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NHL scout says UND's LaDue is 'a pro hockey player playing college hockey'

GRAND FORKS - The Los Angeles Kings put the full-court press on Paul LaDue this summer.

UND's Paul LaDue and Zane McIntyre block a puck on Friday, March 20, 2015, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)
UND's Paul LaDue and Zane McIntyre block a puck on Friday, March 20, 2015, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. Logan Werlinger / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS – The Los Angeles Kings put the full-court press on Paul LaDue this summer.

They flew former star defenseman and assistant general manager Rob Blake to Grand Forks to chat with LaDue about possibly signing an NHL deal.

LaDue declined, though, and confirmed in July that he would be back at the University of North Dakota for his junior men's hockey season.

"That's a pro hockey player playing college hockey," an NHL scout told the Herald. "I can't believe they got him to come back. He is so good."

UND will have arguably the best two-way defenseman in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference on its roster this season with the 6-foot-1, 197-pound blue liners from Grand Forks Central.

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Defensively, LaDue is one of UND's shutdown guys. He plays against opponents' top offensive threats and is always on the ice during the final minutes to protect leads.

"He has such a quick and strong stick," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He's very smart positionally and highly competitive. He's one guy when you watch him in a game, he might not be the flashiest. But I tell you what, he's effective. He's very good defensively. We want to continue to try to grow his offensive game, and I think that's a big part of him coming back."

That's not to say LaDue's offensive game is lacking.

He was a fixture on the power play last season and tallied five goals, 17 assists and 22 points, despite playing hurt for much of the year. In juniors, LaDue racked up 49 points in 62 games for the Lincoln Stars in the United States Hockey League.

LaDue is expected to be a fixture on the power play again this season.

Another reason he returned to UND is to work on his role as a leader. LaDue was voted by his teammates to be an alternate captain this season.

"That's one thing, before you leave, you want to try to dig in on the leadership side and work that side," Berry said. "If you skip that step, you'll never ever get to be that leader at the next level. So, I think it's about doing the right things on and off the ice, and being a leader is a key part of that."

Berry, a defensive guru, wants his blue-liners to get involved in the play offensively as they have done the past few seasons.

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Since Berry returned to UND as an assistant coach, North Dakota has finished second, first and first nationally in scoring by defensemen.

This year, he'll have another talented group to work with, led by LaDue.

"I'm very grateful for having all those guys back-the Troy Stechers, the Gage Ausmuses, the Keaton Thompsons, the Tucker Poolmans... we're very fortunate to have that group back," Berry said. "We're going to play a very aggressive type of game. I think we need to be strong on the back end, especially early on, just so we can have that calm and get set into the way we play."

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
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