Yesterday, we took a look ahead at how much of North Dakota’s current roster is coming back for the 2014-15 season and what that means for the future of UND hockey.

And the incoming freshman class will be a big part of that future as well.

If you remember, Dave Hakstol loses four seniors from this year’s Frozen Four squad (forwards Derek Rodwell and Mitch MacMillan, defenseman Dillon Simpson, and goaltender Clarke Saunders). There is also a roster spot available since Adam Tambellini left the team in January. The other question mark on the roster is whether there is still a spot for Coltyn Sanderson, who has appeared in five games over his first two seasons at North Dakota. Sanderson has talent (81 points in 57 games with the Weyburn Red Wings/SJHL in 2011-12), but he might get squeezed out by this incoming group of forwards.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this recruiting class is that Hakstol had two blue chip wingers – Ryan Gropp and Brendan Lemieux – decommit and opt for major juniors, and the remaining six players in this recruiting class might still be the best in the nation. At the time of his commitment to UND, Gropp was called the biggest recruit to come to Grand Forks since Jonathan Toews. Brendan Lemieux was recently ranked the 28th best non-goaltending prospect in North America, while Gropp isn’t draft eligible until 2015.

But enough about the players who won’t be on campus and on the ice in October. There is plenty of talent coming in, and fans should expect several of these freshmen to step in and contribute right away.

All six newcomers for the 2014-15 season are coming from the United States Hockey League, joining nine other USHL alums on the current UND roster. If fans appreciate the local flavor that current North Dakota players Gage Ausmus (East Grand Forks, MN), Zane Gothberg (Thief River Falls, MN), Luke Johnson (Grand Forks, ND), Paul LaDue (Grand Forks, ND), and Keaton Thompson (Devils Lake, ND) bring to the lineup, they will be even more pleased next year. Dave Hakstol is bringing in forward John Simonson (a Grand Forks Central product) and defenseman Tucker Poolman (East Grand Forks Green Wave). Poolman is the son of current UND trainer Mark Poolman.

Other incoming freshmen expected on campus this fall (hometown):

Forward Nick Schmaltz (Verona, WI)

Forward Trevor Olson (Duluth, MN)

Defenseman Hayden Shaw (Woodbury, MN)
(edit: there are varying reports on Shaw enrolling at UND or returning to the USHL for another season of juniors)

Goaltender Cam Johnson (Troy, MI)

With all six newcomers hailing from the United States, that will bring the number of Canadians on the roster to single digits (9) for the first time in ten seasons (2004-05).

North Dakota will have seven states and the District of Columbia represented when they take the ice to begin the 2014-15 season. There will be seven Minnesotans (two from East Grand Forks and one each from Thief River Falls, Duluth, Chanhassen, Edina, and Woodbury), four North Dakotans (including three from Grand Forks), two from Wisconsin (the Schmaltz brothers), and one player each from Arizona, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington, D.C.

Nine Canadians will hail from four different provinces: British Columbia (3), Manitoba (3), Saskatchewan (2), and Ontario (1).

And now, let’s meet the six rookies, beginning with the three forwards:

Trevor Olson (Sioux City Musketeers /USHL)
Born: November 22, 1993 (age 20)
Hometown: Duluth, Minnesota
Height: 6-2 Weight: 188

This season, Trevor Olson has only appeared in 21 games for Sioux City, scoring nine goals and adding twelve assists for an average of a point per game. Olson was good for one minor penalty per game (40 PIM) this season for the Musketeers.

Last year, in 63 combined games played between Green Bay and Sioux City, he scored 17 goals and added 33 assists for 50 points with 62 PIM.

Olson is perhaps the most underrated player in this recruiting class. He will make his mark as a power forward with some scoring touch – an element that has been mostly lacking over the past two seasons. North Dakota fans should expect a mix of Rylan Kaip and Brad Malone, with his offensive production falling somewhere in the middle of those two. Considering that Kaip ended his career with 39 points in 144 games and Malone bettered that total with 40 points in 43 games as a senior (and 85 points in 161 games overall), I understand that’s a wide range. But the physical play will be there from the get-go, and Olson has a nose for the net that can’t be taught.

Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay Gamblers/USHL)
Born: February 23, 1996 (age 18)
Hometown: Verona, WIsconsin
Height: 6-0 Weight: 172

Nick Schmaltz has the most high-end potential of this entire recruiting class, as evidenced by his #19 ranking of all North American skaters in the final CSS report. His biggest strength is his vision, and, though it sounds absurd, he could potentially lead the team in assists next year. At just 18 years of age, he is still growing and getting stronger, and that definitely bodes well for his future success.

In 55 games with the Gamblers this season, the younger brother of current UND defenseman Jordan Schmaltz has 18 goals and 45 assists for 63 points. His 45 assists are good for third-most in the USHL this season, and he was the #7 point getter overall. Last year, he posted similarly impressive numbers: 18 goals and 34 assists (52 points) in 64 games played, also with Green Bay.

Schmaltz looks to be a player in the mold of Drew Stafford or Travis Zajac. He should be a first round pick in the 2014 NHL draft, and his talent is matched by his willingness to play the physical game and make things happen for his teammates. He definitely needs to work at becoming a more complete player in all three zones before he makes the jump to the next level, so I would expect that he would play at UND for at least two seasons.

John Simonson (Lincoln Stars/USHL)
Born: June 16, 1993 (age 20)
Hometown: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Height: 5-10 Weight: 170

In 58 games played with the Stars this season, Simonson has potted 28 goals (tied for 6th most in the league) and notched 31 assists. The former Central Knight has shown plenty of scoring punch in the USHL, particularly lately, and he has a nice mix of grit and skill. Simonson plays bigger than his 5’10” frame and, as an older player (he’ll be 21 before his freshman season begins), he has enough experience to play a couple of different roles.

The gritty forward has a good shot and can add some offensive punch to a checking line or be called upon to skate on one of the top two lines and create space for his teammates. Over time, Simonson might be seen as a Derek Rodwell-type player with a bit more offensive production. He will be capable and dependable, and he might see some penalty kill time later on in his collegiate career.

Two defensemen are scheduled to appear on UND’s campus this fall, and one of them (Tucker Poolman) is expected to compete for playing time right away. The other (Hayden Shaw) will need some more time to develop and should be seen as a work in progress.

Tucker Poolman (Omaha Lancers/USHL)
Born: June 8, 1993 (age 20)
Hometown: East Grand Forks, Minnesota
Height: 6-3 Weight: 200

Tucker Poolman will be 21 years old when he arrives on UND’s campus in September. He is solid and tough in his own end, and has shown signs of developing his game in the USHL. Last season with Omaha, he had a line of 14g-14a in 64 games played with 49 minutes in penalties and a -7 rating. This year, his line reads 15g26a in 58 games played with 23 PIM and a +20 rating.

Poolman has developed into one of the best two-way defensemen in the USHL. He has some Paul LaDue in his game, and fans should remember that LaDue scored 21 points in 41 games this season as a freshman. A Winnipeg Jets draft pick (5th round, #127 overall), Poolman will be the tallest player on the North Dakota roster next season.

Hayden Shaw (Waterloo Black Hawks/USHL)
Born: June 5, 1996 (age 17)
Hometown: Woodbury, Minnesota
Height: 5-10 Weight: 180

(Edit: It is possible that Shaw will return to Waterloo for a second season of junior hockey before enrolling at UND)

Hayden Shaw is pretty young, having left Woodbury High School after his sophomore season to play in the USHL. He will turn 18 three months before beginning his collegiate career at North Dakota. Shaw is built much like former UND blueliner Joe Gleason, but with more upside. Fans of the Green and White should expect Shaw to develop into a Troy Stecher-like player.

In 53 games played with Waterloo this season, Shaw has scored 8 goals and added 21 assists for 29 points. He currently sits at a +8 with 51 penalty minutes. The move from high school hockey seems to have paid off for the Woodbury native, but he might not see more than 10 or 15 games as a freshman at UND since the returning D-corps is experienced and talented.

And Dave Hakstol will bring in one goaltender to replace Clarke Saunders, who just finished up his senior season in Grand Forks.

Cam Johnson (Waterloo Black Hawks/USHL)
Born: July 11, 1994 (age 19)
Hometown: Troy, Michigan
Height: 6-1 Weight: 199

Cam Johnson is every bit as good as Clarke Saunders. He struggled early this season with the Fargo Force (2-14-3, 3.27 GAA, .909 SV%, 1 SO in 20 gp), but he has thrived since his trade to Waterloo (11-1-1, 1.86 GAA, .939 SV%, a SO in 15 gp). I think it was more the team in front of him in Fargo (the Force were the worst team in the USHL this season), and the change of scenery has done wonders for his game and his confidence.

It will definitely be a battle for the backup spot at UND between Johnson and Matt Hrynkiw. I would expect that Johnson will eventually move up the depth chart into the #2 spot behind Zane Gothberg, but it may take him the better part of his freshman season. In any event, Dave Hakstol has an embarrassment of riches in the netminder department.

These are the six players that I expect on the roster for the 2014-15 season. If there are early departures (sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi and sophomore defenseman Jordan Schmaltz are possibilities), forward Shane Gersich (USNTDP) and defenseman Ryan Mantha (Indiana/USHL) look to be the two skaters most likely to take their spots.

For a closer look at North Dakota’s returning players, click here.

As I stated yesterday, UND should be considered one of the top five teams in the country coming into next season. Dave Hakstol returns balanced scoring, a more experienced group of defensemen, and a Hobey Baker contender in goaltender Zane Gothberg. The pieces are in place.

As always, thank you for reading. I encourage you to leave your comments below and follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and analysis.