Michigan top-pair defenseman Keaton Pehrson to transfer to UND
Pehrson, of Lakeville, Minn., was an alternate captain for the Wolverines, who went to the NCAA Frozen Four this season.
GRAND FORKS — Keaton Pehrson is used to playing in big situations.
As a sophomore at Michigan, his defensive partner was No. 14 overall NHL Draft pick Cam York.
As a junior, his defensive partner was No. 1 overall pick Owen Power.
As a senior, his defensive partner was No. 4 overall pick Luke Hughes.
The 6-foot-2, right-handed shooting defenseman, who has played in back-to-back NCAA Frozen Fours, will bring that experience and pedigree to a new-look UND blue line next season.
Pehrson, of Lakeville, Minn., has committed to UND out of the transfer portal.
He will have one year of college eligibility remaining.
"It's awesome," Pehrson said. "When you think of college hockey, some of the most historic programs are North Dakota and Michigan. To be able to experience that is pretty exciting. I have a couple of buddies on the (UND) team, too. It's such an awesome, historic program.
"I talked to coach (Brad) Berry. With everything he talked to me about, it seemed like a no-brainer. When you add in the facilities, it was an easy decision for me."
Pehrson served as an alternate captain at Michigan this season. He previously served as captain at Lakeville North and an alternate captain for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League.
He will play a big role for the Fighting Hawks, who will have eight new defensemen next season.
"I think the goal is definitely to get back (to the Frozen Four), but to win it this time," said Pehrson, whose Wolverines lost in the semifinals the last two seasons. "It's a lofty goal, but you've got to set expectations high. Hearing how the team is going to be, knowing the history of being a good team, I think we're going to have a good group this year. Making it back to the Frozen Four in St. Paul and winning it all is a lofty goal, but it's a good goal."
UND has three transfers lined up now — Pehrson, Alaska captain Garrett Pyke and Minnesota State-Mankato's Bennett Zmolek.
The Fighting Hawks are guaranteed to bring in four freshman defensemen — Vegas Golden Knights pick Abram Wiebe of the Chilliwack Chiefs, Minnesota Wild pick Nate Benoit of the Waterloo Black Hawks, draft-eligible Jake Livanavage of the Chicago Steel and right-hander Tanner Komzak of the Whitecourt Wolverines.
That leaves just one spot left to fill on the back end.
The options include committed recruit in Andrew Strathmann of the Youngstown Phantoms, a transfer or a different freshman.
Pehrson has been a strong defender for the Wolverines. He had no goals and 11 assists in 39 games last season, while posting a plus-12 rating.
During his four years at Michigan, he scored one goal, tallied 27 assists and a plus-34 rating in 127 games.
"I take a ton of pride in defending and being hard and making sure every shift I'm doing whatever I can to help my teammates win," Pehrson said. "In the offensive zone, I can get around the ice with skating. I try to be hard and heavy to play against."
One of Pehrson's most notable stats is that he didn't take a single penalty last season.
"I'm usually pretty disciplined with my stick," he said. "I play physical, so whenever I do take penalties, it's usually when something happens within a battle. But for the most part, I don't take very many penalties, which is good."
Pehrson said he plans to visit campus in May and return to be with the team in July.
His family still lives in the Twin Cities, so they'll have an easier commute to games this season.
"It will be four-and-a-half hours instead of 10-and-a-half," Pehrson said. "My dad's going to love that."