Next season Nebraska Omaha will be making the move from the WCHA to the newly formed NCHC. That transition became significantly smoother this week as the Mavericks learned forward Ryan Walters will be returning for his senior season.
Walters informed head coach Dean Blais and his teammates earlier this week that he will be back with Omaha in 2013-14.
Originally a Minnesota Gophers' commit, Walters ended up at UNO and had a breakout season in his junior campaign. A native of Rosemount, Minn., Walters recorded 22 goals and 52 points in 39 games for Omaha in 2012-13. Walters was named to the All-WCHA first team, was a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist and was named a second team All-American.
Undrafted out of the USHL, many figured Walters would be a flight risk to turn pro after the season given his ability to sign as a free agent with any team in the NHL. His teammate Andrej Sustr was in a similar situation, and signed a pro deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning shortly after the Mavericks were eliminated from the WCHA playoffs.
Walters chose to return to school, however, and Omaha fans should be ecstatic about it. Miami is considered the early favorite in the NCHC next season, but the Mavericks should be contenders for the inaugural league title. Walters will also get another crack at the Hobey Baker, and will enter the season as one of the favorites for the award.
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