Ok, one thing I have been able to do even with grad school, is to keep up with the local USHL scene in Omaha, Nebraska. I've gotten to see a few of UND's future recruits in action, but I'm going to limit this article to ONLY those I've seen AND those who are listed per Heisenberg and Schlossman's blog as being 2014 recruits. I want to be VERY VERY clear: I'm only speaking of these players from a fan/viewer point of view. If you want a coach's perspective or one more like a scout, then read no further. This report is VERY amateur.
Right now, per Heisenberg, the following players are incoming:
Cam Johnson - Fargo/Waterloo (USHL)
Hayden Shaw - Waterloo (USHL)
Tucker Poolman - Omaha (USHL)
Nick Schmaltz - Green Bay (USHL)
Trevor Olson - Sioux City (USHL)
John Simonson - Lincoln (USHL)
First, those I've only seen in limited capacity:
Hayden Shaw and Nick Schmaltz. I'm no scout. I've seen Waterloo play, but Shaw did not stand out. That's fine, as he's a defenseman. From what little I've seen of him thus far, he looks to be a shut down defenseman. What he actually turns out to be is unknown. Truthfully, he's a 1996 birthday. With only four slots opening, and assuming no one bolts, I'm curious to know if Hakstol asks Shaw to wait a year. Then again, I do not know how Coach Hakstol will work it.
Nick Schmaltz is the most limited of viewership of the list. I've only seen him play once and it was on a lousy webcast game between Green Bay and Omaha. He seemed fast but he didn't stand out much. The commentators certainly raved a lot about him, though.
Trevor Olson - He's done alright this year for Sioux City. He wears the 'C' for Sioux City. Likes to hang out in front of the net. However, at least tonight, he did quite a bit of whining to the refs (though I can't really blame them. We had two of the worst officials I've ever witnessed). He's a pretty tall dude at 6'1" tall. I think at the NCAA level he'll be another Rodwell or perhaps a Gaarder type.
John Simonson - He was Lincoln's leading scorer and scholarship winner. He wore the 'A' for Lincoln this year (future Alaska Nanook hack Zach Frye wore the C). He played for a rather poor team racked with disappointing defensive performances, suspensions, injuries, and tragedy this year. He has a lot of pep to his game and loves to rush the net. I think he reminds me of a Mark McMillan type player.... Maybe O'Donnell even.
Cam Johnson - Ok, most of my viewership came before he was traded to Waterloo. He started the year as Fargo's starting goaltender and was traded while still in that capacity. In my opinion, he really was the ONLY veteran player on Fargo that was playing well consistently, but it was never enough. Fargo has the worst team D in the USHL and their record shows it. That being said, Johnson had his fair share of consistency issues. I'm not too concerned about Johnson at UND unless he's expected to jump right in and start right off the bat (say, if Gothberg bolts). He can steal games, but he's not as talented as Gothberg yet. He does have tremendous potential though.
Tucker Poolman - This is the fellow I have the MOST exposure to. I'm not sure if it is the coach's strategy or not, but he's the most aggressive defenseman in the offensive zone I've ever seen. He's OFTEN deep in the zone and many of his USHL leading goals (among defensemen) came from below the faceoff circles. He's on the ice in every situation and logs a ton of minutes. He's NOT physical at all. Don't look for him to make any really big hits. He has fought at least once this year in the USHL but even the fans were wondering what the heck was going on to force him to fight. If I were to describe Poolman, he'd be a combination between Mattson and perhaps LaDue. I do NOT project him to continue this style of play at UND and I likewise do not expect him to be a world beater offensively at the NCAA level. However, what he COULD be is the next Dillon Simpson in terms of on and off ice leadership. He is far and away the best defenseman on Omaha and, imo, one of the top 3 defenseman in the USHL this year.
Who knows how it is going to turn out. Who knows if who I compared these players to (if I did at all) is even close. Maybe I'll be wrong and Olson will light it up. Maybe there's another Trevor Hammer or Wes Dorey in this mix. I don't know. All I do know is that there's a LOT of good coming our way in the next few years (Christian Evers is going to grow into a stud, imo).