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Pair of UND commits picked on Day 2 of NHL Draft

PHILADELPHIA – Austin Poganski readily admits that he had trouble at the start of last season.

“Coming from Single A hockey, it was a bigger jump than I expected,” he said of going to the United States Hockey League from St. Cloud Cathedral.

He adjusted just fine, though. By the end of the year, the University of North Dakota decided he was ready for the college game, and on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues decided he was worthy of a fourth-round draft pick.

The Blues selected Poganski, a power forward from St. Cloud, Minn., with the No. 110 overall pick in the fourth round of the NHL Draft in Wells Fargo Arena.

“It’s unbelievable,” the UND freshman-to-be said. “It has always been a dream of mine to get drafted into the NHL. I’m very proud and excited... (Blues alternate captain) T.J. Oshie went to North Dakota and I’m going there next year. I’m very excited.”

Poganski was one of three UND recruits to go during the two-day event. Nick Schmaltz was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks during Friday night’s first round (No. 20 overall) and he was followed up by the selections of Poganski and Shane Gersich.

Gersich, the nephew of former NHL draft picks Neal, Aaron and Paul Broten, went to the Washington Capitals with the No. 134 overall pick in the fifth round.

While Gersich won’t come to UND until the fall of 2015, Poganski is set to come in now after Rocco Grimaldi turned pro early and opened up a slot. It will be another big jump, just like the one he faced last season.

“It’s a huge adjustment to go from Minnesota high school to the speed of the USHL,” Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said. “When he made that adjustment by the end of the year, he caught up to the pace and he had a great second half.

“He’s a power forward – really good in front of the net. He’s somebody who competes and works. He’s probably a third-line player in the NHL, but he’s a big power forward. He has some room to grow in the strength department and some other stuff, but he’s really good for us as a big body up front that plays an honest, two-way game.”

Armstrong said Poganski will have to adapt to the speed of the college game and work on his skating.

Skating is one attribute that stands out about Gersich, the former Holy Family High School star.

Washington Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said that Gersich put up a lot of offense at Holy Family, but was in a checking role last season at the National Team Development Program.

“We’re looking, as of now, at an excellent third-line center,” Mahoney said. “You’re always hoping they can move higher in the lineup. (Gersich) is a very good two-way player. He’s very intelligent. We would like to see him get the skill that he showed a year ago. We’d like to see him build more on that game after playing more of a checking role with the Under-18 team.”

That’s one reason why the Capitals are happy with Gersich’s future direction.

“He will end up playing in the USHL, then heading to North Dakota, which will be really good for him there,” Mahoney said. “It’s a really good program. We’re happy with the path that he has chosen.”

North Dakota touch Former Minot High forward Alex Schoenborn was selected in the third round by the San Jose Sharks (No. 72 overall), marking the first time in the state’s history that it had players picked in three straight NHL Drafts.

Previously, former Grand Forks Central players Luke Johnson (fifth round, 2013) and Paul LaDue (sixth round, No. 191) were selected.

Schoenborn, who plays for Portland in the Western Hockey League, also is the second-highest pick ever for a North Dakotan, only behind Grafton’s Lee Brodeur (65th overall, 1984).