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Season Preview: North Dakota

My pick for 3rd in the WCHA: North Dakota.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Ryan Duncan C Jonathan Toews RW T.J. Oshie
LW Andrew Kozek C Matt Watkins RW Chris Porter
LW Mike Forney C Chris Vandevelde RW Rylan Kaip
LW Darcy Zajac C Eric Fabian RW Brad Miller
LD Zach Jones RD Brian Lee G Anthony Grieco
LD Taylor Chorney RD Joe Finley G Philippe Lamoureux
LD Scott Foyt RD Kyle Radke

Strengths:

They’ve got these two kids named Toews and Oshie who are supposed to be pretty good. Their young defense from last year should be even better this year. Some of the less heralded freshmen like Duncan and Watkins should contribute even more this year.

Weaknesses:

All of their defections have left this team a little bit thin. Philippe Lamoureux will have to prove that he’s capable as a full-time starting goalie.

Question Marks

Will the Sioux suffer a "sophomore slump"? For all their losses, North Dakota got all of their large freshmen class from last year back for this year. That group was excellent last season, and will need to be even better this year. Can T.J. Oshie continue to be so good? Oshie came out of nowhere last year and was dominant by the end of the season. Was it a fluke or is he just that good?

Overall:

Everyone made a big deal about all of North Dakota’s defections, but they only lost one regular skater(4th line center Mike Prpich) to graduation. For all the good players they lost, they have just as many returning. They may not have the talent to compete with the very best teams like Minnesota or Denver, but they’ll be good enough to beat the rest of the WCHA.

Key Player: Philippe Lamoureux. North Dakota tried to split time between Lamoureux and Jordan Parise last season, but it became obvious early on that Parise deserved to be the starter. Now, with Parise gone, Lamoureux will have to step in as the full time starter. Lamoureux struggled last season. He had reasonably decent numbers (2.61 GAA, .911 SV%), but the ugliest stat was his 5-7-0 record for a team that went 29-16-1 on the season. Moreover, his five wins came against Northeastern, Bemidji, Anchorage, Minnesota, and Minnesota State. After losing so much scoring, North Dakota will need Lamoureux to keep his numbers down against the top teams in the WCHA.

Breakout Player: Ryan Duncan. Duncan had an excellent freshmen season last year, scoring 16 goals and 20 assists, but he did so quietly, as freshmen T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews, along with stars like Drew Stafford and Travis Zajac, got more attention for their play. Now, with Zajac and Stafford gone to the pros, Duncan will get more attention for his play.

Did You Know?

Senior forward Chris Porter had his NHL rights traded from Toronto to Chicago for legendary defenseman Phil Housley.

During the Great Depression, North Dakota provided free housing in train cabooses to destitute students, which was nicknamed "Camp Depression" The train cars are long gone, but many who visit Grand Forks feel the name Camp Depression still fits.

Grand Forks received a large donation from McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc to help with recovery after the city was devastated by a flood in 1997.

If You Go There

You Have to Eat At: Whitey’s restaurant, which is technically in Minnesota, but right across the border. It’s an old school type restaurant/bar with pretty good food

You Have to Stop At:
If the weather is nice, The Greenway is an area along the Red River that was cleared after the ’97 flood and provides some nice walking trails. Also, Ralph Englestad Arena is a sight to behold. It cost over $100 million to build and is considered one of the nicest arenas in college hockey.