THN’s annual rankings

Each year, The Hockey News publishes a yearbook that includes a top 50 players in the world list as well as a top 10 prospect list for each team. Two UND players ended up on the top 50 list, while six ended up on the prospect list.

Jonathan Toews was ranked the No. 3 player in the world, only behind Sidney Crosby and Drew Doughty. THN says that he’s the best leader in the game and the one player no team worries about handing a long-term contract to.

Zach Parise, meanwhile, checked in at No. 30. They mentioned that his numbers weren’t huge in Minnesota, but nobody works harder for goals.

In the prospect rankings, freshman Nick Schmaltz is the highest-listed UND prospect on the list.

Of all the UND prospects, I think Jordan Schmaltz was the most underrated, listed at No. 7 for the St. Louis Blues. He was tremendous in the second half of last season.

The Hockey News’ top prospects for each organization

3. Nick Schmaltz, Chicago (first-round pick)

6. Rocco Grimaldi, Florida (second-round pick)

5. Derek Forbort, Los Angeles (first-round pick)

7. Danny Kristo, New York Rangers (second-round pick)

7. Jordan Schmaltz, St. Louis Blues (first-round pick)

7. Andrew MacWilliam, Toronto (seventh-round pick)

Grimaldi, Forbort, Kristo and MacWilliam are already in the system for all of their pro teams. As you can see, the magazine usually ranks these prospects by their draft position, so for MacWilliam to make the list, it tells you that he made some waves with the Marlies in his first pro season.

Gothberg changes last name to McIntyre

UND goalie Zane Gothberg has legally changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name of McIntyre.

“My grandmother and my mother have been very influential in my life,” he said. “With the passing of my grandmother and my mother getting re-married, as well as my sister getting married, I’ve made the personal choice to carry on the family name in their honor.”

Zane has made no secret of the impact that they’ve had on his life in the past.

Each season at UND, he has painted a tribute to his grandmother on the back of his helmet: A photo of her with a Diet Coke and the words “Love you Grandma Susie” scrolling on the back.

Zane also told the Herald last season that his mother was his childhood hero.

“Just every day, seeing what she did, working three jobs, trying to help out our family,” he said. “That had a big influence on my life, just seeing what she’d do and how she helped us out.”

Evers, Bittner to play in Prospect Game

UND defenseman recruit Christian Evers and Crookston native Paul Bittner have both been selected to play in the All-American Prospects Game next month in Buffalo.

The game is set to feature the best players who are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. A total of 42 players have earned invites.

The game is scheduled to take place on Sept. 25 at First Niagara Center.

Evers, 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, is set to play for the U.S. Under-18 team this season. The Iowa product played for the U17s last season.

Bittner, 6-foot-5, 201 pounds, is a power forward for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. Bittner could be a first-round draft pick.

Other NCHC-committed players to earn invites include Miami forward commits Karch Bachman and Jack Roslovic, Denver forward commit Troy Terry, Western Michigan defenseman commit Grant Gabriele, Omaha defenseman commit Jack McNeely and Miami goalie commit Ryan Larkin.

Q&A with Chris Wilkie

UND forward recruit Chris Wilkie is headed back to Tri-City in the USHL for a second season, where he will spend one last year before coming to UND. When he’s a freshman in 2015-16, UND will have a lot of forwards to replace and Wilkie is one expected to help out the offense. Here’s what he had to say.

Q. What were your thoughts of the USHL and your first full season there?
A. It’s a good league. I obviously had a rough season. It was definitely a good learning experience. This year, I’m hoping to have more of a leadership role and be a player that can be counted on.

Q. What contributed to it being a rough season?
A. As a team, we had a lot of struggles. We had a coaching change and we didn’t make the playoffs. This year, we definitely don’t want to go through that again.

Q. Prior to last year, had you ever gone through a coaching change mid-season?
A. That was the first time. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. It was a new experience. I think everyone adjusted to the new coach this year.

Q. What changed when Jim Hulton took over as coach?
A. I think the biggest thing was accountability. Right when he came, he made sure we were doing the right things. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t play. That’s the biggest thing everyone had to adjust to.

Q. You had 12 points in 27 games (0.44 ppg) prior to New Years Day. After the calendar turned to 2014, you had 24 points in 30 games (0.80 ppg), nearly double the production. What was the difference?
A. I think that after Christmas, myself and the team both played a lot better. I think part of it was getting comfortable with the new coach. I also thought I got stronger. But I had a slow start and I have to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.

Q. It seems strange to have produced more at the end of the year after you guys lost a number of good players in trades, doesn’t it?
A. I think we all knew we had to step up. The guys we lost were big parts of our team. It made all the guys a lot closer and we knew we didn’t want to just throw in the towel and give up on the season and have a good finish.

Q. What do you need to work on this season?
A. The biggest thing for me is consistency. At times, I would have a good streak with good numbers, but I would have too many games where I didn’t have the numbers. I need to be more consistent and have longer streaks of putting up good numbers and doing everything that will help the team. I also want to be a leader on this team. We don’t have as many guys coming back. If I can step up and have a good leadership role, that will help.

Q. You made your own decision to return to the USHL for one more year instead of coming in this fall. How did you reach that decision?
A. I think for me, it will be a lot better to develop for another year and be as ready as possible going into North Dakota the next year. If I came in this year, I might not have played as much as I would in juniors. One extra year for me will help me as much as possible.

Q. Have you paid attention to how the extra year helped guys like Paul LaDue and Tucker Poolman?
A. Yes. Playing against Tucker a lot this year, he came back this year and you could tell how much he’ll be ready to come in this fall. He was one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in our league. That’s definitely something I watched and learned from. Not trying to force the issue isn’t the worst thing.

Q. When you come to campus in 2015, there should be plenty of ice time available for forwards. Are you aware of the large senior class this season?
A. That definitely factored into the decision, too. I knew I would have more chances to earn my time (in 2015). That’s definitely something that went into consideration.

Q. You played with UND freshman Austin Poganski last season. What can you tell us about him?
A. He’s a great player. He’s one of the hardest workers every night. He’s not always the prettiest player, but he gets the job done and finds ways to get the puck in the net. He’s really good in front of the net and in the dirty scoring areas. Defensively, he was a great penalty killer for us. He’s a great two-way forward who can contribute in every situation.

Q. I know you spent some time in Grand Forks this summer. How did that go?
A. I was there for six weeks. It was really good. I took two classes. It was good to get a head start on things. Being able to be around the guys was a great experience that will also help. All the guys were really accepting to the younger guys and going out of their way to talk to us and tell us what to expect. I’m glad I went.

Schmaltz happy with decision

If you remember back to the summer of 2012 and before, Jordan Schmaltz was under significant pressure by the Windsor Spitfires to give up his commitment and go play in the OHL.

The Spitfires also drafted his brother, Nick, and tried to get both to play north of the border. Although many speculated that they would, both stuck with their commitments to UND.

Judging by a tweet sent out by Jordan this weekend, he’s enjoying college and doesn’t regret that decision.


Dufault, Krzyzaniak make U22s

A pair of UND players made the Canadian U22 team roster and will compete in a three-game series against the U.S. this week in Calgary.

Forward Meghan Dufault and defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak will be competing against a number of future Olympians in the series, which should be a good experience before the start of the college season. The teams play Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Krzyzaniak is the youngest defenseman to make Canada’s U22 roster.

Dufault is expected to be among UND’s leading scorers this season. Krzyzaniak should be one of UND’s best defensive blue liners, though she also has the ability to add offense.

The pair snapped a photo together yesterday at practice (courtesy @meghandufault).

Another NTDPer heads north

On Monday of last week, Sonny Milano told the Columbus Blue Jackets’ website that he’s going to Boston College. The team that drafted him posted a headline saying, “Milano fully committed, excited to join Boston College program.”

Six days later, that changed.

On Saturday, Milano informed Boston College he would not be going there. He is the latest NTDP player to leave a college program hanging late in the summer.

Since 2011, a total of 15 college-committed NTDP players have wound up in the Canadian Hockey League. Of those de-commits, 13 have gone to the OHL and just one each to the WHL and QMJHL.

Is there something going on with the NTDP players? Or is this just the general risk that programs run when recruiting elite players — ones that are going to be the biggest targets for CHL teams to pursue aggressively?

As an attempt to answer that question, I listed all NHL first-round picks (that I could recall) in the past five years who were committed to a college program at one time. I split them into two lists: 1. NTDP players, 2. Non-NTDP players.

According to my numbers, I counted a total of 31 first-round picks since 2010 who were committed to NCAA at one time — 15 NTDPers, 16 who came up in other leagues.

The result?

Only 40 percent of the NTDP first-round picks actually ended up on campus for at least a year (Milano, Michael McCarron, Ryan Hartman, Stefan Matteau, J.T. Miller, Connor Murphy, Jack Campbell, Cam Fowler and Jarred Tinordi did not).

A total of 75 percent of non-NTDP first-round picks ended up on campus for at least a year (Anthony DeAngelo, Zemgus Girgensons, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Johansen did not). Of note: Girgensons did not go to CHL, he signed and went to AHL.

In other words, when it comes to NHL first-rounders, players who did not go through Ann Arbor were almost twice as likely to end up on campus than those who played in Ann Arbor during the last five years.

It’s also worth noting that Girgensons is the only non-NTDP first-rounder in that span to leave his college the summer before his arrival date (the late departures are very difficult to replace for colleges). Milano, McCarron, Miller, Murphy and Tinordi were summer departures.

Obviously not all NTDP players are the same and each individual is different, but it seems clear that if a school recruits a player in Ann Arbor, they should probably have a backup plan ready — especially if the kid is a first-round NHL pick.

NOTE: If I missed anyone on the list below, let me know and I will update the numbers.

College-committed NTDP first-rounders since 2010

Dylan Larkin, Michigan (YES)
Sonny Milano, Notre Dame, Boston College (NO – OHL)
Alex Tuch, Boston College (YES)
Michael McCarron, Western Michigan (NO – OHL)
Ryan Hartman, Miami (NO – OHL)
Jacob Trouba, Michigan (YES)
Brady Skjei, Minnesota (YES)
Stefan Matteau, North Dakota (NO – QMJHL)
J.T. Miller, North Dakota (NO – OHL)
Connor Murphy, Miami (NO – OHL)
Tyler Biggs, Miami (YES)
Jack Campbell, Michigan (NO – OHL)
Cam Fowler, Notre Dame (NO – OHL)
Derek Forbort, North Dakota (YES)
Jarred Tinordi, Notre Dame (NO – OHL)

College-committed non-NTDP first-round picks since 2010

Nick Schmaltz, North Dakota (YES)
Anthony DeAngelo, Boston University (NO – OHL)
Zemgus Girgensons, Vermont (NO – AHL)
Mark Jankowski, Providence (YES)
Michael Matheson, Boston College (YES)
Jordan Schmaltz, North Dakota (YES)
Jamie Oleksiak, Northeastern (YES)
Mark Scheifele, Cornell (NO – OHL)
Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (YES)
Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (YES)
Beau Bennett, Denver (YES)
Riley Sheahan, Notre Dame (YES)
Kevin Hayes, Boston College (YES)
Charlie Coyle, Boston University (YES)
Brock Nelson, North Dakota (YES)
Ryan Johansen, Northeastern (NO – WHL)

NHL staff make comments on prospects

We’re halfway through the NHL’s 30 teams in 30 days previews. One portion of their previews is listing top prospects in the teams’ systems and getting a comment on each from a member of the organization.

So far, Danny Kristo, Nick Schmaltz and Jordan Schmaltz have been previewed.

On Kristo, New York Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark says:

“We liked him in college. It wasn’t working out for him in Montreal and he turned out to be our No. 1 right wing in Hartford in his first full season. He’s got speed, skill and a knack of the puck somehow following him around. We’re hoping to improve our pool of prospects at the center position where we weren’t very deep as an organization in Hartford. We hope Danny can help us in that area.”

On Nick Schmaltz, Chicago Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley says:

“What stood out about Nick was his skill set, his quick hands and his ability to make passes and score. We see him as a center even though I know he played some wing and might continue to do so at North Dakota. His skill set stood out at development camp. Playing for North Dakota will be great for Nick; it worked out pretty well for Jonathan Toews.”

On Jordan Schmaltz, St. Louis Blues director of player personnel Tim Taylor says:

“Last year he took a step forward and his personality changed a little bit on the ice. He was more aggressive, he controlled the game a little more. With his defensive partner (Dillon) Simpson turning pro, now Jordan is going to be the man. It’s going to be a good year for him. He’s pretty excited about it. His brother is coming in to play with him. We had him at development camp and he was outstanding. I thought he really controlled the play. We had 3-on-3 games, and every time he was on the ice he created something.”