UND hockey picks up commitment from defenseman Keith McInnis
The blue liner has been a top skater in Alberta and will play for former UND captain Matt Smaby in Waterloo the next two seasons.
GRAND FORKS — Matt Smaby pulled up video of defenseman Keith McInnis this season.
Smaby, the former UND captain and current head coach of the Waterloo Black Hawks, was doing some scouting work to see if McInnis was a player his team wanted to try to sign to a United States Hockey League tender.
Smaby didn't look to see if McInnis could physically dominate a game. He looked for other traits.
"You watch for the instincts stuff — the stuff that will translate to other levels beyond where he's playing right now," Smaby said. "I remember watching his eyes, looking to see what he does before he gets the puck, watching the reads he makes and his overall puck play.
"He does a lot of things really well for a young kid. He does a lot of things I work on teaching. . . even guys at the USHL level. With some of those instincts and natural abilities, I think he's a heck of a hockey player. I think his future is really bright."
Smaby's alma mater thought so as well.
UND landed one of its primary targets of this recruiting cycle Saturday morning when McInnis, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound defenseman from Red Deer, Alta., verbally committed to play college hockey in Grand Forks.
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McInnis chose UND over Minnesota Duluth and Michigan.
"I woke up this morning, rolled out of bed and my gut feeling was that I wanted to be a Fighting Hawk," McInnis said on Saturday night. "It was going to be the best fit for me. With the coaching staff and everyone there, it was a great fit and hard to turn down."
McInnis is heading into his junior year of high school. He will play for Waterloo until his arrival at UND.
McInnis, a left-handed blue liner who spent the last two seasons playing for Yale Hockey Academy, brings a little bit of everything from the back end — skating, physicality, hockey sense and a booming point shot.
"He has some of that natural skating ability," Smaby said. "He has an instinct to be physical. The tools he has as a hockey player are outstanding. I remember watching him and other kids who were his age playing at the same level and comparing the two and what they were doing, how they were seeing the game, how they were thinking the game, and his ability the process things as a young man is really high."
Waterloo general manager Bryn Chyzyk, an alternate captain on UND's 2016 NCAA national title team, said McInnis has numerous high-end attributes.
"I think he's a little bit of throwback 'D' in the way he's not afraid to step up and pop someone," Chyzyk said. "He's a highly intelligent player, he skates pretty well and he has an ability to break out pucks.
"His feet, defensively, are a real attribute for him. He's able to take away time and space from forwards. His shot is exceptional. He shoots it like a 25-year-old. We're hoping to grow his offensive game more and more with coach Smaby."
Both Chyzyk and Smaby lauded McInnis' maturity.
"He's probably the most mature 16-year-old I've ever talked to in my life," Chyzyk said.
Smaby added: "He's mature beyond his years. He carries himself really well. He's very serious about what it is he's doing and his game and his development. We're really happy to have him."
While in Waterloo, McInnis said he will be working on every area of his game to prepare for the college level.
"There's never really a spot that doesn't need working on," he said. "Everything is a work in progress. I think my offensive game is going to be something I'm going to try to focus on. I think (it's important) to adapt this year and try to fit in and do the best I can. I think this year will be a great year for me to work on my game and hone my skills."
Beginning Aug. 1, prospects headed into their junior years of high school became eligible to receive scholarship offers and commit. McInnis is the second player of this recruiting cycle to verbally commit to UND. The other is forward Sacha Boisvert, who will play for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL this season.
The earliest Boisvert and McInnis could come to UND is the fall of 2024.
"I'm excited," McInnis said. "The fans there are something else. It's pretty incredible. You see them travel to the road games. You always get a couple hundred fans. It's pretty neat."