The University of North Dakota is one of the top programs in all of college hockey and their roster always includes a plethora of NHL Draft selections. However, the team is about to lose much of its core in departing seniors Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams (NYI), Grant Mismash (NSH), and Matt Kiersted and a trio of highly-regarded underclassmen likely to turn pro in Shane Pinto (OTT), Jacob Bernard-Docker (OTT), and Jasper Weatherby (SJS). That also doesn’t include the pre-season transfer of Jonny Tychonik (OTT) and dismissal of Mitchell Miller, both on the back end. Even with 2020 fifth overall pick Jake Sanderson (OTT) and others sticking around, North Dakota is in need of an influx of talent.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem for the program. With a strong recruiting class already lined up for next season, you can now add Brent Johnson to the list of incoming NHL hopefuls. The skilled 2021 draft-eligible prospect has announced his commitment to North Dakota, moving from the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to the NCAA’s (former) Fighting Sioux. Johnson, 17, has been one of the best rookies in the USHL this season, currently ranked sixth among all defensemen with 24 points in 36 games. He is also among the top five in goals, assists, points, and plus/minus for Sioux Falls. Johnson has played so well in fact, that he de-committed from Arizona State University when major programs like North Dakota began to show interest. It’s not only NCAA programs that have been watching the dynamic defender either; he is currently considered a top-100 player in the 2021 draft class by a number of scouting services, with some believing he could go as early as the top of the second round and none expecting him to fall out of the third round. A mobile, right-shot defenseman with offensive instincts, Johnson checks a number of boxes for NHL clubs and is now headed down an elite developmental path at UND.
If Johnson enrolls at North Dakota next season, he will join an impressive group of freshman. A fellow defenseman, Scott Morrow, is the highlight of the group as a potential first-round pick this year. In fact, righties Morrow and Johnson could be likely to pair up with Sanderson and Tyler Kleven (OTT) as the Fighting Hawks’ new top-four – perhaps the Senators will draft them as well. Also heading to Grand Forks next year are previously-drafted forwards Jackson Kunz (VAN), Matteo Costantini (BUF), Jake Schmaltz (BOS), and Ethan Bowen (ANA). If Johnson instead opts to play another season of junior in the USHL, he appears to be the current gem of North Dakota’s 2022 recruiting class and will still have an opportunity to play with most if not all of the aforementioned players.