Ryan Gropp will no longer be coming to UND.
The top recruit has signed with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, making him ineligible for college hockey.
“I am really excited to be joining the T-Birds,” Gropp said in a statement. “I have been having this feeling of joining the T-Birds for a while and it is better to make this decision sooner rather than later. The team is off to a good start and it is good to come and be a part of that. I am looking forward to getting started and joining the team.”
Gropp had eight points in 10 games to start the season with the Penticton Vees. According to Penticton coach and general manager Fred Harbinson, that wasn’t the start that Gropp expected.
“Ryan’s mindset last summer when he committed to UND (University of North Dakota) and decided to return to Penticton, was that he would enter the NCAA as a true freshman which coincides with his draft year,” Harbinson said. “Unfortunately Ryan did not get off to the start everyone expected this season, hence possibly affecting his long term goals. After a few discussions with Ryan and his family, we came to the conclusion it would be best for Ryan to change directions and move on to the WHL.
“Ryan was a great teammate during his time in Penticton, and our organization wishes him nothing but the best in his future hockey endeavors.”
In the last two-plus years, UND has lost four recruits to major juniors: first-round pick J.T. Miller, first-round pick Stefan Matteau, undrafted Miles Koules and now Gropp, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL draft.
UND still has a very good class of 1996-born forwards with Nick Schmaltz, Shane Gersich, Chris Wilkie, Austin Poganski and Rhett Gardner.