UND’s Early Signings

UND has now lost 17 players due to early pro signings in the decade under coach Dave Hakstol. Here’s a look at how many games they’ve played in each league.

Regular season totals

Rocco Grimaldi — TBD
Derek Forbort — 0 NHL, 80 AHL

Brock Nelson — 72 NHL, 71 AHL
Aaron Dell — 0 NHL, 6 AHL, 29 ECHL, 44 CHL
Jason Gregoire — 0 NHL, 104 AHL, 44 Europe
Brett Hextall — 0 NHL, 197 AHL
T.J. Oshie — 371 NHL
Taylor Chorney — 61 NHL, 338 AHL
Jonathan Toews — 484 NHL
Brian Lee — 209 NHL, 134 AHL
Drew Stafford — 513 NHL, 34 AHL
Travis Zajac — 551 NHL 
Rastislav Spirko — 404 Europe
Matt Smaby — 122 NHL, 212 AHL, 42 Europe
Jordan Parise — 0 NHL, 48 AHL, 13 ECHL, 138 Europe
Matt Greene — 504 NHL, 27 AHL
Brady Murray — 4 NHL, 58 AHL, 232 Europe

As you can see by the color code, three players jumped into the NHL from Day 1 and never set foot in the AHL — T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews and Travis Zajac (technically, Zajac played two games in the AHL at the end of UND’s season on an ATO, but he never did once he was under contract).

Six of the 17 have not played in the NHL yet. The ship has probably sailed for Parise, Spirko and Gregoire. Forbort, Hextall and Dell are still aiming at the NHL.

You can also see that Stafford and Greene played very minimal parts of their career in the AHL. They started there as rookies, but were NHLers to stay by the end of the season (Greene was playing in the Stanley Cup Finals that year). Lee also played more NHL games than AHL games. I don’t think Nelson will see the AHL ever again, either.

All players leave for different reasons. Murray was taking advantage of a loophole in the Swiss league. Spirko knew he wasn’t going to the NHL. Parise was striking the iron while it was hot. But it’s still interesting to look back on them.

18 Responses

  1. Craig

    Brad, I think rocco has alot of natural talent. However I feel he left a year too soon and felt he needed one more year to build on. What are your thoughts?

  2. Sioux, CO

    Nelson, Forbort, Dell, Gregoire and Hextall all left early and have not played in the NHL as of yet, other than Nelson (1st round pick).

    Some 4 year guys in that same era are Knight, Kristo, Malone, Frattin, Porter and Vandevelde. 5 of these 6 guys have already played a game in the NHL and a couple of these guys have played significant time with none being 1st round picks. Seems to me that 4 years of development at UND is the path to the NHL.

  3. Don Cherry

    God bless each one of these men. Now provide the list of guys that thought better to never set foot here after committing. How did life turn out for them?

  4. Andy

    Your request is a bit premature, as most of those players who decided not to go to UND did so recently and are still in the CHL. Of those who are out of the CHL…JT Miller has seen some time in the NHL this year, around 30 games. Stefan Matteau, has seen 17 games in the NHL in 12-13 and 67 games in the AHL in 13-14.

    Seth Jones never committed to UND, but will be a life long NHL’er.

    And you cannot forget Garrett Clark who after after 4 years in the Q, is now playing in the CHL for the Arizona Sundogs.

    I am sure i am missing some.

  5. erik

    I think, as strange as it is, the one person who has not played an NHL game listed here that could still play is Dell. Lots of goalies seem to start NHL careers later than forwards or defence do. From the C to the E to the A as a free agent in two seasons is pretty good.

  6. Seattle51

    I feel that the NHL puts college hockey players in a bad situation. I would like to see the rule changed. If a NHL team drafts a college hockey player, that team retains their right through their Senior year. It seems like we lose players because they are drafted and then they are pressured by the drafting team because they become eligible for Free Agency.

    My personal opinion is Rocco could use another year at the college level, but because, if he did not sign a contract then the Panthers would lose their draft pick. That puts a lot of pressure on a young man.

    Just my 2 cents.

  7. Sparky

    Brad, I think the majority of people who know anything about hockey will tell you Rocco left too early. I am very surprised he left, I do not see one possible upside to his leaving other than a slight uptick in competition in the minor leagues….if this is, indeed, actually true…?? I was also surprised he left from a personal standpoint. Rocco is like any other college hockey player in that he wants to play in the NHL. However, this early move that goes against all CW seems a bit out of character for Rocco. BTW, I am not criticizing his move to the NHL in any way. He is, and should be, free to do what he thinks is best for himself. I wish him the best.

  8. brent

    Grimaldi had other reasons to leave UND early – Pageant –
    wish him well – time to yet again move on – it is what it is- College Hockey – thats why you need to enjoy them while they are here – tough spot for all involved –

  9. Mike

    A lot of people miss the point though. Going to the AHL isn’t a step down from college. It’s a step up in talent and in income. I don’t fault a player who leaves early and then goes into the AHL. It’s all development and part of the process. And IT’S INCOME! I don’t care who you are at 21 making an AHL salary with the signing bonus is nice.

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