UND’s faceoff numbers

One small, recurring storyline for UND this season was faceoffs. There were a few games early in the season where UND got dominated in the circle, and it was especially noticeable on special teams.

But in looking at season-ending statistics, maybe I was a bit too harsh on the team’s performance in the dot.

UND actually finished second in the NCHC in faceoffs (.529), only behind Miami. It finished quite a bit ahead of St. Cloud State, a team that had UND’s number in the dot a couple times this season.

UND’s .529 percentage was better than its team percentage of each of the previous two seasons (.523, .525).

Nationally, UND finished ninth. Minnesota was first at .556 and Princeton was last at .419.

UND’s coaching staff worked on this throughout the season at practice. They didn’t just drop the puck for two guys to face off, they also had the wingers present because they can be as critical as the centerman to winning draws sometimes. The work paid off.

Top NCHC faceoff teams

.548 Miami
.529 North Dakota
.520 Denver
.518 Western Michigan
.500 St. Cloud State
.481 Omaha
.459 Minnesota Duluth
.454 Colorado College

Mark MacMillan was UND’s best, but they had several guys who finished with very nice marks.

UND’s top faceoff men

.572 Mark MacMillan
.566 Stephane Pattyn
.561 Connor Gaarder
.542 Drake Caggiula
.495 Nick Schmaltz
.473 Luke Johnson

Obviously, UND loses its top three on this list and will need others to improve in this area for next season.

LaDue’s unique option

UND standout defenseman Paul LaDue is in a very unique position.

He is currently trying to decide whether to sign with the Los Angeles Kings (who drafted him in the sixth round in 2012) or return to UND for his junior season. His decision is different than most.

Because of his age, LaDue has the rare option of staying in college through his senior season and becoming an unrestricted free agent not bound by entry-level contract restrictions.

For starters, if a player stays four years, he becomes a free agent if not signed by Aug. 15 after their senior year.

More important in LaDue’s case: If a player is 25 years old as of Sept. 15 of the year they sign their contract, they are not considered an entry-level player. LaDue would be 24 when he graduates, but his birthday is Sept. 6, so according to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, he would be considered 25 years old.

Entry-level deals are mandatory two-way contracts, which means you have different compensations based on whether you are playing in the NHL or AHL. As a 2012 draft pick, LaDue could make a maximum of $925,000 if in the NHL and $70,000 if in the AHL. The max signing bonus would be $92,500. Once he was through his entry-level deal, he would become a restricted free agent.

However, if LaDue plays college hockey through his senior season, he would be able to sign a one-way deal (same compensation, whether you are playing in the NHL or AHL) with any team for any compensation, any length and any signing bonus.

Off hand, I can only think of two college players who have used this clause to their advantage.

Bemidji State’s Matt Read (undrafted) waited until he turned 25. His first NHL contract was a one-way deal with a larger-than-usual signing bonus.

Boston University’s Matt Gilroy (undrafted) signed a two-year, $3.5 million one-way deal after turning 25.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that will go into LaDue’s decision, but I believe he’s the first coveted NHL prospect at UND to have this option.

To read the clauses in question in NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, check out 8.6 (c, i), 9.1 and 9.2.

Decisions ahead for UND players

It’s Decision Time for a handful of UND players who will undoubtedly have an opportunity to sign NHL contracts this offseason. Here’s a quick look at the five:

Jordan Schmaltz (St. Louis Blues): He’s the most likely to sign. NHL teams don’t like top prospects playing their senior seasons, because the possibility exists for them to become a free agent after their senior year. They can’t lose their top assets for nothing. Blues will be coming hard. Based on what I’ve been told, I’m expecting him to sign.

Zane McIntyre (Boston Bruins): McIntyre told the Herald that he will not use a loophole to become a free agent, and his decision is down to UND or the Bruins. Both McIntyre and others told me that he’s weighing a lot of factors and that he has not made any decision. Boston fired its GM today, though, which could throw a wrench into things.

Paul LaDue (Los Angeles Kings): The Kings will probably try to sign LaDue, as he’s an older prospect, but there are reasons for him to return for his junior season as well. He battled injuries for much of this season and could have a big junior year. The Kings also have a deep defensive corps and it will be tough to step into Los Angeles next season.

Troy Stecher (free agent): Scouts have been following him closely since early in the season. I’m guessing he will have multiple offers for his services, and the Frozen Four game only helped his stock.

Drake Caggiula (free agent): I’ve been told that there’s at least one NHL offer out for Caggiula, who I’m surprised went undrafted last season. He has the ability to beat guys one-on-one and plays a tenacious game. He also could come back and have a big senior season around guys like Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser.

Random updates

The NHL playoffs begin tonight and there will be seven former UND guys chasing the Stanley Cup.

Both of the area teams have UND representation with Zach Parise on the Minnesota Wild and Drew Stafford on the Winnipeg Jets. Others include T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter on the St. Louis Blues, Brock Nelson on the New York Islanders, Jonathan Toews on the Chicago Blackhawks and Taylor Chorney on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Toews is trying to become the first former UND players to win three Stanley Cups.

*****

A couple of seniors have signed AHL amateur tryout deals for the end of the season.

Captain Stephane Pattyn signed with the Charlotte Checkers, the top minor-league affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Pattyn was assigned to room with the other new player who Charlotte just signed on a pro tryout deal. His name is Mario Lamoureux.

Yes, two former UND captains (two of the best captains, too) are rooming together. The pair connected for a couple of memorable goals during Lamoureux’s senior year and Pattyn’s rookie year.

Pattyn’s first-career goal was a game-winner late against Wisconsin (on Pattyn’s 21st birthday) thanks to a backdoor feed from Lamoureux. Pattyn also set up Lamoureux for the game-winning goal in UND’s big comeback victory over Minnesota in the 2012 WCHA Final Five semis.

Defenseman Andrew Panzarella signed an amateur tryout with the St. John’s Ice Caps in the AHL, the top minor-league affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.

Eight Frozen Four thoughts

The NCAA tournament came to an end Sunday with Providence beating Boston University for the title. Here are eight random thoughts from the Frozen Four:

1. Remember when Providence pulled its goalie in The Ralph in October and scored an extra-attacker goal to even it up 2-2 (which is how the game ended)? It doesn’t seem like much, but that goal was the difference between Providence winning a national title and not making the tournament. That’s how fine the line can be. Providence got in the tournament by having a better RPI than Bowling Green. Providence’s RPI was .5411. Bowling Green’s was .5409. Two ten-thousandths of a point.

2. For the second time in three years, the final at-large selection to the NCAA tournament is your national champion (Yale, PC). In the last six years, the final team to qualify for the tournament has won it all more often than the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed (2-1).

3. The way this tournament played out will only intensify discussions about bringing regionals to home sites for the first round — Miami, as a No. 1 seed, getting sent to Providence to play Providence in the first round; people finding out that “neutral” sites aren’t really neutral. More on that later.

4. By no means did this cost UND the game against BU, but the NCAA made a blunder assigning Marco Hunt to officiate that game. Hunt was ousted from the NCHC a year earlier and it is believed that UND was in favor of that move. He shouldn’t have been in position to ref that game considering past history.

5. The spotlight was on BU’s Matt O’Connor for accidentally throwing the puck in his own net to tie the game. What wasn’t talked about: Providence was taking over that game. The Friars launched 20 shots on goal in the third period. BU, which had been a dominant third-period team all season, got outplayed badly in the third period of both Frozen Four games.

6. Speaking of O’Connor, he spoke to a ton of media after that game, explaining his gaffe. Super impressive for anyone, much less a college kid. Someone once explained it to me like this: How would you react if, every time you screwed up at work, you had newspaper reporters there to ask how you screwed up. Guessing you wouldn’t react as well as Matt O’Connor.

7. Troy Stecher has been piquing the interest of NHL scouts throughout the season, but his performance at the Frozen Four has to have teams sending offers his way. I would guess he’s a pretty hot commodity on the free agent market. I’d also expect Drake Caggiula to be fielding offers.

8. ESPN has to find a way to get Dave Starman on the Frozen Four telecast in the near future. He’s great in the studio but the broadcast would be so much better served with him doing color. His depth of knowledge of the college game is so much greater than Barry Melrose and it shows.

MacMillan signs with Habs

Mark MacMillan’s fractured knee cap ended his season but not his career.

The UND senior forward inked a two-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday. The terms were not disclosed. It will begin next season, where he will likely start with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL.

MacMillan was a terrific two-way player for UND, earning defensive forward of the year honors in the NCHC. He also was the team’s leading goal scorer (16) at the time of his injury.

MacMillan was drafted in the fourth round by Montreal in 2010.

He posted a note to UND fans and teammates on Twitter.

Looking ahead

I’ve received many questions from fans about next year’s schedule. I know UND fans love hockey road trips and would like to start planning for next season. Now, this schedule is tentative right now, it has not been formally finalized, but here’s what I’m hearing for next season….

Oct. 3 or 4 — EXHIBITION
Oct. 9-10 — at Ice Breaker Invitational (Portland, Maine – along with Maine, Michigan State and Lake Superior State)
Oct. 16 — at Bemidji State
Oct. 17 — BEMIDJI STATE
Oct. 23-24 — at Vermont
Oct. 30-31 — at Colorado College

Nov. 6-7 — WISCONSIN
Nov. 13-14 — MIAMI
Nov. 20-21 — at St. Cloud State
Nov. 27, 29 — at Michigan State

Dec. 4-5 — DENVER
Dec. 11-12 – at Duluth

Jan. 1-2 — ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE
Jan. 8-9 — possible exhibition
Jan. 15-16 — OMAHA
Jan. 22-23 — COLORADO COLLEGE
Jan. 29-30 — at Western Michigan

Feb. 12-13 — at Denver
Feb. 19-20 — DULUTH
Feb. 26-27 — at Omaha

March 4-5 — WESTERN MICHIGAN
March 11-13 — First round NCHC playoffs
March 18-19 — NCHC Frozen Faceoff
March 25-27 — NCAA Regionals (St. Paul, Cincinnati, Worcester, Albany)

April 7-9 — Frozen Four (Tampa)

Some questions that I know will come…

  • Obviously, two of the Ice Breaker teams are UND and Maine. I heard Michigan State is probably going to be the third. Not sure on the fourth.
  • The Michigan State series in East Lansing is Friday-Sunday because the Spartans are home Saturday for football. They play Penn State in the last regular-season game.
  • The U18s get a chance to check out the place they will compete at the Worlds in April.
  • UND doesn’t go to: Miami. UND doesn’t host: St. Cloud State.
  • UND will rack up the frequent fliers with trips to Maine, Vermont and Colorado in the first month.