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Reese Laubach and Ben Strinden become first players from Northstar program taken in NHL Draft

Northstar Christian Academy Associate Director Mark Abalan talks about what makes both players stand out after Laubach and Strinden become the first Northstar players taken in the draft for a Knights program that got its start in the fall of 2018.

Reese Laubach
Reese Laubach, a native of San Jose, California, waits for the puck during a game with Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria. Laubach scored 102 points for the Knights this past season in leading them to a 51-5-3 overall record at the 18U AAA level. That production helped Laubach get taken in the seventh round of the 2022 NHL Draft on July 8 when he was selected 217th overall by the San Jose Sharks.
Contributed photo by BULLDOG PHOTOGRAPHY

ALEXANDRIA — Members of the Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria watched with a lot of interest and excitement last week as the Knights had their first players drafted in the NHL Draft on July 8.

The Knights’ first season came in 2018-19. Former Northstar forwards Reese Laubach and Ben Strinden were both selected in the seventh round of last week's NHL Draft.

Strinden, a Fargo native, was taken with the No. 210 overall pick by the Nashville Predators. Laubach, a native of San Jose, California, was taken 217th overall by his hometown San Jose Sharks.

“We’re just super happy for those two guys. Two wonderful kids, man,” Northstar Christian Academy Associate Director Mark Abalan said. “Really high-character. The kind of guys you’d want your daughter to be with. The kind of guys that you want to start a team around. They’re both leaders in every shape of the word.

“They’re really hard-working, smart, service type of guys. There’s other guys we could mention as well, but with those two in particular, that’s what a Northstar Knight is — a servant leader who has a bigger purpose in their life, and that’s God. Both have an amazing foundation in Christ, so for us as an organization, as a ministry, we couldn’t be more proud of two young men who are living for Christ and doing things the right way.”

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Reese Laubach
Reese Laubach
Contributed photo

Laubach called it a dream come true to be drafted by the Sharks, a team he grew up watching as a fan, during an interview with the Mercury News.

“It’s unique. You don’t often get to be drafted by your hometown team and the team you grew up cheering for,” Abalan said. “I think he could have been drafted by any (NHL team) because he’s a really talented young man, but I’m sure those guys had a little inside scoop too because they’ve known him and he’s from that area. That’s really special for him.”

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Strinden, who played a year at Fargo South-Shanley before joining Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, became just the fourth Fargo prep player ever to be picked in the NHL Draft. Strinden was passed over in his first two years of draft eligibility, but got selected by the Predators on Friday after a breakout season with Muskegon in the USHL.

Strinden said he spoke to about 10 teams leading up to the draft last week.

Ben Strinden
Ben Strinden, a Fargo native, awaits a faceoff in a game with the Northstar Knights. Strinden, who was taken with the 210th overall pick in the NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, played two seasons for the Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria where he tallied 118 total points from 2018-2020.
Contributed photo

"I never expected to talk to NHL teams," he said in an interview with Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald leading into the draft. "Honestly, it's been kind of crazy. After the (preseason) showcase last year, a team reached out and I was like, 'Oh, wow, that's crazy.' I never thought that would happen."

Strinden, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound forward who will play at the University of North Dakota this season, had 25 goals and 56 points in 61 games for Muskegon last season. The previous year, he had one goal and 10 points in 23 games.

“The biggest thing was I had more confidence," Strinden said. "All my goals I set before the season, I was able to reach. As a team, we didn't win the Clark Cup or anything, but we started 1-10 or whatever and we were able to turn it around. I thought it was a good, successful year."

Strinden is one of three UND players who had their name called in this year's NHL Draft.

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Abalan, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience including nine in the USHL, has not been surprised to see Strinden’s game grow in the USHL after his time at Northstar was through. Strinden posted 118 career points (55 goals, 63 assists) in 100 games played for the Knights over two seasons from 2018-2020.

Strinden2.jpg
Ben Strinden
Contributed photo

“He trains so hard and is so dedicated to being that kind of player,” Abalan said. “His summer training and the work he’s put into his body and his skating and his overall game is so obvious. I’ve seen it because I see him here every summer. If you can do what he did in the USHL and rise up to being one of the better players in that league this year, to the NHL guys, they say we got to take note of this. That league is really hard to produce and to be a top performer in.”

The Northstar U18 team won its second straight NAPHL Dixon Cup title, while the 16U team made a deep run.

Laubach, a 6-foot, 167-pound forward, is coming off a huge season for the Northstar Christian Academy at the 18U AAA level. He led the Knights to a second straight Dixon Cup title in the North American Prep Hockey League and to a 51-5-3 record overall.

Laubach finished the 2021-22 season with 102 points in 57 games on 51 goals and 51 assists. That’s after posting 75 points (33 goals, 42 assists) in 43 games at the 18U level in 2020-21.

Abalan lauded Laubach’s hockey IQ and talent on the ice. He loves the way his game has room to grow as Laubach continues to add more size in the coming years.

“The things you have to have as a player that the NHL wants in their organization is No. 1, character. He has it,” Abalan said of Laubach. “He plays with character. He has determination in his game. He’s competitive. He’s the guy that wants the puck on his stick in the big moment.

“I think he’s just at the tip of the iceberg of what his potential could be as he continues to get stronger and really matures physically as a man over the next years. He’s going to a great league in the USHL to do that, and he’s going to an unbelievable college with one of the best coaches in the world who’s going to help him get to that next level.”

Reese Laubach committed to Minnesota State University-Mankato after recording 38 points in 30 games.

Laubach played two games in the USHL for the Youngstown Phantoms. He is expected to play for Youngstown again this upcoming season before potentially joining Division I Minnesota State Mankato, led by head coach Mike Hastings, the following season.

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Laubach committed to Mankato in January of 2021.

Getting taken in the NHL Draft is step one in the process of playing in an NHL game. It takes a lot of work between draft day and rising through the ranks of an organization, but Abalan said both Strinden and Laubach have the mindset and attitude to give themselves a chance.

“The draft is an unreal feather in your cap,” Abalan said. “It’s an unreal honor, but the work’s just beginning for sure. They’re both going to programs in North Dakota for Strinden and Mankato for Laubach, those are professional programs. Those programs are developing pros, so they’re going into environments where they’re going to have the resources to do it. The reason they’re going there is because they’re the right kind of kids. They both have a chance because of the things we talked about — those intangibles. Whether they play in the NHL or not, both of those guys have a great future in hockey and in life.”

( Brad Elliott Schlossman of Forum News Service contributed to this story)

Related Topics: HOCKEYUSHL
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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