UND freshman Ben Strinden rises from anonymity to potential NHL pick
The forward from Fargo is in his final year of draft eligibility and has jumped onto the radar of NHL teams.
GRAND FORKS — Ben Strinden was first eligible for the NHL Draft in 2020, but he doesn't remember anything about it.
"I never thought about it once," said the UND incoming freshman forward from Fargo. "I didn't even pay attention."
In the summer of 2021, Strinden was eligible for the NHL Draft again. This time, after spending a year with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League, he was at least aware of it.
"I knew I was eligible for it and my teammates were getting picked for it," Strinden said. "But I knew I didn't have a good enough year to get drafted."
This year is Strinden's final year of NHL Draft eligibility, and while you won't find his name in any mock drafts — both NHL teams and draft projections are heavily focused on first-year eligible players — don't be surprised if Strinden sneaks into the late rounds.
Strinden had a breakout season in the USHL and has popped on the radar of NHL scouts, who began talking to him last fall.
Strinden said he's spoken to about 10 teams.
"I never expected to talk to NHL teams," he said. "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."
The NHL Draft will be held July 7-8 in Montreal's Bell Centre.
The first round is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 7 on ESPN. The second through seventh rounds will begin at 10 a.m. July 8 on NHL Network and ESPN Plus.
It's at the end of the second day when Strinden could go.
"I'll try not to pay too close of attention to it," he said. "If I get picked, it's going to be an awesome opportunity. If I don't, I'll use it as motivation to keep trying to get better every day."
UND recruited the former Fargo South-Shanley player in 2020 when he was at Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minn. The following year, Strinden debuted in the USHL and tallied one goal in 23 games.
But this season, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward erupted to score 25 goals and 56 points for Muskegon. He also was selected to participate in the All-American Game, a draft-eligible prospect event heavily attended by NHL scouts.
"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 has spent the early part of summer in Fargo, but he'll head to Grand Forks after the draft to begin working out with his UND teammates.
He's part of a four-man freshman class alongside Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Jackson Blake, Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Owen McLaughlin and Dylan James, who is expected to get picked in the second or third round of this year's draft.
"It's still pretty surreal to me," Strinden said about playing at UND. "It's a dream come true. We have a really, really good team this year. I'm looking to help the team in any way I can. I want to be someone that brings it every day in practice and obviously adds to the culture that North Dakota has."
Round 1: July 7, 6 p.m., ESPN.
Rounds 2-7: July 8, 10 a.m., NHL Network, ESPN+.
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal.
UND's top prospects: F Dylan James (2022 commit), D Jake Livanavage (2023 commit), F Ben Strinden (2022 commit).
Other local prospects: F Cole Spicer of Grand Forks (Minnesota Duluth commit), F Daimon Gardner of Warroad (Clarkson commit).