Flyers pick Owen McLaughlin commits to UND
McLaughlin, who plays top-line center for Sioux City, will come to campus next season.
Owen McLaughlin was selected in the seventh round of last summer's NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
But the center from Spring Park, Pa., really grabbed the hockey world's attention this fall when he started playing for the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League.
McLaughlin racked up 10 points in his first seven USHL games, and multiple scouts told the Herald that if McLaughlin went undrafted last summer — he was 19 picks away from doing so — he would have been a second- or third-round pick this upcoming year.
So, when McLaughlin dropped his commitment to Penn State and re-opened his recruiting in late October, a fierce recruiting battle ensued.
UND won that battle this week.
McLaughlin, a 6-foot, 165-pound center, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play college hockey for the Fighting Hawks.
"I'm super excited," McLaughlin said. "The visit was unbelievable. I had a really good time getting to know all the coaches. The whole support staff was unbelievable. Hanging out with the team, even though it was a short period, was great. I'm pumped to go."
McLaughlin narrowed his decision down to UND, Minnesota Duluth and UMass. He made campus visits to all three.
"It was pretty tough, but at the end of the day, it's North Dakota," he said. "I had such a good time there. The coaches have been nothing but awesome. It's hard not to go there."
McLaughlin could fill a key role for UND.
The Fighting Hawks, currently atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings, will be losing one of their top centers in fifth-year senior Connor Ford.
McLaughlin, a dynamic center who sees the ice well, will be a candidate to fill that spot.
"He has extremely high offensive awareness," Sioux City coach Luke Strand said. "I think there's just a really high ceiling to what he becomes. The highest level he's played is right now (in the USHL). The exciting part is the next steps of his growth. We're a third of the way through the season and he's better than a point-per game guy. I don't see that slowing down."
McLaughlin, who plays on a line with UND commit Dylan James, has nine goals and 23 points in 22 games for Sioux City.
"One of the most impressive parts is the amount of five-on-five points he has," Strand said. "He gets checked, being a top center, and he continues to produce."
McLaughlin came to Sioux City from Mount St. Charles Academy in Rhode Island. His head coach there, Matt Plante, also coached UND's Shane Pinto in midget hockey before Pinto went to the USHL. Pinto won MVP in the NCHC last season.
Although both McLaughlin and Pinto are centers, they have different styles.
Pinto, now with the Ottawa Senators, is a power forward, who plays a strong all-around game. McLaughlin is a dynamic playmaker who has elite vision and poise. He likes to hang onto the puck and make plays for his linemates.
"Our goal is to make him the best recruit North Dakota has next year," said Strand, who previously coached UND's Matteo Costantini and Brady Ferner.
McLaughlin said he's continuing to work on the details of his game, including faceoffs and defending in his own end.
"That layer of his game isn't far off," Strand said. "He does do a good job defensively. He has a good stick, he understands the offensive game and that helps him defend."
McLaughlin will be 19 years old when he comes to campus next season.
"I'm obviously super excited," McLaughlin said. "It's an awesome spot. I can't wait to get there. But right now, I think we've got a good group here. We're trying to see what we can do here and hopefully bring a Clark Cup to Sioux City."