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Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich Returning to North Dakota

Daniel Mick

After losing their top three players in Brock Boeser, Tyson Jost, and Tucker Poolman to NHL in early departures, North Dakota got some good news for next season that sophomore forward Shane Gersich and junior forward Austin Poganski will be returning to North Dakota for another season, as confirmed by North Dakota SID Jayson Hajdu on Wednesday afternoon:

Gersich led North Dakota in scoring this season with 21-16-37, a breakout season for the fifth round pick of the Washington Capitals. We ranked Gersich as the 43rd-best NHL prospect in the NCAA this past season:

Gersich was tasked with making a big jump this season, going from a secondary scoring role last year to being a top line forward this year after North Dakota lost Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz from last year’s team.

He responded by going from 11 points as a freshman to a team-leading 37 points as a sophomore. Gersich has always been a very smooth skater. This year, he’s added a little more muscle to his frame, making him much better at winning battles along the boards. He’s more of a shooter than a playmaker, and the extra bulk has made his shot more effective as well.

Gersich likely projects to play a scoring role at the pro level, so the big increase in scoring is a positive sign for his development.

Poganski was fifth in Fighting Hawks scoring behind Gersich and the three early departures with a 12-13-25 scoring line in 40 games. He was a fourth round selection of the St. Louis Blues in 2014. We ranked Poganski as the 56th-best NHL prospect in the NCAA this past season:

Poganski had to take a bigger role for North Dakota this season as an upperclassmen after North Dakota lost multiple forwards off their national championship-winning team. He didn’t improve on his offensive numbers much, perhaps one reason this year’s North Dakota team is fighting it out on the bubble of the NCAA tournament as opposed to last year’s team, which was a top-ranked team nationally.

But Poganski has showed more maturity in his game this past year. He’s a big forward that plays with a high motor and really competes for pucks. North Dakota uses him in all special teams situations. He’s capable of handling tough passes and has decent hands around the net.

The lack of scoring production this year likely limits his upside as a top-six scoring line forward at the NHL level, but his size and tough play could make him very valuable in a bottom-six role.

Gersich and Poganski will likely be called upon to play an even bigger role for North Dakota next season as two of the top forwards on next year’s team.