UMD men's hockey: 2022 NHL Draft will be a family experience for Hermantown's Zam Plante
Hermantown's Zam Plante, a future Bulldogs forward and standout scorer for the Hawks, will be joined by his brothers, mother and grandfather at the NHL Draft this week in Montreal. His father, a coach at UMD and NHL draft pick himself, will also be there in person after missing out on the 1989 event in Minnesota.
If Hermantown’s Zam Plante does indeed hear his name called this week at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal, it will be a memorable moment for the future Minnesota Duluth forward.
Or at least, it should be a more memorable day than that of his father, Bulldogs associate head coach Derek Plate, who in 1989 was taken in the eighth round, No. 161 overall, by the Buffalo Sabres.
“My dad was telling me about how he was mowing his lawn when he got drafted, didn’t really think anything of it,” Zam Plante said.
True story, says Derek, who was in between his senior year of high school and freshman season at UMD during the summer of ‘89. He was cutting the grass back home in Cloquet while the draft was happening at the since-demolished Met Center in Bloomington, and didn’t find out he'd been picked until after he was done mowing.
“My sisters are like, ‘You got drafted.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, for what?’” Derek Plante said. “They’re like, ‘It’s a blue and gold team’ and I couldn’t even think of a team. ‘The Blues?’”
Derek Plante went on to play six seasons for the Sabres (he won a Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars) after captaining the Bulldogs. He admitted he wasn’t even thinking about pro hockey that day, nor had he considered going to the draft in person, though, “it would have been fun to go since it was at the Met Center that year.”
Unlike his dad back in 1989, Zam Plante will be at the 2022 draft in person. The whole Plante family left Wednesday for Montreal so that if Zam is drafted, he won’t be surrounded by grass clippings. He’ll have his mom (former UMD softball and basketball player Kristi Plante), two younger brothers (Max and Victor), grandfather (former Hermantown coach Bruce Plante) and his dad there to experience the moment with him.
“I think it’s really cool having them be there for me,” Zam Plante said of his family. “They’re the ones who are always there for me. Having them there will be a cool experience.”
Zam Plante, who turns 18 in late August, isn’t projected to go during the opening round on Thursday night, but on the second day — during rounds 2-7 — Friday.
Ranked No. 64 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Zam split his junior year of high school between Hermantown and the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. Playing with Max, Zam posted 24 goals and 37 assists in 22 games for the Hawks en route to a Class A state title. Playing for the Steel in the fall and spring — before and after the high school season — Zam registered 10 goals and 11 assists in 31 games.
Zam Plante underwent shoulder surgery this spring after dislocating it during the opening round of the USHL playoffs. He previously injured his shoulder three games into the 2021-22 high school season. While he attended this year’s NHL combine to interview with teams, the surgery prevented him from taking part in any physical testing.
That’s OK, said Zam, who was told by NHL teams that he was wise to have the surgery after previously holding off. Having talked to over 20 teams leading up to the draft, Zam said he got a lot of good feedback from those he talked to.
“They’ve said they like the steps my game has taken over the last year playing at Chicago and Hermantown,” Zam Plante said. “It’s nice to hear, and that they see it, knowing you’ve done everything you can to be in the best spot for the draft.
“That’s kind of what I felt, but being able to hear it from other people is definitely a big confidence booster and helps me going forward.”
Zam Plante still has another year of high school and at least one more season of hockey to go before he can join his dad and the Bulldogs. Zam has the option in 2022-23 of doing what he did a year ago as a junior — split time between the USHL and high school — or play all of his senior season in juniors in Chicago.
Zam Plante said he’s yet to make a decision about 2022-23. Could the NHL team that potentially drafts him influence that decision?
“I think you listen to what they have to say, but it’s your decision,” Zam Plante said. “I've got to make a decision for myself.”
Howard highlights Bulldogs to watch for in 2022 draft
Including Plante, the Bulldogs could see between 6-7 current and future players taken this week at the Bell Centre in Montreal, though only one is likely to go during the opening round on Thursday night. That’s incoming freshman forward Isaac Howard of Hudson, Wisconsin.
Ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Howard is ranked No. 20 overall by TSN draft guru Bob McKenzie. As for mock drafts, McKenzie’s TSN colleague Craig Button has Howard doing as high as No. 22 to the Anaheim Ducks while Corey Pronman of The Athletic thinks Howard sticks around to the Winnipeg Jets at No. 30. Chris Peters for Daily Faceoff and ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski both have Howard being taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 25.
“Howard is one of the draft’s most dynamic players,” Peters wrote for Daily Faceoff . “The Leafs would be getting great value in this range with him. He lacks size, but he’s got quick hands and is shifty enough to make defenders miss. Toronto has never been shy about betting on skill.”
Howard’s USA Hockey National Team Development Program teammate from the previous two seasons, center Cole Spicer of Grand Forks, is also among the incoming UMD freshmen who could be taken on Day 2 of the draft. Spicer is ranked No. 121 by NHL Central Scouting. Incoming freshman defenseman Aiden Dubinsky of Highland Park, Illinois, and Tri-City Storm of the USHL is ranked No. 176.
Two future Bulldogs, like Plante, also appeared in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings — Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) winger Matthew Perkins and Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) center Gavin O’Connell of Wayzata. They’re 106 and 178, respectively.
One other potential Bulldog who could be picked — even though he was left off this year’s NHL rankings — is Bulldogs center Dominic James, who is heading into his sophomore year at UMD and in his final year of draft eligibility.
James, 20, had a breakout freshman season with the Bulldogs, posting six goals and 12 assists centering a pair of NHL draft picks in Blake Biondi (Montreal) and Quinn Olson (Boston).
James was part of the original 2022 U.S. National Junior Team that was in Red Deer, Alberta, last winter when the World Junior Championship was canceled after four days of games. He’s been invited to try out again for Team USA for the reboot of the 2022 World Juniors in August in Edmonton, as well as the 2023 World Juniors in December and January in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.