UND defenseman Tyler Kleven to return for junior season
The Ottawa Senators heavily pursued the Fighting Hawks blue liner, but the Fargo product will be back in Grand Forks.
GRAND FORKS — The Ottawa Senators signed one of UND's defensemen this offseason in Jake Sanderson.
They'll have to wait to get the other one.
UND sophomore Tyler Kleven has informed Ottawa he will return to school for his junior season.
The Senators, who selected Kleven in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, were aggressive in trying to sign him, but the Fargo native held firm that he will be back in school for another year.
"Just talking to the (Ottawa) development staff, my family, my trainers and my coaches, I was just trying to evaluate where I was at and make a plan that was best for me," Kleven said. "If I come back another year, I'm going to get really big playing time and be a big part of the team and hopefully a leader on the team.
"I'm still young and I think staying in college another year to get a little more experience will help. I don't necessarily need to do that in the AHL, where if I play bad, I'm going to get sat the next night. I don't want to have to worry about that. Brad (Berry) does a great job with development and developing me. With our new weight room coming, it's really hard to say no to coming back."
Kleven's decision solidifies UND's defensive group for next season.
Kleven figures to play on the top pairing along with Ethan Frisch — something he did when Sanderson was out with an injury this season.
The other six defensemen will be Chris Jandric, Cooper Moore, Brent Johnson, Luke Bast, Brady Ferner and Ty Farmer, a fifth-year senior transfer from UMass who committed to the Fighting Hawks this week.
"I'm really excited for our team next year," Kleven said. "I'm really excited for the incoming freshman class. I know a couple of those guys. Ty Farmer was on the (Fargo) Force way back in the day and I practiced with him when I was like 14 or 15. I know he's a good right-handed defenseman. He'll be a big part of our team."
At 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, Kleven is the most physical player in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He can alter games with punishing hits and create turnovers that way. It also got him into trouble a couple times last season. He was called for three game misconduct penalties and was suspended once.
Kleven also can bring offense from the back end. His booming shot is one of the hardest in the league. He's scored 12 goals in 60 college games, including the Penrose Cup-winner in overtime against Omaha last month.
"I've been pretty happy with my offensive game development at North Dakota," Kleven said. "I'm not getting a lot of assists, but I haven't been on the power play a whole lot. I'm happy with my five-on-five play. Hopefully, next year, I'll develop (power play) over the summer. I'd like to add that in my game. I know deep down my role when I turn pro, though, and it's not going to be power play."
Kleven averaged 20 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time last season — a number that could rise next season.
"I want to keep working on my skating, keep being more efficient, more powerful, working in the weight room," Kleven said of preparing for extra minutes. "It will definitely be a big part of summer training. I know when it comes, I'll be ready for it."
Kleven's return also means he will be able to play for the U.S. World Junior squad in August. The tournament was rescheduled from December-January, when a few coronavirus cases shut it down.
Many of the players who would have been on that team have signed NHL deals and won't be playing in it.
"With all the guys being gone, hopefully I'll have a leadership role," Kleven said. "That'd be pretty cool."