UND hockey lands No. 1 USHL draft choice

GRAND FORKS — Stephen Halliday was selected No. 1 overall in the United States Hockey League draft this spring. That already puts him into impressive company. He joined a list that features three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, NCAA champion Jimmy Hayes of Boston College/Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup runner-up Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues star Jaden Schwartz and former UND national champion and Stanley Cup champion Shane Gersich. It includes two current top National Collegiate Hockey Conference forwards — NCAA champ Riley Tufte of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State star Ryan Poehling. UND hopes Halliday will have a future just as bright. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound winger verbally committed to play college hockey at UND on Tuesday. “Proud to announce my commitment to play D1 hockey at the University of North Dakota,” Halliday tweeted. “Thank you to all my friends, family and past coaches for helping me this far #gohawks.” Halliday is expected to play this season with Central Illinois, the team that picked him No. 1 overall in May. “Halliday just has the look of a pro hockey player,” Central Illinois GM and coach Mike Watt told the team website. “He’s a powerful, smooth skater with a very high hockey IQ and exceptional control of the puck. He was very impressive at our main camp here in Bloomington in June and showed an ability to create and finish plays. His offensive creativity and size are going to be huge assets for our group this year.” Halliday was born in Glenwood, Md., but played midget hockey in Toronto the last couple of years. He piled up 83 points in 58 games for Toronto’s AAA midget team. Halliday was a third-round pick in the Ontario Hockey League draft, but has opted to go the college route instead. He will be eligible for the NHL Draft in 2020 and can come to campus that fall. Other commits who will be eligible for the NHL Draft the same year are high-touted defensemen Tyler Kleven, Jake Sanderson, Luke Reid and Mitchell Miller, as well as forwards Jackson Kunz and Ethan Bowen.