Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kasimir Kaskisuo Commits to UMD; Blake Heinrich Decommits

A couple of rather noteworthy headlines regarding UMD recruiting came across the ol' desk this week.

For those new to the blog, I don't delve too heavily into UMD recruiting, for a variety of reasons. I'll report on kids with local ties, but tend to avoid posting long blogs about the kids no matter what.

That said, I don't think it's a state secret that UMD is in search of at least one goaltender for the 2014-15 recruiting class. Reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Week Aaron Crandall is gone after this season. While Matt McNeely has certainly showed promise and plenty of physical talent, his numbers haven't been consistent, and he might not be ready to be a No. 1 goalie at this level yet.

Tuesday, UMD secured a commitment from goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, who plays for the Cloquet-based Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League. Kaskisuo is a bigger goalie who has incredible numbers at the junior level, with a .948 save percentage and eight shutouts. He's missed time with a lower-body malady but should be back soon. The Wilderness are coached by Cloquet hockey legend Corey Millen.

Kaskisuo will finish the season with Minnesota, then join UMD next fall. Ranked 16th among North American goalies eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Kaskisuo should be able to contend for the No. 1 position at UMD.

I'm told that this is likely not the end of UMD's goalie shopping, but I don't have names or specifics or anything like that for you. Just don't be surprised if they go get another one before the 2014-15 roster is finalized. With two viable No. 1 candidates in the fold for next season, it seems more likely that any other goalie added would be a young developmental prospect.

Meanwhile, the future of the UMD blue line took a hit this week when it was announced that Blake Heinrich will forgo his college eligibility to sign with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Heinrich was drafted by Washington last summer, and is in his second season with Sioux City of the USHL after starring in high school at Hill-Murray.

Heinrich is the latest in a long line of college recruits and even signees to eschew the NCAA path in favor of heading to a Canadian major junior team. College isn't for everyone, and while there will be some who yell at Heinrich for this move, reality is that he probably left UMD in the best position possible to deal with his change of heart/mind. Decommitting nine months before fall semester starts is a lot easier on the college than doing so in the summer.

Also, there's a good chance UMD's coaching staff was prepared for this, and adjustments have already been made.

Heinrich is the first UMD recruit to take the major junior path since Mac Carruth, a goalie who left the NAHL for Portland in 2009 and spent three full seasons there before joining the Chicago Blackhawks. Before that, there was Jared Boll, who committed to UMD before winding up with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in 2005. He's still in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets (collected career penalty minute No. 1,000 this season).

(EDIT: Twitter follower UMD26MN notes that Elliott Peterson committed to UMD around the time Boehm did, but bolted for the WHL. So he's the most recent, not Carruth.)

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