With a new season on the horizon, everyone is trying to visualize what next year’s team may look like. This includes trying to project where the recruits will fall in the lineup. That is usually extremely tough to project.
Judging by internet reports prior to their arrivals, most of us pegged Chay Genoway as a depth guy, not a two-time All-American. We pegged Derrick LaPoint as an offensive dynamo and he ended up being a top penalty killer and a shutdown defenseman. And we pegged Brett Hextall as a checker, not a guy who would have 81 points in three years and an NHL deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Keeping that in mind, I have had the chance to see a few of UND’s recruits in person or online in the last month, and here’s my impression of what I saw (only including guys I’ve seen play multiple times):
Rocco Grimaldi, forward — He has good speed and dynamic ability. Saw him put the puck between a defender’s legs to create a chance late in the third period of a tie game. Although he’s only 5-6, he doesn’t shy away from contact. He made a hit to separate a defenseman from the puck, which directly led to a goal in one game. His best plays, perhaps, were stretch passes from his own zone to spring teammates on breakaways. He has the ability to play on a scoring line from the start.
J.T. Miller, forward — When you think of Sioux hockey players, you think guys who play hard, physical, fast and show skill. That’s the exact way to describe Miller. Every time I’ve seen him, he’s played very hard and made at least one highlight-reel hit. He goes to the net every play, often getting opponents angry at him for doing so. He said on an interview on The Pipeline Show that he stays after practice every day to practice tipping pucks. With his big frame and tenacity, I think he has a great chance to take that net-front presence role on the power play from Brad Malone, who was outstanding at screening goalies. I see Miller as a guy who opponents will hate — not because he talks but because of how hard he plays. If he plays like he did at the U18 tournament, he will contribute immediately.
Colten St. Clair, forward — St. Clair’s production in the USHL has plateaued a little bit.Â Saw him play twice at the end of the season. He’s not the most dynamic player — I don’t think he will be dangling through guys — but he can skate. When he’s going, he definitely has good speed. In one game, he back-checked extremely hard and broke up a two-on-one with pure speed. I don’t foresee him scoring a lot next year, but he can be an effective third- or fourth-line, energy player and a penalty killer. Over time, he could become a Matt Watkins type of player.
Nick Mattson, defenseman — I’ve seen him play at various times throughout the last three years. He’s a smart player and prefers to keep it simple at all times. He gets the puck off his stick quickly to forwards or his defensive partner. He always makes himself available as an outlet for his fellow defenseman and almost always is the guy who stays back. He does have the ability to pull out some dynamic moves — I saw him do a spin move at the blue line right before unleashing a slap shot that was tipped for a goal — but he doesn’t pull them out all the time. He’s not going to dazzle anyone with speed or a crunching hit, but he will be reliable and efficient.
If anyone else has seen these guys feel free to drop your observations. These are just a few of mine (keep in mind, the sample size is extremely small). But I’ve been asked enough about the recruits that I thought I would drop my thoughts here.