other Sioux recruits could go in this weekend's draft, which starts with Round 1 at 6 tonight (Versus) and continues with Rounds 2-7 at 9 a.m. Saturday morning (NHL Network).

Former Academy of Holy Angeles forward Danny Mattson is the highest rated by Central Scouting at No. 53. Corban Knight, who plays for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, is ranked No. 64. Knight's Okotoks teammate, Derek Rodwell, is unranked by Central Scouting but has prototypical NHL size and worth ethic.

Those three players are expected to go to juniors for one more season and come to UND in 2010. Cichy will arrive on campus this fall.

Cichy, a New Hartford, Conn., native said he probably won't even follow the draft this weekend.

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"I would get too nervous," he said. "I'll probably go do something and check at night to see what happened."

Ready to make a splash

Cichy (pronounced see-chi) had the option of coming to UND for the 2008-09 season, but decided to wait an extra year. It turned out to be a big one for him.

"Coming into (last) season, I didn't feel I was ready for college," Cichy said. "Maybe skillwise, I could have done it, but not strengthwise. I needed to get bigger and stronger and I think the extra year really did the trick. Everything improved in my game and I'm a lot more ready to come in now. I didn't want to have a big transition to college. I want the team to be able to count on me right away."

Cichy, who used to be a roller hockey star like former Sioux forward T.J. Oshie, said he will work construction back home in Connecticut and come to campus in the fall, when he hopes to make a splash in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"There's no question he has special abilities and natural abilities," Hakstol said. "He just needs some time and that's why he's coming to the University of North Dakota."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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