Carolina Hurricanes prospect goalie Jack LaFontaine is back in the NCAA. The 21-year-old keeper has enrolled at the University of Minnesota and will play this season, the program announced. LaFontaine had been away from the college game for one year with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, having previously spent two seasons with the Big Ten rival University of Michigan.
LaFontaine was a third-round pick of the Hurricanes back in 2016 out of the NAHL. While some considered the pick to be a reach, seeing as Fontaine had not been challenged at an elite level yet and was raw in terms of his skill development, Carolina was clearly happy to select a player with good size and athleticism who they could groom as a long-term project. LaFontaine jumped right into the college ranks after being drafted, but failed to take advantage of no clear starter in net for the Wolverines. In each of his two years, the young netminder posted a GAA over 3.33 in just eleven appearances. Seeking a fresh start, LaFontaine left Michigan and signed with Penticton. He was beyond impressive last season, recording a .923 save percentage and 2.19 GAA in 45 starts and earning the BCHL’s Top Goaltender honors.
Having re-asserted himself as a promising young goalie, LaFontaine is ready to give the NCAA another go. He has two years of eligibility remaining, after which he hopes to have proven himself to be a pro-caliber prospect. Much like when he began with the Wolverines, the Gophers net is wide open; all three goalies who made an appearance last season, including starter and recent Minnesota Wild signing Mat Robson, have departed. LaFontaine is the odds-on replacement, but he will have to hold off 20-year-old Jared Moe, a sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2018. If he can do so and can put up numbers similar to this past season in Penticton, perhaps the Hurricanes will come calling even sooner than two years from now.