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North Dakota's Paul LaDue Returning for Junior Season

Matt Christians

After lengthy consideration, North Dakota sophomore defenseman Paul Ladue has decided to return to school for his junior season, rather than signing with the Los Angeles Kings, as confirmed by North Dakota sports information director Jayson Hajdu:

LaDue was selected by the Kings in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. He ranked 46th on our list of the Top 100 NHL prospects in the NCAA this past season and was one of the toughest defensive defensemen in the country.

LaDue is in a unique bargaining position because he was drafted in his third and final year of eligibility for the NHL Draft, and played an overage year with the Lincoln Stars prior to enrolling at North Dakota. That means LaDue could become a free agent by formally leaving North Dakota, similar to Minnesota's Mike Reilly is likely to do this summer. LaDue also has the unique option of playing out his four years at North Dakota, at which point, he could become an unrestricted free agent not confined by the limits of an entry-level contract. That leverage likely gives Los Angeles some extra incentive to sign LaDue after next season.

In the meantime, North Dakota is losing senior Nick Mattson to graduation, likely to lose Jordan Schmaltz as an early departpure, still waiting on a decision from top NHL free agent prospect Troy Stecher, and potentially losing other drafted defensemen as early departures, returning LaDue on the blue line will be a big help in solidifying North Dakota's back end for next season.