Shane Pinto informs Ottawa Senators he's returning to UND for sophomore season

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Fighting Hawks forward Shane Pinto crashes into the boards celebrating his overtime goal with UND hockey fans and teammates Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Shane Pinto spent this week at home in Franklin Square, N.Y., deciding what to do next season.

On Thursday morning, he made the call.

Pinto informed the Ottawa Senators, who used the No. 32 overall pick to grab his rights last summer, that he will return to UND for his sophomore season.

"I think the biggest thing is the way the season ended," Pinto said. "I want to be back with the guys. We have a lot of guys coming back -- Kawa (Jordan Kawaguchi), Kiers (Matt Kiersted). We'll have another good chance to win the national title. The prior year doesn't matter anymore. We've got to reset.

"But I'm really excited to be back with the guys again. I love them and there's not a better place to play hockey than at The Ralph."


Pinto's return means UND is not expected to lose anyone early to an NHL signing this summer.

Previously, Hobey Baker Award finalist Jordan Kawaguchi, coveted NHL free agent Matt Kiersted, Ottawa Senators first-round pick Jacob Bernard-Docker, Nashville Predators second-round pick Grant Mismash and New York Islanders sixth-round pick Collin Adams all confirmed to the Herald that they plan to return.

The last two summers that UND didn't lose a single player early to an NHL deal (2019, 2010), it followed up with a dominant season.

It happened a year ago, and the Fighting Hawks followed it up with a 26-5-4 record and a Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions. UND was No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings when the season came to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It also happened in 2010. UND went 32-9-3, won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff titles and reached the NCAA Frozen Four the following year.

'A special group in a special place'

Pinto's return also will give UND one of the best threats in the NCHC next season.


The 6-foot-2, 195-pound center was named the NCHC's rookie of the year, scoring 16 goals and tallying 28 points. He tied senior Westin Michaud for the team lead in goals.

"The best word to describe it is surreal," Pinto said of his freshman year. "Just the whole experience of playing at The Ralph, playing for North Dakota, having a special year -- we obviously did really well as a team -- I don't think I could have had a better year. I think all of the freshmen could say that. We were part of a special group in a special place to play. It was definitely a great year. It was awesome."

Pinto said he's excited to know so many players have opted to return rather than turn pro.

"It's awesome," he said. "That was a big question once the season ended. . . who was going to sign as juniors and stuff. To hear all those guys are coming back, it just gives us a better chance of winning next year. I can't wait to get back with those guys and keep the ball rolling. I'm pretty excited."

UND will lose seven seniors -- captain Colton Poolman, defenseman Andrew Peski and forwards Cole Smith, Zach Yon, Dixon Bowen, Casey Johnson and Michaud. Sophomore defenseman Jonny Tychonick also is planning to transfer to Omaha.

An all-situation player

Pinto was used in a number of key situations for UND.

He held down the center spot on the second line alongside Michaud, a left winger, and rotating right wingers. He played in the left circle on the top power-play unit, using his high-end one-timer to score goals. He led the team in power-play goals with five.

He also was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 61.1 percent of his draws. That ranks second all-time at UND since it began keeping the stat in 2003-04. Rhett Gardner, who won 62.3 percent of his draws in 2018-19, is the only player with a better mark on record.


Pinto sits ahead an impressive list of players in faceoff percentage: Tyson Jost (60.1), Corban Knight (59.9), Nick Jones (59.3), Zach Parise (59.1), Brandon Bochenski (58.9), Jasper Weatherby (58.9), Knight (58.7) and T.J. Oshie (58.6).

But Pinto said there's plenty for him to work on before he eventually moves to the next level.

"I think the biggest thing is my skating," he said. "I feel like my skating improved this year, but to play at the next level, you have to be an unreal skater. And I want to work on my all-around skills and keep working on my shot. Those are some things I want to focus on improving the most."

UND’s early NHL signings by year (since 2000)

2020: None expected

2019*: None

2018: Christian Wolanin (jr), Shane Gersich (jr)

2017: Tucker Poolman (jr), Brock Boeser (so), Tyson Jost (fr)

2016: Troy Stecher (jr), Paul LaDue (jr), Keaton Thompson (jr), Luke Johnson (jr), Nick Schmaltz (so)


2015: Jordan Schmaltz (jr), Zane McIntyre (jr)

2014: Rocco Grimaldi (so)

2013: Derek Forbort (jr)

2012*: Brock Nelson (so)

2011: Jason Gregoire (jr), Brett Hextall (jr)

2010: None

2009: None

2008: T.J. Oshie (jr), Taylor Chorney (jr)


2007: Jonathan Toews (so), Brian Lee (so)

2006*: Drew Stafford (jr), Matt Smaby (jr), Jordan Parise (jr), Travis Zajac (so)

2005: Matt Greene (jr), Brady Murray (so)

2004: Brandon Bochenski (jr), Zach Parise (so)

2003: David Hale (jr)

2002: Ryan Bayda (jr)

2001: Bryan Lundbohm (jr), Travis Roche (so)

2000: Mike Commodore (jr)


* In 2019, Ludvig Hoff signed in Norway. In 2012, Aaron Dell signed a CHL deal. In 2006, Rastislav Spirko signed in Slovakia.

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
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