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Daily Skate: Five things to know about Monday's USHL Draft

Two Warroad High players were selected in the Phase I Draft.

Nick-Oliver-WMU1010
Former Fargo Force and St. Cloud State captain Nick Oliver during a practice in March 2019 at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. Oliver will be introduced as the new head coach of the Force on May 2, 2022, at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D.

GRAND FORKS — The United States Hockey League held its Phase I Draft on Monday afternoon.

The Phase I Draft is 10 rounds and features players born in 2006.

Before the draft, USHL teams are allowed to sign up to two tenders of 2006-born players. If teams sign one tender, they give up their first-round pick in the Phase I Draft. If they use both tenders, they give up their first- and second-round picks. Tender signees are required to play a certain amount of games for their teams the first year.

Not everyone chooses to sign tenders.

Players that young often aren't ready to play in the USHL. There were two cautionary tales last season: Muskegon and Fargo both watched tendered players immediately leave to go to the Ontario Hockey League. So, they lost their high draft pick and the player they signed in that spot.

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There were eight tenders signed pre-draft this year. Chicago, Muskegon and Tri-City each signed two. Waterloo and Madison signed one.

Here are five notes from Monday's Phase I Draft :

1. If you want an idea of which players will be highly recruited by colleges, take a look at the tender signees and the top draft picks of Phase I. Under new college hockey recruiting rules, the majority of players selected today will be eligible to receive scholarship offers and commit to schools beginning Aug. 1.

2. A pair of area players were taken in the Phase I Draft — Warroad forward Carson Pilgrim went to the Chicago Steel in the eighth round and Warroad defenseman Ryan Lund went to the Fargo Force in the 10th.

3. Moorhead's Brooks Cullen went to Sioux City in the ninth round. Cullen is the son of longtime NHLer and Stanley Cup champion Matt Cullen.

4. Former UND alternate captain Bryn Chyzyk is wasting little time shaking things up as the new general manager of the Waterloo Black Hawks. Chyzyk signed defenseman Keith McInnis, one of the top 2006-born Western Canadian players, to a tender. Then, on Monday morning, he made a trade to acquire the No. 1 overall pick of the Phase-I Draft, where he took forward Matthew Frost of the South Kent Selects . Chyzyk is putting some building blocks in place for his head coach, former UND captain Matt Smaby.

5. The Phase II Draft, featuring all ages who are eligible to play in the USHL next season, will be held Tuesday. It's always worth keeping an eye on the first round to see if any NCAA players go. If so, that's a sign they plan on leaving school and going back to juniors next season. That type of move will probably be less common in the transfer portal era, though. Instead of going back to juniors while sitting out a year, players can now transfer without sitting out.

Demers to join Oliver in Fargo

Roseau graduate Nick Oliver was introduced as the new head coach of the Fargo Force, replacing Scott Langer.

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Oliver spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach with St. Cloud State. He's no stranger to the USHL. Oliver played for the Force and served as an assistant coach with the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Oliver will be bringing a familiar name back to Fargo to be on staff with him — Grafton-Park River's Chad Demers.

Demers previously served as an assistant with Fargo, but left last summer to work as the director of hockey at his alma mater, Air Force Academy.

Oliver and Demers were teammates for two-and-a-half years with the Force from 2008-11.

Fargo's general manager is former UND player and assistant coach Cary Eades.

Three recruits move on in playoffs

Three UND commits are onto the USHL semifinals.

Forward Ben Strinden and defenseman Tyler Dunbar helped the Muskegon Lumberjacks sweep the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the quarterfinals, while defenseman Andrew Strathmann and the Tri-City Storm swept the Omaha Lancers.

Strinden has five points in four games for the Lumberjacks. He scored twice in the clincher Sunday night. Strinden is expected to come to UND in the fall.

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Waterloo plays against Sioux City (Owen McLaughlin and Dylan James) in a decisive Game 3 on Tuesday.

Chicago (Jackson Blake, Jayden Perron, Jake Livanavage) are trailing in their best-of-three series to Madison 1-0. East Grand Forks defenseman Trey Ausmus is out with an injury for Madison.

Stanley Cup Playoffs begin

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Monday night.

It will be a relatively quiet one for UND's standards.

There are only four full-time NHLers from UND in this year's playoffs — Tyson Jost with the Minnesota Wild, T.J. Oshie with the Washington Capitals, Derek Forbort with the Boston Bruins and Troy Stecher with the Los Angeles Kings.

Numerous others will get called up and have a shot at playing, especially as their teams are eliminated from the American Hockey League playoffs. But those are the four who have been full-time NHLers this season.

Sanderson has injury setback

The injury nightmares for Jake Sanderson are still not over.

The Senators revealed Sunday that Sanderson had yet another setback with his hand and will have to be back in a cast for the next six weeks. The Senators are hoping Sanderson will be able to participate in the team's development camp this summer.

Sanderson was a first-team All-American for UND this season, despite missing a significant chunk of time due to three different injuries and two illnesses. Injuries cost Sanderson opportunities to play in the Olympic playoffs, NCAA tournament and NHL this season.

The No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 NHL Draft signed with Ottawa after UND was ousted from the NCAA tournament by Notre Dame in overtime.

Sanderson last played March 12 against Colorado College, when his hand was accidentally cut by an opponent's skate in the final seconds of the game.

Pearson remains Michigan's coach

Michigan coach Mel Pearson's contract expired Saturday night, but he remains working as the Wolverines' head coach without a longterm deal.

The Michigan athletic department told reporter Alejandro Zuniga: "Mel is our head coach. We will broadly communicate any changes to his contract when that is finalized."

Michigan's hockey program has been under investigation this season for Title IX violations and workplace culture complaints, but no results have yet been announced.

The Wolverines finished second in the Big Ten and reached the NCAA Frozen Four this season. They were ousted by Denver in the semifinals.

Pearson posted a tweet Monday showing he's still in the office and preparing to coach the team next season.

NCAA transfer portal deadline arrives

The deadline to enter the NCAA transfer portal for hockey has passed.

Players can only enter the portal now if their financial aid is reduced or cut, or if their program has a change at head coach.

Portal entrants are expected to slow to a trickle now.

Those already in the portal are eligible to be recruited and to commit to new schools.

Wisconsin forward Ryder Donovan, who was once a UND commit, announced Sunday night that he is transferring to Vermont for his final two years of college eligibility. Donovan tallied six goals and 12 points during three seasons with the Badgers.

Quick hits

  • Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio announced that the 2022-23 season will be his last. DeGregorio is the only person to serve as the league's commissioner. He's done it for 20 years.
  • DeGregorio's retirement means four of the six men's college hockey leagues have turned over commissioners in the last three years. Steve Metcalf just finished his second season as Hockey East's commissioner. He took over for Joe Bertagna, who held that post from 1997-2020. Don Lucia just completed his second year as commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. And Josh Fenton just stepped down from his post as NCHC commissioner. No replacement has been named for Fenton. The NCHC has started interviewing candidates.
Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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