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Climbing the ranks: Pinto, Caulfield lead UND’s draft hopefuls

Grand Forks native Judd Caulfield is expected to be a midround draft pick. Rena Laverty / USA Hockey's NTDP.

GRAND FORKS -- There have been a few constants this year with the NHL Draft Rankings: Jack Hughes has remained at the top, Spencer Knight has always been the highest-rated goalie and University of North Dakota recruit Shane Pinto seems to keep rising every time a new batch of rankings is released.

That was true again Monday, April 15.

Pinto shot all the way up to No. 28 in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s top-available North American skaters, leading a group of eight future/current UND players who could get selected in June in Vancouver.

Grand Forks native and winger Judd Caulfield is ranked No. 67, forward Harrison Blaisdell is No. 80, forward Massimo Rizzo is No. 84, defenseman Cooper Moore is No. 88, defenseman Luke Bast is No. 137 and defenseman Ethan Frisch of Moorhead dropped out of the rankings, but still could get picked.

UND commit Cameron Rowe is the No. 4 North American goaltender prospect, while freshman Adam Scheel did not crack the draft rankings, even though scouts flocked to see him play this season after an impressive start.

Roseau’s Aaron Huglen, who is committed to Minnesota, is ranked No. 90.

Pinto, Caulfield, Blaisdell and Frisch are expected to come to UND this fall. Rizzo, Bast, Moore and Rowe are expected to come in 2020.

Pinto, of Franklin Square, N.Y., finished the season with 28 goals and 59 points in 56 games, splitting time between the Lincoln Stars and Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League.

The 6-foot-2, 188-pound forward could step in and play big minutes right away for UND next season. Pinto could be a candidate as a top-six centerman for UND. The Fighting Hawks also could move him to right wing. Pinto shoots right, and UND has a lack of right-handed shots among its forwards.

"He's a big-body centerman,” UND coach Brad Berry said earlier this season. “His favorite player is Mark Scheifele from Winnipeg. He reminds me a lot of how Mark plays. He's very good in the faceoff dot. He has a good pace to his game. His release is very quick and accurate.

"When I've watched him, he has a lot of similarities in his game to Drew Stafford with the way he skates, moves the puck and has offensive instincts. He looks like an NHL player that has huge upside for us."

Pinto started the season as a ‘C’ player on Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, indicating he could be a possible late-round selection. A couple of months later, TSN’s Craig Button ranked Pinto at No. 50 in his draft rankings.

By midseason, Central Scouting had Pinto at No. 35, and now they moved him up to No. 28. When factoring in European players, that likely puts Pinto as a second-round draft pick.

Blaisdell finished this season with 33 goals and 58 points in 51 games for the Chilliwack Chiefs in the British Columbia Hockey League. Caulfield has 12 goals and 36 points in 57 games for the U.S. Under-18 Team. He will soon play in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship for Team USA.

Rizzo has battled injuries with the Penticton Vees in the BCHL and is expected to play one more year of juniors before arriving at UND.

Frisch is currently playing for the Fargo Force, who are aiming at a second-straight Clark Cup in the USHL. Bast is playing for the Brooks Bandits, who will host this year’s RBC Cup, the Canadian Junior A national championship. Moore is expected to play in the USHL next season. Rowe is currently deciding on where to play next season.