UND HOCKEY: Coveted free agent Stecher to return to UND
At nearly each stop this season, NHL scouts lurked. "What about that Stecher kid?" one asked after watching UND beat Colorado College in October. As the season progressed, the following became larger, and UND sophomore defenseman Troy Stecher eme...
At nearly each stop this season, NHL scouts lurked.
"What about that Stecher kid?" one asked after watching UND beat Colorado College in October.
As the season progressed, the following became larger, and UND sophomore defenseman Troy Stecher emerged as one of college hockey's most coveted undrafted NHL free agents.
But he's not going anywhere yet.
The Richmond, B.C., product says he will return to North Dakota for his junior season rather than signing a NHL contract, a development that helps solidify UND's blue line for next season.
USA Today listed Stecher as one of the top six free agent prospects in mid-March.
"He's a real strong player with the puck," former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button told USA Today. "He can make plays and run a power play. He has a poise on the blue line."
Stecher went undrafted because of his smaller frame -- he's 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. But he doesn't play a small game.
Stecher, who had three goals and 13 points on the blue line, was one of UND's best all-around defenders last season. He was a mainstay on the penalty kill and was often used to shut down opponents' top players. He's expected to be a go-to guy in all situations next season.
While UND is still awaiting decisions from defensemen Jordan Schmaltz and Paul LaDue about whether they will return next season, North Dakota is guaranteed to have four experienced defenders back with Stecher, Gage Ausmus, Tucker Poolman and Keaton Thompson. UND loses seniors Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella.
Stecher's return will be key as UND will have minimal experience in net next season. With standout goalie Zane McIntyre deciding to turn pro, UND's netminders will only have 43 minutes, 19 seconds of combined college experience next season.
The strong defensive corps should help as Cam Johnson, Matej Tomek and Matt Hrynkiw enter the fray.
UND got a boost earlier this week when Drake Caggiula confirmed that he will return for his senior year. Caggiula was UND's leading scorer last season.