More on the Grimaldi signing

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi signed a three-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.

What does that mean for UND next season?

I think it means that UND, once again, isn’t going to blow anyone away with its skill level up front and it will rely on offense by committee, just as it did this season. Look at the lineup of forwards and there really isn’t a potential Hobey guy up there.

(Side note: I see fans comment sometimes asking, ‘When are we going to have a sniper or a goal-scorer? We never do!’ Prior to this season, UND had the leading goal scorer in the WCHA for three consecutive seasons — Danny Kristo, Brock Nelson and Matt Frattin — so those fans have a short memory….)

Next year, there won’t be a guy on the roster who has tallied more than 13 goals in a college season.

I think fans can expect Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan to have bigger point totals as long as they are healthy. Their production was significantly different in the second half of the season when they were healthy (although Parks clearly wasn’t fully healthy because he wouldn’t shake hands with his right hand).

We’ve all seen some of the high-end things that Drake Caggiula can do. As he gets older, he’s starting to become more consistent. He’s a guy that UND will look to continue adding to that consistency.

Nick Schmaltz is a guy who has potential to produce offense right away. I’ve only seen him play two games, but he was more of a setup man in those games, which could come in handy on the power play.

And it will also be very important to keep getting production from the junkyard dogs. Stephane Pattyn and Connor Gaarder came up huge for UND at the end of the season. They may not be the most skilled players, but they are relentless and get everything out of their abilities.

Pattyn and Gaarder became the faces of this year’s team. The team took on their mentality at the end of the season and will need to do that again next season. I also think Pattyn can continue practicing tips in front of the net — he sparked the power play at the end of the season and I think he’ll be at net front again next season.

Back to Grimaldi, UND loses its most explosive and dynamic player. Does it hurt? Yes. Is it a loss UND can overcome? Yes. With or without Grimaldi, UND’s strength next season was going to be on the back end and in goal. That doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is UND’s skill level up front.

I’ve certainly never covered a player like Grimaldi in my time on the beat. He was unique.

He had the ability to create a highlight reel play at any time. Look at the goal he scored in the second period against Wisconsin: He picked off a pass in the neutral zone, used his elite speed to gain separation from the defenseman, then backhanded one home. I don’t know if there’s another guy on the team who could score a goal like that.

If he came in the zone on a one-on-one rush, he would get the crowd out of their seats, because they had no idea what was going to happen next. He could go wide, he could go inside, he could put the puck through the defender, he could pull up and let traffic build in front or he could stop on a dime, let the D go by and shoot.

He could spark his team and the crowd with an energetic shift, and he almost always set the pace at which the team played.

Then, there were the three stats that I’ll never be able to figure out.

Grimaldi scored a power-play goal in each game against Vermont. Then, he had one power-play goal in the last 40 games of the year and none in the final 33. He was in a setup role on the halfwall often, but even so, it’s strange that he became more proficient at scoring shorthanded than on the power play.

It was also strange that, until burying two empty-netters in the regional against Wisconsin, he never had a two-goal game at UND.

The other thing I’ve never seen before is a player produce at the same rate no matter who he had on his line. Grimaldi played with Kristo and Knight for a while last season and put up pretty much the same numbers that he did when he was mixed-and-matched with Pattyn, Bryn Chyzyk and Colten St. Clair.

Add all that up and it tells you why there are so many differing opinions on how he will do in the pros.

The truth is that none of us really know what the next level holds for Grimaldi and we’ll all be following curiously along to see the results. Before hanging up with him on the phone today, I told Grimaldi that we’ll keep in touch as we follow him through the pros.

“I’m in the Fighting Sioux family now,” he said. “I know the people here will always support me and I will support this team forever.”

Grimaldi signs with Florida

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi has signed with the Florida Panthers, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.

It is a three-year deal with the Panthers, who drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Here’s a quick file story on the Herald’s site, including a couple of quotes from Grimaldi.

Grimaldi is the seventh NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

North Dakota (1)
Rocco Grimaldi, so, f, Florida Panthers

St. Cloud State (1)
Ryan Faragher, jr, g, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Grimaldi decision coming soon

UND will soon know whether its leading scorer is coming back for next season.

Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi says he wants to decide before the end of the school year whether he will return for his junior year or if he will sign with the Florida Panthers.

UND’s spring session ends in two-and-a-half weeks.

Grimaldi led UND in both goals (17) and points (39) this season, scoring five more goals than anyone else on the team and registering nine more points than anyone. He was named the MVP of the Midwest Regional.

If he returns, it would give UND’s skill level a big boost for next season. But Florida is likely trying to get him signed, because if he returns for another year, he could have the option of becoming a free agent in the future.

UND has already received pledges to return from Jordan Schmaltz, Zane Gothberg and Michael Parks.

The last time UND had an offseason where nobody turned pro early was 2010. Since 1999, there have only been two offseasons where no UND player turned pro early — 2009 and 2010.

Grimaldi injury not believed serious

UND coach Dave Hakstol said that he doesn’t believe Rocco Grimaldi’s injury will be anything longterm, but the team will do a more in-depth evaluation after 24 hours.

Grimaldi went down with a leg injury early in the third period and didn’t return. He struggled to get off the ice and was examined by trainer Mark Poolman on the bench for a couple of minutes before he hobbled down the tunnel and to the locker room.

Grimaldi was walking on his own power after the game.

Any absence of Grimaldi, the team’s leading scorer, would hurt as this team isn’t the most potent team in the NCHC.

UND hosts Colorado College this upcoming weekend.

Grimaldi stars as U.S. wins gold

Trailing 1-0 in the second period, Rocco Grimaldi scored back-to-back goals and linemate Vince Trocheck added an empty netter as the U.S. beat Sweden 3-1 to win the gold medal at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

Grimaldi was named the U.S. player of the game.

After hitting both posts on a first-period shot, Grimaldi scored from a bad angle and tipped a Jacob Trouba shot to lead the American comeback.

Grimaldi is the 12th UND player to win a gold medal at the event and the fifth American. For more, see the Herald’s site.

U.S. upsets Canada, will play for gold

Rocco Grimaldi and Team USA will play for gold at the World Junior Championship.

The Americans stunned Canada 5-1 in the semifinals early Thursday morning thanks to a pair of goals by Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe and Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau.

Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey also scored for Team USA, while John Gibson was once again outstanding in net, stopping 33 of 34 shots.

Grimaldi set McCabe up for the second goal, which ended up being the eventual game-winner.

The last UND player to win a gold medal at the World Juniors was Danny Kristo (gold) in 2010. Derek Forbort and Brock Nelson won bronze in 2011.

Last year, the U.S. flopped and finished seventh, but the Americans are back on track this year. After dropping back-to-back 2-1 games against Canada and Russia, the U.S. faced an elimination game against Slovakia. Since then, they have outscored three opponents by the combined score of 21-4.

The U.S. will try to win its third goal medal ever in the event at 7 a.m. Saturday morning against Sweden. The U.S. also won gold in 2004 and 2010.

For Canada, this was a deeply disappointing loss. The Canadians figured to have one of their best teams ever with the NHL lockout allowing them to have their NHL players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. However, the tournament ended with Canada suffering its most lopsided loss at the World Junior Championship since December 1997.

Americans crush Germany in opener

Team USA used eight different goal-scorers en route to an 8-0 blowout win over Germany in the opener of the World Junior Championship.

UND’s Rocco Grimaldi had one assist and also had a highlight reel backcheck to break up a German breakaway late in the third period.

For a full game story, see GrandForksHerald.com.

The Americans will take on host Russia in a Group B showdown at 8 a.m. Friday.

USA 8, Germany 0

First period – 1. USA, Kuraly (Galchenyuk, Barber) :19; 2. USA, Trouba (Pietila) 8:30; 3. USA, Galchenyuk (Kuraly, Barber) 9:54

Second period – 4. USA, Barber (Galchenyuk) :14; 5. USA, Gostisbehere (Jones, Grimaldi) 6:33 (pp); 6. USA, Hartman (Pietila, Bardreau) 7:55

Third period – 7. USA, Miller 8:36; 8. USA, Jones  10:32

Goalie saves – USA: Gibson 19, Gillies 7; GER: Cupper 38

Grimaldi will make final roster

After Team USA’s 5-1 loss to Finland in the final exhibition game before the World Junior Championship, UND freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi posted on Twitter: “I was the worst player on the ice today. I did absolutely nothing and that is unacceptable. That CAN NOT and WILL NOT happen again.”

Even so, he will be on this year’s World Junior team as expected.

USA Hockey announced two cuts at 2 a.m. this morning — forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Brady Skjei — and all that’s left is one more defensive cut (the U.S. is unsure yet if Connor Murphy will be able to go because of an injury situation).

Grimaldi has been playing right wing on the top line along with J.T. Miller and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau.

Team USA’s first game is 8 a.m. Thursday against Germany.

Check out the latest roster here.

Grimaldi on initial WJC roster

UND freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi is one of 27 players named to the initial U.S. World Junior Championship roster.

Grimaldi will participate in a training camp from Dec. 16-18 in New York’s Madison Square Garden. An additional camp will be held in Helsinki, Finland and the final roster will be named Dec. 23.

The World Juniors will be held in Ufa, Russia, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. That means if Grimaldi makes the final roster, which he is expected to, he will miss the Holy Cross series on Jan. 4-5.

Grimaldi was expected to be on the team a year ago but had to sit out because of a knee injury that sidelined him for basically the entire season.

The California native has 11 points in 14 college games.

UND freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, who also was considered for the team, did not make the initial roster.

One time UND recruits J.T. Miller and Stefan Matteau also are on the initial roster.

College players on initial roster

Jon Gillies, goalie, Providence
Shayne Gostisbehere, defenseman, Union
Matt Grzelcyk, defenseman, Boston University
Jake McCabe, defenseman, Wisconsin
Mike Reilly, defenseman, Minnesota
Brady Skjei, defenseman, Minnesota
Cole Bardreau, forward, Cornell
Riley Barber, forward, Miami
John Gaudreau, forward, Boston College
Rocco Grimaldi, forward, North Dakota
Sean Kuraly, forward, Miami
Mario Lucia, forward, Notre Dame
Blake Pietila, forward, Michigan Tech
Jim Vesey, forward, Harvard

Read the full roster here.